By Santiago Brion | September 11, 2023
“Wealth. Fame. Power. The man who had everything in this world… The Pirate King, Gold Roger. The great treasure he left behind, the One Piece has opened the curtain on a grand era! It is a time when eager pirates set sail, battle, and become great! The Great Age of Pirates! Words he spoke drove countless men out to sea. And so men set sights on the Grand Line, in pursuit of their dreams. The world has truly entered a Great Pirate Era!” - Eichiro Oda
This is the opening narration from not only the show and the early years of the anime, but also manga artist Eichiro Oda’s writing in the first chapter of “One Piece.”
“One Piece” is the latest Netflix live action adaptation of the anime/manga. The story follows a young and aspiring pirate, named Monkey D. Luffy. He sets off to achieve the dream of finding Gold Roger’s treasure, known through the sea as the One Piece. Luffy hopes to take over Roger’s title as King of the Pirates.
Luffy and his crew all come together as the Straw Hat Pirates with different goals in mind: Zoro wants to be the world’s greatest swordsman, Nami wants to draw a map of the whole world, Usopp wants to be a warrior of the sea, and Sanji wants to discover the All Blue. Along the way, they also encounter notorious and over-the-top pirates and the navy.
The first season of the series covers the first saga of the manga/anime, the East Blue Saga, which covers the introductions of the core five Straw Hat crew members to the final arc of the first saga. Arlong Park, a storyline involving Nami’s affiliation with the Arlong pirates, a crew of fishmen led by the notorious fishman pirate of the same name.
Anime adaptations tend to always fall flat on their face. They don’t work at all because they have trouble adapting the tone of the source material and poor miscasting of well-known characters. There are exceptions like The Wachowski’s Speed Racer and Alita Battle Angel which adapt the tone of the source material and had the right people to make them.
One Piece is now a brand new example on how to adapt an anime/manga. The iconic story seemed pretty unadaptable due to the characters’ powers, their features, expansive world, and goofy tone that can only be for animation. Eichiro Oda being brought on as a consultant and executive producer showed promise. Matt Owens, the showrunner, is a big One Piece fan and said in interviews what One Piece means to him and to its story’s community fanbase.
The show is perfectly cast, Iñaki Godoy’s Luffy, Emily Rudd’s Nami, Mackenyu’s Zoro, Jacob Romero Gibson’s Usopp and Taz Skylar’s Sanji all capture the spirit of their characters beautifully.
Zoro gives off the lone-wolf swordsman really well with perfect deadpan line delivery and captures the running joke of him being lost. Luffy loves to eat food, specifically meat and is a dumb and a goofy guy. Usopp (without his long nose which indicates that he’s always lying like Pinocchio) has the aspirations of being a warrior and has great sniper skills. Sanji who’s chivalry is captured really well as are his feet kicks and swagger. Finally, Nami’s love for money, vanity, and great fashion sense, along with being compassionate towards her friends and her crewmates is portrayed perfectly.
Other standouts among the cast include Vincent Regan as Vice Admiral Garp, who is revealed to be Luffy’s grandfather. His care for his cadets, soldiers and determination to capture Luffy and his friends adds a lot to the story. Also, I think his accent is cool. Morgan Davies of “Evil Dead Rises” fame who plays Koby and Aidan Scott’s Helmeppo also have more depth and development than from the source material. Whereas Koby’s only seen once during Luffy and Zoro’s introduction, he’s not mentioned or seen again until the Enies Lobby and Marineford arcs, the show’s Koby has more scenes and interactions with the Straw Hat crew throughout its eight episodes.
Two villains of One Piece, Buggy the Clown and Arlong, were played really well by Jeff Ward and McKinley Belcher III respectively. Both characters captured the ruthless nature of their characters perfectly while Buggy adds a lot of humor into the story. Steven Ward’s Dracule Mihawk, one of the seven warlords of the sea also deserves a mention.
The live action “One Piece” surprisingly brings the tone that fans adored from the source material, adding a refreshing and interesting change of pace in terms of anime adaptations. The humor is surprisingly funny, the action is engaging with insane practical effects, including its ships and Buggy and Arlong & his crew’s makeup. The first season overall is a warm-up to one of the greatest stories ever told.
You can watch all 8 episodes of One Piece (2023) on Netflix.