The highly anticipated live-action adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s beloved manga, One Piece, has finally set sail on Netflix, and oh, what a vibrant experience it is!
The world is a mix of good within the bad and bad within the good, and well-meaning but stubborn old men who are always getting in the way of big ol’ dreams. But that’s what brings our Straw Hat crew together so that they can go on the madcap adventures across the high seas against perennially gorgeous sunrise and sunset moments.
Both fans of the original material and newcomers can easily waltz into this world of pirates, marines, hybrid humans, and the grand adventures that Matt Owens and Steven Maeda developed. This adaptation honours the source material and goes all gung-ho into building a world that is instantly warm, lived-in, and welcoming.
From the vivid visuals to the spirited music, well-shot frames, and meticulously crafted animations, the show captures the heart and essence of the source material, bringing to life the world of lost treasures and dreams.
This series is dotted with quaint and charmingly named places, from Orange Town to Syrup Village. Each location is brought to life with earnest attention to detail. Iconic elements such as the Den Den Mushi—telepathic snails used for communication across the vast blue seas—add a touch of hilarity and authenticity to this adaptation.
At the forefront of this exciting voyage is the perfectly cast main ensemble. Iñaki Godoy portrays the enthusiastic Monkey D. Luffy with boundless energy, goofiness, and an unwavering determination to hunt down the most delicious nosh at all hours. His one goal in life is to become the King of the Pirates and make sure everyone around him gets to fulfil their dreams as well. Luffy’s rubber-like body, gained from eating the mysterious Gum Gum Devil Fruit, is as much a sight to behold as Sanji’s legendary knife skills—all come to life from the pages of the manga.
Alongside Luffy, the core crew members include the ‘too cool for school’ Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu), nifty Nami (Emily Rudd), zany Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson), and the chivalrous Sanji (Taz Skylar). The actors deliver pitch-perfect performances that capture the essence of their characters and their respective ambitions. It is no wonder that Oda himself called the cast “perfect”.
Godoy’s portrayal of Luffy is a standout. Still, his chemistry with the rest of the cast, especially his interactions with Nami, Zoro, Usopp, and Sanji, adds an endearing layer to the crew dynamics.
The other standout characters apart from the Straw Hats are the notorious pirates who come to life from the world of One Piece—from Alvida, the fearsome glitter-loving pirate and Luffy’s first antagonist, to Buggy, the disjointed clown, Arlong, the menacing sawshark fish-man, and Mihawk, the suavest swashbuckler of them all.
Alivida’s (Ilia Isorelýs Paulino) lively presence adds as much dynamism to the series as her confetti-blasting cannonballs and spiked iron mace. On the slightly more villainous side, Buggy the Clown (Jeff Ward) brings an unnerving presence, perfectly balancing the macabre and the absurd as he forces his prisoners to laugh at his circus of terror.
Aidan Scott and Morgan Davies, as Helmeppo and Koby, form the other enemies-to-friends duo. Helmeppo has some real “my father will hear about this” energy going on, but Scott and Davies manage to elevate their characters from becoming one-note. They play off of each other and Vice Admiral Garp (Vincent Regan), who takes them under his wing, making this another interesting cohort to look forward to on the other side of the Grand Line in future seasons, which seems like a no-brainer for Netflix to greenlight at this point.
The action-packed sequences are nothing short of breathtaking. As the director of the first two episodes, Marc Jobst, described, they are indeed very “dance-like”. The show takes full advantage of the live-action format to choreograph fun and creative fight sequences that do justice to the over-the-top battles seen in the source material. From impossible bullets to three sword fights, there is a delicate line between the cartoonish and realistic, and One Piece tows it well.
In the third episode, directed by Emma Sullivan, we get a brief scene between Kaya (Celeste Loots) and Nami that helps the story pass the Bechdel test by a sliver. The series’ first five episodes do an exceptional job of introducing and establishing the core cast while providing glimpses into their motivations and personalities.
However, the fourth episode drags at points, particularly in the stretched-out conclusion of Kuro’s arc. Despite this minor setback, the overall pacing remains engaging.
Even the side characters are given room to breathe, each feeling thoughtfully fleshed out. This commitment to character development, combined with impeccable colour correction and cinematography, only enhances the overall visual appeal of the show.
Netflix’s live-action adaptation of One Piece captures the essence of the story that has delighted fans for decades. As the Straw Hat crew sets sail again, it’s clear that this adaptation is steering in the right direction, promising an exciting voyage for viewers worldwide.