“One Piece is a joy to watch from start to finish with striking visuals. This great adventure is a lot of fun with plenty of action while at its heart, it is a character-driven story. Everyone in the main cast is absolutely fantastic. Iñaki Godoy shines as Luffy. But the real scene stealer is Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro. This is perfect casting.”
Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece is undoubtedly one of the biggest manga series in the world. Whether you have read the manga or watch the anime, anyone around the globe knows about this franchise. So, this live-action adaptation is definitely one of the most anticipated series of the year.
I will start this review by saying a good adaptation isn’t about making a copy paste of the original work. A good adaptation is one that is able to capture the essence of the original work. That being said, previous anime/manga live-action adaptations made by Hollywood haven’t really been a success to say the least. But when you look at the adaptations made by the Japanese themselves, now this is where you find the good stuff. To name a few, you have Given, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Play it Cool Guys, Rurouni Kenshin, From Me To You: Kimi Ni Todoke. The difference is that when Japanese made these adaptations they cared about what they were doing.
Netflix took upon the daring task to make this live-action adaptation of One Piece. However, they didn’t make the same mistakes Hollywood did before. They actually chose people who cared about the original work and they involved Oda in the process. This right there is why One Piece is different from previous adaptations made by Hollywood. And everyone can now finally experience it. The 8 episodes of season 1 are now streaming on Netflix. Each episode is around 55 minutes long.
THE GREAT ADVENTURE
One Piece is an adventure story about pirates. Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) aims to find the fabled treasure “One Piece” to become King of the pirates. In order to achieve his goals, he enlists an unlikely crew – Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu) a master swordsman and bounty hunter who serves as his first mate, Nami (Emily Rudd) a thief who serves as his navigator, Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson) who is loyal to his friends and Sanji (Taz Skylar) a cook who does martial arts.
From start to finish, this is a joy to watch. And when this is all over you just want more! It’s like a roller-coaster with big thrills. Each episode feels like watching a little film. It balances well its different elements. Indeed, it has plenty of action but it also knows when to let its story breathe and lean more into the emotional side. At times, the story also lets its characters just enjoying the moment. This series is a lot of fun. It is full of positivity with a sense of great adventure.
On their journey, Luffy and his friends encounter different type of characters/opponents as they are being chased by the Navy, the dominant governing forces. Story wise, this translates into episodes working as pairs. Each pair tells its self-contained story while moving the overall plot forward. For a story like One Piece, this works so well.
Zoro and Nami are the first characters to work with Luffy while the two others come in later. This is the first season. So, it takes its time to introduce each character properly. It doesn’t try to rush things. With roughly 8 hours of content, there is plenty of time to tell a fully fledged story and develop each character. Luffy may be the main character, but his crew is just as important. They all have their own storyline with their own goals and their inner struggles.
Furthermore, we get the backstory of each of them through flashbacks of their younger selves. This allows the audience to fully connect with each character and understand the reasons behind their personal dreams. At its heart, it is a character-driven story that explores the bonds between the characters. Through challenges, we see these characters coming together and slowly becoming a real crew.
Moreover, the everyone in the main cast of One Piece is absolutely fantastic. Each of these actors understand their characters. You can tell they are fans of the original work just like the writers. Thus, they truly care about bringing these characters to life. This makes a difference. Undoubtedly, this is a really talented cast.
Iñaki Godoy IS Monkey D. Luffy. Now, I can’t see anyone else in the role. He is so energetic with that touch of naivety that makes Luffy so likeable. Plus, his facial expressions are spot on. He transports the audience with him on this journey. Luffy is a dreamer and this is what I see in Goday’s portrayal. In fact, he embodies who the character is. Godoy surely deserves a big round of applause for his performance. He nails it in every way.
Like I said everyone is fantastic in this cast but the real scene stealer is Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro. His line delivery can be sarcastic at times or feel like his character doesn’t care even though he does. There is something special the way Mackenyu says his lines as Zoro. This gives him the best one-liners. The way he reacts to Luffy’s silliness is as much fun. Mackenyu’s reactions as Zoro are priceless. He also has an on-screen presence that draws your eyes to him. Indeed, Mackenyu is simply charismatic. He just looks so cool playing this character. He also impresses with his fight scenes just like he did in Knights of the Zodiac and Rurouni Kenshin: The Final. Mackenyu is someone who is dedicated to his craft and you can definitely see it throughout the series. This is perfect casting.
Luffy is a cartoon-like character with his powers. To make it work in live-action it needed to keep that feeling because you can’t make these powers look serious. So, this is exactly what the VFX teams did. They have done a great work with his abilities, the same goes for Buggy The Clown’s abilities. Overall, the VFX teams have done a stunning work with the sea monster, the cities… These are striking visuals.
Everything design wise is as faithful as possible to the original work with the live-action touch. It really transports you to the world of One Piece. Even though, initial reception for the Going Merry was mixed, when you see it in the episodes, it will win you over time. Additionally, the work done on the fishmen makes them threatening villains. There is so much to love in this series. The costumes included. I love how often they change the main characters’ costumes. You will definitely recognize all these outfits from the manga and anime.
What’s more, the directors framed their close-up & extreme close-up shots in a way that takes the best out of the cast. You can only do that when you have talented actors as these ones. Indeed, Mackenyu can say a lot without saying a single word. His eyes talk. So filming him and his co-stars the way the directors did really has an impact when you watch the episodes. You notice these shots and immediately understand what the directors wanted to tell with them. This also gives the series its own style.
Finally, Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli have composed a great and melodious score for One Piece. It makes you want to go on an adventure like Luffy and his crew. The main theme is full of energy with that epic pirate/adventure vibe. It’s just right for this series. The score also moves to a more emotional territory when needs be. Nami’s theme is quite beautiful. The soundtrack features the song ‘My Sails Are Set’ by Aurora. It’s a truly wonderful song. Pay attention to the lyrics because it sums up the journey of the characters so well. It is actually a shame there is no opening credits because this song would have fit nicely as an opening theme.
One Piece is a joy to watch from start to finish with striking visuals. This great adventure is a lot of fun with plenty of action while at its heart, it is a character-driven story. The series takes its time to properly introduce and develop each character from Luffy’s crew. Everyone in the main cast is absolutely fantastic. Iñaki Godoy shines as Luffy. He brings so much energy and captures exactly who the character is. He is Monkey D. Luffy. But the real scene stealer is Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro. This is perfect casting.
For fans of the manga and/or the anime, this is a new way to experience the story. But for people who never watched the anime, this is a good starting point into this franchise.
All the episodes of One Piece are now streaming on Netflix.
Collectables Editor at Future Of The Force.
Star Wars and Marvel specialist, anime expert