One Piece Season 1 Live-Action Review (#OnePiece)

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action Review

I’ve long known about the One Piece franchise. And when FUNimation originally license-rescued the anime, they sent me the first set of DVDs to review. However, the series wasn’t my cup of tea, though there were elements I liked. Then when the live-action series was announced, I read the 95 chapters (11.5 volumes) Netflix adapted. And that was okay, but also kinda bored me. As such, despite the rave reviews from others who’s opinion I trust, I wasn’t sure I’d like the live-action adaptation.

* * * S P O I L E R S ! ! ! * * *

The Story, in Brief

A teen boy named Monkey D. Luffy is on a boat at sea. He ends up on the pirate Alvida’s ship. After a confrontation with the pirate, Luffy leaves her ship with one of her crew, named Koby. Since Koby wants to join the Marines, Luffy takes him to a base. There, pirate hunter Zoro is held prisoner in the yard. Inside, a girl named Nami looks for maps of the Grand Line. Luffy eventually frees Zoro and helps Nami, so they join him.

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

The trio arrive at an island, controlled by the pirate Buggy the Clown. After dealing with him, the crew set off to get a better ship. Meanwhile, Admiral Garp sets out to track down the Straw Hat Pirates (Luffy) and Koby ends up on Garp’s crew. Back with Luffy, they encounter a guy named Usopp, who knows the lady who owns the shipyard. After uncovering a plot by her former pirate turned butler, Usopp joins Luffy’s crew on their new ship.

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

Luffy docks them at an anchored ship-restaurant to have a feast. Since Luffy has no money, he’s put to work. There, he meets the sous chef Sanji. Garp hires pirate warlord Dracule Mihawk to get Luffy. Zoro challenges Mihawk and loses. Later, the fish-man pirate leader Arlong pays a visit to the restaurant with the alive head of Buggy with him. They leave with Nami, so Luffy decides to get her back.

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

Sanji joins the crew and they arrive at Arlong’s base. Luffy learns this island is where Nami grew up, and its human residents have been terrorized by Arlong’s group. Eventually, Luffy’s crew defeat Arlong. However, they are caught by Admiral Garp, who is Luffy’s grandfather. After Garp “tests” his grandson, he lets them go, and they are off for the Grand Line.

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

Faithful in Spirit

There are three types of adaptations. The first is a faithful adaptation, where little to no modifications are made to the source material in the adaptation. The anime Spy x Family falls here. The second is an adaptation that takes characters and situations from the source material, but tells a somewhat different story since the adapters what to “make it their own.” FX’s Shogun series falls here. The third is an adaptation that is faithful in spirit to the source material, but changes are made for whatever reasons. The Lord of the Rings movies fall here, and I believe Netflix’s One Piece does as well.

I’m not going to lie, initially, I had some concerns about some of the modifications that the live-action adaptation made. However, I remembered how much bloat is in the source manga, and since Netflix only had eight 45-minute to 60-minute episodes to work with, I decided that I didn’t mind that Luffy met Nami and Zoro on the same adventure. The spirit of the manga was there, so I was okay with that.

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

And that’s what fans of the manga will have to understand when watching the live-action series. Packing 95 chapters of material into 8 TV episodes means stuff got cut. BUT (and I can’t speak for the Garp stuff since he wasn’t in the first 95 chapters), in my opinion, Netflix’s One Piece adaptation is faithful to the spirit of the manga. And they certainly captured the feel of the manga world. And for the most part, the casting is perfect.

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

Changes I Didn’t Like

Just like in the manga, Alvida is the first pirate Luffy encounters in Netflix’s One Piece. I’m mentioning her because while I had no issue with the casting, there was one element that got changed that I didn’t like. In the manga, Alvida is all about beauty. She’s fat and ugly, but she doesn’t see herself that way. I have a strong feeling that Netflix changed this to make Alvida all about “power” ’cause “dogma”. I already know Alvida returns in the manga, and she is slender and attractive. To be honest, I can’t imagine Netflix will allow that.

Another change that I wasn’t really a fan of was Buggy the Clown. Again, I thought Jeff Ward did a great job with the character. And Netflix got the character right in terms of appearance and powers. However, in the manga, Buggy wasn’t a circus ringleader. He was just a pirate. In the live-action adaptation, Buggy has captured an entire town and made them his circus audience. I guess the absurdity of Buggy just being a vicious pirate who looked like a clown either offended Netflix, or they couldn’t understand it. That said, this change wasn’t a game breaker for me.

I didn’t like the casting for Nojiko. That was the one case of casting that felt way out of place to mark a checkbox (no offense to Chioma Umeala).

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

As I said earlier, I can’t really speak about the change in narrative to move Garp forward in the story. Normally, moving a story element introduced way later to an earlier point would be something I don’t like. That’s the only reason I mention it here. For all I know, it may actually work better earlier in the story. Certainly the way Netflix presented it made it work well enough.

Changes I Was Fine With

I’ve already mentioned this before, but I was okay with the compression of the live-action One Piece adaptation. That meant that Don Krieg only got a fan service cameo rather than a full arc, which would have taken up another episode. So Don’s stuff (Baratie Arc) is shifted to Arlong. To be honest, I didn’t miss Don until after I finished the series when I thought, “Wait. Someone was skipped.”

Another change to the story that didn’t bother me was the portrayal of the Navy and Marines. In the manga, Axe-Hand Morgan is a Marine captain. The Marines are supposed to be the “good guys” of the series. However, in the manga, Morgan is no different from any pirate Luffy and company have to deal with. Indeed, the Marines under Morgan’s command celebrate when Luffy defeats him as it makes them free of his tyranny and abuse (to include murder).

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

In the live-action version, Morgan is still tough, but he doesn’t act like a pirate. His actions come off as more reasonable, thus making the Straw Hat’s conflict with Morgan feel like a pirates vs. law enforcement rather than pirates vs. pirates. I like this change.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

I’ve got a ton going on, so let me wrap up my review of Netflix’s One Piece. While there are a few changes to the source material that I didn’t like, some changes I did like. Outside of one character, the casting is perfect. Netflix captured the look and feel of the outlandish world of One Piece perfectly. And they even managed to make the attack name yells work without seeming cringe. So when all is said and done, I think this adaptation is faithful in spirit to the source material. And I was certainly entertained by it.

One Piece Season 1 Live-Action

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