One Piece Film: Red – the chance to learn more about the elusive Red-Haired Shanks and be introduced to his songstress daughter Uta

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Despite over 100+ manga volumes and 1000+ anime episodes, one of One Piece’s first introduced characters “Red-Haired” Shanks remains elusive even in November 2022. All we know is that he is one of the Five Emperors of the Seas, a former ship hand with Pirate King Gol. D. Roger’s crew, and importantly the one who inspired Monkey D. Luffy, our main protagonist, to become a pirate by passing on the famed straw hat. Each of these facts go some way to establish Shanks as an impressive figure and mentor but do little to explain his motivation or even how he became such a prominent figure in the One Piece world. (Admittedly it comes down to how the character is written, which is in large credit to One Piece’s mangaka Oda Eiichiro whom has managed to create such an incredible character.)

Well, 25 years later after he first appeared in Chapter 1, Romance Dawn, Shanks is finally getting some more attention in One Piece Film: Red along with his daughter Uta.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The story revolves around Uta, who through her reclusive life living in Elegia and learning about the problems all over the world through transponder snails, decides to use her music to create a new era, a new world for which everyone will live in paradise. The film establishes very early on that Uta has managed to become a pop idol all by herself and her music is legendary. What makes this interesting is that she was abandoned by her father and his crew following the incident that massacred all the residents of Elegia. In fact all residents of Elegia meet their end except for Gordon, who ends up becoming Uta’s foster parent, and Uta herself.

Before watching the film, it is useful to watch the three episodes that were aired during the Wano Country Arc of the One Piece anime. These episodes establish the relationship between Shanks, Uta and Luffy and provides a lot of context to the film’s plot. Uta and Luffy’s relationship is cute and adoring, while we manage to see glimpses of a more carefree Shanks.

If you are wondering whether this film is canon. It very likely isn’t, because this film takes place when the anime has the Straw Hat Pirates in deep conflict with Kaido, the Animal Kingdom and Big Mom’s pirates in the Wano Country Arc. Like other anime films, it is impossible to reconcile the events of this film with the actual events in the anime canon. Nevertheless it is great to see Jimbe officially added to the Straw Hat roster and Zeus become part of Nami’s arsenal.

The film starts with the Straw Hats and many around the world excited to partake in a concert with the famed Uta. Many within the Straw Hats seem to already know and love Uta. The song “New Era” is the first of many tracks that are sung throughout the film. The number and frequency of these tracks is almost Bollywood-esque, since scenes will stop while Uta sings the new track over a montage of events on screen.

In addition to the Straw Hats, the film introduces many other side characters cameos from the likes of Oven, Brulee, Trafalgar D. Law, Bartolomew, Coby, Blueno and Vice Admirals Kizaru and Fujitora, as well as the entire Red Hair Pirates. Plus there a super cute appearance for the Sunny-go! It’s so cute it definitely could replace Chopper. The side characters do no more than advance the story, but are nice cameos nonetheless.

Things start to become different and, at least for me, my expectations were subverted when it was discovered that Uta had eaten the Sing-Sing Fruit which granted her the power to transport souls from the real world into a reality known as the Sing Sing World. When you learn this fact, this is where things become more sinister. You learn that Uta organized the concert (and its broadcast via transponder snails) with the aim of attracting everyone to hear her voice around the world. By hearing her voice, Uta is able to transport their souls to her Sing-Sing World.

The climax of the film revolves around lyrics that enable the summoning of Tot Musica, the Demon King of Songs, whose existence spans both the Sing Sing World and the real world. Due to her hatred towards pirates, given her abandonment by Shanks and his crew, she decides to rid the world of pirates while at the same time trapping everyone in the Sing Sing World.

The climax is difficult to reconcile because it does it messy and the whole Uta being a villain is probably the film’s weakness than strength, since her justification become less convincing after we realize that she knew that Tot Musica was responsible for the destruction to Elegia and its residents and not the Red Hair Pirates.

The final battle brings in some more famous cameos like Katakuri and Shanks (and crew). The battle is colorful and eccentric. And manages to end with the over the finishing blow you’d expect from an anime film.

By the film’s end, I felt the film was different to previous films in being able to establish a memorable villain in Uta, bring the fore a sense of nostalgia with the relationships between Luffy, Shanks and Uta, and manage to entertain with its colors and music tracks. While I am sad that Uta is likely non-canon, it was a good film for any One Piece fan.

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