One Piece: the live adaptation that worked

If you’ve ever watched a live action remake of a beloved film/show/book or manga, be it Avatar: The Last Airbender, Cowboy Bebop or Death Note, you will know that usually they end up being critical and commercial failures. But has the One Piece live adaptation paved the way for others?  

With an 8.4/10 rating on IMDb,  at the time setting a new record for the most watched show on Netflix, and heaps of praise from unfamiliar audiences, fans of the manga/anime and even critics, One Piece has been a great success for Netflix. But what is it that One Piece has done differently to other adaptations? 

The atmosphere of the story also wasn’t sacrificed to appeal to all audiences

Why is it different?

The great success of the acclaimed adaptation could be attributed to many creative choices made by the production team of the show, but they can be summed up as three main reasons.

Firstly, they heavily involved Eiichiro Oda (the manga’s creator) from start to finish, giving him the role of Executive Director and allowing him to implement his vision to ensure that the live action met the high standards of the world he created.  Secondly, the characters are played by a vibrant and diverse cast, all of who fit their roles to a T. Iñaki Godoy plays the lovable Luffy to perfection whilst also making the character his own with a slightly darker and more thoughtful interpretation of the self-proclaimed future “King of the Pirates”.  And thirdly, the atmosphere of the story wasn’t sacrificed to appeal to all audiences. The show does gain a darker, more adult feel to it, especially with the treatment of Nami’s backstory in the second half of the season. However, we do still have comedic relief with Usopp and Luffy’s antics, as well as the rocky rivalry between Sanji and Zoro.

And of course, the success of One Piece can also be derived from the cheerful and joyous atmosphere of the world that Oda has created. The points highlighted above ensured that One Piece successfully crossed the boundary into live adaptation while retaining its fun and whimsy qualities.

There has been some criticism of the adaptation for how it has omitted certain characters and mini-arcs. However, Oda himself signed off on these changes. Admittedly, some of these changes were jarring. For example, altering of the timeline of major events, such as the inclusion of Garp much earlier on in the series. However, the overall flow of the show is done well and the changes have proved necessary at bringing One Piece into live action.  

What can we expect for season 2?

So far, we know that the second season of the show is confirmed to be in the works. The massive success of the first season has guaranteed its renewal, even during the uncertainty of the WAG and SAG AFTRA strikes that were on-going at the time. It is not currently known which actors will be joining the cast in the next season, though it has been teased by Oda that the beloved character Tony Tony Chopper will be joining the cast for season 2. Chopper is a reindeer who ate the Human-Human fruit which allows him to change at will into multiple forms, each providing him with unique abilities. The head of prosthetics has stated that Chopper’s look will be made mostly using prosthetics and practical effects, similar to Arlong’s crew of fishmen. While this will be a challenge, the prosthetics crew are excited to bring Chopper to life and make him the next Strawhat to grace our screens. 

In other news, it has been revealed that Jamie Lee Curtis is interested in playing Dr. Kureha, a fan-favourite character who acts as Chopper’s mentor. The showrunner, Matt Owens, did his first interview for the show back last year, and mentioned that he and the team are keen to get Jamie Lee Curtis to play Dr. Kureha for them and that they are currently writing the character with her in mind. On a fan panel in 2021, Curtis was asked which character of any show she would like to play given the choice, and she chose Nico Robin, a character we will also likely meet in season 2. She has since stated that she may be too old to play the role of the mysterious archeologist, but nonetheless we hope she joins the cast as the eccentric Dr. Kureha. 

While it has not been confirmed, we should also have some new integral characters joining the cast such as Vivi Nefertari, Nico Robin, the marine Captain Smoker and the iconic villain Crocodile, one of the 7 Warlords of the Sea. As readers of the manga and fans of the anime will know, the next major arc to be adapted is the Baroque Works arc that centres on this criminal organisation and its attempts to gain power and notoriety. The Loguetown mini-arc that precedes this is likely to be where we will begin next season, with the Strawhats travelling to the birth and death place of the Pirate King Gol D. Roger. 

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