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So What’s Shanks’ Role In ‘One Piece Film: Red’?

What a man. What a guy.

Shanks being a goddamn steam show machine in One Piece Film: Red

I very notably left out Shanks talk in my review of One Piece Film: Red. That’s because Shanks’ appearance is well past the point in the film where almost anything you say is a spoiler, because that point is only about 15 minutes into the film. But the film is freaking named after him (Shanks leads the Red Hair Pirates). So among fans who haven’t been able to see Red (which is a lot due to its staggered distribution), the excitement and curiosity about The Shanks Factor is high. As someone who was able to travel to Japan and see Red (twice and counting), allow me try to address the question in the least spoiler-y way I can.

Red is the first time that Shanks’ and Luffy’s voice actors have been in the same room together in over twenty years. Shanks has essentially made three appearances in One Piece (Marineford, Ace thanking him, and the Gorosei — right?) since he was central figure in Luffy’s childhood in the opening episodes. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. But at a certain point, absence also makes the heart grow fishy, especially after that Gorosei business. A popular fan theory started circulating in recent years that Shanks is actually one of One Piece‘s Big Bads. The companion episodes of the One Piece anime certainly didn’t alleviate that suspicion.

[Light-ish spoilers ahead for One Piece Film: Red. However, if you’ve watched the anime episode 1030, you know one part of the spoiler.]

Shanks’ involvement comes by way of the film’s central character, Uta. Uta happens to be Shanks’ daughter — a bombshell of a development because Uta’s existence is One Piece canon. (The film, somewhat disappointingly, is not canon.) When Shanks first arrived on Windmill Island, he had Uta with him as the Red Hair Pirates’ resident musician. Uta and Luffy, then, played around and knew each other as kids. Then Something Happened, and Uta went MIA for a while. Fast forward fourteen years, and Uta is now a beloved pop star the world over. And she’s hosting her first concert.

Uta’s big concert is happening on Elegia, a former music captial of the Grand Line which was destroyed in a single night by — DOOM! — the Red Hair Pirates. They left Uta on the island as they sailed away. So she has some serious baggage.

Naturally, Shanks shows up at this concert. You know he does, because he simply has to by the rules of both shounen and movie trailers. He takes his goddamn sweet time, but he shows up. (“I came to hear my daughter sing,” he smolders like the goddamn smoke show he is.) And the scene where he shows up… oh man. Chef’s kiss worthy. (I’ll tell you the header image, which was taken from the One Piece official Twitter account, is from that scene.)

So, yes, Shanks is in the movie. He has enough dialogue and screen time to be satisfying — especially given his long, LONG absence from the series. But it’s still not a ton. Red will leave you wanting way more. I mean, look at that goddamn photo above. Look at the sheer force of that smolder.

I will also tell you that Shanks and Luffy don’t stand around and have a nice chat. That’s clearly manga territory. No film, even as one as good as Red, should be stepping on the toes of a Series Climax that Oda’s been planning for 25 years. However, I found the workaround Red concocts to be satisfying.

The other big question among fans is whether or not you get to see Shanks fight. This one’s a bit tricky to answer without major spoilers. The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is, “Yes, but mostly one-hits.” There’s not a long battle where Shanks pulls out all his big movies. That’s clearly being saved for the manga: I just read a SBS where Eiichiro Oda treated the question of “how does Shanks fight?” as a major mystery to be settled at a latter date. Red offers a tease, but not an answer.

Red‘s actually really great at teasing fans, overall. We get a lot of very tiny peeks into what could be lying ahead on the final leg of Luffy’s adventure. It’s the perfect companion film to both celebrate One Piece‘s 25th anniversary and kick off the series’ last saga.

Image credit: Toei Animation

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Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.