Let's divine the secrets of the upcoming One Piece film!
Hello everyone, and welcome to Why It Works. Having spent the last year consuming the entirety of the One Piece anime, the Straw Hats have established a permanent bulkhead in my brain. When I’m not actively reading or watching One Piece, I often content myself by speculating about future One Piece, which is almost as good as One Piece that already exists. At the moment, we have a prime target for pirating speculation: the upcoming ONE PIECE FILM RED, which promises to feature One Piece’s most important yet under-explored character. We can’t entirely plot out FILM RED from what we already know, but between the film’s few released details and our general understanding of One Piece films, I can still make a pretty informed stab at what I expect and hope for from the production. Let’s see what we can divine from the tea leaves of data and experience!
Starting off with the information we know, it’s been clear from even the title announcement that this film will focus heavily on Red-Haired Shanks, as his signature scars are built right into the logo. Shanks is without question the most important as-of-yet undeveloped character in One Piece mythology. His history with Roger and status as one of the four emperors make him a critically important figure in One Piece geopolitics, while his unique bond with Luffy makes him even more important in terms of the manga’s emotional journey. He’s literally the man who gave Luffy his signature hat and who “bet” on Luffy’s future at the cost of his own arm. It would appear Shanks’ full story is being saved for the final act, meaning FILM RED might well serve as a preamble to those reveals.
Along with focusing on Red-Haired Shanks, we’ve recently learned that the theme of the Straw Hats’ film outfits is “rock x pirates,” with the whole crew now featuring some spiked-up punk ornamentation. That character art was further conveyed in a very specific fashion: the video opens on a blank page of sheet music, which is then contorted into the Straw Hats’ forms. On top of all that, the accompanying poster features a woman we don’t know mid-song, along with the words “An almighty voice. With fiery red locks.”
Image via Toei
All of this strongly implies that Red will most likely have a rock concert theme, following in the footsteps of predecessors like Gold’s casino theme. That sounds like a fantastic choice, and one in keeping with One Piece’s general structural advantages when it comes to tie-in films. Rather than having to awkwardly slot new adventures into a fully continuous narrative, One Piece films can take advantage of the natural “chapter breaks” provided by the manga’s island-based, quasi-episodic structure. As a result, any given film can focus on an island the crew could have visited, providing uniquely themed amusement parks for the crew to run wild through.
Our understanding of One Piece films can provide a lot more than the presumably uncontroversial “it will probably take place on a themed island.” The rules of tie-in films are admittedly a little loose; take the contrast of Stampede and Z, for example. Stampede literally couldn’t exist at any point in the One Piece timeline, as it featured a wide variety of characters who were otherwise occupied at the only points it could occur. On the other hand, the release of Z was directly seeded and alluded to by the TV production, presenting far more ambiguity as to its canonicity or ongoing significance.
The overarching philosophy seems to imply that, while Oda-produced films are closer to show-canonical, nothing that happens in any One Piece film can be truly essential to the series’ story. No reveals that impact the core narrative, no characters that come up except in isolated or film-specific contexts. Ultimately, any One Piece film must be excisable without losing any meaningful context for the ongoing One Piece story.
As a result, I am sad to say it’s unlikely FILM RED will reveal any of the secrets we’re clamoring for regarding Red-Haired Shanks. Shanks is simply too important of a figure for his backstory to be relegated to a supplemental film. It's almost without question that the answers he’ll provide will tie in directly with the grand question of the One Piece itself, along with the significance of the straw hat. Red-Haired Shanks has made his entire personality a load-bearing column of mysteries, and the resolution of those mysteries will signal the approaching end of One Piece itself.
So what does that leave us with? Personally, I’d put money down that FILM RED will be focused on a character who was also inspired by Shanks, and rather than following that inspiration into piracy, they express their passion through music. While they could be related to Shanks, I’m more expecting their common red hair to be exploited as a setup: Luffy will mistake gossip about some red-haired celebrity for news of Shanks, only to discover this musician instead. We’ll get fond memories of how Shanks touched their life, Luffy will bond with them about the feelings they share, and it will all culminate in some spectacular battle-concert, with the Straw Hats defending their new companions as guitars roar in the background.
FILM RED may not provide the answers fans are waiting for, but I’m certain it will still be an absolutely staggering spectacle. In this era of Wano’s continuing magnificence, the idea of a film actually going above and beyond what the TV anime is achieving seems almost unimaginable. And a rock concert-themed One Piece movie? How cool is that!? Whatever answers it may or may not hold, I’m beyond hyped for FILM RED and can’t wait to see the Straw Hats on the big screen.