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Why One Piece Film: Red’s 3D Animation Works

3D animation usually looks clunky and out of place in anime, but One Piece Film: Red found a perfect use of the medium for its central character, Uta.

Most anime fans don’t like the idea of CGI or 3D animation in their anime or anime movies. It generally comes out looking clunky and takes the viewer out of the experience. However, there are certain scenes in movies that work well in 3D if not better than in 2D.

One Piece Film: Red has a prime example of the appropriate use of 3D animation. The movie has several song-and-dance sequences by Uta and a noticeable portion of each of them is done with computer graphics. However, there are a few factors that go into these sequences in particular that make 3D ideal over 2D.

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Does Uta Look Good In 3D?

It’s important to consider what exactly Uta is supposed to represent. She’s the One Piece world’s equivalent of a virtual idol. She has an extravagant character design, streams her songs and other types of videos via Transponder Snail, and acts as charming as possible for her fans. The only difference is that thanks to the fantastical setting of One Piece, what would be Uta’s virtual avatar also represents her IRL appearance; they’re one and the same. It makes sense that, like a virtual idol, she would have moments in the movie where she’s shown singing and dancing in 3D.

This isn’t just a vague interpretation of Uta as a character, either. A lot of the promotional material for One Piece Film: Red has set her up as something close to a fully realized virtual idol. This includes a miniseries recorded with vtuber technology, dance practice shorts, and a live performance of her song “New Genesis.” Everything about the marketing for One Piece Film: Red treats Uta like the virtual idol she would be in the real world, even if she’s technically a diva in the One Piece world. Because of all this, Uta seems right at home in the 3D environment crafted for her in the movie.

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Credit should also be given to Toei Animation for making the dancing look as good as it did. The studio has years of experience with virtual idol song-and-dance sequences thanks to Pretty Cure. This allowed for One Piece Film: Red’s sequence to come out with fluid animation, on-point models, and proper cel-shading.

There are plenty of examples of anime with 3D animation that seems poor and out of place, but One Piece Film: Red isn’t one of them. If anything, it fits perfectly with Uta’s virtual idol design motif and gives it a more genuine feel. The movie would come off as incomplete if it didn’t have her dancing in 3D. Such is the nature of the virtual idol zeitgeist.

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