IIt’s Saturday morning, the rain is incessant outside, the TV is on but the remote control can’t be found – it’s probably at the bottom of the couch. You’re stuck watching kids’ cartoons, sucked in by the bright colors and high-stakes storytelling that saves the world. One Piece Film: Red is in that great tradition: a stunningly animated sugar rush, great music, and a strong central story with frequent stretches of outright absurdity.
The One Piece franchise centers on Monkey D Luffey and his pirate crew; this unique adventure introduces us to Uta, a beloved singer from Luffey’s past who turns into a renegade and tries to use her special powers to trap her fans in an alternate universe. Pirates strive to bring it down – and there’s a whole lot more going on as several dozen new characters and subplots sputter and zigzag around without worrying about cohesion. Narrative discipline isn’t the primary concern here, but the central story of Uta and his motivations is emotionally resonant.
A feast for the eyes and ears, each frame is adorned with color and detail. The final showdown is a sensory onslaught and akin to watching a firework display – colors swirl and things explode. There are musical numbers throughout, each accompanied by stunning, rainbow visuals that bring you back when the plot loses you. The songs themselves are wonderful: performed by Japanese musician Ado, they stand up to current charts and justify the idea that Uta is the most popular singer in the world. When focused, this movie really sings, but it takes its time and tests your patience to land on the right notes.