Note, this review will have some light spoilers, though I will try to keep them as broad as possible. I also received a free copy of the release for this review.
At last, for those who want their red films on Blu-rays, One Piece Film Red has arrived on physical release.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
So the One Piece Film Red Blu-ray is a welcome release that I was curious about how I would feel. When I first saw the film last year, I was very positive about it. Still, I couldn’t determine how much the enjoyment was from the film’s quality or the relative novelty of a refreshing side story amidst the lengthy Wano arc. With this home release, I have had a chance to rewatch it and re-assess, as the manga has long since moved past Wano (though the anime is still knee-deep in the arc’s biggest moments at the time of this writing).
The film is enjoyable because Uta is a fun and interesting character. The pop idol angle is potentially divisive; however, she makes for an engaging antagonist for the crew. It is very difficult to challenge the Straw Hat Pirates in anything approaching a fair fight, as they possess a breadth and depth of truly staggering powers. Sure, Kaido is great opposition in Wano, but he has been built up on and off for years at this point, and beyond having a vast army of subordinates and the ability to turn into a fire-breathing dragon, he is just absurdly durable. How many enormous villains that tank Luffy punches can we realistically throw against the crew before they all start to blend and lose their impact? Kaido and Big Mom already fall into that mold, and any movie villain trying to muscle into that space will come up short, no matter how you slice it.
Uta’s musical themes and illusion powers are, therefore, a welcome change of pace. She challenges the crew in substantially different ways from the current crop of villains and most of those throughout the series. There’s also the added benefit of the film set during a big pop concert, which makes for good wholesome interactions between the main cast members. This unique mix is welcome, and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, the second time around. Post-time skip, One Piece has featured a lot of longer arcs with a greater emphasis on macro-scale plot events, and there has been less time for quiet and silly side moments like these for the crew to partake in. Seeing everyone together, having fun, goofing off, etc., will always be welcome.
In terms of the physical release itself, I’m more mixed.
On the one hand, having the Japanese audio on is a huge boon. I appreciate the English voice cast, but the iconic Japanese voice cast is the real draw. They have brought these wonderful characters to life for decades now. Despite my relative newness to the series, it’s a treat to hear everyone continue to deliver spirited, hilarious, and poignant performances. So the simple matter of having the film in the original language is reason enough for me to celebrate.
Sadly, there’s not a lot else to get excited about.
For a two-disc set, the bonus features are slim. I was hoping for some behind-the-scenes footage, maybe an interview or two, or perhaps a featurette on making the film. Instead, all included are the three Uta-centric episodes of the weekly anime and some trailers. That’s… it. While these episodes are welcome, I was hoping for more meat on the bone. Not to mention the fact that I think these episodes are not all that engaging on rewatch. My biggest issue with Uta is her inclusion in Luffy’s past, as I think it crowds that time and adds very little to her character or his. For myself, her connection with Shanks is interesting, but being a part of Luffy’s formative years feels like a dull way to try and garner a connection that wasn’t necessary.
These episodes add another hour to an hour and a half of viewing time. But they don’t add much in actual value. It was a huge letdown when these were all the bonus features and nothing more. This feels like an enormous missed opportunity, but that’s not necessarily a mark against Film Red itself.
This is a great way to bring home One Piece Film Red and add it to your One Piece collection, but don’t expect to get anything more than precisely what it says on the tin. It is a movie and little else.