With its intricate world-building, unforgettable characters, and epic storytelling, One Piece, the beloved manga and anime series created by Eiichiro Oda, has captured the hearts of millions worldwide since its debut in 1997.
Now, as the Straw Hat Pirates prepare to set sail in a new format, the highly anticipated live-action adaptation of One Piece is poised to navigate uncharted waters, courtesy of Netflix.
As Netflix takes the helm, questions arise: How will the vibrant world of the Grand Line translate to the screen? How will the fights be choreographed? And, perhaps most importantly, how will the camaraderie of the characters be captured outside the confines of animation?
To find the answers and more, Best of Netflix spoke over Zoom with One Piece director and executive producer Marc Jobst to find out the juicy details.
Q&A with ‘One Piece’ director and executive producer Marc Jobst:
Best of Netflix: One Piece is pretty big. Do you think this can become the next marquee show for Netflix?
Marc Jobst: “Oh, I hope so! First of all, it’s the biggest-selling manga in the history of manga. It’s the second-biggest-selling comic book in the world after Superman. And so much care and love has been put into this show, in so many different departments, not just in the writing, but also in the performing, in the producing, and the costumes, and the makeup and the stunts. And, we’ve been collaborating tremendously with Oda, the creator of the show, because it’s been going on for 22 years. And at the end of the day, it’s his creation. And he’s the guy who can give us all the pointers as to how, what we can change to adapt to live-action television because obviously, you have to make some adaptations, and what we really can’t. He’s been a source of huge support and is in love with the show as well.”
BoN: You have directed the first two episodes, so you are responsible for setting up the live-action for everyone, like people who are already fans of the manga and there’ll be a lot of new fans who will be joining in. How did you go about it?
MJ: “It’s definitely a show that I think will bring in more than just the fan base. The fan base are super loyal. And we absolutely want them to feel comfortable with what we’ve done with it as a live-action show. And we absolutely feel passionately that this is a show that those that don’t know about One Piece should know about it. And when they do know about it, they’ll fall in love with it the way that all of us have fallen in love with it, because it is a really optimistic show.”
BoN: Speaking about the importance of optimistic shows like One Piece, the director also told us about the impact of the show on the actors who came to audition for it.
MJ: “The world needs these kinds of optimistic shows right now and it’s not just fluff. It has some depth to it. What was really interesting was when we were casting the show, and we were doing a big international casting session all over the world for months to find these right characters. One of the things that struck me particularly, but I also know the writers, is that we all felt very strongly about was how many actors came in to say, ‘You have no idea how much this show means to us. It’s seen us through some really dark times.’
So what that said to us is, ‘This isn’t just any old show that we’re adapting to the screen. This is a show that really means something to people.’ And we took that to heart. We really hope that what we’ve delivered is something which is fun, is funny, is a big adventure. It’s got huge action sequences, but also that kind of resonates some of the deeper truths that sit within all of us.”
BoN: Can you take us through these action sequences?
MJ: “When you have fight sequences, if there’s no consequence to some of the fights then the fights become meaningless. On the other hand, they are very different to some of the other shows I’ve done, like the Marvel Studios work and maybe The Witcher where the audience is expecting much more grit. I think we couldn’t not have grit. But at the end of the day, this [One Piece] isn’t really about, slow-motion punches with blood coming out in slow-motion, it really isn’t that kind of a show. It’s much more dance-like.
It’s part of how we approached shooting the action sequences because One Piece doesn’t have that same kind of energy. And, what it’s how we approached the casting of the show was to make sure that we had actors who could act and carry the drama and show, but also were very physical and carry a choreography because what I wanted to do is to be able to shoot the action in long shots that developed from one character to the other, so that we could see the movement, the choreography of the fight. Because it seems to me that whilst Luffy, our lead character, absolutely wants to win the fights, he doesn’t necessarily want to hurt. And that’s a very fundamental difference into how you would then approach those those fight sequences.”
BoN: Praising the extraordinary sword skills of Mackenyu, the actor who plays Roronoa Zoro, a master swordsman who uses the art of Three Swords Style, Jobst compared his skills to Henry Cavill.
MJ: “In the pilot episode, Zoro has a really big action sequence where we see the extraordinary sword skills of Mackenyu who is an extraordinary swordsman. Having worked with Henry Cavill on The Witcher, who is an extraordinary swordsman, to then come in and to work with Mackenyu, who works as an extraordinary swordsman, but in a very different kind of way, very different skills, it was just mind-blowing to see.”
BoN: When quizzed about his other favourite scenes from the show, Jobst went with another episode one moment.
MJ: “When we are in a big fight sequence with the Marines and Axe-Hand Morgan, which involves Zoro and Nami. And it’s the first time really they come together as a team and work together as a team, I think that’s fantastic. I think that was why it really took us a long time to shoot. Huge amount of rehearsal.”
BoN: Fans would love to know that what sold jobst on directing the show happened to be the moments between Luffy and Koby.
MJ: “One of the reasons why I wanted to come and shoot this show are those really intimate scenes between Koby and Luffy. In the boat, when he rescues Koby from Alvida. And what I loved about the scripts when Matt and Steve sent them to me to read is this juxtaposition. So you have high energy, high adventure, big action, but you also then bring the whole thing down into something really intimate, and close. And that’s very rare in a show.”
BoN: One Piece seems to be in safe hands because the director hit the bulls-eye with his understanding of cast chemistry. We see so many Netflix shows with big production values, but either the cast doesn’t gel well on-screen or the script leaves so much to be desired.
MJ: “We wanted to create a chemistry amongst our crew that would transcend any brilliant visual effects, shooting styles, and all the rest of it, because you can’t, you can’t manufacture chemistry on screen. Yes, absolutely give them incredible sets and an incredible world to sit within. But if we didn’t get the chemistry of the actors, right, then I’m not sure that an audience, in the end, fall in love with the sets and production values. They fall in love with people and character.”
BoN: So when you were helping our actors kind of form their chemistry off-screen is there any kind of funny story that you can share with us?
MJ: “In the rehearsal room, we just play a lot of very silly games. That’s the place where you let your inhibitions go.
We did this silly game of what we did loads of silly games. One was ‘caring for baby’. So, one of them was a baby. And the other one had to look after the other one.
There’s another game where you put on different hats, and you play different characters. You know, here’s a hat, you put that hat on, you’d be somebody different. Somebody throws you another hat, you put that hat on, you got to be somebody completely different.”
BoN: Finally, I have to ask about the complexity of Iñaki Godoy, our main guy, our Monkey D. Luffy.
MJ: “Iñaki is an extraordinary young man. What can I say about him he has taught me so much about joy, about kindness, and about bringing a wonderful positive energy.
He gave an audition. He read the scenes like everybody else. But he also switched the scene very slightly and did something very funny at the end of the scene completely spontaneously, which just made us all laugh. And we immediately thought, ‘That’s somebody special.’ And, I have nothing but praise for that young man. When you have a number one in your cast, who is as special and as kind and as funny and as energised as he is it filters down to everybody.”
Marc Jobst would like to state that he supports both SAG and WGA in their pursuit of reaching a fair and equitable resolution to the respective strikes. In talking about his work – past and present – he does so with unequivocal support for the highly skilled crews that make up the different unions (SAG and WGA included) and believes all should be valued and recompensed for the contributions they make in bringing these series and films to life.