One Piece is the best-selling manga of all time, and it’s one of the greatest shonen anime in history. So when the announcement of Netflix’s live-action adaptation broke, every anime fan was skeptical due to the looming curse of botched live-action adaptations in the past (I mean, I don’t even want to be reminded of Netflix’s Death Note movie and Cowboy Beebop series). But fear not, my friend, as the latest One Piece live-action series on Netflix has successfully broken this curse and lived up to the unreal hype of the fans.
The protagonist Luffy’s (Inaki Godoy) journey as he sets out the sails to become “King of the Pirates” and recruit the initial few members of the Straw Hats is well-portrayed in live-action. And you know the story is serious when Luffy’s grandfather, a marine general, is on his tail to stop him. But does this cat and mouse game translate well for the viewers? How does the live-action compare to the anime? Well, let me share my thoughts on the One Piece live-action series in this review, discussing the cast, story adaptation, and whether it is a hit or a miss.
Infusing Vitality Into the Characters Is a Stellar Live-Action Cast
The first thing we have to talk about is the magnificent cast selection and their absolutely stellar performance. Undoubtedly, the characters of the One Piece world, especially the Straw Hats, make the formidable foundation of the series. Therefore, picking the right set of actors to bring to life the characters meticulously crafted by Oda sensei was already one heck of a task. The teasers and trailers did give us a hint, but fans still had their doubts about the casting. But, we can conclude that One Piece Live Action showrunner Matt Owens has delivered on this front.
Filling in the shoes of Luffy, Iñaki Godoy takes some time to get used to but he stands out with his broad smile and dreamy attitude. Godoy radiates a captivating blend of boundless enthusiasm and wide-eyed wonder, one that’s sure to get you hooked. But his portrayal of the role is not without its flaws; we will discuss them below. Mackenyu, playing Zoro, is remarkable as the cool swordsman. His calm demeanor in real life translates well to Zoro’s in the live-action.
Played by the anime fan, Emily Rudd, Nami is absolutely beautiful as ever and fulfills her role well as the cunning yet heartful cat burglar. Jacob Romero stayed true to Usopp’s character, being the lying cowardly kid who has the heart to become better. Last but not least, Taz Skylar, who portrays the cook and combatant Sanji, served an entrée one couldn’t resist.
Every single character in the show did justice to their role with their admirable performances. I couldn’t believe my eyes when some of the characters looked like they had been ripped out straight from the manga, including Buggy, Zeff, Koby, and so many others. Morgan Davies should take a bow for his portrayal of the timid Koby, who goes from being Alvida’s servant to finally standing up to Garp. Netflix nailed it with the acting department in a nutshell!
The Awe-Inspiring & Perilous Maritime Realm of One Piece
Note: This section contains some minor spoilers about the anime and manga; things that weren’t shown in the live-action.
The debut season of Netflix’s One Piece show heavily revolves around Luffy setting out to explore the seas in search of the fabled One Piece treasure; aiming to become the next pirate king. They kicked off the show with Gold Rogers’ words during his execution, just like the manga and anime. However, that’s not the case throughout the eight-episode run of the series; there are some deviations from the source. That’s to be expected, though, as not everything from the manga or anime will translate well in live-action.
Nevertheless, the core story and the characters remain faithful to the source material. Changes featuring extra scenes or a different setting, such as Buggy the Clown holding the villagers hostage, weren’t part of the manga but fit well with his eccentric behavior and add depth to his character. Moreover, scenes that solidified the bond between the Straw Hat Pirates, along with the scenes where we see Garp training Koby, were all important to the story. More importantly, the live-action courageously adapted the gruesome and gory violence in the One Piece manga while the anime strayed away from it. Overall, it was a refreshing journey from start to finish.
Netflix adapted the first five One Piece arcs by condensing them into 8 episodes. The creators penned the story well by weaving the original and including their own moments together. Not to forget that, Eiichiro Oda supervised everything by working with the team and gave them the green signal for all that we see in the live-action. He wanted it to be perfect for the fans, and it rightly did so.
Every episode was well-written for the most part, and there were many hidden easter eggs and cool details in One Piece live-action that you should check out. For a newcomer, it will serve as a well-paced adaptation, but for a veteran One Piece fan like me, it felt a little rushed. The introduction of all the Straw Hat members didn’t sit well with me, as the team should’ve taken a bit more time for character development.
Mostly Hits, No Misses: The Production Crew Did Wonders!
Coming to the technical side, I must accept that the showrunners did wonders with this show. Be it the make-up artists, the set designers, or the costume designers, they were able to recreate the bizarre world of One Piece to the tee. The cinematography was on point and when you pair it together with the mesmerizing pirate soundtrack, it totally enraptured me. The editing was slick, leaving an impression on me. Especially the usage of each Straw Hat Pirate’s backstory being played as pieces from the memory at the right time.
This is what happens when a crew who understands the project and loves the story can pull it off! The enthusiastic production crew worked tirelessly to replicate the world envisioned by Oda, and it looked breathtaking. On top of it, the VFX team managed to triumphantly revive the magical creatures and the mindblowing powers of the devil fruit (not too perfectly but almost there). The stunt department made sure the fight scenes were well-choreographed, especially the Zoro vs Mihawk fight at Baratie (literal chills!). So, kudos to the team for bringing everything related to the One Piece world to reality in a vibrant tone.
Confronting the Flaws in Netflix’s One Piece Live-Action Series
Alright, it’s now time to address the elephant in the room. The live-action series was good indeed, but it did have some glaring flaws. We’re all up to praise good and hard work, but it’s also important to point out the issues so that the production team can address them next time around.
The biggest and possibly the most controversial change in One Piece’s live-action adaptation has to be Garp’s early introduction. Anime or manga fans would know that Garp is shown once but isn’t fully introduced until hundreds of chapters later. But Netflix’s production team decided to bring him into the picture early, and as revealed recently, it took some convincing to bring Oda on board with this change.
Garp’s introduction made the story of a young boy setting sail to fulfill his dream into a family drama. The old man used every trick in the book to stop his grandson from becoming a pirate, which got tiresome after a while. The showrunners had to make major changes to some plotlines to fit in Garp, and it felt forced to me. Hence, the early inclusion of Garp wasn’t my cup of tea. Koby and Helmeppo’s role, on the other hand, was well-rounded and made sense in the story.
Another kind of major flaw for me, as an anime fan, is the live-action missing out on some of the most iconic moments. For example – Luffy taking bullets for Zoro, Zoro bawling his eyes out with the Wado Ichimoji after Kuina’s demise, and most importantly, the Arlong Park walk scene. I kind of get it if they didn’t want to impair the reputation of those legendary scenes in live-action. But these are the highlights of the first saga of One Piece, therefore, at least some of them should’ve made the cut. It’s the essence of the first One Piece saga. Further, cutting short Nami and Sanji’s emotional goodbyes to their home was a poor decision from the writing team. It didn’t have the same impact as the anime.
Other than that, the pacing of the Syrup Village arc was sloppy, especially in Episode 4. And as mentioned earlier, the pacing of this series can be felt a bit rushed for long-time One Piece admirers. The omittance of certain moments as well as certain characters (such as Hatchan of the Arlong Pirates) can be seen as a flaw, but it can be turned around as the showrunners have a different plan of execution in the future. On the technical side, although the VFX did look good, at times it was rendered poorly, which one can point out. The sound mixing also felt strange in a few places.
While for most of the part, Iñaki looked as lively as Luffy, there were places he couldn’t match the carefree and goofy character of Luffy. He did add his own touch to the character, but Luffy is not as serious or restrictive as Inaki felt in certain situations in the live-action. I believe Inaki is still the perfect fit for the role and will bring the most out of his character in future seasons. Also, at times, it seemed like Luffy did not have enough material or involvement; being a mute bystander in certain situations.
In my opinion, the show should have been 10 episodes long. So that they could have made enough room for the extra scenes and the main story and moments. They missed out on many salient points, which could have made the first season a masterpiece in my books. Moreover, the Logue town arc could have been included in the first season to round off the story, ending it all where we started.
Overall, these are minor blemishes that can be overlooked by the stature of the show’s biggest positives. It wouldn’t bother any newcomer to the series. But as an ardent follower of One Piece, I hope the showrunners improve on these and present us with a grand adaptation of the Arabasta arc.
One Piece Live-Action Review: Beginning of a Grand Pirate Adventure
Overall, the One Piece live-action adaptation is an entertaining and energetic series from Netflix. While everyone expected it to be another botched live-action adaptation, the involvement of the original creator gave it the blessings to shatter that haunting curse. Even as a long-time fan, I absolutely savored every moment of the series. Be it the cool way of introducing the pirates with their bounty posters, sequences that broadened the scope of the story, or the dynamic and vigorous cast, all together blended into delivering the great One Piece cinematic experience we had been waiting for all along.
It seems like Netflix and Tomorrow Studios did everything right and fleshed out the debut season, which turned out to be good. But there is still scope for improvement. This adaptation gives me hope for the second season getting the green signal without much debate. Hopefully, the passionate team behind this live-action learn from the little errors and come back with a bang in the future. The sails have been set, and we are now awaiting more amazing adventures in future seasons.
The One Piece live action series will serve as a warm welcome for new fans to try out the anime, and we cannot wait to have them join us on the beautiful journey to find Gold Roger’s treasure. Have you watched the live action adaptation? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.