Does [SPOILER] Die in ‘One Piece Film: Red’?
I first saw One Piece Film: Red in Japan in late August. Red would not come out in the U.S. until November 4. And the end of Red is such that, when the credits stared to roll, my eyes were wide, my mouth was a wide O-shape, and I was basically frozen still. But I had to hold that—by myself, all alone—for almost three months. No longer! Now that Red has released all around the world, I finally get to talk about the ending. Because we really, really need to talk about it.
This article contains MAJOR spoilers for One Piece Film: Red!
One Piece really excels at creating both villains you loathe (freaking Akainu, I can’t wait till he dies) and villains you feel a lot of sympathy for—many of whom eventually become protagonists of a sort (like Robin). Red‘s Uta is the latter. Even though erasing the agency of others and trapping them in a dream world is not exactly morally good, you empathize with where she’s coming from. Through tragic, shitty circumstances that were no one’s fault (it was magic’s fault, stupid magic!), she was forced to live in near complete isolation for the most formative years of her life. On top of that, she spent most of that period believing that her hot pirate dad betrayed her and committed mass murder. (Then imagine finding out that you technically did it?! Ay yi yi.) So I really like Uta—I find her to be a complex and captivating character. And her songs slap.
So when, at the end of the film, she slaps life-saving medicine right out of Shanks’ hand to quickly save everyone still trapped in the dream world, I grew incredibly concerned. Sure, part of her plan for the whole film was to die so that everyone could stay in the peaceful song world, even though most of those people got transformed into teddy bears and lollipops. Still, I—like most One Piece fans—assumed that the film would resolve itself by saving Uta and everyone else. After all, killing off characters isn’t unheard of in One Piece, but it’s very rare.
However, the final shot in One Piece Film: Red is Luffy looking over at Shanks’ ship and seeing the entire crew gathered solemnly around what looks very, very much like a coffin. Uta is nowhere in this gathering. So we can assume who is in the coffin.
This is where I absolutely lost my shit. Indeed, according to One Piece Spoiler on Twitter, Red screenwriter Tsutomu Kuroiwa gave an interview in which he confirmed that Uta died at the end of Red. But then, from the same source, mangaka Eiichiro Oda said that Uta was not necessarily dead.
Here’s the other complete mindfuck: One Piece Film: Red does not depict canon events. But Uta’s existence is canon. A canon character dying in a non-canonical story is completely unprecedented in One Piece‘s history. What the hell does it mean? When I said in my review that Red wraps up in a really satisfying way that makes sense for all its protagonists, and that it’s too bad it’s not canon, this is what I was talking about. Not that I want Uta to be dead, but it does feel like a meaningful and complete arc for a canon character. If Uta’s alive in the canon, that would feel kind of weird because of how impactful Red is. But that still wouldn’t feel as weird as her dying in canon from some other event.
If Oda won’t confirm whether she died or not in the film, you can bet he won’t confirm whether or not she’s dead in One Piece canon. In fact, in the recent audio commentary track which accompanies Red, Oda left open the question of whether or not some version of Red will make it into the canon.
See, this is what happens when you make a non-canonical film that’s too good. You mess with hearts and befuddle brains!
Personally speaking, I interpret the ending to mean that Uta died and Shanks and his crew are mourning her. Everyone—including Luffy, even—seems appropriately glum and serious. But what has happened and will happen to Uta in One Piece‘s actual canon remains very much an open question. Infuriatingly open, even, if you’re impatient like me.
(featured image: Eiichiro Oda)
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