Though Netflix has created a small number of excellent shows based on American comic books, it has continuously struggled to successfully translate Japanese manga and anime series for the small screen. It was simple to write off Netflix’s new live-action adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece as just another dud-in-the-making that would leave viewers dissatisfied regardless of whether they were fans of the source material because the streamer has already released enough lukewarm, awkwardly Westernized spins on classics like Death Note and Cowboy Bebop.
But unlike Netflix’s earlier attempts to give two-dimensional characters life by simulating visual “accuracy” and replicating iconic cartoon images, One Piece works surprisingly well by focusing on the vital details, like a character’s motivation.
One Piece’s lush world helps to make its characters feel like fully realized people
For all of Luffy’s charm and heart, two attributes that Godoy is uncannily adept at turning on and cranking up to almost manic degrees, the odd abilities he acquires after impulsively eating a miraculous piece of fruit are what truly set him apart from the crowd. Although eating Devil Fruits renders a person incapable of swimming, it also renders Luffy’s body incredibly strong, flexible, and elastic like rubber.
While those might not initially seem like the most exciting abilities to acquire, they give Luffy a powerful presence that attracts the attention of characters like the pirate Alvida (played by Ilia Isorel’s Paulino) and Garp, the vice admiral of the Marines who patrol the high seas (played by Vincent Regan).
Character Introduction and Plot Pacing
The series masterfully introduces the crew of pirates led by Luffy, including the enigmatic Roronoa Zoro (Mackyenu) and the skilled navigator Nami (Emily Rudd). This character-centric approach serves to heighten the stakes, allowing viewers to invest in the growing pirate crew. However, it does stumble in the middle of the season when introducing Usopp (Jacob Romero), veering into a somewhat convoluted subplot. Given the series’ grand scale, these minor details should be handled with more brevity to maintain the pacing meticulously built throughout the show.
Where the Netflix live-action series truly shines is in its electrifying fight sequences. Zoro’s distinct style of wielding three swords during combat remains captivating, thanks to skillful cinematography and editing. Unlike other adaptations that obscure the action with choppy editing or CGI, the show ensures that viewers be in awe of every move. The series’ protagonist, Luffy, may appear naive, but the show unveils his remarkable abilities in a thrilling manner.
The subplot involving Garp, Coby, and Helmeppo was handled perfectly. Looking back, it’s funny how they rarely mention Helmeppo’s name in the series. The reveal that Garp is Luffy’s grandfather was executed brilliantly and would have been a fantastic surprise for someone watching the show for the first time.
Balancing Humor and Horror
The series excels when it delves into the eerie and unsettling aspects of its pirate adversaries. Genuinely creepy battles against foes like a shape-shifting clown and a vampiric butler with razor-sharp knuckles keep the adrenaline flowing. While the chemistry between Godoy, Rudd, and Mackyenu is commendable, the show occasionally leans too heavily on camaraderie, momentarily losing its frenetic energy. Fortunately, these moments are infrequent, allowing One Piece to maintain its high-stakes atmosphere and lively spirit, reminiscent of its animated origins.
A novel approach to bringing Japanese manga and anime to the small screen may be seen in the Netflix One Piece adaptation. In contrast to earlier attempts, this series concentrates on crucial information, such as character motives, to develop a gripping narrative. The lush setting of “One Piece” helps to the sense of character development. After consuming a Devil Fruit, Luffy developed special skills that set him distinct and command the interests of both allies and enemies. The introduction of the characters, notably the main pirate group, is done nicely, but the show suddenly falters due to a complicated subplot involving Usopp.