By Michaele Jordan: Let me tell you about One Piece! ALL about it! There’s a story in that. Naturally, I always start my reviews with the production credits. Fair is fair. The production team made it. They get to put their name on it. But in the case of One Piece, the production credits are tangled in years of production history, a tale almost as convoluted as the production it describes.
And it all started with a comic book! (Excuse me – a manga) by Eiichiro Oda. Which is STILL available on Amazon!
The Japanese manga series was written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. It has been serialized in Shueisha’s shōnen manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump since July 22, 1997. (The English publisher is AUS Madman EntertainmentNA/UK Viz Media.) The manga is still running, although it is expected to come to an end in 2024 or 2025. Its individual chapters have been compiled into 106 tankōbon volumes.
Rights to the manga were taken up by Toei Animation, and the Japanese anime television series premiered on Fuji TV in October 1999. Since then, 1,087 episodes have been aired in the course of 20 seasons, and later exported to various countries around the world.
There was some kerfuffle about the crossing to the US. 4Kids Entertainment acquired the distribution license, and created an English version which premiered in September, 2004 on FoxBox before moving on to Cartoon Networks’ Toonami. 143 episodes aired.
Problem was: they hadn’t fully screened the material. Apparently something in episode 143 “was not appropriate for their intended demographic.” I’m having trouble figuring out what the problem was. I’ve read the episode’s summary, and don’t see anything wrong. I guess I’ll have to go back and watch the whole series again. (It’s not a story you can just casually jump into). Whatever it was, it caused a scandal. There was talk of re-editing it, but Mark Kirk, senior vice-president of digital media, said that producing One Piece had “ruined the company’s reputation”. So they didn’t.
It wasn’t until April 13, 2007, that Funimation (now Crunchyroll, LLC) licensed the series and started production on an English-language release of One Piece which included redubbing the episodes previously dubbed by 4Kids. It premiered on September 29, 2007. And it’s never gone away. It’s still out there, currently playing on Netflix – right next to the brand new live-action One Piece!
It’s difficult to explain the enduring fascination for this show, except perhaps to say that is so endlessly convoluted that you can never get tired of it. There is never a time or a place where you can guess what’s coming next, or figure out how the merry band of the Straw Hat Pirates can possibly get out of this one.
To those who are just embarking on this psychedelic adventure, the official synopsis reads: the story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body gained the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating a Devil Fruit. With his crew, named the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy explores the Grand Line in search of the world’s ultimate treasure known as the “One Piece” in order to become the next Pirate King.
No, there’s no explanation (in the original) of what the Grand Line is (just painted on the ocean, perhaps?) the new live action gives it a wave, suggesting it’s some kind of world encircling equatorial current. Nor do we know what the One Piece is, or why it would make anyone king of anything. Most of all, we don’t understand why Luffy wants to be a pirate – he has no conception what they are; he seems to think they’re some sort of seafaring angels of mercy, seeking adventure.
So don’t waste your time trying to solve its issues logically — can’t be done! Will the new live action version live up to its glorious forbears? I can hardly wait to see!
It starts out with some excellent casting choices, starting with Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy. (Rhymes with goofy.) As the synopsis warned, Luffy has been transformed by devil fruit. (The story is littered with adventurers who have eaten this fruit, and each has been rewarded with peculiar powers. Unique peculiar powers – you never see the same power twice.) Luffy turned into Elastic Boy (rubber, in the vernacular of the show). Every episode will show him reaching for something up on the roof, or punching a bad guy from the opposite side of the room.
Iñaki Godoy moves as if he really were made of rubber. He leans around things instead of walking past them, he rolls where most people would run. And he smiles with his entire face.
Many of the characters have been slightly changed. This did not disturb Eiichiro Oda, who argued: “A live-action adaptation of a manga doesn’t simply re-enact the source material on a one-to-one basis: It involves really thinking about what fans love about the characters, the dynamics among them — and being faithful to those elements.”
After all, no merely human actress would be as busty as Nami, the beautiful navigator. Emily Rudd introduces a dark note to the part. Although the character was always smart, the live action version is more pensive, more suspicious, even a touch haunted. She doesn’t smile much. She also wears more clothes. But she still has orange hair. One character even calls her, “the girl with orange hair.”
I was extremely curious how they would handle the live action version of swordsman Roronoa Zorro, who in the anime is famed for his inimitable three-sword technique. (And was sometimes shown holding the third sword in his teeth). The actor, Mackenyu, does not carry the sword in his teeth, but he always has his swords with him, even when he’s climbing out of a well. The live action gives us a touching back story about his acquisition of that third sword and what it means to him. Although his sword play is excellent, what we notice most about him is his grim determination. He never smiles. The anime smiles a lot — a dangerous smile.
Usopp (played by Jacob Romero Gibson ) is the most changed of the characters. In the anime, he’s a major jerk (you can tell right away because he’s ugly) and famed as a notorious liar. But in the live action version, he is positively charming. Yes, he lies. When he was a child, he ran through the streets, crying, “The pirates are coming!” No pirates came – he was just frightened, and reliving a nightmare from the past. But the townsfolk called it lying. Now he tells glorious tales of his adventures to his beloved bedridden friend, and the evil butler says he’s lying. He’s also bad news with a sling shot.
I’ve only seen the first few episodes, so I haven’t yet spotted my favorite character, Sanji, (Taz Skylar). But I can see from the pictures that he’s lost that ever-present, dangling cigarette. And I’ve read that he trained hard to master Sanji’s style of fighting – standing on his head, and spinning his feet, like a pinwheel. I’m looking forward to that!
Friends, this is a wonderful show! Watch it! Tell Netflix you’re watching it! Tell all your fan friends to watch it! This show is all things skiffy! Heroes and villains! Nearly naked goddesses! Weird super powers! Glorious fight scenes! Strange alien worlds! (Actually, they’re all supposed to be islands on the same planet, but once you get to the Grand Line, you go places that are nothing like the real world.) It doesn’t matter if you’re a gamer, or a comics fan, a devotee of costumes, magical amulets, lords and ladies, pirates or wizards, or just a seeker of adventure, this show has something for everybody.