A quick scroll through Netflix in the past week would have shown you a recommended show called One Piece. If you are not a fan of the series or aren't aware of what it's about, you might have dismissed it as just some other live-action anime rendition. However, to fans of the series who have been waiting eagerly since it was announced all the way back in 2017, the current number-one show on Netflix in over 84 countries is the culmination of a lifelong dream to see the series breathed to life.
The true scale of the series is hard to grasp for non-anime fans. It is the second best-selling comic book series of all time, bested only by Superman (which, in all fairness, had a 60-year head start). The first chapter of the manga was published nearly 26 years ago and the series is still going strong, with a total of 1091 chapters and counting. The fandom for the show eclipses offerings like Game of Thrones in their heyday. A quick YouTube search will lead you to hundreds of channels dedicated to reviews, reactions, and theory discussions in a plethora of languages.
This begs the question: What exactly is the story of this series that has captivated millions around the world for nearly three decades? The basic premise of this story is a world filled with pirates where magical items called Devil Fruits exist. If you eat a Devil Fruit, you gain a unique power, but the downside is that you can no longer swim. The story begins with an epilogue where a pirate called Gold Roger is said to have conquered all the seas and is thus titled, "The Pirate King". However, Gold Roger was caught by the government and sentenced to death. While on his execution platform, he told the people gathered that he had left all his treasure at "that place" and that everyone should aim to find it. Thus began the Golden Age of Piracy. The story of One Piece begins 20 years later, with our protagonist, Monkey D. Luffy, a 17-year-old boy, who sets out to build his own pirate crew and become "The Pirate King." The Netflix series consists of eight episodes that total 451 minutes and covers around the first 95 chapters of the manga.
As a fan, one cannot help but wonder: how successfully did the show manage to adapt one of the wackiest, zaniest, most goofy, yet austere when needed, series ever made? Overall, the showrunners have done a remarkable job in what is one of the few positively received manga-to-live-action series ever made. Credit has to go to the creators who respected the source material and made creative tweaks to bring it to life while constantly taking advice from the series creator, Eiichiro Oda, thereby being in possession of his vital blessing.
One can see the love that went into this show, with all the easter eggs that are scattered for dedicated fans to discover. The set designs are glorious and the usage of both CGI and practical effects to make Luffy's universe come to life is praiseworthy. The casting is brilliant, with each of the actors giving laudable performances, successfully embodying the essence of their characters. Their introductions are fantastic, and the show does an appreciable job of developing them to the point where the audience can fathom their motivations and emotional orbits. The action sequences are applause-worthy, especially given that a lot of the practical stunts have been performed by the actors themselves. This, too, goes to show the time and effort put in by all parties involved to make the series a success. It must be noted that the show makes an amalgam of changes to the story, but it does work – for the most part.
The adaptation is, in no way, a perfect one. The editing and direction of the show leave quite a bit to be desired. There is no consistent tone throughout the episodes, with shots going from dramatic close-ups of the character's monologues to comic-book-style split screens. One can even assert that, at times, the show comes off as a fan-made YouTube video, albeit a well-made one, as opposed to a high-budget series. The pace varies as well; at times meandering, and, at other times, rushed. Certain important dramatic moments do not feel properly earned as the imperative build-up is sometimes lacklustre. Consequently, some of the story changes have left the fan base divided.
"Only those who have suffered long can see the light within the shadows". This quote, which can easily be attributed to a famed philosopher, belongs to a character in the show. Mind you, this is from the same series that has the Jacket fruit: a power that lets the user become a jacket and be worn by others. Such is the duality of the One Piece experience. It's an extremely playful, light-hearted series with eccentric characters, touching upon themes of friendship and following your dreams, whilst simultaneously tackling heavier themes like classism, trauma, dealing with grief, self-improvement, morality, and justice.
While the Netflix version is far from perfect, the show does manage to capture most of the aspects of the series, making it an enjoyable and compelling watch. With a second season all but guaranteed, One Piece fans worldwide will be hoping that this show serves as a gateway to get more fans invested in the series. Fair warning: if you do watch the series and decide to pick up the manga, prepare yourself for a wild and unforgettably immersive ride.
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