Shinji Shimizus tenure at Toei Animation covers decades. He helped build a popular music franchise, like Gegege no Kitaro. Precure 5, Toriko, and, of course, One Piece. Shimizu sat down with the Anime News Network at the Anime Expo to discuss the latest film entry, One Piece Film Red, with its central music themes and bring famous character Shanks to the big screen.
You have been involved in designing multiple pieces of films. How is One Piece Film Red separate from the previous films?
Shinji Shimizu: In a film of the past, there are always very strong, bad, dared types of enemy figures that Luffy and his gang would beat up and fight, but with this film, it’s different. If you follow the series, you know that Luffy received his very iconic straw hat that sets off this entire adventure from Shanks. And Shanks will appear in this movie. There are ten films in the One Piece Catalog. I usually ask Oda-san, can we put Shanks in the next movie? Can we put a song called Shanks in the next movie? and he rejected me every time that was until Red, so I was very excited for him to become an audience?
Do you think you wore him down and that he was finally agreeing?
Shimizu: There are many, many arcs in One Piece. The final arc is going to be a very long and epic one. I think that matters more about the timing. I would say the timing was correct, and even Oda-san himself knows that this is the right moment to revisit Shanks. The biggest question, what do you see, is who shall even meet Shanks and Luffy ever meet? which, I can’t answer that, so we have to find out.
Goro Taniguchi, a very interesting director, has helmed a lot of unique projects. What do his style represent in One Piece Red film?
Shimizu: Taniguchi-san is clearly an amazing, amazing creator, and he can create original films and screenplays even if he wants to. He wanted to take this project and see what he did, I think that it was really interesting, so its an adventure for us too, not just the characters. How will that be? How are you going to go directly from here? However, no matter what it turns out, I’m pretty confident that it’s something that everyone can’t expect.
I hope that you’re getting some back-up energy. I liked that show very much.
Shimizu: I haven’t seen the final cut [Dennis Red] yet myself so I’m hoping to do that, too.
Music is the major subject of any movie promotion, and the character Uta herself is the theme. How were the musical artists chosen for the promotional campaign?
Shimizu: Oda-san is a big music fan and effectively created this Oda Music Team where he stood at the core of the team and that team enviably moved as its own individual entity, negotiating with all the artists, identifying the best fit. Of course, Oda-san will end up taking every decision the Oda Music team makes. What were the songs?
What was the influence of Utas character design?
Shimizu: It was all Oda. He did everything by hand. She designed everything.
Which pirate group can we expect to see?
Shimizu: This is a cast of three stars!
Is this the first time we were seeing red-haired pirates?
Shimizu: Yes, they all take off for the first time.
Are they all in this genre of mind?
Shimizu: You are right. There’s a kind of rock-and-roll motif going on, and I think thats something Oda-san knew well when he was designing them.
What were some of the different visual concepts that the staff developed for Uta before settling on her current look?
Shimizu: He took the lead over the music, and did all the design this time, so it was really an Oda-sans movie, I would say.
Do you know if there’s a specific rock band that he likes, or maybe perhaps he used to take inspiration? Like David Bowie or KISS?
Shimizu: Oda-sans are very good with all genres of music, and that’s really something I’ve asked him during this production. Hey, what’s the direction of the song, which is the angle? And he said, Shimizu, I don’t think you should even explain it to me, but if you didn’t, youd understand that you’re old and many artists are older and younger.
What did Utas be able to do and sing, and what did staff select a Kaori Nazuka and a Ado to compete in the roles?
Shimizu: In terms of Nazuka, she auditioned out of a lot of voice actresses, and, as far as Ado was, she was expected to make a role from the beginning. Since the casting system exists, there are two characters playing the role of one character. Nazuka is also doing all the acting and performing; besides Ado, the musical performances, their voicetonally and texturally are slightly different. Nazuka was very aware of what Ado was doing. She would listen to Ados singing performances for a while to make sure her acting matched whatever Ado was singing for her, so they could get one character with two actors.
What would you say as a crew is the sound of the Red-Haired Pirates compared to the Straw Hats?
Shimizu: I’m not entirely sure myself because I haven’t seen the final cut of what a pirate troupe looks like, but I imagine them all with the respective leadersLuffy, given his personality, the kinds of people he’s gathering and the kind of team members he would have as part of his crew, and Shanks, and the kind of emotional impact and sentiments that they give off, and those who would follow the Shaks. I think there’s certainly someone else who may choose to follow Shanks and his crew. So there’s a fundamentally different group of people that they’ve probably gathered between them. With respect to Shanks and his Red-Haired Pirates, of course I am not fully sure at this time, but what I know is that there will certainly be very significant or very respectable characters.
The trailers for The Red Story include many emotional scenes with Shanks and Uta. Should the fans bring a lot of tissue to the theater?
Shimizu: Bring many boxes of tissue to the theater. They were performing the listening to voice as part of the ADR recording session. Even Oda-san got a little misty-eyed.
This movie will be released on August 6th in Japan. This film will have IMAX screenings in 27 theaters, Tokyo and Tokyo. It will open with regular screenings. The film will also be screenings for MX 4D, 4DX and Dolby Atmos on opening day. Crunchyroll will screen the upcoming One Piece Film Red anime film this fall in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The screenings will be available in both Japanese and English audio.