Singing the praises of 15th ‘One Piece’ film

©Eiichiro Oda / 2022 “One Piece” production committee
Luffy, right, and Shanks

Popular manga and anime series One Piece’s 15th film “One Piece Film Red” was released on Aug. 6.

In July, the manga marked the 25th anniversary of its serialization in weekly magazine Shukan Shonen Jump. The total number of comics sold exceeded 490 million copies worldwide last year, and the number of volumes topped 100. The TV anime, which began in 1999, has surpassed 1000 episodes. Eiichiro Oda, who writes the enormously successful comic series, serves as general producer for the latest film.

In the film, the Straw Hat pirates, including the main character Luffy, go to a music festival where globally beloved singer Uta will appear in public for the first time. The story begins with the shocking revelation that Uta is the daughter of the great pirate Shanks, who greatly influenced Luffy.

©Eiichiro Oda / 2022 “One Piece” production committee

Uta performs seven songs in the film. The theme song is “Shinjidai” (“New Genesis”), written and composed by Yasutaka Nakata. Other songs were provided by Mrs. Green Apple, Vaundy, Fake Type., Hiroyuki Sawano, Yuta Orisaka and Motohiro Hata.

The speaking voice of Uta is provided by voice actor Kaori Nazuka, and her singing part is performed by singer Ado, whose voice is powerful and full of energy. The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed the performers, and Luffy’s voice actor Mayumi Tanaka, about the highlights and charms of the film.

Juvenile but attractive Uta

■ Voice actor Kaori Nazuka as Uta [speaking part]

The Yomiuri Shimbun: How did you feel when you were chosen to act as Uta?

Nazuka: When I heard I’d been chosen, I couldn’t believe it at first, because my voice has a different ambience and range from that of Ms. Ado, who performs Uta’s singing part.

Yomiuri: How did you plan to play the role?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Voice actor Kaori Nazuka also plays Eureka of “Kokyo Shihen Eureka seveN” (“Psalms of Planets Eureka seveN”) and Toru Hagakure of “Boku no Hero Academia” (“My Hero Academia”).

Nazuka: Uta is a cheerful and positive girl. I heard the songs sung by Ms. Ado before I recorded my parts, and I thought that I wanted to carry over her power and inner strength [in the songs] into my voice performance. Rather than imitating her voice, I basically played the role of Uta while being mindful of her emotional state, without worrying about the pitch of her voice.

There are many scenes in the film in which Uta starts singing after speaking, and speaking after singing, and I practiced many times to synchronize my voice to that of Ms. Ado as if I were singing the beginning and the end of the songs so the audience wouldn’t think, “Another person suddenly took over Uta’s voice.”

Yomiuri: What is the highlight of this film for you?

Nazuka: I think the bonds between family, parents and children, and friends. Uta is a very nice girl but she can be a bit childish or rash. The director, Mr. Goro Taniguchi, said to me, “I want Uta to have an innate self-confidence, like ‘she’s the best,’ because of her youth. That’s her charm to lead everyone, isn’t it?” and I was totally convinced. I would like the audience to see how Luffy and Shanks are involved with her.

Luffy is ‘part of me’

■ Voice actor Mayumi Tanaka as Luffy

The Yomiuri Shimbun: You have played Luffy for over 20 years. What kind of person is Luffy to you?

Tanaka: I think Luffy is a free person who’s not the kind of hero you imagine as helping the weak and crushing the strong. Rather than playing him, he’s become a part of me, so I voice him as he is without creating the image of the character too much.

When I bought oden stew at a convenience store, as soon as I started ordering, a clerk asked me if I voice Luffy [laughs]. I think Odacchi [author Oda] now draws Luffy with my acting and voice in his mind.

Yomiuri: What is the charm of “One Piece”?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Voice actor Mayumi Tanaka also plays Krillin of “Dragon Ball” and Pazu of “Tenku no Shiro Laputa” (“Castle in the Sky”).

Tanaka: “One Piece” is a little different from ordinary manga. Smiles come out in a tough scene or a character’s eyes pop out and a snotty face comes in the next cut of an emotional scene.

There’s a sense of fun that has never been seen in manga or anime before.

Yomiuri: What is your highlight in this film?

Tanaka: I guess it’s Uta’s songs. Even if you’re not interested in “One Piece,” you can enjoy the film as a live performance. Also, there is a scene where Luffy says a line to a mysterious character named Gordon who knows about Uta’s past, but he says it in a completely different style than usual. It was a bit chilling.

I really like the story of a boy’s growth. The moment when a boy becomes a man is very rewarding. I think I’ll be able to show such a Luffy.

Songs perfect for film

■ Pop star Ado as Uta [singing part]

The Yomiuri Shimbun: How did you feel when you were chosen to sing the part of Uta?

Ado: I thought, “Oh, no, no, is it true?” “One Piece” started being serialized before I was born, and I think I fit the image of a great Satan of doom rather than a diva, so I really wondered if I was the right person to do it.

©Eiichiro Oda / 2022 “One Piece” production committee
An image of singer Ado drawn by mangaka Eiichiro Oda. Ado, who avoids being seen in the media, debuted on a major label in October 2020 and her song “Usseewa” (meaning “Shut up”) became a big hit. She released her first album “Kyogen” in January.

Yomiuri: You sing seven songs in the film and each song was provided by different artists.

Ado: Seven songs is a lot for a movie. Moreover, each song has a different flavor and production method. But they are all perfect for this film, and I was very excited before I sang them.

Yomiuri: How did you try to sing them as Uta?

Ado: Uta is a sparkling character, but at the same time, she’s a very human girl with feelings of anger, sadness, resentment and loneliness. I sang each song while thinking, “Is this way of singing too much like Ado?” and trying to fit the songs to Uta’s feeling. Also, reading the script and characterization of Uta made by Mr. Oda, I think I was able to show various expressions.

Yomiuri: What is your highlight of this film?

Ado: The music, of course, but I think … it’s Shanks. Shanks is indispensable and an important person for both Luffy and Uta. I’d like the audience to see Uta as the daughter of Shanks.

I think this film is filled with the charms of “One Piece” which embraces the bonds or conflicts between people.