One Piece Film: Red – Uta Fulfills Eiichiro Oda’s Wish To Stop Drawing Old Men

One Piece producer, Hiroaki Shibata, gets candid on the development of Uta, the atypical main character in One Piece Film: Red.

One Piece Film Red Uta Performs
Photo: Eiichiro Oda | 2022 One Piece production committee

Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece is an anime phenomena that’s still going strong after 25 years and more than 1000 episodes. Extravagant One Piece feature films have become a popular tradition for the franchise and the 15th movie, One Piece Film: Red, has broken box office records and set new standards for the series. 

The new film is a significant change of pace for the anime and One Piece Film: Red feels like it’s as much a concert film as it is an action spectacle. Renowned musician, Uta, performs a legendary concert that puts a dangerous target on her back. Uta’s youthful antics feel remarkably fresh for One Piece and it turns out that her juvenile joie de vivre is directly the result of Oda being “tired of drawing old men.”

“There might be a grain of truth to that,” explains longtime One Piece producer Hiroaki Shibata. “Oda really wanted to create a leading role here for a female that had great significance.” Uta, a colorful pop idol performer, is certainly a contrast to past One Piece movie threats like Bear King, Captain Gasparde, Eldoraggo, and Baron Omatsuri, all of whom could pass as Uta’s grandfather. There’s a certain necessity to these lumbering male archetypes, but the creative freedom and warm reception that’s accompanied One Piece Film: Red seems to have a lot to do with what Uta brings to the table.

The shift in Uta’s look helped Oda experiment with fresh character designs, but on some level she was also created to bring in a new, younger audience who haven’t been following the franchise for 25 years. “In the case of this film,” explains Shibata, “I’m sure that on some level Oda thought the best way to deliver this story was with a character like Uta and through this screenplay.” He reiterates, “It’s the strongest version of One Piece that he can deliver to the current audience, but it also makes sure that it’s socially relevant in our current climate.” 

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Uta represents fresh blood in the One Piece universe. However, her role in One Piece Film: Red is also tightly tethered to her father, Red-Haired Shanks. Shanks is a One Piece character who fans have wanted to see in movies for years. One Piece Film: Red executive producer, Shinji Shimizu, was especially thrilled to showcase Shanks in this new light. “I personally really like Shanks,” admits Shimizu. “I always asked in the past films if we could put Shanks in a movie, but every time Oda would tell me that it wasn’t time yet. Shanks can’t be used in that way.” Uta’s vulnerability and the emotional depth that she adds to Shanks helped finally make this a reality.

Uta’s success as a One Piece character is hard to ignore and many of her songs that punctuate the feature film have hit the top of Apple Music’s Global Top 100. One Piece movies frequently exist outside of the series’ proper canon, which has left audiences curious if this is the last that they’ll see of the series’ buoyant musical prodigy. On the subject of more Uta, Shibata deflects to the character’s creator. “That’s a character that Oda invented and developed himself, so whether or not she’ll return is something that even I don’t know from just watching the film alone.” 

However, Shibata does coyly hint at the character’s possible future in what’s perhaps also a nod to One Piece Film: Red’s record-breaking box office success. “What I can say is that during the end credits everyone is singing Uta’s songs and there’s a certain energy. My belief is that therein lies the answer to that question.” 

With more One Piece on the way before its grand finale, it’d truly be a shame if Luffy, Uta, and Shanks don’t get one big battle together.

One Piece Film: Red is currently playing in limited theaters.