It's intimidating to jump into a series with an already extensive archive that crosses multiple mediums, and the One Piece franchise is no exception. Dive into the Netflix live-action adaptation without fear – it holds up as a viewing experience for those who haven't delved into the other incarnations of the absurdist comedy adventure.
One Piece tells the story of a different kind of pirate and his gang of unlikely friends who sail the seas of a fantasy world searching for the fabled ‘One Piece' treasure, a mysterious artifact that will turn the finder into the King of the Pirates. The blend of goofy comedy into serious plots with unique characters gives viewers many reasons to love the live-action version and eagerly anticipate a second season.
1. Prior Knowledge of the Series is Not Required
Netflix achieved the Holy Grail of anime to live-action adaption requirements. It perfectly balances the series so that those new to it can stumble in blindly while also appealing to long-time manga or anime fans.
An extensive archive is one of many barriers to entry for those curious to sample the One Piece story. The anime series is noisy, with a particular artistic style that only appeals to some. It is a problem deftly solved by putting the story in the hands of human actors who can lean heavily into the absurdity while still leaving it toned down from the original animation style.
It began as a manga series before being adapted into an animated anime series with thousands of episodes and over twenty movies, so pleasing the biggest fans is also vital to the success of any adaptation regardless of medium. It's impossible to please everybody, but the reception from both new viewers and long-time fans was largely equally positive.
2. Great Characters Need Great Introductions
Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will connect immediately with the charming and extroverted Monkey D. Luffy, who exudes big Aang energy with his incessant optimism and unabashedly wholesome enthusiasm. Luffy has one goal in life – to be the world's greatest pirate. Luffy brushes aside the fact that pirates are traditionally evil as irrelevant because he's a different kind of pirate.
Characters are given ample screen time as they are introduced, fleshing out their backstory just as the viewer asks, “Why are they like that?” Well-timed flashbacks enhance the interest in each character, who all have unique backgrounds and personalities but come together to form an unlikely ragtag team of likable pirates.
Luffy may be the captain, but his crew is just as captivating. Roronoa Zoro balances Luffy's silly playfulness with serious and stoic sarcasm while pursuing his goals with the same single-minded focus he sees in Luffy. They both have all-consuming passions, but Zoro's weighs heavily on him in stark contrast to Luffy's joy.
Nami, the cartographer thief, is brought to life by actress Emily Rudd, bringing strong Jennifer Lawrence vibes to the role and no-nonsense practicality to the group dynamic. Her focus is on survival, a trait later balanced by Usopp's arrival in the group. He joins the merry band of misfits with rakish charm and an enthusiasm for adventure tempered only by a streak of romanticism that keeps him bound to his unrequited love. Sanji is a gentleman and master chef – the perfect friend for Luffy and his insatiable appetite for delicious foods.
3. The Funny and Lighthearted Tone Is the Perfect Counter to Dark, Gritty Reboots
One Piece is a great palate cleanser of silly absurdist comedy for those worn out on darker dramas or dystopian tales. It's a quirky show that leans into it rather than trying to deny or change to meet mainstream expectations. The protagonist blends the qualities of Aang and Stretch Armstrong to create the least likely pirate character to grace both seas and screens alike. Yet, the combination fundamentally keeps the show light even when exploring darker topics.
4. The Show is Filled With Positive Messages
The characters model healthy friendships and positive support systems throughout the show in a surprising take on piracy that will resonate with fans of Our Flag Means Death. Luffy makes friends everywhere he goes by encouraging others and their dreams – even when they are at odds with his own. His belief in himself and his friends is unshakable, delivering lines like “Don't let anybody tell you what you can't do” while backing it up with his actions. Zoro emphasizes this quality by observing, “I don't have to believe in him; he believes in himself. It rubs off.”
5. It's a Different Kind of Swashbuckling Adventure
Luffy explains, “Being a pirate is not about raiding villages or perfect plans. It's about adventure. And freedom.” He knows the pirate stereotypes, but rather than buy into that narrative, he continually corrects people and tells them he's a different kind of pirate. He sees no reason he can't be a pirate and a good guy, with a powerful determination that hooks others into his belief.
6. Season Two is Coming
The danger with undertaking an epic series remake is failing to follow the series through to completion. This is especially true for Netflix and their reputation of prematurely ending series after one or two seasons. One Piece has already been green-lit for a second season. In fact, it was approved quickly on the heels of the series premiere performing well on streaming during the first two weeks of availability. Season one is now streaming on Netflix.