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Netflix Premieres ‘One Piece’: The Highly Anticipated Anime Adaptation 

© by Netflix

Anime adaptations are tricky to say the least. This is not Netflix’s first attempt at turning an anime into a live-action series — they created their own takes on Death Note and Cowboy Bebop, each attracting mixed reviews and a rather lukewarm reception from fans of the source material. 

That’s not to say that Netflix hasn’t had any success turning American comics into live adaptations, though. It has always been clear that a great adaptation of a Japanese series was doable. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at the recently released Netflix series One Piece and see if it can achieve what seems impossible to some. 

Is Netflix’s One Piece a good adaptation?

One Piece does what many other live action adaptations fail to do — it understands its limitations. This allowed the creators Steven Maeda and Matt Owens to work within the limits and embrace them, not try to do the impossible. 

The difference between content that is drawn by hand and content that is live action is undeniable. The cartoon world, as one might call it, is boundless and frequently breaks the laws of physics. Attempting to imitate this in any scenario can sometimes look bizarre and might not fit on the screen as it should, so to speak. 

Not attempting to make One Piece do what the anime does — and making it its own version — was key to One Piece’s success. And for that, it gets a check mark. This is in sharp contrast to Cowboy Bebop, which struggled to find the right balance between a fantastical anime world and a more grounded, live-action representation where we see actual actors playing out the scenes. 

How is One Piece a better adaptation than Cowboy Bebop?

The Cowboy Bebop adaptation taught us that you can’t simply rely on the supplementation of special effects and true-to-character costumes and sets to do the hard part for you. The writing, directing and acting is where the real heavy lifting is done. 

It’s the actors, writers and director’s responsibility to make sure that the audience watching the show feels like the world it’s set in is believable. The audience has to be able to be immersed in the story and not be too distracted by the way it’s being presented. 

When attempting to critique One Piece, it’s only fair to consider how difficult an anime adaptation really is. It’s no easy feat, but as fans of the anime series will be pleased to see, Maeda and Owens have done well. 

This was surely no accident. One can only assume that they spent a lot of time learning from the mistakes of their predecessors and taking note of what was right and what went wrong. It also makes you wonder why Cowboy Bebop didn’t do the same thing — or maybe they did but the task was still too daunting to pull off. That’s not to say that Cowboy Bebop, Death Note or any others were complete failures. Sure enough, you can find fans of either or both series adaptations. In fact, some fans might even rank them as some of the best Netflix series of the year they were released. But some of the diehard fans of the source material no doubt have strong opinions about the adaptations. 

The best approach is to keep everyone happy — fans of the original content, new viewers and everyone in between. One Piece seems to do this for the most part and doesn’t compromise where it doesn’t have to. 

One Piece went the extra mile

Having extravagant sets isn’t everything but it certainly doesn’t hurt. And Netflix really invested in getting the aesthetics right. They created several enormous and extremely detailed sets in Cape Town, South Africa, where shooting took place. 

These incredible sets make the viewing experience more enjoyable, and they do stand out. However, even with this extra effort to recreate the pirate world of One Piece for the small screen, there are admittedly some moments where the special effects don’t look so great. 

There are some things that can be shown in 2D that don’t translate well when put into live action. Probably the greatest example of this is the stretching powers used in One Piece. These moments can be a bit of a reminder that you are watching an adaptation after all, but as discussed at length above, some degree of the fantasy world that is being recreated is expected to get broken or lost in translation. 

Is Netflix’s One Piece true to the source material? 

We have to give credit where credit is due. One Piece does the best it can to stay true to the source material as a live action adaptation, without taking too many risks. By risks, we are referring to scenes or situations that might suffer the same fate as some of their predecessors in terms of not translating into live action properly. 


Creators Steven Maeda and Matt Owens did an excellent job overall, and they certainly did their homework on the series, checking how they could adapt it effectively and considering everything involved with that. That’s not to suggest that One Piece is the greatest live action adaptation of all time, but considering One Piece’s relatively low expectations from some anime fans, and after a few lukewarm efforts from others to adapt an anime into live action, One Piece can definitely be considered a success.