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The Ending Of One Piece Film: Red Explained

Eiichiro Oda's swashbuckling fantasy manga/anime series "One Piece" is a bona fide global phenomenon, following the adventures of magically empowered pirate Monkey D. Luffy and his crew of Straw Hat Pirates. The franchise has released its 15th feature anime film, "One Piece Film: Red," worldwide, with Luffy reconnecting with a childhood friend and being drawn into an adventure to save the world. Featuring a prominent role for Red-Haired Shanks and his crew of Red Hair Pirates (as referenced in the title), "Red" is a musically-tinged story poised to change the stakes for the main "One Piece" story.

Below, a (spoiler-heavy) examination of the film's ending, including what "Red" brings to the overarching "One Piece" mythos and its characters. There are plenty of far-reaching implications to Oda's narrative introduced in "Red"; here is where the film informs the course of "One Piece" moving forward.

One Piece Film: Red's status in continuity

Anime films historically have a tricky relationship with continuity, as franchises like "Dragon Ball" often exclude them from the canon while other properties like "My Hero Academia" incorporates them into the wider continuity. "One Piece" lands somewhere in the complicated middle with its treatment of canon in regard to the handling of its spinoff anime films, including "One Piece Film: Red." To make matters all the more potentially convoluted, "Red" is produced and based on a story from "One Piece" creator Eiichiro Oda, serving as an extension of Oda's vision for the franchise.

Several elements of "Red" have already carried over into the manga/anime series' story, in particular the character Uta and her lifelong connection to Luffy. In the manga series' Chapter 1055 of the "Wano Country" story arc, a flashback sequence includes Luffy and Uta playing together as children, subsequently depicted in Episode 1029 of the anime series. That episode revealed that Uta was actually Red-Haired Shanks' long-lost adopted daughter; in "Red," the two reunite and reconcile, with Uta joining Shanks' Red Hair Pirates. Though the full extent of how the movie's story impacts the main narrative is currently unknown, Uta and her place in continuity are a loose plot thread practically begging to be followed up on further.

One Piece Film: Red's non-canonical elements

There are several elements and character depictions in "Red" that either clash with the series' overarching timeline or simply contradict the established canon as it currently stands. Luffy showcasing his powerful Gear 5 transformation and Jinbe being present among the Straw Hat Pirates suggests that the events of "Red" take place after the "Wano Country" story arc. However, "Red" also features the villains behind "Wano Country," the Big Mom Pirates, in a prominent way despite their defeat in the series. This isn't to say that the Big Mom Pirates couldn't have regrouped under unseen circumstances, but it does undercut Kid and Law defeating them in "Wano Country."

In a 2021 interview with Spanish anime news site Mision Tokyo, "Red" producer Shinji Shimizu explained that the film's story is independent of the main narrative, taking place "outside the usual continuity of the series." Instead, "Red" is something of a side-story that doesn't neatly fit into the main story, allowing for discrepancies like Jinbe's role tying into narrative elements like Luffy's childhood. A good example is the 2009 movie "One Piece Film: Strong World," which introduced Shiki the Golden Lion, who was separately brought into the anime series later, albeit under different circumstances. With this in mind, "Red" may potentially work like something of a teaser for elements coming to the main series in the future.

The background of Red Hair Pirates revealed

Though Shanks and the Red Hair pirates have loomed large in Luffy's life and his decision to become a pirate, "Red" puts the pirate crew front and center in contrast to previous films in the franchise. When "Red" was released in Japanese cinemas in August 2022, a special program was handed out to provide more background on the film and its characters, including the Red Hair Pirates (per Anime Senpai). This program offers more information about Shanks and Uta, in particular, providing backstory not explicitly stated or shown in the film.

The program reveals that Shanks and Uta share a common origin story, discovered inside a treasure chest by pirates while they were left alone as infants. Just as Shanks was adopted by the legendary pirate captain Gol D. Roger and his first mate Rayleigh, Shanks in turn adopted Uta after he found her. The Five Elders making up the reigning World Government of "One Piece" describe both Shanks and Uta belonging to the Fearland Family, descendants of the royals that once ruled the world. The program also includes background information on several key Red Hair Pirates, including marksmen Benn Beckman and Yasopp and the crew's doctor Hongo, as the elusive crew comes into prominence.

Yasopp gets a big upgrade

Yasopp and his son Usopp, with the latter a key figure within Luffy's Straw Hat Pirates, both play a pivotal role in "Red" as the two pirate crew come together to save the day. With Uta drawing people's consciousness into the dream world through the unique power of her music, this presents an immense obstacle for the heroes to stop her. Yasopp unveils a previously-unseen ability through his Haki, the unique powers that many "One Piece" characters awaken as they grow in strength, able to open a portal to the dream world.

Joining forces with Usopp, Yasopp creates a breach into the dream world, allowing the pirates entry to free those drawn in by Uta and confront an ancient monster inside of the ethereal realm. Yasopp previously used his Haki to sense presence and powerful levels to boost his usual veteran marksmanship role with the Red Hair Pirates. Joined with his son's burgeoning Haki, Yasopp's powers have been upgraded significantly to create entry points into different dimensions, bending the laws of space. Whether Yasopp will retain these abilities beyond "Red" is a mystery, but it does showcase the untapped potential of the character.

Introducing the mysterious Uta

The primary antagonist of "Red" is Uta, who appears to be an innocent pop star looking to restore the devastated island of Elegia and bring music to the masses in a festival concert before an impressive audience. The Straw Hat Pirates are surprised to learn that Uta is Shanks' adopted daughter and a childhood friend of Luffy before she unveils her grand plan. In order to unite humanity through peace and harmony, Uta plans to use her unique abilities to draw her audience's consciousness into the dream world to eliminate interpersonal strife in the real world.

With Luffy and his friends realizing this scheme would effectively rob humanity of its free will, they move to stop her. However, Uta herself undergoes a shocking discovery when she realizes her powers are responsible for devastating Elegia in the first place, as she recalls a repressed memory from her childhood. This sets Uta on a path for redemption, and one that she still may be pursuing should the character resurface in the anime series beyond her flashback appearances to Luffy's childhood. Luffy's long-lost friend may have been introduced as a pop idol with adoring masses but, like many characters in "One Piece," she has a dark history to overcome.

Luffy's big transformation makes a comeback

The rubber-like powers Luffy gained after eating a piece of Devil Fruit has led him to achieve various combat transformations as he continues to awaken his latent potential. "Red" features Luffy's most powerful transformed state yet, known as Gear 5, when he battles an ancient demon residing within the dream world that threatens to break free into the waking world. Luffy's use of the transformation further underscores the film's approximate placement in the wider "One Piece" timeline, while showcasing how much Luffy has mastered this new form.

Luffy first achieves the Gear 5 transformation during the "Wano Country" storyline in the middle of his final showdown against the villainous Kaidou. Newly aware of the full extent of his connection to the Devil Fruit, Luffy gains absolute mastery over his powers, unveiling a combat transformation. In "Red," Luffy transforms into Gear 5 to take on the demon Tot Musica within the dream world, having grown visibly accustomed to the abilities this new form grants him. This suggests that Luffy won't have any issues tapping into his Gear 5 potential moving forward.

The dangers of the dream world

"One Piece" has introduced different realms and dimensions to the narrative's material world, including a mythical Island of Dreams to its larger story. "One Piece Film: Red" goes a step further by prominently featuring a dream world connected to Uta through her music, with devastating implications for the waking world. Through powers gained by consumption of the Devil Fruit, Uta can draw people who hear her music into the dreaming world, planning to shape their consciousness accordingly.

The dream world isn't unpopulated, however; an ancient demon known as the Tot Musica resides within, plotting to escape into the real world to unleash chaos and destruction. A flashback late in "Red' reveals Uta accidentally allowed Tot Musica to enter the real world 12 years before the events of the film, devastating the island of Elegia. Though Tot Musica is destroyed by the combined efforts of the Straw Hat and Red Hair Pirates, the experience makes Uta reconsider her powers. There may be additional monsters lurking in the dream world and, having secured a taste of the outside world, this new dimension adds more complexity and peril to the world of "One Piece."

The Big Mom Pirates return

The major antagonists of the "Wano Country" story arc are the Big Mom Pirates, a rival faction that has held a longstanding, deep grudge against Luffy, and are led by their power-hungry captain Charlotte Linlin. After their botched alliance with Kaidou and the Beast Pirates to conquer the world, the Big Mom Pirates were last seen trying to rescue Charlotte from a fiery fate in the wake of their defeat. Not only are the Big Mom Pirates back in "Red," but they appear to be renewed in strength and as dangerous as ever, seeking new ways to subjugate humanity.

Witnessing Uta's powers firsthand during her concert on Elegia Island, the Big Mom Pirates conspire to attempt a kidnapping, hoping to use her Devil Fruit powers for their own nefarious ends. Though the pirate crew is unsuccessful in seizing Uta, this suggests that the Big Mom Pirates have recovered sufficiently from their recent defeat to become a serious threat once again. While the film's canon authenticity is murky, the Big Mom Pirates' inclusion could simply be a nod to their history — even if the faction has been a recurring foe in the story for years and a comeback is always likely.

Uta and the Red Hair Pirates are on the run

The Red Hair Pirates and their captain Red-Haired Shanks have long been regarded as one of the most notorious pirate crews in the New World, despite their sometimes heroic actions. The Red Hair Pirates play a pivotal role in not only stopping Uta from misusing her powers to unleash Tot Musica but helping her recover from the ordeal. However, Uta's impressive abilities haven't gone unnoticed, with Admirals Issho and Borsalino among those who witness what Uta is capable of if left unchecked.

Believing Uta to be too dangerous to roam free after devastating Elegia Island and nearly unleashing Tot Musica again 12 years later, the admirals plan to bring the pop star into custody. Shanks is able to intervene and get the admirals to stand down, bringing Uta on to his crew of Red Hair Pirates before departing from the island for parts unknown. Now with Uta in tow, Shanks and the Red Hair Pirates are more wanted by the authorities than ever, especially with the admirals well-aware of the potential peril Uta poses. Shanks and his crew's reputation gives them a fair bit of leeway on the open seas but, with a musical secret weapon in their midst, the Red Hair Pirates might have just become the world's most wanted.

Shanks accepts Uta as his daughter

Shanks is revealed to have left Uta behind as he sailed the New World with his Red Hair Pirates when she was still at an early age, deeply affecting her. This abandonment causes Uta to strongly resent all pirates due to their association with Shanks' decision to leave her, straining her friendship with Luffy when he sets out to follow in Shanks' footsteps.

After stopping Uta from unleashing Tot Musica and saving her life after she is drained by bringing everyone back from the dream world, Shanks finally accepts Uta as his daughter. Welcoming her to join him with the Red Hair Pirates, Shanks is also fiercely protective of Uta when the admirals attempt to take her into custody. With Uta now serving alongside them, Shanks not only has his daughter by his side but the Red Hair Pirates potentially have their most powerful crew mate yet. "Red" effectively humanizes Shanks by bringing his daughter into the fold while hinting at further adventures together in the main series moving forward.

Luffy and Shanks have yet to reconnect

Luffy owes everything to Shanks, after the pirate saved his life as a boy at the cost of one of his arms. Not only is Luffy forever indebted for this but, after receiving Shanks' signature straw hat as a gift to remember him by, Luffy decided to follow in his idol's footsteps to lead his own pirate crew. Luffy and Shanks promised to reunite someday, always just missing each other over the course of "One Piece," with "Red" continuing this narrative tradition despite the two ostensibly working together.

Though Luffy and Shanks lead their respective pirate crews to work together to stop Uta and destroy Tot Musica, the two captains nearly encounter each other over the course of "Red." This largely has to do with the dimensional separation stemming from the dream world, with Luffy inside of the dream world to confront Tot Musica while Shanks remains elsewhere. As Shanks and his crew depart from Elegia Island at the end of the film, he still hasn't reunited with Luffy to see how far the boy he saved has come as a pirate in his own right. With the promise unfulfilled, despite the common goal and close proximity, Luffy and Shanks still have unfinished business between them.

The post-credits scene explained

"One Piece Film: Red" includes a post-credits scene that shows Luffy back on his pirate ship, sailing away from Elegia Island for new adventures as he contemplates his recent experiences. As determined as ever, Luffy declares to the open sea that he will one day become the Pirate King, a lifelong ambition he has maintained since childhood. "Red" offers more insight into Luffy's longstanding dream, with his adventure alongside Uta reaffirming why he intends to seize this position among the pirate community in the New World.

As children, Luffy shared his dream to become the Pirate King to Uta, though she scoffed at this over her disdain for pirates. Years later, after reconciling with her father and seeing the error of her ways by the end of the film, Uta expresses her confidence in Luffy one day succeeding in becoming the Pirate King. This esteemed role in the pirate community has remained vacant since the passing of Shanks' mentor, Gol D. Roger, leading captains to bicker amongst themselves for the title. Now with a vote of confidence from his childhood friend, Luffy is more determined than ever to finally fulfill his seafaring dream.