Manga series cannot amass a truly global readership without first becoming Japan’s top selling title in history. And during the course of its 26-year serialization, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece has achieved just that. Its 106 tankbon volumes and succeeding anime series, which debuted in 1999 and have amassed over 1,070 episodes since then, have won over fans of all ages from Japan and abroad. As Oda gears up for his acclaimed animated series to enter its concluding storyline, Netflix is bringing the fanciful world of the Straw Hat Pirates to new audiences with an eight-part live action series that debuts on the streaming service on August 31.
The East Blue arc of One Piece is portrayed in the series, which was created alongside Shueisha and Tomorrow Studios. East Blue is the area of the ocean where the main character, Monkey D. Luffy (Iaki Godoy), may be found. He is a young, upbeat adventurer who tells anybody who will listen that he will one day rule the pirates. The elusive One Piece, which belonged to the famed dead pirate Gol D. Roger, is the object of Luffy’s search. The treasure is concealed somewhere along the treacherous Grand Line route, which spans the entire world. Apart from his contagious optimism, Luffy’s hidden weapon is that his body is elastic and rubbery due to a devil fruit called the Gum-Gum fruit that he devoured as a child.
Although Luffy sets out on his adventure alone, he soon gathers an outstanding crew that each has their own goals and aspirations. Meet Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson), a well-intentioned but cowardly dreamer, Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu), a pirate hunter and expert in three-sword combat, Nami (Emily Rudd), a cunning thief and cartographer, and Sanji (Taz Skylar), a creative cook. The Straw Hat Pirates crew is founded as a result of Luffy’s inspiration and his loyalty, and the young talents thereafter become buddies. Together, the party has to protect their ideal pirate ship, outwit unexpected foes like Buggy the evil clown, and stay clear of the marines (the seaborne law enforcement in the One Piece universe).
What do One Piece fans expect?
One Piece has sold over 516 million copies by August 2022 in 61 different countries; Netflix is aware of the series’ built-in audience. Before the film’s launch, the streaming behemoth held ten worldwide fan screenings and events in places including Los Angeles, Paris, Jakarta, Milan, and Tokyo.
“One Piece has a very strong reputation in the culture. According to Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, a professor of Japanese arts and cultures at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, “It is the manga gold standard by which other widely read long-running works are judged.”
Furthermore, she claims that it perfectly captures “the zeitgeist of growing up, finding your tribe, and being accepted for who you are.” According to Rousmaniere, Oda’s inventive storytelling and willingness to involve readers in the creation process are to blame for the show’s expanding fan base.
Matt Owens and Steven Maeda, the series’ creators and showrunners, are under pressure because viewers are anxious to see if the live action series lives up to the rich and unfolding source material fans hold in such high regard. Oda, who is renowned for valuing his privacy, even penned a letter in July imploring fans who had been let down by teasers to see the program as the labor of love that it had been for the creators. “After the debut, I’m sure I’ll hear from some individuals complaining that this character is absent, that scenario is skipped, or that this portion differs from the manga. But I’m confident they’ll be made out of love, so I plan to take pleasure in even such remarks. Oda penned.
ONEPIECE, a limited edition publication of the longest book ever, was created by conceptual comics artist Ilan Manouach and combines every digitally available panel from the One Piece series into a singular entity that costs $1,893 per panel. Within a few of days, all 50 of the signed copies were gone. Manouach tells TIME that because manga is a “powerful medium” that enables readers to develop their own relationships with each illustration, it may be difficult to win over enthusiasts. “Pacing is very important: readers are in control, they can linger on panels, re-read, or skip ahead at their own pace,” he says. This promotes a greater level of involvement with the story and permits a more in-depth investigation of the world and its details.
Domenic Giusti, a 16-year-old One Piece fanatic, tells TIME that “anime live action adaptations are renown for being terrible.” One Piece in particular owes a lot to its unique cartoony and free look, which fits the manga’s theme and main character so well that failing to incorporate it would be detrimental to the live-action version. However, he is comforted by how diligently Oda worked on the project and thinks the teasers were intriguing.
In a rare recent interview with the New York Times, Oda himself discussed the history of unsuccessful live action manga adaptations. According to the creator, who joined the team as executive producer, he “read scripts, gave notes, and acted as a guard dog” to make sure it was in line with his vision.
Why is now the ideal time for a live action program?
According to a Grand View Research analysis, the $12.13 billion global manga market is anticipated to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 17.4% from 2023 to 2030. Experts credit the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant factor for the tremendous rise of manga across new groups in recent years, and this will only increase as the genre receives more high profile exposure.
According to Rousmaniere, manga is going through a process known as globalization that other Japanese goods have also gone through. To maintain the manga’s cultural capital, she continues, the live-action production must “retain the fantasy elements of the manga.”
This is the reason why, in his opinion, the time is ideal for a One Piece adaptation because modern visual effects are capable of faithfully capturing the intricate exploits of pirates. But aside from the specifics, the One Piece team thinks its upbeat message might benefit the entire world. “Right now, the news is pretty bad. We require a little something to lift our spirits, declares Sullivan. One Piece’s central concept is doing the right thing. You must assist others, practice kindness, and pursue your aspirations.
Jobst concurs with his colleague in pointing out that Luffy’s capacity to uplift others extends beyond his crew to include spectators at home: “He’s a young man with a decent heart and a good spirit who just wants to go on an adventure. And that is what we currently require.