‘One Piece Film: Red’ Director on Turning the Cult Manga Into a Global Media Phenomenon and How Anime Can “Overcome National Borders”

‘One Piece Film: Red’ Director on Turning the Cult Manga Into a Global Media Phenomenon and How Anime Can “Overcome National Borders”

It’s difficult to pinpoint when One Piece went from cult manga comics to global media phenomenon.

But with 15 feature films, more than a dozen television specials and multiple video game spin-offs, not to mention Eiichiro Oda’s original comic, which has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates have become as well-known to the current generation of fantasy fans as those of Harry Potter were to the one before.

The latest One Piece feature film, One Piece Film: Red, was the first to go truly global, earning $198 million worldwide as of Dec. 2, according to box office analysts at Comscore, making it the sixth most successful Japanese film of all time.

In the U.S., One Piece Film: Red was one of a string of box office hits for Crunchyroll, the anime joint venture between Japan‘s Aniplex and Sony Pictures Entertainment, alongside the likes of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie.

'One Piece Film Red'

‘One Piece Film Red’

Courtesy of Toei Animation

One Piece ”s global appeal was demonstrated at this year’s Lucca Comics and Games, Italy. This year, One Piece Movie: Red premiered in Italy. Goro Taniguchi was greeted by the hordes One Piece supporters like a returning hero.

In Italy, One Piece Film: Red has earned more than EUR800,000 ($841,000) to date for distributor Anime Factory, a Plaion Pictures label.

Goro Taniguchi met with The Hollywood Reporter at Lucca Comics and Games, to discuss the global success One Piece , Japanese animation and how the current boom will impact the traditional Japanese industry.

Did you expect One Piece would be such an international success?

Every director wants to succeed. However, no one can guarantee that it will happen. When I was asked to direct One Piece Movie: Red ,, I was asked to do more, to make things better. That was the mission I was given, and I did my best.

Why do you think anime is so popular, even outside of Japan?

As a language, anime has the ability to transcend national borders and reach everyone. We have also reached a high level of skill and competency. Industry members are now able meet a wide range of technical and narrative demands, satisfying the expectations of a global audience.

One Piece Film Red Still

‘One Piece Film: Red’

Courtesy of Toei Animation

Streaming platforms are also investing a lot in this type of animation.

I believe that Japanese anime has a lot of potential for the big platforms. Anime offers a way to reach many people. Incidentally, around the end of the ’80s, many Japanese animators worked mainly abroad, because there were other countries that wanted to develop their own anime; and, at that time, Japanese producers were not able to meet that demand. We are now ready to serve the market. This is evident in the [global] success story of anime.

What was your starting point in developing this movie and what was the biggest challenge?

It took nearly three years to create One Piece Film Red . One of the biggest challenges was One Piece ‘s own popularity. Everyone knows the brand among manga fans as well as anime viewers. Most people have heard about it at some point in their lives. A movie should be a party and a celebration. The challenge is convincing the public One Piece , to see the movie at the theater.

How do you rate the state of Japanese cinema in general at the moment?

My opinion is that Japanese cinema has reached a very high level of maturity. We cannot predict the future growth prospects of the Japanese market. It would be very difficult if things remained the same as they are, with these same rules, limitations, and restrictions. We are at a crossroads. We are at a crossroads. The production of anime, live-action movies, and videogames cannot be based solely on local demand. We need to look beyond the local market and start paying more attention to the international market. All of our productions have been sufficient to feed Japan’s internal market. Future products will be able to touch on many genres and diversify their workforce, while still keeping an eye on the rest the world.

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