One Piece is a worldwide phenomenon. There isn’t anyone who hasn’t heard of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate epic or the characters in it. You don’t need to have watched the anime or read the manga to see the heart of it. When it was announced that the series received a live-action adaptation from Netflix, it was not well met. What made the series what it was couldn’t just be translated from page to screen so easily. Everything has to work or else you lose all of it. Fans will feel betrayed and the series will be burdened with the shame. So, it is my greatest pleasure to report that, despite some bumps in its delivery, Netflix’s One Piece is worthy of the franchise’s namesake.
NOTE: This review will be as spoiler-free as possible. However, I do still suggest watching the show if you are curious or want to go in blind. If you want to know more about the show, I wrote a preview of it that you can check out. Here is the link.
As said in my preview for the show, Netflix’s One Piece adapts the East Blue arc, spanning from volumes 1-12 and episodes 1-61. Since the show lasted eight near-hour-long episodes, many were shortened or not fully adapted. However, the main focus of these was on the Straw Hat crew. Each member got their chance to shine. It was also integrated well into the story without feeling too forced.
Even still, it kept most of the original story intact, not overstepping boundaries and changing it up too much. While there were big changes, they made sense in terms of the way they wanted to go about it. They felt intentional and added to it rather than detracted. Some details from the story did feel unnecessary or out of place, as they came off more like fan service. However, the majority of the adapted work felt necessary and worked well.
While I’m not sure many would agree with me, I do think the Marines subplot with Koby was a great idea. The sequences gave some breather and added nuance to an otherwise plain backstory. Plus, Koby and Helmeppo’s chemistry, as well as Garp’s, were enjoyable. Meanwhile, the last three episodes did feel like a crunch in terms of plot, as it went from one thing to another without much warning. Because of that, some character development felt lacking, specifically Sanji and Zoro.
Netflix’s One Piece shines the most from its cast. Hollywood has had a tendency to cast popular actors in big roles for publicity and such. However, we never get to see if there were others who’d fit the role better. One Piece casts the best people for the roles, A-List or not. A majority of the cast is fairly new, with some not even having Wikipedia pages. Despite that, it was clear that they got it because they embodied it. That message couldn’t be clearer with the Straw Hat crew themselves.
Inaki Godoy does a fantastic job as the stretchy goofball Luffy. While his version is a little more serious than the manga/anime counterpart, it’s the heart that shows. The way he moves and acts still feels like the lovable pirate while showcasing a new and likable side. Emily Rudd, Jacob Romeo, and Mackenyu kill it as Nami, Usopp, and Zoro, respectively. Each of them plays their characters with respect to the originals. Sanji, played by Taz Skylar, was one of my favorites, which is a shame as he didn’t get as much screen time as the others. If the series gets another season, I do hope we see more of his iteration, as his charm and charisma were much welcomed by the crew.
Two performances that stood out among many were those of Morgan Davies’ Koby and Jeff Ward’s Buggy. Davies’ portrayal made a character, seen in the anime (during the first season) as a comic relief, lovable and enjoyable to watch. With Buggy, the show did take a darker route with him, as he’s a comedic character in the manga/anime. Still, Ward infused both comedy and drama to create a hilarious yet eerie character. Not to mention, the costuming really nailed the looks, so it was easier to see each actor in their role.
You could tell Netflix’s One Piece was directed with love. From small easter eggs to famous lines, there was no shortage of homage to Oda’s work. He did have a say on the show, which might be why it works so well. Involving the creator during the process should be standard going forward in adaptations, when available. You can really see the wonder Oda’s work has, as well as his touch. Steve Maeda and Matt Owens, the showrunners, captured the essence of One Piece and its scale.
It didn’t feel like a cash grab by any means. A lot of passion was put into the show, ensuring that it’d come to life in the best way possible. From the makeup, production design, and visual effects, it all was well done. Nothing felt too out of place and nails the grandiose nature of the East Blue. The writing was hit-or-miss at times but landed on its feet a good amount. Part of me does want to have more improvisation, especially between the crew, in future seasons. Much of their dialogue doesn’t seem off-the-cuff, which can feel odd during bonding scenes.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was the emphasis on having sets instead of green screens. It puts the viewer in a real setting instead of a CGed one. With that, actors and directors can utilize the space and get more into it. This also created a lively environment for fights, which were a lot of fun to watch. A majority of the fights were done with the actors themselves, which I love a lot. They did feel too quick, especially in the last episode. A few slashes and punches are good, but doing only that for sequences that, in the anime, often lasted two or more episodes, was a bit disappointing.
I was scared about Netflix’s One Piece. Hollywood has struggled to do manga/anime right for a long time. One Piece was a huge project to tackle and one that, for a bit, seemed too difficult of a task. It’s great to see that, with enough time, passion, and dedication, Hollywood can do a solid adaptation. Is the show perfect? No. Does it work? Absolutely. At times, Netflix’s One Piece can be a bit campy, but, honestly, I find it charming. It embraces the absurdity and also doesn’t make fun of it. It brought a sense of fun that I couldn’t help but smile from.
And that is my review of Netflix’s One Piece! Did you watch it? How would you rate it? Do you think it’ll get a second season? Let me know in the comments! If you enjoyed this, leave a like and share it with friends. Until next time, Straw Hats!