One Piece, the new live-action version of Eiichiro Oda’s Manga series available on Netflix, had created curiosity in my head as I was interested in knowing how they have managed to recreate the eccentric visual sensibilities usually associated with Manga anime series. As someone who had no clue about the series beyond the title (my brother is an ardent fan), I wanted to know whether the series would be able to recreate the excitement in someone who is going to explore it for the first time through this live-action version. The good thing about One Piece is that it builds the world and establishes its characters engagingly and elaborately through its 8 episodes.
So, the series is primarily built around this treasure that every pirate out there tried to get: One Piece. Our leading man, Monkey D Luffy, is this young wannabe pirate with the ambitious dream of setting up a crew and getting to the Grand Line to find One Piece. Long story short, Luffy finds multiple people with various purposes and talents in his journey. How that team of people who weren’t really excited to be Luffy’s crew eventually becomes a team is what we see in the first season of One Piece.
If you look at the entire first season, we witness a world-building exercise. But Eiichiro Oda’s imagination of the world, along with the purpose-driven backstory of each character, makes that journey look very entertaining on screen. For people like me who are unfamiliar with the Manga or animated version, this is pretty much like a wacky origin story of Captain Jack Sparrow. The series’ mood is constantly like those good POTC movies where the humor, fantasy, and legend behind each character or place will keep you excited in the story. It was fascinating that by the end of each episode, with an average duration of 50+ minutes, the series covered many backstories to make almost all those characters closer to the viewer.
The writing that holds together a vast amount of stories is actually the real backbone of the series. When you backtrack the characters, an entire episode or a significant part of multiple episodes are invested in those characters. The chances of those areas being felt dragged were really high. Still, the screenplay struck an entertaining balance in the narration as we get that roller coaster high at regular intervals, either through a set piece or through introducing a peculiar character.
Another thing I found interesting was the creation of the series of antagonists. Be it Buggy or Kuro, they all manage to register their presence as the writing presents them beyond the peripheral eccentric idiosyncrasies of bad guys. When it comes to the main villains of season 1, the Fishmen, there is that debate about the class divide, which kind of puts us in a difficult position in rooting against them. The extreme optimism of Luffy is kind of annoying in the earlier parts of the story, but the narrative uses that quality to gel the crew at a later stage. The visuals have that familiar tonality similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The production design and the visual effects are really good, although I found the visual effects in the childhood visuals of Sanji’s Life of Pi episode a bit tacky. The combat sequences also had that rough and raw outlook.
At one point, one of the characters describes Luffy as “Annoyingly Resilient.” Well, I must say that it is not an easy task to make such a character likable on screen, as the margin for error is pretty slim. But Iñaki Godoy succeeds in doing that smoothly. Emily Rudd, as Nami, plays one of the pivotal characters in the first season, as there are a lot of plot-twisting mysteries attached to that character. And she delivered a very convincing performance as the talented thief with a personal mission. Mackenyu, as Roronoa Zoro, needed to look like a believable candidate to be the best swordsman in the world, and he looked exactly like that in terms of physicality and attitude. Jacob Romero Gibson was fun to watch as the boasting Usopp. Taz Skylar as Sanji was like a perfect blend of charm and swagger. As the Vice Admiral, Vincent Regan, and Morgan Davies as Koby were also memorable.
There is a slew of actors who had relatively minimal screen time yet managed to create a fabulous impression. Jeff Ward as Buggy the Clown, Alexander Maniatis as Kuro, Craig Fairbrass as Chef Zeff, and Steven Ward as Mihawk managed to perform their characters with a unique flair. Even though the character was covered in prosthetic makeup to a great extent, I feel the performance of McKinley Belcher III as Arlong needs to be appreciated.
In totality, as a live-action series, One Piece manages to recreate the excitement one feels while reading a comic book with such peculiar characters and story settings. Now, with almost all characters having the same mission in their minds and Luffy getting his most cherished “wanted” tag, the path ahead seems pretty exciting and more adventurous.
In totality, as a live-action series, One Piece manages to recreate the excitement one feels while reading a comic book with such peculiar characters and story settings.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended