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One Piece Film RED is a celebration of "the greatest story ever told"

The Straw Hat Crew assembles at New York Comic Con.

Cast and creators of One Piece Film Red
Image credit: Alex Jaffe - Popverse

We’re really in it now, folks. After 25 years of One Piece, Eiichiro Oda’s apparently endless manga epic of piracy, friendship, and superpowers on the high seas is entering its endgame. In its final years, One Piece has achieved greater popularity than ever before, and the anime adaptation is celebrating that with a movie that pulls out all the stops. One Piece Film RED isn’t your typical anime film, which typically features a oneshot story disconnected from its source material’s ongoing narrative. This newest cinematic feature has music, adventure, and most exciting for One Piece fans, a revealing look at the person the show’s protagonist Luffy was before he joined with the Straw Hat Crew, and his connection to the mysterious fan-favorite Red-Haired Shanks.

The film premiered in Tokyo over the summer, but will debut with its dubbed English voice cast in America on November 4th. And to celebrate that, the director and producers of the film made the journey across the open seas for a New York Comic Con panel – as well as five of the film’s English voice actors.

Before our panel assembled, the throng of One Piece fans gathered at the Javits Center’s Empire Stage were treated to an exclusive first look at the English trailer for the film. Afterwards, the screen displayed an original drawing from Oda himself for New York Comic Con of Luffy, Shanks, and the film’s new protagonist Uta with best wishes and hopes we’ll enjoy the film.

Send The Marines

With that, moderators Kyle Cardine, managing editor for Crunchyroll News, and Anthony Bowling, the dubbing director for the One Piece anime in English, bring out our guests from Japan. First is Goro Taniguchi, the film’s director, dressed all in black robes like a shinigami from Bleach. Next to take the stage is One Piece executive producer Shinji Shimizu, who has arrived cosplaying in full regalia as a One Piece Marine. They’re followed by producer Hiraoki Shibata, dressed smartly in a stylish gray blazer, and a translator to facilitate the discussion.

“This is not cosplay,” Shimizu explains. “I am a Marine.”

Shimizu begins by reflecting on his journey with One Piece.

“About 25 years ago is when the manga started; two years later the anime started. And back then, I was a little bit younger. After 23 years of One Piece, you’re going to look like this.”

Shimizu then apologizes for Oda-san’s absence:

“Oda is a very hard worker. He’s been working every day. I really wanted him to come to New York, but the editor at [One Piece publishers] Shueisa said, ‘You need to write more Manga.’

Shimizu then braces us for what’s to come:

“Oda has said One Piece is entering its final arc. This is its last sprint; a lot of cool stuff is going to happen so keep your expectations really high.”

“Well, since I’m a Marine, I think that’s enough talking,” Shimizu concludes.

“I hope after 23 years of working, I look as cool as you,” Cardine says.

“Well, 23 years, yeah, but then I learned to shift responsibility to the younger people around me,” Shimizu defers.

Cardine asks Taniguchi about the decision to embrace such a musical theme for the new film.

“One Piece is usually about all these buff gruff dudes,” Taniguchi explains. “And Oda wanted to give an important role to a female lead. We thought we should make this lead female character sing, because Oda is really into music, and I thought that would be a really good combination. Lo and behold, he was REALLY into the idea. He got very involved and took a really personal approach, and went all out on the songs.”

“Oda is really, really into music,” Shibata adds. “We decided that there would be seven original songs in the film. When we decided there were going to be seven songs, Oda hand-picked the seven composers who would be responsible for each one. And every time we would get a demo or a sample that came through the mix, Oda would listen and give feedback. So it’s safe to say there’s an Oda signature in all the music.”

Cardine specifically shouts out the song ‘New Genesis,’ which he’s been bumping on repeat.

“It’s a really popular song in Japan too, topping the charts,” Shibata says. “I hope everyone in this room listens on repeat as well.”

Oda also produced the music videos for each song, which can be found playing at the One Piece animation booth on the show floor.

Next, Taniguchi discusses the original character Uta. “Oda and I tried to figure out Uta, but we knew there was no way to do it right without Shanks. But as everyone knows, Shanks is a very very important character to Oda, so we had to treat this very carefully. So after many films that we couldn’t use Shanks, we finally convinced Oda to use him for this one, and everything was easy from there.”

“What was the most important thing Oda wanted to portray in this film?” Cardine asks Shimizu.

“The One Piece film format up to this point is usually there’s a really strong bad guy and Luffy fights him head to head,” he explains. “With this film though, Uta is going to be a key character in the story. Luffy is also very different in this film. He doesn’t fight as much. So I hope everyone can go see the film and understand why.”

“LUFFY DOES NOT THROW A PUNCH,” Shimizu states emphatically. “But, I’ve been known to lie, too. I’ve been told from Oda-Sensei himself that I’ve eaten a Devil’s Fruit, the Blabber-Blabber. So don’t ask me any more questions.”

One Piece Film RED also features the Straw Hats’ ship, the Thousand Sunny, transformed into an anthropomorphic mascot character. Taniguchi explains.

“I thought we needed a mascot for this film, and I thought we should make it a cute character. When I proposed to Oda-san I want to have Sunny appear in this film looking like this, he came back to me and asked, ‘What are you smoking?’"

“In the end, he was finally convinced, and he said ‘If you’re going to insist this hard, I’ll see what I can do and illustrate it.’ Finally when the movie was complete, he said, ‘Okay, I think I finally understand now,’ and accepted Sunny appearing as a mascot. It’s something you have to see and experience for yourself, and it’ll make sense.”

Shimizu wraps up the segment with a statement on the state of One Piece:

“One Piece has been going on for 25 years now, and it will end, and I don’t know if that will be in 3 years, 5 years, or 10 years… but the fact that Shanks is finally appearing here says much. I should probably shut up before we give too much away, but we’re going to make one of the most amazing finales for manga and anime the world has ever seen. Film RED is really at the kickoff of this final arc, and we’re all about to embark on this legend together. We’re all part of that journey. And the producer just whispered in my ear right now: everyone watch the TV series too, not just the film.”

With that, the director and producers leave the stage to a standing ovation, and our moderators bring out some more local talent: five of the core players in the English dub of the One Piece saga.

The Straw Hat Crew

Assembled on stage is an unprecedented live gathering of Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy), Sonny Strait (Usopp), Luci Christian (Nami), Christopher Sabat (Zoro), and Ian Sinclair (Brook)

“I think this is the most Straw Hats we’ve ever had on the stage at once,” Strait observes.

Clinkenbeard talks about how much she appreciates the musical aspect of the film from an acting perspective.

“One benefit of dubbing is that the anime is a completed project by the time we get to voice it, so the music so easily guides us into the emotion we’re supposed to be having. It’s almost like cheating,” she says.

Sabat does a little bit of damage control from Shimizu’s prior remarks on the film. “I was happy that there’s a lot of butt kicking in it as well. It’s not ALL singing,” he says.

Clinkenbeard loves the perspective that Uta brings to the world of One Piece, which rarely affords the perspective of this ocean-spanning wars between rival factions from a civilian’s perspective.

“Luffy is kind of an enigma,” Christian observes. “[With Uta,] to see someone who’s so familiar with him, and how she interacts with him is a really special treat.”

“Some people wonder why Luffy was asking for a musician all the way back in episode three,” Sinclair adds cryptically. “Now we know why.”

Anthony Bowling prompts the crew for their favorite cameos.

“I loved Bartolomeo in this movie,” Sinclair says. Him and Bepo gave me joy. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

“I almost felt like Zoro was a cameo in this movie,” Sabat says. He’s been absent from the anime in the most recent arc, so it was nice to check in on everyone. “I was like ‘Oh, Robin’s still around. That’s cool.’”

Clinkenbeard chimes in, in character as Luffy: “I’ve been fighting for 35 episodes, where’ve you guys been?!”

Bowling asks what the panel hopes are for their characters as we go into the final arc.

“I want them all to fight together at the end,” Clinkenbeard says. “Shanks was a part of watching Luffy become who he is now, and I want him to fight at his side.”

“I want Usopp to someday say ‘I have an army of eight thousand men!’” Strait says, referring to his character’s well-known bluff. “And… they all come over the hill.”

“I hope someday Nami does get to draw a map of the entire world,” Christian says.

Chris and Ian discuss how the pandemic has given so many people to check out One Piece, how surprised they were by how the show’s popularity has exploded over the past two years.

“They finally had time to check it out,” Sabat says.

“Your friend who’s been telling you to watch One Piece for years, this was the time to watch it,” Ian says. “Thank your friend. Maybe that friend is here with you today.”

“I’ve been an actor since 1979, and I’ve never cried in a performance until Usopp. I love this show,” Strait says about his own role. “I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but Usopp has serious daddy issues, and he faces them in the coolest way possible.”

“Someone asked me at the autograph table, ‘What happens when you find the One Piece and everyone disbands?’ Christian recalls. “And I’m like, DISBANDS? Do you think Luffy would ever let us DISBAND?”

Regardless of how it ends, everyone in the cast is impressed by how fresh and exciting Oda has managed to keep the story after over a thousand episodes.

Sonny sums up the sentiments of everyone assembled here best, whether they’ve been following the series for 25 years or discovered it just recently: “I think Oda needs to go down in history as the greatest storyteller ever.”

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About the Author
Alex Jaffe avatar

Alex Jaffe

Contributing writer

Alex Jaffe is a columnist for DC Comics, answering reader-submitted questions about the minutiae of comic book history. He also hosts the Insert Credit podcast, where he's been asking the smartest people in video games the weirdest questions he can think of since 2012. ReedPOP is Alex's place to write about Star Wars, his "vacation universe" away from DC, but he may be persuaded to occasionally broach other topics. A powerful leg kick makes this goon the meanest guy in the gang.