Is Netflix about to ruin 'One Piece' with a live-action series?

Jump Force video game and One Piece anime character Monkey D. Luffy, known as Straw Hat, is displayed at a Jump shop during a press preview in Tokyo on November 19, 2019.
Jump Force video game and One Piece anime character Monkey D. Luffy, known as Straw Hat, is displayed at a Jump shop during a press preview in Tokyo on November 19, 2019. Copyright BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP or licensors
By Jonny Walfisz with AP
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After 'Death Note' and 'Cowboy Bebop', we thought we'd been hurt enough. Now Netflix is adapting 'One Piece' into a live-action series.

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The epic manga series One Piece is coming to Netflix, as a live action TV show. 

The long-running Japanese comic series is the best-selling manga of all time, as well as a successful anime series. The news of an American adaptation has been met with both positivity and concern for the potential “Hollywood” direction.

One Piece ’s 105 volumes have sold over 500 million copies of its manga since its creation in 1997. The tie-in anime, first aired in 1999, has since put out over 1,000 episodes. In short, One Piece is one of the largest-spanning epics in contemporary Japanese art. The tale of Monkey D. Luffy and his motley pirate crew has inspired 13 animated movies, multiple video games and legions of fans.

One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda announced last year that the next volume would be the final instalment of the 26-year-long series, but as Netflix promises a new chapter for the series, fans are concerned over the streaming company’s varied history with live-action Japanese adaptations.

The 2017 Netflix movie adaptation of Death Note, a manga and anime about a book that can kill people, was widely critiqued and considered a flop. In December 2021, Netflix cancelled Cowboy Bebop, its live-action adaptation of the space Western manga and anime of the same name, after just one season.

JOEL SAGET/AFP or licensors
Comic books of the "One piece" manga collection are displayed at the Paris Book Fair 2019 (salon du livre) at the Parc des Expositions in Paris on March 18, 2019 in Paris.JOEL SAGET/AFP or licensors

There is also concern over Netflix’s frequent cancellation of shows after their first seasons shortly after putting them online. 1899 was one of the latest shows to fall afoul of a policy requiring instant high returns and not allowing shows to grow in popularity. Critical and commercial successes like Breaking Bad and Selling Sunset are prime examples of non-streaming platform shows that only found their eventual huge audiences after a few seasons.

Although not from a Japanese source, in 2022, the live-action Netflix adaptation of the 90s comic book The Sandman was a critical success and has been renewed for a second season.

News of a One Piece live-action series is one of many ways Netflix is looking at Japanese IP. 

The popular manga Demon Slayer ’s anime series was recently picked up by Netflix, while live-action adaptations of the successful 2016 anime film Your Name and the Gundam franchise are also in the works.

How the live-action One Piece series will fare compared to other Netflix shows will depend on a few factors. Unlike more original properties, the huge built-in global fanbase for the manga will likely help the show avoid immediate cancellation, provided the show is at least somewhat consistent with the original.

Hopefully, the show will also avoid accusations of Hollywood whitewashing - as happened with the 2017 live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell from the 1995 anime, with Scarlett Johansson cast in place of an Asian actor for the lead.

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