By Fernando Gomez
Netflix released the first season of its live-action adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s best-selling manga and anime, One Piece, right before Labor Day Weekend. As some will know, live-action adaptions of animated series don’t often go well, most notably Avatar: The Last Airbender, Dragon Ball: Evolution, and most recently, Netflix’s own 2021 Cowboy Beebop. However, I’m glad to say that Netflix has broken the live-action curse and completely outdone itself. Thanks to the absolute love, devotion, and attention to detail the production team has put into it, One Piece is one of, if not the best, live-action adaptation of an animated series or manga.
The show follows Monkey D. Luffy, a carefree young man who dreams of becoming king of the pirates and finding the titular One Piece, the treasure of the Legendary pirate, Gold Roger. The king of the pirates was executed by the Marines and, in his final breath, sent the world into a craze searching for his treasure. “You want my treasure? You can have it! I left everything I gathered together in one place! Now you just have to find it!”. Along the course, Luffy makes a few enemies and slowly builds up his straw-hat pirate crew, consisting of Zoro, a swordsman who uses three swords; Nami, a navigator and thief; Usopp, a sharpshooter and habitual liar; and Sanji, a master chef and lady’s man.
The show’s first season fits the series’ first arc, known as the “East Blue Arc,” into eight episodes, giving the viewers a great introduction to the world of One Piece. The way the characters and the locations in the show are depicted are very similar to their animated counterparts. Part of that is due to the phenomenal casting. Emily Rudd as Nami was both hilariously sarcastic and tear-jerkingly emotional. Mackenyu as Zoro was the perfect mixture of Stoic and sincerity that brought his performance as Zoro to another level. But the one to truly stand out was Iñaki Godoy as Luffy. Godoy as Luffy is the perfect casting. He brings a chaotic and carefree take to the character that seems like they ripped Luffy right out of the pages of the manga.
Oda himself said in a Netflix promotional video he couldn’t have found anyone better suited for the role. “Actually, my biggest concern was if we could find someone like Luffy. But I watched a lot of audition videos, and when I saw you, I started laughing. You are exactly like the character I drew in my manga. Intuitively, I thought: ‘That’s Luffy’. I can’t imagine anyone else playing this role.”
Five Towns Sophomore Stephen Cooney agrees, saying “The casting is phenomenal, with most of the characters being exactly like the source material on-screen and in real life. On top of that, most of the actors and staff are One Piece fans as well, so there’s a great deal of love that went into the production of the show, making it a fantastic love letter to the original manga and a great introduction to the series for new fans.”
The production of this live-action series was noticeably different from others from the start, with Oda himself being heavily involved from the beginning and the production team being comprised of long-time fans of the series. “Using Oda’s manga as the series’ foundation left plenty of opportunity for the One Piece team to throw in Easter eggs for fans while bringing the story to a new medium, But the tricky part was figuring out what plot lines they wanted to parcel out for [Season] 1 and how to weave in the Straw Hats’ backstories,” said Matt Owens, one of the show’s Executive producers, to Tudum.
The producers weren’t the only big fans involved in the production. Library of Ohara, one of the biggest fan translators and figures in the fan base for the series, was brought on board for fact-checking and to make a timeline of every single event that happens in the series, including events that don’t happen in the manga but are mentioned in interviews and info panels. Some eagle-eyed fans have dissected the show and admitted that every detail is accurate besides those deliberately changed for budget or storytelling purposes.
Fans of the original source material are raving about the show online and around campus. “Compared to the original, the live-action holds up well and even surpasses the original in terms of pacing and surprisingly well-done fight scenes. There are hiccups and changes that aren’t the best, but it ultimately stayed true enough to the source material to be worth a watch,” said Five Towns Sophomore Jose Rojas.
The manga and anime are still ongoing, with the manga on chapter 1094 and the anime on episode 1079 as of this week. Netflix officially picked the series up for a second season, meaning they have a while to go before they catch up. Ultimately, as someone who started watching because of the live-action adaptation, I can definitely say One Piece is worth a watch, and if you like it enough, I recommend giving the anime a shot, too.