One Piece Season 1 Review (Live Action)

Honest Take on a Beloved Franchise

The Anticipation is over and the first season of One Piece Live Action is here and its time kinda break things down and tell if is it any good or not. First of all I don’t like this narrative in the anime community that nothing on live-action works – there are plenty of great shows like Alice in Borderland that disapprove that statement (from what I’ve seen the TV series is better than the manga).

It’s always been more of a question of the genre whether it will turn good or bad. One Piece is very exaggerated in its character designs and this live action series tries to be faithful to that while staying somewhat realistic. It takes a lot of liberation in terms of clothing (showing more outfits for a lot of the main cast for instance) and some humanoid characters look a lot more human and sometimes a bit silly. Usopp for instance does not have an actual long nose, it is just normal without any makeup or touching on it.

Exact Retelling or Rewrite of The Original One Piece?

If you aren’t a complete idiot you would probably understand that the original anime is currently +1070 episodes long and when you have multi-million episode budgets you simply cannot adapt everything. If you know anything about filmmaking you would know that filming at sea particularly or anything with water is quite expensive, so I am assuming they had a 4-10m budget per episode with this series.

Pacing here is faster and things from the beginning are cut and sometimes blend with each other, like the character Koby is recurring throughout the season, and while that is not exactly how it goes in the manga they have managed to make it work. In short lot of the minor characters are seen a lot more frequently, which actually from a character development point of view isn’t bad.

I also want to say that I don’t exactly want the exact same story of One Piece as it is in the manga/anime, I think sometimes we just need a fresh spin on old material (ofc without totally raping it in the process) and seeing what they are doing here is DIFFERENT from the manga, but it works from a storytelling perspective and so far hasn’t broken the main plot of the franchise by doing so.

Characters Translating to the Big Screen

This One Piece is a Western production meaning that when the default language changes to English (There is a Japanese dub that has the original voice actors from the anime by the way) and things are on Live screen, things aren’t going to appear the same as they are in the anime this is granted. Given the current media industry is – everything is quite bleak and dark and you can clearly see this in the dialogue of sarcasm, the camera lighting being darker, and the atmosphere of the series being more serious than its source material.

Let’s break down a bit of the actors and how they fare as their manga/anime counterparts now.

  • Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) – Visually probably the best casting choice you would have gone for Luffy, Inaki is not a native English speaker so that shows here a bit like some of his pronunciations at times are kinda off, but that’s ultimately writers choice to include “Gum Gum” style ability lines in live action. I think he is kind of goofy in a good way and probably brings the best positive energy to the show, Initially I had my reservations but he’s better than most.
  • Zoro (Mackenyu) – After research, I found out that this guy is Sony Chiba’s child a true movie legend from Japan, now he’s pretty good with swords and all the fighting sequences he’s on are the best that this show has to offer. Zoro is a lot more trying to act cool (he does that only in fights in the anime IMO) and he is perhaps a bit too serious here How he’s introduced with his character development is a bit rushed to my liking.
  • Nami (Emily Rudd) – Emily really wanted to play this role and it kind of shows that she is pretty dedicated, Nami is more action-orientated since she has her staff at the very beginning and has some martial arts skills to show, which is quite contrary to the original character, also sex appeal side of Nami is barely shown.. Netflix obviously doesn’t want anything even remotely sexist to be shown which is an instant L in my book.
  • Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson) – Usopp has a good intro episode and he is the other comedic character here, but he’s more like a shy person than out loud crazy guy we know from the anime. So much of his humor is Japanese and also those faces cannot be simply translated to the live-action screen so he ought to turn out different
  • Garp (Vincent Regan) – I Didn’t like he was introduced as some Bond villain and he really lacked that humor aspect of Garp truly (i pin this on the actor) Luckily once his family connection is revealed we see a more softer side to him.
  • Sanji (Taz Skylar) – Taz plays a lot more toned-down version of Sanji, less playboy less angry, and more adult-like. This makes it feel like some of the characters are older and adults compared to Usopp & Luffy, which creates this odd dynamic that doesn’t jell well in my book.
  • Koby (Morgan Davies) – Koby is a lot more important side character and he’s in a lot of ways very faithful to the original character, but a bit more capable too for my taste.
  • Shanks (Peter Gadiot) – I feel like another visually similar-looking character and also faithful to the original character here
  • Buggy (Jeff Ward) – He is not much like Original Buggy, he’s more like the Joker and I’m really digging the performance here by Jeff Ward If there is any character that was changed for the better it’s probably him.
  • Mihawk (Steven Ward) – His role is a bit broader here in terms of his involvement and he makes some oneliners instead of being very cold and calculative like he’s in the source material.
  • Arlong (McKinley Belcher III) – To be honest Arlong looked like some Purple Klingon and that’s not a compliment otherwise he’s not too shabby.

Many of the talent here are new people who haven’t done exactly massive roles yet, with every new big IP like Star Wars they always take a lot of upcoming talent and that’s usually the way to go budget-wise. The detail of costumes and some other memes from the original One Piece are seen through a lot of the minor characters and you can see that the creators really wanted to be as faithful as possible, whilst expanding some of the characters.

Set Pieces are the Highlight

While acting, dialogue and story are a mixed bag, there are still things that are done better than in the source material, one thing that comes into my mind is the set locations. Baratie is gorgeous looking inside and brings more of a flavor to the dull original that there is. Den Den Mushi’s ships are just well crafted and more detailed than their source material counterparts, you can clearly see some dedication going into this.

Costumes are faithful with slight alterations and our cast does change it up depending on the episode, which is one of the perks of live-action filming. We see some liberal takes also in the iconic locations and they are made a bit broader For example the Usopp arc takes more during the night time and I remember in the manga/anime it was daylight when the fight was taking place, so a lot of these little things.

Not All is Perfect, However…

The series has issues deciding its overall tone and by this, as in for example we have more drinking scenes with underage kids like Koby taking whiskey, while simultaneously we are censoring the amount of blood being spilled on the fight scenes. We also had one character that was killed off instead of surviving the attack like in the source material.

Some characters were too serious for my liking and it could have used more of that gag & humor feel, the trailers made it seem like there was more of that but in reality, it was quite low of the overall episodes.

Also, the OST sucked, it wasn’t trying to be like One Piece or the Pirates of the Caribbean, it was very inspiring and tonally wrong to the overall atmosphere of this show. Where were all the comedy parts for example? I’m pretty sure we had a Western composer involved with this and we should have gone with someone from Japan who could have executed a more ambitious and stylized soundtrack that the series needed.

I Thought this live-action was “OK” it wasn’t Alita’s level of goodness, but it wasn’t horrible on the level of Death Note from Netflix. I am expecting it will be renewed for Season 3 and then we are going to get this series chopped unless we see significant improvements over the first season tonally, I don’t know how people generally are going to feel with this style. It just had sometimes that high-end Theater play feel to it and that was something I struggled with, it felt as if the scenes weren’t real at times.