Netflix's One Piece: Does it Sink or Float?
One Piece is Netflix's latest venture into creating live action shows from anime source material. With Cowboy Bebop's utter failure in the streaming. services eyes, I was surprised that they would invest what they did into One Piece. Personally I loved the Cowboy Bebop series but we're not here to talk about that. We're here to talk about Eiichiro Oda's pirate masterpiece. For some background I have the first 76 issues of the actual manga that this series takes it's source material from so I feel I'm well versed in what an actual fan wants to see out of a live action take on this manga.
Eiichiro Oda debuted One Piece in the weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 1997. At that time my brother Dwight picked up the weekly magazine from the local new stand religiously. Once it left the publication I started to collect the mangas from Borders book sellers then eventually I would just order them from Amazon.
The story of One Piece starts off with the execution of Gold Roger, the current "Pirate King". His final words right before he dies is "You want my treasure? You can have it! I left everything I gathered together in one place. Now you have to find it." which in turn kicks off the pirate renaissance.
With some background and the motivation of the the series out of the way let's get right into the Netflix's live action adaptation. Let's first talk about the feel of the show and how it comes across in the cinematography. With mangas it sometimes hard to recreate a feel of a certain era it's portrayed in. Especially when the world has a mix of elements. Of course you have the pirates, boats, swords and cannons but you also got seagulls delivering mail, snails used as cell phones, mystical devil fruit, super powered pirates etc that you have to contend with. the way the production team was able to build out and film such a grand world yet still keep it feeling like it's during the pirate era was spot on. They kept this sepia like filter that kept things looking aged but at the same time vibrant. All the mangas are in black and white so seeing how they were going to pull this off was very cool. It looks like they used a mix of real sets and CGI to create the world. How they blended them in together was seamless especially for a tv series. How I envisioned it was exactly how I thought it would look like in real life.
Cast and Acting
Casting a manga can be extremely hard, especially for an adaptation manga series. You don't generally have the budget for any A+ actor and there aren't that many A listers that may want to stake their career on a up start project like this. Looks like they used a formula that worked in the past. The casted people that look right for the part and add a few people that have a little star power. What you get is a cast comprised of international stars that in their own right have their own cult following. I've never heard of any of these actors before seeing them is the show. Looking them up for this blog I found that a lot of them come from other shows that have a following. The one that stood out to me was Mackenyu Maeda who is the son of actor Sonny Chiba.
The great thing about an manga/anime live action adaptation is you expect over the top acting not grammy award winning dramatic scenes. The full execution of the scene and feel of key moments is what is most critical. For what it was I thought the acting was superb, again it's an over the top manga/anime that's not too serious but has some really heart felt moments. I love the rival banter that Sanji and Zoro have during their fight scene at Arlong Park. I love the naïve happy go lucky Luffy and how they've portrayed him in live action. When it comes to the acting I really have nothing negative to say.
The one thing I will point out in the casting is I'm happy to see how diverse it is. In some situations especially in manga it's hard to envision who should play which role. The casting director did a great job with their choices and it really brings an all encompassing feel to the show.
There were some scenes that had to be glossed over or even cut out completely due to constraints. I mean sometimes I wished while reading the manga that they could just move on with the story plot. And there were some key moments from the manga that hit me harder reading it versus watching it. For example when Usop comes to the realization that no one was going to believe him that pirates were actually coming and how he decided that he was going to fight them off himself. Or how there was a whole story arch about the hungry pirates that Mihawk dismantled on the grand line that got reduced to a single scene. Regardless the series kept the over arching message of friendship and how far the straw hat crew would go for their friends.
One of my favorite scenes comes from Arlong Park and when Nami finally asks Luffy and the crew for help. I think they really nailed some key scenes and imagery that really had me stoked for the future of the series.
To the Grand Line
I'm super bummed that the first season was cut short by 2 episodes. Netflix initially ordered a 10 episode season 1 and there are only 8 episodes. Needless to say I can't wait for season 2. If you're a One Piece fan do yourself a favor and give this live action a shot. You won't be disappointed. As always thank you for your continued support and I'll see you in the next blog.
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