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One Piece Live-Action Series Breaks the Anime Curse on Netflix

Netflix has historically had a less than impressive track record with live-action adaptations of anime and manga. Most of them are marred by disappointments like Dragon Ball: Evolution (2009), Death Note (2017) and the short-lived Cowboy Bebop (2021). However, their latest endeavor, One Piece, based on Eiichiro Oda’s beloved manga, manages to defy the odds and emerge as a success story.

The show genuinely captures the essence of its source material, with bold stylistic choices and a memorable ensemble of characters. This treasure trove is not only a delight for the franchise fans but highly appealing to the new viewers.

One Piece Live-Adaptation Brings Grand Line to Life

One Piece invites viewers into a world of pirates, where fearless crews venture across the seas in pursuit of the legendary One Piece—a treasure left behind by the fabled King of the Pirates, Gold Roger. This treasure promises its discoverer the coveted title of Pirate King, making it the most sought-after prize in the four seas. However, the journey to find the One Piece is fraught with peril, from sea monsters to rival pirates, not to mention the possibility that the treasure may be nothing but a myth.

The protagonist, Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy), is an adventurous young soul determined to claim the title of Pirate King. Despite his lack of experience in piracy and a comical inability to swim, Luffy compensates with boundless enthusiasm and his unique rubbery body. Portrayed with infectious joy by Godoy, Luffy’s unwavering self-belief makes him an endearing lead character.

However, Luffy can’t reach the One Piece alone. Enter the Straw Hat Pirates, named after Luffy’s iconic hat. His initial recruits include Nami (Emily Rudd), a crafty thief harboring secrets, and Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu), a pirate hunter with ambitions of becoming the world’s greatest swordsman. While Nami and Zoro may initially resist joining Luffy’s crew, their fates become intertwined after they steal a vital map from a Marine base, forcing them to band together as both Marines and rival pirates pursue them.

In contrast to Luffy’s ever-optimistic demeanor, Nami and Zoro bring more world-weary perspectives to the crew. Emily Rudd’s grounded performance and Mackenyu’s brooding presence provide an ideal counterbalance to Godoy’s animated portrayal, creating a harmonious dynamic within the core crew. With these three characters, the stage is set for thrilling high-seas adventures.

Thrilling First Season Leaves Wanting More

One Piece excels at delivering breathtaking spectacles, from extended sword duels to exotic locales. Each of the first season’s 8 episodes features at least one elaborate set piece, whether it’s a heist, an intense brawl, or a naval battle. Even seemingly mundane scenes, such as visits to an at-sea restaurant or a wealthy benefactor’s mansion, carries its own dose of excitement. The latter even transforms into a suspenseful showdown that will keep the viewers on the edge of their seat.

What keeps the action fresh is the introduction of a diverse array of adversaries. Characters like Buggy the Clown (Jeff Ward), Dracule Mihawk (Steven Ward), and Arlong (McKinley Belcher III) each bring a unique flair to their confrontations with our heroes. These villains, along with others encountered by Luffy and his crew, offer performances that align with the anime and manga’s larger-than-life spirit.

One Piece admirably attempts to replicate the expressive physicality and dynamic combat sequences of anime and manga. While some techniques work better than others, such as close-ups and angled shots to achieve an anime aesthetic, combat sequences benefit from intricate choreography and stunt work. Handling Luffy’s rubber-based powers proves more challenging but is used judiciously, allowing viewers to adapt to the sight of his stretching limbs.

Setting Sail in Style

The series avoids the uncanny valley by using large practical sets that ground viewers in Luffy’s world. Impressive constructions like the Baratie and the Going Merry enhance the tactile experience. Occasionally, there’s a visual disconnect between these vibrant sets and natural environments like forests or beaches. Nevertheless, One Piece’s execution remains strong, offering a larger-than-life spectacle with a heartfelt core.

Beyond the fantastical elements, One Piece is a narrative of outcasts who discover and support each other. Each member of the Straw Hat Pirates, including later additions Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson) and Sanji (Taz Skylar), harbors individual dreams. However, they understand that their goals can only be achieved through collective effort. With Season 1 setting the stage for their promising journeys, viewers can’t wait for more.

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