22 September 2023Although I enjoy classic TV series as much as anime and manga, I have rarely approached film or television adaptations of stories I was passionate about. Expectations have almost always been disillusioned and very often I believe that the difficulty of a live action, especially if it is fantasy or science fiction, lies in being able to achieve a balance between reality and drawing. Too often adaptations have been reduced to CGI transpositions that did not justify an alternative to the animated version or were ridiculous because they were out of context.
The live action of the best-selling manga in history, Eiichiro Oda's masterpiece, arrives in an accurate version with an adaptation that pays attention to every detail.
But in the case of One Piece, although I started watching with more than one doubt, the choice turned out to be a winning one thanks to a perfect work by the screenwriters (Matt Owens and Steven Maeda) and directors which can only enhance Eiichiro Oda's masterpiece and to Netflix's budget which cannot be compared to Korean productions or those with less availability.
If anyone doesn't know the plot, over 25 years after its release, the story tells of Luffy, a young pirate who acquired strange powers by eating a devil fruit, giving him the ability to be made entirely of rubber. Luffy's goal is to leave for the sea towards the Major Line, the main ocean that crosses the world, in search of the One Piece, the mammoth treasure hidden by the late Pirate King Gold Roger. Whoever finds the treasure will become the new Pirate King and Luffy puts together a crew to set off on an adventure.
The first season of Netflix's One Piece covers the initial narrative arc called the East Blue Saga which introduces some of the main characters of Luffy's crew up until the Arlong Park clash in the Konomi archipelago. The need to enclose 90 chapters of the manga in 8 1-hour episodes obviously required the cutting or merging of some situations but the main events and details necessary for the continuation of the story were all perfectly respected.
The choice of cast also proved to be very attentive to detail, especially respecting the author's indications on the possible nationality of the characters, except for a few small errors. Luffy and Sanji didn't completely convince me (the latter in terms of age seems a little too old to me compared to the rest of the crew) while I found the choice of Zoro and Nami really spot on. Even the details of characters like Buggy the clown and his crew, Kuro, or the fish men themselves are really appreciable.
The locations deserve special mention, which in this case too are a perfect fusion between real places (mainly South Africa and studio stages in Cape Town) and a substantial part created in CGI which has now reached an almost perfect level of verisimilitude. All of this obviously costs time and money: filming took place between January and August 2022 and required an entire year of digital post-production before streaming distribution.
Sensei Oda has officially announced a second season, the statement of which follows that of the writers on the scripts almost ready. However, the recent strike of American writers and actors as well as the time needed for filming and production suggests that it will not arrive before the end of 2024. And the real weak point may be precisely this: its longevity. The adaptation was truly extraordinary and according to the producers' statements, the coverage of the entire story includes 12 seasons considering that the original manga has not yet finished and is in the final arc.
Given the production costs, it is unlikely that even Netflix will be able to satisfactorily cover the entire story without interrupting it first. In any case, it's too early to worry about what the future will bring and my suggestion is to enjoy this beautiful live action, whether you know the manga or not, because we will hardly be able to see such well-made adaptations again.
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