Just finished binging the ONE PIECE live-action on Netflix and, despite the already big expectations I had from the reviews of people who watched it early, it still managed to pleasantly surprise me. The show is genuinely its own thing, and I never felt bored throughout the 8 or so hours of constant watching. I’ll share my initial thoughts, though I will probably write more in a separate article.
The production quality felt amazing, and the cast managed to get the main feeling down well. It felt like the ONE PIECE world from the very start at Roger’s execution, and it maintained that feeling with every island the crew visited. The theme song and its variations were perfect, as well as the “We Are!” cameos. Some things I did feel were a bit rushed. Or rather, there was no time to build up to them. For example, the way the Straw Hats almost immediately cared about each other like they’d been together for a lot longer. This was built up through many more episodes in the anime, and it felt like the live-action got the end result (by that point) but without showing the progress.
My personal favorites were Buggy and Garp. I didn’t expect the Irish accent from Vincent Regan, but he quickly grew on me as Luffy’s strict grandpa. Unfortunately, there could’ve probably been all sorts of complaints if they showed his Iron Fist love towards Luffy, but their interactions were still great (especially when he almost got sunk).
Jeff Ward as Buggy was an incredible source of comic relief. From his spotlight-missing introduction to his random song about Nami, he made me laugh the most by far and I loved every single scene with him. Buggy was often shown as a joke in the anime and manga as well, and this was translated well into the adaptation even without copying the scenes exactly.
I also thought Alexander Maniatis did an amazing job as Kuro. His over-protective butler role was played perfectly, as well as the eventual real pirate crew captain one. The scene where he was going after Kaya through the house was legitimately eerie, and his sweet “oooh Kayaaaa” was so good. The scene taking place in the mansion was different, but it made sense and was executed well.
The visual effects were also pretty good. The only times I thought it seemed weird were Luffy’s balloon and during his fight with Arlong at the end. Arlong in general was the thing I was most concerned about feeling off from the trailers, and it turned out better than I expected. I can understand that it was impossible to translate his abilities (especially the teeth and nose) into the adaptation, and the abilities during fights will probably be the hardest to do in potential future seasons.
The Straw Hats are great. I felt like there were times when Luffy tried to do some lower Batman-style voice, but I preferred it when he just talked normally. Zoro, on the other hand, talked most of the time like that, but it didn’t feel unnatural since that’s more how I see Zoro all the time – too annoyed to actually talk to people. The dynamic between Zoro and Sanji was perfect, though they didn’t get many chances to take dabs at each other. Nami has the older sister who’s looking after he idiot brothers vibe, and Usopp has the scaredy-cat vibe but still comes in clutch if needed. It really feels like they nailed the cast, though Makenyu unexpectedly seemed the most experienced.
Like I mentioned above, some things felt like there just wasn’t enough time to build up, but the emotional moments in the ONE PIECE live-action all pretty much hit the mark. Shanks giving the hat to Luffy, Zoro’s promise to Kuina, Sanji thank-apologizing to Zeff (almost got mad thinking he’d just leave without it!), Luffy giving the hat to Nami. One thing I thought wasn’t as impactful was Zoro proclaiming he’d never lose again. This is another thing that’s biased coming from an anime/manga fan, but Don Krieg being completely removed (Mihawk practically off-screened him) made for a kind of a weird situation. Luffy was just there watching the fight, and it felt awkward to see Zoro say all that directly in his face (as opposed to him being in a separate boat and screaming it out while crying and asking if that was okay for the future King of the Pirates). Them talking about a major loss of blood without actually being able to show the blood also felt a bit weird.
And the final thing coming to mind that felt under-told – Usopp’s story. The Usopp Pirates were omitted (again, understandable due to needing to adapt a certain amount of content), as well as Jango and most of the Black Cat pirates. In the original story, they learned that the entire pirate crew would arrive the next morning, which is why Usopp went to warn the village and got the boy who cried wolf treatment. It felt a bit awkward that he did the same thing just after finding out about Kuro, Buchi and Sham being in the house and not even mentioning they’d be going to the village.
Also, we didn’t get to see him actually do anything, whereas he defeated Jango and protected Kaya in the original. He even told the trio not to tell anyone. He decided it was better for them to think he was lying, making for a big character moment of his. Meanwhile, the villagers were left wondering when he would come again to cry about the pirates, and thought they’d been too harsh. It just made God Usopp feel a bit less fleshed out, though he still had his moments and had a big win against the Arlong Pirates.
From the rest, I enjoyed seeing Bogard pretty much all the series. Garp’s mysterious right hand man has been barely shown in the manga and anime, and his cool presence was a nice addition. Shanks and Mihawk were also very cool, and I didn’t expect the meeting at the end!
My overall feeling from the ONE PIECE live-action is that the differences from the source material were welcome, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the episodes. The series followed the original story with some cool variations to fit the medium, and it really felt like a quality adaptation all the way. Can’t forget the introductions of bounties, which were original and incredible, as well as the cool logo variations. The cast grew on me quickly, and I would really love to see more! Bring on Smoker!
ONE PIECE is streaming on Netflix.
Images via Netflix