One Piece. A staple series in the legendary Shounen Jump magazine; one of the publication’s longest-running series, and most importantly one of the most popular series both inside and outside of Japan.
With these things in mind, you may begin to understand why so many people are worried about the upcoming One Piece live-action Netflix series.
Before I dive into the thoughts, feelings, and fears regarding the recent news we’ve heard about the live-action series, you can check out some of my other pieces on One Piece here!
The history of live-action anime adaptations
Well, you may be surprised to find out that anime live-action films go back quite a bit further — and my first encounter with these monstrosities was with the infamous Dragon Ball Evolution.
Dragon Ball, one of the first anime series I ever watched, had come back into my life in an all-new and horrifying form. This film was released in 2009 and focused on the story of Son Goku collecting the Dragon Balls… while also surviving through the harsh life of modern-day American high school. Yes, really. Perfecting the Kamehameha while also trying to impress the girl he likes — great, this is exactly what we all wanted.
Many of you may remember the live-action adaptation of the ever-popular Attack on Titan series that came out in Japan around 2015. Typically we chalk up a lot of our complaints regarding live-action anime to Hollywood and its blatant ignorance towards what it is about these series that people love so much. But in the case of Attack on Titan, however, the movie was made in Japan by the Japanese and people still weren’t too thrilled by it.
The same applies to the hugely beloved shounen series, Fullmetal Alchemist. Despite this being so many people’s favourite series of all time — the series came out in 2009, and it still sits in the top 3 most popular anime on MyAnimeList — and again people were not happy with the live-action film that was released in 2017.
Why don’t they work?
Anime isn’t just a cartoon made in the country of Japan — anime is a form of media that has a vast history of nuances and characteristics that make it what it is. Even some of the most intense scenes in action anime will cut away to something comedic, making use of chibi-type forms of the characters.
A recent popular example is Demon Slayer, a series focusing on a war against a race that actively hunts and eats humans, yet part way through an important scene a character like Zenitsu will fall asleep or the characters will change into mini-forms and argue among themselves while a demon is standing just out of shot.
Anything is possible within the realm of anime, right? A character as wacky as Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece is entirely plausible within the world that Eiichiro Oda has created, and there is no point where we as viewers stop and question the legitimacy of this character.
A large part of that is because of the immersion of the show and how we’re never pulled out of that immersion. Something like a man-eating titan from Attack on Titan can be genuinely terrifying in the anime — but then when you see it in a live-action film as a grotesque mess of CGI, you’re just left laughing.
So am I scared for One Piece?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how this series is going to play out: CGI, the pacing, the number of episodes, and the characters themselves are just a few of the things off the top of my head that give me the spooks when it comes to this upcoming series.
It’s not all bad, though; the recently announced cast members aren’t that bad, honestly. Emily Rudd in particular really looks the part when it comes to Nami, and it helps that she certainly seems to be a genuine lover of One Piece. To be honest, I think that I like all of the cast members that were announced — they aren’t the issue.
The problems will arise when we finally get to see the finished product. Even by anime standards, One Piece is a pretty out-there series with the Devil Fruit powers being extremely varied, and the characters on the whole being larger than life. In the world of One Piece, there are humans that are more than ten feet tall, and that’s normal. There is a man who wields three swords, one of them being held in his mouth, and we never question it. A character has a Pinocchio-style nose and we just simply accept it — because it’s anime.
When it comes to live-action, there is a disconnect that we can’t help but have, and that’s where my main fears come from when thinking about this series.
I have been watching and reading One Piece every week for who knows how long now, and while I want to remain hopeful that this adaptation will be just an enjoyable and fun experience, I can’t help but feel like One Piece is simply something that live-action should never touch.
What do you think?
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