The biggest struggle every anime fan has gone through at least once or twice in their life (besides the inability to talk to women) is the inevitability of their favourite show or manga, being adapted into live-action. Dragon Ball, Death Note, BLEACH, Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell, are all renowned, beloved series’ that have all received the live-action treatment, and to anime fans, an announcement for a live-action adaptation is akin to receiving the death penalty.
So, when Netflix announced their decision to adapt One Piece into live action all the way back in 2020, the general response from One Piece fans and the wider anime community was a collective, “What the fuck?”
Keep in mind, by this point, Netflix had already adapted Death Note, Cowboy Bebop and Bleach into live-action movies or series. These three are, by far, way more adaptable to live-action than One Piece, yet these three shows are the epitome of everything wrong with live-action adaptations. They lacked heart, respect for the source material, and an understanding of what made the original show so beloved. All of which further fuelled my reluctance towards the One Piece adaptation.
However, as Netflix released more and more trailers and teasers, my initial reluctance and pessimism towards the show started to alleviate. The trailers did a great job of depicting the fun and adventure of the manga that I love, and so, I went into the One Piece Live Action (OPLA) with a healthy amount of scepticism and excitement.
After 8 hours, I’m surprised to say that it is really good.
Even as a One Piece fan, I found myself enjoying the show a lot more than I expected to do so, and the one thing OPLA did right over the previous adaptations is that they understood what made One Piece incredibly special in the first place, which is, heart. As cheesy as that sounds, One Piece has always been about the freedom to work towards your dreams, to fight those who stand in the way of said dreams and to make friends along the way. In these regards, OPLA did an amazing job. The chemistry between the crewmates of the Strawhat Pirates was captured perfectly: Nami acting like a babysitter when she’s with Luffy and Zoro, Luffy and Usopp being stupid together, Sanji and Zoro’s constant bickering. Everything that fans love about these characters is brought to life by the fantastic acting of the actors. Though I will say, that the dialogue is a bit tongue in cheek sometimes, so don’t expect Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones level of dialogue-writing. This is a silly show about a pirate with rubber abilities.
As a side note, every character was cast perfectly. It was genuinely uncanny how accurate the cast looked to their characters. But I have to give Iñaki Godoy a special mention because he really embodied the charisma, heart and joy of Luffy, and with Luffy being the heart of the show, his casting was the “make-or-break” factor, but he pulled through. On the other hand, the show's visual effects were downright fantastic. Much of the settings were practical, which boggles my mind because the attention to detail in these sets was so good. Similarly, the makeup for the fishmen and the costume designs for all the characters are equally great.
However, much of the praise comes from the mouth of a fan. Dejecting myself from that seat and looking at the show from an outsider's perspective, would I still enjoy the show?
I think so.
There is a reason as to why One Piece is the best-selling manga of all time. Eiichiro Oda, created a world full of adventure, fun and life; he wrote characters with many struggles people can relate to; and told you to chase and fight for your dreams. As if, this whole article hasn’t said it loud and clearly enough, but OPLA, despite its shortcomings, really embodied what makes One Piece, One Piece. So, if you haven’t given the anime or the manga a shot, and you’ve been meaning to, genuinely give OPLA a try. It is very good.