- Netflix’s new One Piece live-action series breaks the curse of bad anime adaptations, staying true to the source material and delivering a great show in its own right.
- The show’s simplicity and focus on delightful characters make it a joy to watch, with fun interactions and heartfelt moments building a true found family.
- While the aesthetic may deter some viewers with its cartoonish look, the story and compelling characters make even the silliest parts feel natural, and the style enhances the grounded elements of the show.
Editor’s note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.
With the new One Piece show, Netflix has finally broken the curse of bad live-action anime adaptations. These shows have generally had a bad reputation due to major flops like the Death Note and Cowboy Bebop live-action series, which has left many fans pessimistic about One Piece‘s quality. However, by sticking to the core elements that made the source material so great, the new One Piece series has become not just a great adaptation, but a great show in its own right.
One Piece follows an affable young man named Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) as he sets out to become the king of the pirates and to discover the mythical treasure known as the One Piece. To do this he must first assemble a crew and find a map to the Grand Line, a dangerous stretch of ocean that is said to contain deadly threats. Early on he meets a swordsman, Zoro (Mackenyu), and a thief, Nami (Emily Rudd), who become his reluctant allies as they travel from island to island encountering new friends and foes. All the while they must also avoid the contingent of Marines tracking them down, devoted to arresting them for their misdeeds.
This plot may sound straightforward, but it is in that simplicity where the beauty of the show lies. Instead of getting mired down in a complex story, One Piece‘s simpler narrative lets the show focus on its delightful cast of characters instead. The interactions between Luffy and his crew, in particular, are a joy to watch as they go from a standoffish group of strangers to a true found family. Many of the characters are also incredibly funny, with Zoro being a clear standout. These fun interactions are made all the more enjoyable when weighed against the tragedy and adversity that many of the main protagonists have faced in the past, which is drip-fed to the audience through a series of flashbacks interspersed throughout the eight episodes.
While the characters may be the beating heart of the show, the plot also does a great job at keeping the audience invested. The overarching story focuses on Luffy scrounging together the bare essentials he needs to be a pirate, such as a crew and a ship, but every island he visits features a new problem he needs to solve and a villain he needs to defeat, which keeps the series from growing dull. In addition, the constant threat of the Marines chasing him down helps amp up the tension and maintain a sense of urgency. To make the first major arcs of One Piece feel like more of a streamlined and cohesive whole, certain changes are made that are sure to upset some hardcore fans of the anime and manga. But as a hardcore One Piece fan myself, I don’t think these changes negatively affect the show. In many instances, it actually improves some storylines. This isn’t to say the plot of the show is perfect, as there are some minor pacing issues and plot holes, but these flaws are minor nitpicks that don’t ruin the enjoyment of the show as a whole.
The most controversial part of the show will be its aesthetic. Instead of discarding the cartoonish look of the original anime and manga for a more realistic style, the show has chosen to preserve it with over-the-top makeup and set design. This may deter some viewers from checking it out as it can make some of the characters and stories feel goofier than they otherwise would be. Despite the absurdity of some of these designs, One Piece‘s story is so fun and its characters are so compelling that, by the end of the first episode, even the silliest looking parts of the world feel natural. This cartoonish style also counterintuitively makes some of the more bizarre elements of the show — like evil magic clowns and fish-human hybrids — feel more grounded, which is important for making many of the villains legitimate threats.
Overall, the One Piece live-action show is an incredibly fun watch for both old and new fans alike. It is also an encouraging sign for all the other upcoming live-action anime adaptations that Netflix has planned. If they are given the same level of care and passion that went into One Piece, they have the potential to be great. Honestly, though, upon finishing One Piece, many fans will likely agree that the most exciting live-action anime adaptation will be One Piece’s second season.
All eight episodes of One Piece are now available to stream on Netflix.