One Piece Film Red sees the Straw Hat Pirates taking some time off from their adventuring to attend a concert for Pop Singer/Idol Uta, who has been gaining a lot of attention recently with her broadcasts all over the world. This concert being her first in person appearance is a landmark event where an entire island becomes her stage. As the show starts, Uta explains her desire to create a new world where people can be free of the tyranny of Pirates and the World Government/Marines who have failed to protect them. She wants to create a world where everyone can have fun and can live together freely. Things come to a head when Luffy recognises her, and reveals the two are childhood friends and that Uta is the daughter of Shanks, one of the four Pirate Emperors. Within the concert itself we see several key characters from different factions are amongst the audience with different motivations to either stop the concert or kidnap Uta.
With anime films based on long running properties, they generally take one of two routes; either made with the assumption the audience will be fully caught up on everything in the franchise and will need no explanations, or that the film might be the jumping off point for those who will then get into the series and acts as a more standalone story with general explanations as to the world and it's status. One Piece Film Red takes the first approach, assuming the viewer is completely up to date. Now, at the point where the film takes place both anime and manga have been given over 1000 chapters/episodes respectively, so if you're not current with the Straw Hat Pirates, this is going to be a challenge. The film itself pulls from several pieces of lore from throughout the series and will drop in characters with no explanation expecting the audience to know who they are, their motivations and even their skills/abilities.
If you don't know these characters, you won't learn much from the film
That being said there is one major caveat to how much someone will enjoy this film and that caveat is Uta. As the film takes place at a concert and Uta's power is focused around singing, there are several moments throughout the film where an entire song plays making the film not only an action adventure movie but a concert movie as well. The songs are very much J pop, anime Rock songs with a good mix of high tempo performances mixed in with a few slower paced ballads for emotional impact. I for one really enjoyed the music and think Ado has a really great voice. It would be expected that if someone watching this film who has invested years of their life keeping up with One Piece would also at some point experience J pop/anime music, but music taste is really subjective. One person could love these songs, another could think they're just okay and some may find them irritating or a distraction. For me, I think the songs do a good job of showing Uta's skills and character as she conveys most of her emotions and her state of mind via music, much as Disney does with it's more successful franchises such as Frozen and The Lion King. Its a good plot device to add in music but also have her move along the plot as her singing has an impact on the current events of the movie.
Uta's existence itself in the franchise is questionable. She is a character who appears and is mentioned out of nowhere yet has a lot of significance in being both Luffy's childhood friend and Shanks' daughter. It kind of changes some of Luffy's history and character by dropping in a friend who is tied to Shanks that was never mentioned at all to this point. Her back story is explained and given a lot of focus as the movie progresses which is also tied into the biggest potential threat of the movie – Tot Musica, a musical score that houses the power of a demon that, when sung by someone who hold Uta's power, unleashes the demon upon the world. This aspect plays a part in both Uta's past and the current story. As far as narrative arcs go it somewhat stumbles in places but makes up for it with the Straw Hat crew and others who jump in to deal with the situation.
In terms of visuals and action the film is on point. There's a lot of cool character moments, visually striking imagery with a lot of lights and flashes. The movie is a huge spectacle which is fun but at times feels too busy, with too many characters and effects being on screen at once. In this it has much in common with One Piece Stampede.
Overall fans of One Piece and J Pop will have a lot of fun watching this film. Its a 2 hour experience filled with great music and action. Its a film definitely for fans that sadly may be inaccessible to those unfamiliar with either One Piece or J Pop.