In checking the overall reception of Netflix’s One Piece live action debut yesterday, I’m finding that reviewers everywhere are quite impressed with the adherence to the source material. Even Rotten Tomatoes gave it a hearty 80% rating.
Screenrant.com says, “There is near-universal praise for the sets, costumes, and performances”, while The Wrap says, “The production team has done an enviable job of recreating the anime’s vibrant settings and costumes, which include clown pirates, shark-men, multicolored ships and punk-esque hair dyes.”, and the Hollywood Reporter reports, “In such a playful light, even One Piece‘s slightly janky look becomes charming: If the candy-apple-red hair on Luffy’s erstwhile mentor Shanks (Peter Gadiot) looks very much like a Party City wig, it just adds to the sense that this is all one big, joyous game of make-believe”, and this reviewer couldn’t agree more with all of them.
Meanwhile, over on the “X” platform (formally Twitter), I saw the mantra, “One Piece is love, One Piece is life” in many accounts praising the jump from manga/anime to live action. Anime fans have a reputation of being extremely protective of their loves in their chosen genre, hence it can be a risk incurring their wrath getting a live-action version of that love wrong. And no other place is more a fertile breeding ground for judgment than on X. I did a search this morning for One Piece and under the #OPLA (One Piece Live Action) and was pleasantly surprised to find the general consensus is extremely favorable towards this new incarnation of a worldwide anime phenomena. And believe me, if you can pass the harsh critiquing on X, you have garnered the approval of some of the pickiest fans in the social network world.
It’s hard to go wrong when some things are so carefully matched, in some cases, shot-for-shot and the look of the characters was cast so perfectly, one could believe the animation was drawn based on the live actors and not the other way around. Don’t believe it? Check this side-by-side comparison out:
There are also some nice touches and callbacks to the source material in the beautiful design of the Devil Fruit Luffy eats, the pirate wanted posters and the fact they kept a favorite touch of mine — the snail phones! If I were to have any complaints about anything, it would be in agreement with my husband that they didn’t keep the famous last words speech by Gold Roger before he’s executed, paraphrasing it, but in a way that it doesn’t let the viewer understand that the One Piece and Roger’s fabulous pirate treasure are one and the same.
Interviews with the cast of the live action series reveal the hard work that went into their recreation of the characters and in some cases, being a lifelong fan of the One Piece franchise as well. Taz Skylar, cast as the romantic cook of the Straw Hat Crew, Sanji, confessed with a grin that he had to learn to cook as well as fight, but one could tell he felt it more of a joy in the necessary hard work put into making the live action character as authentic to the manga and anime as humanly possible. This is doubly impressive considering he fights more with his powerful legs than any other part of his body!
Even more impressive is the phenomenal fighting style and skill of the master swordsman Zorro, who fights not with one or two swords, but with three, the extra one gripped firmly in his teeth. Zoro is portrayed by Mackenyu Arata, son of actor and martial artist Sonny Chiba. He became widely noticed in 2016 after portraying Arata Wataya in the Chihayafuru live-action trilogy. The role earned him the 40th Japan Academy Newcomers of the Year Award in 2017. No stranger to anime live action adaptations, he has also portrayed characters in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter I (2017), Tokyo Ghouls (2019), the villain Yukishiro Enishi in Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021) and the protagonist Pegasus Seiya in Knights of the Zodiac. To watch him fight in One Piece absolutely takes my breath away and makes me want to run to my couch and binge watch everything he has done up to this point.
So even if you have never read the manga or seen the anime, don’t let it stop you from taking a joyous leap into this wonderful, live action recreation of both. As one of the executive producers, One Piece series creator Eiichiro Oda took the greatest of pains to steer the course of this media transition and make a story both true to its source material as well as give a well-grounded foundation for introducing the characters. Enough of their backstory is shown without bogging down the pacing, yet giving viewers the important element of revealing what each character’s dream is to do with their life — a central lynchpin of the series.
One Piece is an eight episode mini-series created by Steven Maeda and Matt Owens, stars Iñaki Godoy as Monkey B. Luffy, Emily Rudd as Nami, and Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro (among many many others), and is available for streaming on Netflix now.
Kristine Cherry is a lifelong geek who comes by it honestly on her father’s side of the gene pool. She costumes, writes fanfiction, was the TimeSiren of SciFi Radio’s Corsair’s Closet Doctor Who podcast. She is currently writing her own series of fantasy death goddess eBooks via https://whocate.info