“Live Action Anime” is a phrase that has been wrought with negative connotations, doubly so if Netflix is behind the adaptation. Since the Netflix adaptation of “Death Note,” the company has created around 13 anime adaptations that fail to capture the magic of the original source. These movies/shows are at best being ignored and at worst gaining infamy and hate.
Note that 13 is just my best estimate as Netflix seems to actively hide these productions beyond searching for them. Anyone knows they made three “Full Metal Alchemist” movies.
It’s not controversial to say that these adaptations are dull, have the personality of a rock and are lacking in story structure. So, with Netflix’s 14th attempt– with quite possibly the most well-known manga/anime in the world, “One Piece”– surely it could only end in disaster, right?
With gaining 37.8 million views within the first two weeks of its release, reaching the number one spot in Netflix’s Top 10 Chart in 84 countries, beating both the “Wednesday” and “Stranger Things” record of #1 in 83 countries and receiving praise from critics and fans alike, the “One Piece” series has shattered Netflix’s previous curse of bad live action anime adaptations. However, one must ask, “What went right this time around?”
“One Piece,” created and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, was first published on July 22, 1997. It follows Monkey D. Luffy’s– a young man with the powers of rubber– journey to find the fabled treasure, The One Piece, and become the King of the Pirates. Along his journey, Luffy assembles a crew named The Straw Hat Pirates who all have dreams of their own, fight monstrous foes and travel to outlandish islands.
At its core, “One Piece,” is a story about the journey being more important than the destination and the importance of fighting for one’s dreams. With the series having over 1,000 anime episodes, 14 films, numerous video games and more, it’s no shock to say that it is quite possibly the most famous and well-loved manga/anime series in the world. No pressure here Netflix.
Unlike previous Netflix anime adaptations, the crew consulted and worked closely with the original creator, Eiichiro Oda, to bring the world of the manga to live-action. Oda was an executive producer of the series and worked closely with the showrunners, having a say in the script, being vocal when unhappy with a scene and insisting the show didn’t even have a release date until Oda approved the project. The adaptation was a collaborative process in which the original author was always heard, and it clearly shows in the care put into this show.
The cast is diverse, with performances full of life, or in the case of Zoro, angst. In particular, Iñaki Godoy’s portrayal of Luffy was ripe with the whimsy and adventurous spirit that made many love the character in the first place.
The show closely follows the manga with changes made for faster pacing including the condensing of 95 manga chapters into eight episodes. However, I think what makes the show noteworthy is it doesn’t shy away from the strange world it is adapted from. It is full of strange sea beasts, varying pirates, wild powers, strange lands and much more.
In a sea of mediocre anime adaptations, “One Piece” breaks the mold, making a splash of vibrant color. I recommend this show to anyone who enjoys anime, adventure, diverse characters, pirates or fantastical worlds, and I await Netflix’s upcoming adaptations with tentative hope for future success.