Netflix has a mixed track record when it comes to adapting beloved Japanese anime series into live action formats. I liked 2021’s Cowboy Bebop more than most diehard fans—just for the pitch-perfect casting alone, despite the fact that the fight choreography left a lot to be desired. It was certainly better than the live-action versions of Fullmetal Alchemist (another of my personal anime faves), but Netflix opted not to renew Cowboy Bebop. So we’ll never know if it would have worked out its issues, although the cameo appearance tacked onto the finale of a particularly grating version of Radical Ed didn’t bode well.
Given that checkered history, one could be forgiven for feelings of trepidation about the streaming platform’s forthcoming live-action series adaptation of One Piece, a hugely popular manga and anime series created by Eiichiro Oda. Who doesn’t love pirates? The first trailer debuted at San Diego Comic-Con, and honestly, the live-action series looks great. Then again, so did the trailers for Cowboy Bebop.
The original One Piece manga debuted in 1997, following the adventures of one Monkey D. Luffy, who heads a motley crew called the Straw Hat Pirates. There’s swordsman Roronoa Zoro, thief and navigator Nami, sniper and compulsive liar Usopp, and a cook named Sanji. They’re searching for the legendary One Piece, a mythical treasure that would make anyone who possesses it King of the Pirates. Monkey wants to be the Pirate King, but so do a host of other pirates with their own ships and crews.
Oda was inspired by his childhood love of pirates, especially the biographies of Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. (One Piece features a character named Marshall D. Teach in Blackbeard’s honor.) The manga was only supposed to run for five years and is still running, although Oda has said the series is entering its final saga. The anime TV series premiered in 1999 and became a global hit; it was the most watched TV show of 2022, in fact, beating out Stranger Things.
Judging by this trailer, Netflix is sticking pretty close to the original concept, with the first season following Monkey as he recruits the initial members of the Straw Hat Pirates. Per the official premise:
Monkey D. Luffy is a young adventurer who has longed for a life of freedom since he can remember. Luffy sets off from his small village on a perilous journey to find the legendary fabled treasure, One Piece, to become King of the Pirates! But in order to find the ultimate prize, Luffy will need to assemble the crew he’s always wanted before finding a ship to sail, searching every inch of the vast blue seas, outpacing the Marines, and outwitting dangerous rivals at every turn.
Inaki Godoy stars as Monkey, who has rubber-like abilities thanks to accidentally ingesting a Devil Fruit. Mackenyu plays Zoro, Emily Rudd plays Nami, Taz Skylar plays Sanji, and Jacob Romero Gibson plays Usopp, son of an infamous pirate father named Yasopp. Peter Gadiot plays Shanks, captain of the Red-Haired Pirates; Ilia Isorelys Paulino plays the ruthless leader of the Alvida Pirates; and Jeff Ward plays Buggy, clown-garbed captain of the Buggy Pirates who also accidentally ate a Devil Fruit. In his case, it gave him the ability to split his body into pieces. (It’s a highlight of the trailer.) In addition, Langley Kirkwood plays Captain Morgan and Aidan Scott plays his son Helmeppo.
One Piece drops on Netflix on August 31, 2023.
Listing image by Netflix