Wealth, notoriety, and power. The iconic manga-turned-anime series One Piece has amassed this and everything else the world has to offer in the 2.5 decades since Eiichiro Oda originally developed it. The swashbuckling Shonen Jump serial has been extremely adored and well-liked since 1997, leading to record-breaking sales and one of the longest-running anime series ever. It suffices to say that One Piece has developed a name for itself, much like the series’ protagonist Monkey D. Luffy himself: a legacy full of wonder, adventure, excitement, and just a dash of renown, thanks to its constantly growing episode count. Now that One Piece has a live-action Netflix series, the Straw Hat Pirates have set off on a brand-new journey over turbulent waters under the direction of streaming service executives. It’s also a ton of fun, just like the crew’s other endeavors have been.
One Piece: Hesitation
There has been some hesitation about the project as a result of the less-than-positive reviews of Netflix’s adaptations of Death Note and Cowboy Bebop. Japan has been producing successful live-action anime adaptations for a while, but the United States has had trouble catching the certain something that makes these shows so adored. However, Netflix’s One Piece has been a huge hit, producing an adaptation that distinctly values its source material while simultaneously crafting its own personality. Although it might experience some of the drawbacks associated with adapting manga into live-action television, terrible dialogue and cinematography being among the most notable, Netflix has discovered a hidden gem with this one.
One Piece, which is set in a world analogous to our own but fundamentally different from it, begins just after the start of the Great Pirate Era, when a great number of pirates set sail in search of the wealth that the great pirate Gold Roger left behind in one piece after his death. Monkey D. Luffy (Iaki Godoy), one of these pirates, has aspirations of discovering this treasure and ascending to the position of King of the Pirates. While some may consider Luffy naïve for insisting on pursuing his dreams no matter what, he consistently shows throughout the series that his perseverance and vigor are his best assets. Well, aside from the rubber body he acquired by paranormal means.
Luffy’s commitment to being a good person and dependable friend finally wins him the affection of a group of adorable (and badass) misfits who have their own aspirations: Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu), a talented fighter who wants to become the greatest swordsman in the world; Nami (Emily Rudd), a mysterious thief who wants to create a map of the world; Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson), a tall-tale spinning marksman who wants to learn how to be brave; and Sanji (Taz Skyler), a flirtatious cook who wants to find the world’s best ingredients to cook with. Over the course of the eight-episode run, these five people support one another in dealing with their past hurts, face down the World Government’s elite soldiers, thwart competing pirates, and finally unite to become the most endearing pirate crew ever.
This may seem overwhelming, and it is, but showrunners Matt Owens and Steven Maeda handle it expertly. The show’s appealing cast is largely responsible for its personality and heart. Comparing the Straw Hats of the show to the Straw Hats we know and love from the manga reveals a few personality differences, but each actor succeeds in bringing their character to life and gets along well with the other cast members. Shanks, Garp, Koby, Helmeppo, Zeff, Kaya, Arlong, Kuro, Mihawk, and the extremely Joker-fied Buggy are just a few of the brilliant secondary characters who feel almost enticingly accurate to their comic counterparts.
One Piece: Visual
The visuals of the program are more of a mixed bag, with some of the camera work, special effects, set pieces, and combat choreography being very impressive, while other effects, cinematography, and color-grading decisions leave a little to be desired. The show’s too sepia tone, which appears at odds with One Piece’s bright world and how vivid the animation is, may be its most offensive flaw. The camera work may be frantic in an odd way and some effects can reach CW-levels of awkwardness, which exacerbates some of the more forced line deliveries. One villain’s jolting super speed is a clear example.
Nevertheless, One Piece on Netflix succeeds in capturing a lot of the authenticity, passion, and sense of adventure that Oda’s monumental work has constantly offered for almost three decades. It succeeds in making a genuinely enjoyable first season thanks to a charismatic and expertly chosen cast, energetic choreography, the perfect amount of anime lunacy preserved, and a few plot and character adjustments that make the series more palatable to Netflix’s audience.
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