It’s hard to objectively rate an episode like 1029. It is at once well-executed and cynically transparent, a sort of necessary evil that is far better than it has any right to be but also too awkward to fit into the continuity of the current arc.
There’s nothing particularly egregious about the content of the episode itself. It is a flashback episode where we spend time with young Luffy first meeting Shanks and his daughter Uta. Uta is roughly Luffy’s age and they spend time running around and playing together, competing with one another, and learning about each other. Uta wanted to be a star, and the framing device at the beginning of the episode shows us that she does indeed become a worldwide talent in the present day. The episode is well-animated, with plenty of engaging visuals that operate on the sort of dreamy-weamy logic of music videos. Young Luffy even fights a monkey at one point and shares fruit with him! It’s fun for the whole family.
That said, this is a straight-up half-hour commercial for One Piece: Film Red, and it’s impossible to shake the sense of disruption the entire episode brings. That’s… fine, I get it, Toei wants to cross-promote and I don’t have any qualms about it per se. I’m sure the crew put in a ton of effort into the film and so they’d want to put in that extra bit of impetus for folks to go see the movie. Not to mention, it’s a good-looking episode! The team did not phone it in one bit.
But… it’s hard not to feel a huge letdown that we’re pumping the brakes on Wano (already an incredibly long arc) to do this for a week. That only further underscores the weirdness of Uta as a character. Don’t get me wrong, she has a terrific design, a well-realized motivation, and I don’t have any issue with “Shanks had a kid we don’t know about.”
The problem is that this entire idea of her having been good friends with Luffy during such a pivotal time in his life seems to be both too important and not important enough all at once. In other words, Uta currently feels detached from the narrative—she essentially is one of the first age-appropriate friends Luffy ever had, and the daughter of his mentor, but Uta doesn’t add much to Luffy’s story or experience or what we know about him (and how could she, with only 30 minutes of screentime as of now? Perhaps the film expands on this) other than to explain her motivation.
The whole experience fell flat for me, despite its merits.
Grant is the cohost on the Blade Licking Thieves podcast and Super Senpai Podcast.
One Piece is currently streaming on
Crunchyroll and Funimation.com.