One Piece Live Action Series Premiere Review: The Best Anime Adaptation Ever

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

One Piece


This review is for the first two episodes of One Piece.

After countless failed live-action anime adaptations, from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Evolution to Netflix‘s own Death Note and Cowboy Bebop, finally, it’s been done correctly. If you asked me to pick the last anime that could successfully be translated to live-action, One Piece would be one of my picks, as the bizarre world of pirates is so over the top and offbeat that filming it should have been impossible. Instead, Netflix has managed to produce a series that’s not only amazing to watch but embodies the spirit of the anime, even if it had to leave most of the emotion on the cutting room floor.

With One Piece, Netflix finally has a live-action anime adaptation that lives up to fan expectations.

One Piece has been running as a manga and anime for decades, letting fans follow the saga of Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates as they search for the mythical treasure of Gol D. Roger (Gold Roger in the Netflix series), the One Piece. During those years, Luffy has grown and evolved as a character, alongside his found family of misfits and outcasts, which is why Netflix’s adaptation can be a bit jarring since it starts from the very beginning.

But for anyone intimated by the sheer scope of the anime (with over 1,000 episodes), this is a great place to start and learn about one of the most popular anime in the world, while long-time fans will enjoy seeing a new interpretation of their favorite characters.

one piece
Nami, Luffy, and Zoro in One Piece

Monkey D. Luffy is brought to life by Inaki Godoy, and within the first twenty minutes, his stretching ability is put on display with his Gum-Gum Pistol technique. Stretching abilities are notoriously hard to make look good in live-action, but One Piece frequently has Luffy extending his arms and legs, putting every live-action Mr. Fantastic to shame.

Thankfully, the first two episodes go on to prove that the first fight with Alvida (Ilia Isorely Paulino) is no fluke, with the battles against Ax Hand Morgan and Buggy becoming more and more impressive in terms of CGI and choreography.

That’s right, the first two hours of Netflix’s One Piece series cover the first two arcs, Romance Dawn and Orange Town, condensing 20 episodes of the anime into two episodes. Speeding up and streamlining the plot makes the show seem to fly by, making it a fun watch, and the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates, Nami (Emily Rudd) and Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu), do a great job embodying their characters.

Over 60 anime episodes are condensed into the first season of One Piece, with the first two hour-long episodes covering almost a dozen anime episodes.

When Nami is saving Zoro from Buggy’s crew (most of whom did not make the cut from the anime to live action), the pirate hunter comments on how now he has a new reason to live, and in the anime, it shows how Luffy wins him over, but in the series, it happens so fast that the emotional beat of the aloof swordsman re-dedicating himself rings hollow. The character of Nami is the opposite; she’s shown as someone who will betray the crew when given the chance significantly earlier.

Buggy in One Piece

Perhaps the most extreme change from the anime is Zoro encountering one of the Baroque Works, a group not introduced in the manga until over 100 chapters later and not even hinted at during the anime Romance Dawn arc. And yet, with all of the changes, One Piece is a joy to watch and even for someone who’s never seen the anime before, it’ll be a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Netflix’s One Piece received the blessing of series creator Eiichira Oda, and it shows, from the costuming to the dialogue, the spirit of the anime lives on in the live-action series.

No live-action adaptation has captured the spirit of an anime in the way One Piece does, which has the guts to put the heroes in the middle of an evil pirate circus in the second episode. Over-the-top characters like Ax Hand Morgan (toned down a little by Langley Kirkwood) and Buggy (played with the perfect amount of menace by Jeff Ward) aren’t treated as out-of-place jokes but as real threats. From the spot-on costuming to the visuals of the Devil Fruit powers, One Piece looks every bit the part of an anime brought to life.

Given the amount of money Netflix spent on each episode, that’s understandable, but the end result is well worth the expense, as One Piece is the best live-action anime adaptation of all time and one of the best shows ever on Netflix. It’s a shame that having to condense dozens of episodes into eight hour-long episodes results in lots of emotional beats and character moments getting cut out, but if that’s the only way we’d ever get a show of this quality, it’s worth the sacrifice.