TV

Netflix’s One Piece Breaks The Live-Action Anime Curse


Live-action anime adaptations have a long history of disappointing the fandom, but Netflix’s One Piece finds the right balance to break the trend.

One Piece. (L to R) Emily Rudd as Nami, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy, Mackenyu Arata as Roronoa Zoro in season 1 of One Piece.
Photo: Casey Crafford | Netflix

This article contains spoilers for Netflix’s One Piece.

Film and television adaptations of stories from other media consistently face uphill battles. Even the most faithful of adaptations can ruffle the feathers of the source material’s die-hard fans or lead audiences to question the point of the adaptation in the first place. Anime and manga have had an even harder time on this front as their live-action adaptations not only have to figure out how to ostensibly bring cartoons to life, but also take into consideration a multitude of sensitive cultural issues. 

Audiences are used to writing off live-action anime adaptations after decades of being burnt by projects like Dragon Ball Evolution, Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, and this year’s Knights of the Zodiac, with live-action versions of Yu Yu Hakusho and My Hero Academia already in development. Even when Japan produces decent live-action anime features like Gintama, Rurouni Kenshin, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, or any of Takashi Miike’s adaptations (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Ace Attorney, As the Gods Will), they often come across as too insular and made strictly for Japanese audiences and the series’ preexisting fanbases rather than international newcomers. 

Even visionary filmmakers like the Wachowskis or Robert Rodriguez struggle to deliver a live-action anime experience that resonates with all audiences in the cases of Speed Racer and Alita: Battle Angel. This is a difficult benchmark to clear and one that often seems as if it sets itself up for failure. However, Netflix’s One Piece charts a fresh course that respects its source material and brings on board the right crew of creatives–including Eiichiro Oda himself–to make sure that this ambitious live-action adaptation confidently swims to success rather than sinking to the bottom of the Grand Line. Here’s how.

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