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When Does One Piece Film: Red Take Place In The Series' Canon?

The adventures of "One Piece" have become legendary among anime fans. Set in a world populated by pirates and fantasy elements, the story of Monkey D. Luffy's journey to find treasure still thrills viewers. Eiichiro Oda's creation is more than its source material, as proved by a list of big-screen outings. The new film "One Piece Film: Red" represents another step in establishing characters and storylines outside of the manga.

"Red" comes at a time when Oda is ready to wrap up his work on the popular manga; the creator announced his intentions to take the characters on a concluding saga in the near future. What remains when it's all over is over 20 years of material for the anime to follow (via Polygon). Still, there are questions about what is and isn't canon among the franchise's films. Longtime fans know where previous cinematic incarnations stand, but "One Piece Film: Red" could offer its own surprises to the expansive canon.

Some outside of the franchise's focus might question why the film would even stay out of the canon. It's a simple answer that points to box office performance. Having the characters that diehard fans know interact in a separate storyline, with new or otherwise unseen characters, creates a level of viewing experience that everyone can enjoy. The choice also helps bring in a new generation of viewers who might be new to "One Piece," or even unaware of its existence. That move appears to be paying off in Japan as the film is setting records and taking its place among the country's top films of all time.

Uta is challenging fans' ideas about canon

Questions about Uta began as soon as "One Piece Film: Red" was announced. In the film, this mysterious singer is about to give her fans a once-in-a-lifetime concert experience. Luffy and the Straw Hat pirates are on hand — as are some other familiar faces — to see that not everything is what it seems.

Uta, who is related to one of the series' most well-known figures, deviates from the usual film-only appearances given to other characters. The pop sensation actually appears in anime episodes 1029 and 1030 (via Anime News Network). While that may have come about as a bit of cross-promotion for "Red," it undeniably places the singer directly in the anime version. In the arc, Luffy explores his childhood with a young friend who just so happens to be Uta. While it's already well known that Luffy spent time around Shanks as a child, this arc builds on the other people in his life at the time.

"Red" expands on that storyline, introducing private moments between childhood friends. They also make the film's theme song, "New Genesis," a major point in both the series and its cinematic counterpart. The song's ability to bring deeper meaning to its lyrics harkens back to the dramatic and complex elements found in each "One Piece" arc (via IGN). It also stands as canon itself, thanks to a special one-page manga in honor of the film's release.

The big event features connections to the One Piece canon

Uta may be set for a major concert, but the actual event is straddling the line when it comes to canon. The event itself is mentioned as part of episode 1030, "A Pledge for the New Era! Luffy and Uta"; its ending sees Luffy learn about the concert as well as its importance to Uta's fans. Meanwhile, the singer is getting ready to drop more than a few surprises as the occasion draws near.

The film picks up with Luffy and his crew of Straw Hat Pirates at the concert. From there, the story gets into some elements that are decidedly different from its manga and anime counterparts. All of this is confirmed by producer Shinji Shimizu; according to Comicbook.com, Shimizu revealed it would be separate from the main series canon, yet new canon details would emerge regarding Luffy's pirates.

An inclusion of slight details, such as Luffy's distinct influence on Uta's unique symbol, provides insight into how deep these non-canon elements go. Another point pops up in the appearance of Uta's teacher Gordon. The man would raise her after the devastating end of Elegia. He is never seen in the anime or manga, making his debut in the "One Piece" world with "Red."

Characters are providing hints about its timeline

One of the biggest conundrums is where all of "Red" sits on the "One Piece" timeline. With so many characters already inhabiting this story, their placement is both a help and a hindrance in figuring out its time period. Viewers keen on understanding where it sits can look to two central characters for clues.

Jinbe appears in "One Piece Film: Red" as part of the Straw Hat Pirates. The half-shark-half-man fighter became a part of the team during the Wano Country Arc. It's only natural for fans to assume this is an indication that it takes place after that particular arc, but another character's appearance suggests otherwise.

Big Mom is one of those unforgettable characters, and with good reason. This bold character met her demise in Wano due to a run-in with its volcano. Many speculated she died without definitive proof. In a surprising turn, she makes an appearance during "Red." Big Mom is seen watching Uta, not in person, but on a live feed. Her prominence in the story increases with a decision made as the events unfold. In contrast to Jinbe, her appearance means it is before Wano or after, revealing her status as still alive.