INTERVIEW: One Piece Film Red Director and Producers on the Movie's Role in the Series Endgame
We speak with the director and producers of the One Piece anime and Film Red!
One Piece Film Red has found monumental success in Japan, not only becoming the series' most successful film ever, but also the ninth highest-grossing film in Japan to date. With the movie set to release in Australia and New Zealand on November 3, and the United States and Canada on November 4, the staff behind the movie made a trip to New York Comic Con to prepare fans for the Straw Hats' latest adventure with the new character Uta.
Crunchyroll News had a chance to sit down with One Piece Film Red director Goro Taniguchi, as well as One Piece anime and Film Red producers Shinji Shimizu and Hiroaki Shibata to talk about why the latest movie is resonating with fans, the future of One Piece as it heads into the "final act," Eiichiro Oda's involvement in the film and much more!
First, could you please just introduce yourselves?
Shinji Shimizu: I am Shinji Shimizu and I've been on this project for 23 years now starting with the TV anime as well as the films. As you can tell, I'm an old guy, so I've since passed on most of my responsibilities to the next generation. You can ask me anything about the old anime, but the newer stuff I'm gonna pass to these guys. I'm living off of my memories alone.
Goro Taniguchi: I'm Goro Taniguchi, and I'm the director of Film Red. As Shimizu-san mentioned, there's the TV anime [before Film Red], but before that, there was a little film that I directed that was before the series. Oddly enough after 24 years, and getting the okay from [Eiichiro] Oda, they brought me back on as a director for this particular film. I've been watching the series more as an outsider so if you have questions about 1,000 episodes, I'm going to pass that to Shibata-san next to me [laughs].
Hiroaki Shibata: I'm Hiroaki Shibata. Like Shimizu-san, I was also a producer on Film Red. When I first got involved on One Piece, when the anime first started, I was very much a newbie. I was like assistant to the assistant to the line producer. So my main tasks included chasing down schedules, making sure we got all the keyframes so we can move it along the pipeline so to speak. I was also involved in the original opening "We Are!"
Why do you think Film Red is the most successful One Piece film?
Shimizu: [laughs] Well, the honest answer is I don't really know. Of course, Eiichiro Oda has been working on the manga for 25 years now. So when we assembled our team we didn't want to half-bake it, that's what I was thinking about at the time. But how that translated into a box office hit, I'm not really sure but I'm here in New York right now and talking to people so it's great. I'm happy!
Taniguchi: To add to what Shimizu-san said, one of the requests I had at the inception of this project was that we really wanted to leave a mark and hit our own milestones and kind of challenge the status quo, as it were. So the team and I had a really long thinking session and I think the ideas that we were able to bring to the table collectively is what resulted in this and really resonated with the fans. I think that is probably what translated into the box-office success that we saw.
Shibata: [Film Red] was a rare opportunity for me to get to see Oda-sensei working really up close. I think he is personally very excited right now as One Piece is entering its final arc. I think that is, in a good way, kind of contagious. So between Oda-sensei and [Taniguchi-san], that really translated into the staff and everyone put a lot of energy and hard work into the project. I think that really spoke to the Japanese fans and here we are.
How do you think the One Piece movies changed after Oda-sensei became more involved?
Shimizu: [For Film Red], one of the biggest changes or shifts with this movie, in particular, is that Oda-sensei was very insistent on having a strong female lead and role. In the past One Piece films, the villain or the enemy is generally this hulky macho man. It's a very clear villain figure but he wanted to do something different this time. That was what kicked off the project.
What was it like working with Shuichi Ikeda, the voice of Shanks?
Shimizu: Since [Shanks] first appeared in the series, it's been about 20 years and he didn't have much to do. [Ikeda] is a really amazing actor and a very hard worker. So in One Piece, Shanks is a very unique character. Again, like I mentioned that 20-year blank, I think it was really hard for him to get back into character and dial that in. But he was very grateful and was up to the challenge. The result I think was something that we were all happy with.
For Taniguchi-san: What do you think you have learned most from your first time directing a One Piece anime to Film Red?
Taniguchi: I think the biggest shift, and this ties into my own career, is since the first One Piece film I've directed until now, I've gained a lot of experience as a producer. I've had the opportunity to produce a few projects. That's something I didn't have initially. So that experience enabled me to really understand what was being asked and what was the expectation for this film. That translated into how I can kind of derive my own answer of how to make that happen and how to bring that to the screen. So that change in vantage point or perspective, I think is the biggest shift between 25 years and now.
I also understand that Taniguchi-san is actually an old friend of Oda-sensei. But how did you meet him? And what has it been like being his friend over the years?
Taniguchi: The very first time I met Oda-sensei was when we were going to animate [One Piece: Defeat The Pirate Ganzack]. After the initial encounter, most of my interfacing with Oda-sensei was through the first-generation editor for the One Piece manga at Shueisha, a gentleman named [Takanori] Asara. Through him, Oda-sensei and I would kind of exchange ideas talk about what we were working on. So I would say it wasn't really too much direct communication, but we were in communication at that time. We would say what are you up to, what kind of ideas do you have about this. Really, it's more of an idea exchange type of relationship.
Asara actually was getting married, so I thought, "Oh, I'm gonna have the opportunity to see Oda-sensei again." Incidentally, that was right when a manuscript was due. Oda-sensei asked Asara what's more important, him attending his wedding or completing the manuscript, to which Asara responded, despite it being his own wedding, he should work on the manga. So it really goes to show how much of a workaholic he is. [laughs]
For Shibata, Where do you think the future of One Piece movies heads from here?
Shibata: Honestly, with Film Red just being finished, I personally am not really sure where the future's headed at this moment. I think speaking on behalf of most of the people on the team, it's still unknown but what Oda-sensei did say is that after 25 years, the stage is set for real One Piece to begin.
Honestly, what I can say is no one really knows where the project is going to head but I do know that Oda-sensei has a grand vision of where it's going to go. As a producer of the TV series, I personally am really excited and look forward to how we translate his manga into anime, and by extension, the film projects as well. I do believe we're going to continue to challenge the status quo and evolve the movies as time goes on. But what that means specifically, honestly, right now, I don't know. With the TV series now, of course, on Crunchyroll simulcasting 1000 episodes, I think it's time for the whole world to share in that journey.
How do you think One Piece fans have changed over the years? Is there something you think fans resonate with now that they maybe did not in the past?
Shimizu: One Piece being such a long-running series of course over the years we've gained a lot of fans, but I think it's quite clear to us as well that the demographics and age group have gradually gone up and up.
But with this film too, of course, I think movies, the streaming and the general accessibility of the manga in this new age, the demographics have certainly expanded. This shocked me as well, but even some teens that I've heard from they've seen all the episodes, which to me is a daunting challenge to think about how far the series has come. So how do you begin or where do you tackle that from? So I was shocked when I heard that.
Of course, [Film Red] was a box office hit in Japan. But what is more interesting I think is how the demographic is expanding. There were fans of the franchise that I would just look at them and think, "Oh, there's no way these kids would have read or watched or even tried to engage with something just massive and monumental." But I think it's that discovery and the accessibility that I hinted at earlier. I think more so than the film being such a huge success, that's what would really make Oda-sensei happy, not just old farts like myself, but the ability for the younger generation to discover and interact and experience One Piece.
Now that One Piece is heading into its endgame, is there one word that you think describes what the Straw Hats are heading into?
Taniguchi: Romance Dawn.
Translator: But that’s two words. [laughs]
Shimizu, Taniguchi, Shibata: [laughs]
Taniguchi: Then, "Dawn!"
Shibata: I would say “One Piece,” but that’s also two words. [laughs]
For my final question then, is there anything that you would like to say to international fans of One Piece?
Shimizu: [One Piece] is going to get way more interesting. It's going to a really, really amazing place.
Taniguchi: With Film Red, even if you don't really know the One Piece story or maybe you've watched or read it before a long time ago but you haven't really interfaced with it recently, this movie is accessible for everyone. I think there is something for each person watching this film. Even the action sequences, some of the more emotional moments and the humor. It's a really, really fun film all around. I hope everyone gets the chance to see this and enjoy it.
Shibata: The dubs are catching up with the subtitles, I believe with the Whole Cake arc. With that in mind, it’s a great time to be a One Piece fan. I can’t wait to watch the WANO KUNI arc dubbed myself. [laughs]
Kyle Cardine is a Managing Editor for Crunchyroll. You can find his Twitter here.