One Piece Season 1 Review – the new gold standard

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: August 31, 2023 (Last updated: March 28, 2024)
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One Piece Season 1 Review - the new gold standard


The new gold standard for anime adaptations, One Piece is a treat for fans but also a perfect jumping-on point for anyone who loves great television and swashbuckling adventure.

Adapting anime into live-action has been, thus far at least, a fairly fruitless endeavor.

There are all kinds of reasons for this, most of them not worth going into. But it only takes a Death Note or a Cowboy Bebop — both, as it happens, available to stream on Netflix — to make the point clear. There’s something about the process that doesn’t work and something about the fanbases of these shonen classics that won’t let lackluster efforts off the hook.

This, I think, is about to change.

One Piece Season 1 Review: The New Gold Standard For Live-Action Adaptations

If you were to tell me as recently as yesterday that of all the attempts to translate long-running, beloved anime classics into big-budget streaming shows, it’d be One Piece that bucked the trend, I’d have said you were ridiculous.

Not that One Piece isn’t great, of course — it’s among the finest animes ever, which is kind of the problem. For twenty years and over 1,000 episodes, Eiichiro Oda’s manga has already been adapted as well as could reasonably be expected. How do you redo such a fantastical pirate adventure, with so many ridiculous characters and ideas, into a medium that can scarcely accommodate that kind of excess, imagination, and energy?

As it turns out, you do it pretty much just like this.

The plot of One Piece is simple enough. Before his public execution by the authoritarian World Government, famed pirate Gold Roger implores the amassed crowd to find his lost treasure, the titular One Piece, ushering in a Great Pirate Era of oceangoing debauchery and high adventure.

Among those compelled by the idea of the treasure is Monkey D. Luffy (Inaki Godoy), a lifelong wannabe pirate with a rubber body — for reasons that will be explained — and a ragtag crew of misfits including the deadly pirate hunter Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu), pretty thief Nami (Emily Rudd), cook Sanji (Taz Skylar), and fantasist sharpshooter Usopp (Jacob Romero).

This mob sails the high seas in search of the Grand Line, a deadly ocean route that circumnavigates the globe and along which Gold Roger apparently hid his treasure. On their tail are the World Government’s Marines — represented here primarily by idealistic new recruit Koby (Morgan Davies) and no-nonsense Vice-Admiral Garp (Vincent Regan) — and various other pirate leaders, warlords, and eccentric heroes and villains.

The Netflix adaptation of One Piece runs for eight episodes, all around an hour, and closely adapts several important arcs from the anime/manga, some across a single episode and several across a couple. It sticks as closely to the source material as could be reasonably expected while making slight concessions here and there for the sake of structure, pacing, and production, virtually all of which work to the show’s advantage.

And I know why. Along with fully understanding and appreciating the versions of One Piece that have come before, and taking pains to keep the fans of those versions satisfied by not betraying its core vibe and values, Netflix’s One Piece thoroughly understands how to tell a damn good story.

One Piece sets a new gold standard for live-action adaptations of beloved anime classics. 

You can tell because it will work almost as well for those with no knowledge of the source material at all as it will for longstanding fans. It splits its time and focus among a brilliant ensemble, with talented, game actors bringing well-rounded characters to life, and delivers big on every element from costume design, visual effects, fight choreography, structure, and pacing.

It’s also surprisingly emotional, finding the human center of far-out, sometimes ridiculous ideas, and treating those ideas with an earnestness that sometimes even the anime couldn’t manage. This is, as far as anime adaptations go, as good as it gets.

Netflix knows they’ve got a hit on their hands here, and for once it’s deserved.

Long-time One Piece fans will be consistently impressed by how closely One Piece adapts the source material, but anyone who can appreciate good television, great characters, and a sprawling, swashbuckling adventure should consider this series a can’t-miss affair.

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Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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