Netflix’s One Piece Season 1 Review
When anime fans hear someone wants to make a live-action adaptation of something, they tend to groan. The Dragonball film must not be named, for sure, but the worst offender in recent years has been Netflix. Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Bebop, all beloved anime. All of them Netflix butchered and roused the ire of fans. Then, word got out that they were making a live-action version of One Piece, and fans went ballistic. They didn’t want Netflix ruining the best-selling manga in history. But as the series got closer to release, something miraculous happened. The kind of miracle that only Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates could pull off: the live-action One Piece…was good.
This might be Oda’s greatest accomplishment to date: overseeing a live-action adaptation of an anime that’s good.
Oda Sets an Example for Anyone Wanting to Make a Live-Action Adaptation
As previously stated, many have tried to make live-action adaptations of anime, and they’re rarely ever good. Dragonball Evolution proved so bad that the director publicly apologized for making it. Akira Toriyama was so livid about it, he brought the franchise out of retirement rather than let Hollywood mar its legacy. And then there’s the equally reviled The Last Airbender by M. Night. Shymalan. In other words, Hollywood has had a poor grasp of what it takes to adapt an anime into live-action.
The heart of the matter was the fact that few, if any, understood the vision of the anime they wanted to adapt. The end result was, at best, a butchery of people’s works. So when Netflix wanted to make a live-action adaptation of One Piece, series creator Eichiro Oda made sure he was heavily involved in the process. From having Inaki Godoy cast as Luffy because he “made him laugh” in his audition to ensuring the cast’s powers and backstories remained faithful to the story, Oda was there to keep Netflix in check. As a result, this gives the show a sense of legitimacy other adaptations don’t have, serving to reassure fans.
That, and Netflix knows that if it were to butcher the best-selling manga of all time, it could prove a serious blow to their reputation. Thankfully, the show does a good job of translating the insane world of One Piece to live-action.
Using its Limitations to its Advantage
Given its sheer length and scope, adapting every aspect of One Piece would be impossible. The first season’s covering the entirety of the East Blue Saga, which spanned 65 half-hour episodes in total. As a result, a lot of things had to be trimmed down, and many of the more over-the-top moments removed. While it does remove a good deal of the slapstick humor of the anime, it makes up for it in a suprising fashion. The live-action One Piece has a greater sense of realism that helps improve the stakes and gives everything a greater menace. In particular, the villains, who were already scary, can become downright terrifying.
Two prominent examples would be villains Buggy the Clown and Captain Kuro. The already popular Buggy goes from being the series version of Mr. Satan to a full-blown Joker expy, and anytime he’s on screen, people love him. In addition, the equally dangerous Captain Kuro gets turned into a villain straight out of a slasher film, stalking the heroes in a darkened house rather than fighting them on the coast. It’s impressive and scary.
Due to the runtime, though, several characters end up being adapted out of the story, while other characters get more screen time while the story gets rearranged to accommodate. This leads to characters like Coby gaining greater prominence early on, while one character who doesn’t appear until much later playing a big role in the series. Yet the show’s all the better for it. It’s as if Oda used this as a chance to return to the early days of One Piece and decide what he would do differently about it.
The Charm and Zaniness of the Anime Meets the Grit of a Drama Series
Netflix’s One Piece is not a perfect, shot-for-shot adaptation of the legendary anime, nor was it meant to be. It takes the charm and adventurous spirit of Oda’s epic and combines it with the gritty realism of a drama series like Black Sails and even a toned-down version of Game of Thrones. At its core, though, the series is still One Piece. The characters remain fundamentally the same, even if someone like Luffy was made a little smarter. The world remains the same even if it’s now live-action. As a whole, it’s still One Piece, and it doesn’t forget that.
The fans have certainly not. They’ve been taking to Twitter and Instagram and saying “The One Piece is Real,” singing the show’s praises. And I don’t blame them. After years of dealing with garbage, Eichiro D. (G)Oda stepped up to show the world how it’s done. I’m actually looking forward to seeing how far they can take the concept. It’s likely they can never adapt the entire anime, but that’s fine. If they can, then One Piece‘s legend will only grow stronger.