By: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting
If you are a fan of One Piece, then you have probably already heard about the latest addition to the franchise: One Piece Film: RED.
I remember getting a lot of promotional merchandise related to the film at AX this last year and have been looking forward to the movie for months. Now that it’s out, I’ll let you all know that I think it is a fine addition to the series and currently airing in select theaters.
Now, if you don’t want to pay box-office price and are waiting for it to release later on streaming services but also want to know what happens, I highly recommend reading this full summary that I found online: “One Piece Film: RED Spoiler Talk (FULL SUMMARY)“
That being said, I want to talk about a trope that I’ve grown to really hate (spoilers) and how One Piece seems to get around that.
You’ve probably seen this before: a movie comes out, a handful of new characters come in, and the series’ show continues on with those new characters having never been mentioned or relevant to continuing events. It happens all the time. I think a recent example that I can think of is in the My Hero Academia movies, wherein characters like Rody Soul and his siblings appear, build a friendship, and never come back into play again.
I understand it. It allows for a serious plot and a new reason to pursue the conflict without messing with our main storyline. People who watch the movies can enjoy them, and a new mascot/character can help identify one movie from the other by sticking an image into the audience’s mind, not just a title. Meanwhile, the people that are only watching the show can feel like they’re not missing anything vital.
All is well… until they retcon the main casts’ backstories.
I hate when creators retcon the main characters’ backstories. I just do. I hated the constant back-tracking in Green Arrow that went on for SEASONS and changed the events on the island to the point that I felt like I couldn’t keep track of it. I hate when a character reveals a past trauma that is never mentioned in the series but obviously affects them heavily in the movie, yet won’t affect them in the show. I hate when a character reveals they’ve known this random person for years and said random person will be central to the movie’s story, but the character has never mentioned this person before in the entire course of the show–not even in passing.
It just gets me riled up for some reason, even if I do end up loving the movie later.
One Piece Film: RED seems to have that issue. It provides a new character to Luffy’s childhood, treating Uta like a long-lost sister-like character in the same way Sabo has been, which makes it all the more confusing to me in terms of understanding the storyline. Like, was this before Luffy had brothers? No, right? Because I think we see the bandits that helped raise the boys in the montage at the end, but then, if not, when would he have met her? It is after meeting Shanks, for sure, but everything else about it is confusing.
Given this, I was initially frustrated by the new revelation that Luffy knows Uta and has known her since they were children. However, I think that One Piece, as a series, has prepped me to feel differently about learning new things regarding a character’s back story that other series haven’t. I’ll explain:
Each of the characters has a past. Some of which are seen in multiple parts over different arcs. Sanji, for example, has two entire arcs, first in meeting the Straw Hats and coming to terms with leaving his adoptive father’s restaurant and teachings for adventure, the second being his confrontation with the past that left him to be raised by his adoptive father in the first place. Nami’s back story with the Cocoyasi Village is on the Conomi Islands, so on and so forth.
Luffy’s is perhaps the most mysterious of the group though, since every arc features him but rarely goes too long or deeply into his life on Dawn Island. We see some of it, usually in relation to another character (such as Sabo, Ace, his grandfather, and now Uta). However, we never really see him reflecting on his past. I would even argue that the flashbacks we see are from the other character’s perspective and reflection rather than Luffy himself.
Luffy is not a “looking back” sort of character, so when he does it is often short-lived, quiet, and done to assess how he should feel when approaching the new obstacle or, at least, that’s how I’ve read his character so far. He does so only two times that I can recall, once when Ussop left, and Zoro made him agree that Ussop could not return without apologizing. We don’t get a flashback so much as Luffy seeming to reflect and agree. The next time we got to see Luffy’s childhood and this idea of looking back followed Ace’s death wherein we have full episodes in flashback as Luffy’s mind and body recover.
As such, the timeline isn’t really confused because we’re not seeing Luffy’s time-line from his perspective or from directly following his character through the entirety of the events. We’re seeing the timeline as another character remembers it. While it’s not an exact introspective reflection on the events, we’re somewhat primed to understand that this is the other character remembering how they’ve met/bonded with Luffy. Moreover, we’re certainly influenced into seeing that these same characters are not entirely reliable narrators either.
As such, the framing really helps prevent the unclear progression of events in a timeline, even as we’re somewhat retconning what the audience may know about the present character before them. A confusing idea, but one that makes sense to me as the viewer and prevents me from being upset by new additions to the backstory of the Straw Hats Crew and Captain. But, what do you all think? Did this even make sense? (I’m sure I’m a little rusty from my long hiatus, but let me know what you thought!)
In the meantime, I tried to avoid spoiling too much of the movie, so I’m sorry for the lacking details, but thanks for sticking with me if you’ve made it this far!