Could not authenticate you.followers
What becomes a hit series? It’s a fascinating topic, especially on Netflix, the titan streaming platform with a substantial worldwide presence. “Stranger Things,” “Squid Games” and the more baffling “Fuller House” reach coveted top slots. Nothing seems to make sense. Here we are once with the latest top hit, pirate adventure “One Piece,” a live-action adaptation of a beloved ‘90s manga and anime series with north of 1,000 episodes to its name.
For anyone keeping score, anime adaptations enjoy the same abysmal success rate as video game ones. Netflix’s previous attempt “Cowboy Bebop” ended after a single season, despite what seemed like inspired casting. Before that, feature film “Death Note” felt like an idiot’s take on a cat-and-mouse story. From early promo images, “One Piece” seemed set to follow suit: a cast of unfamiliar faces in bad wigs and ludicrous costumes.
That all doesn’t change, but it’s hardly the whole story. This “One Piece” truly embodies its source material, channeling anime aesthetics most adaptations remove. Whether it works or not is a matter of taste.
More than two decades ago, an infamous pirate boasted about his greatest treasure, the One Piece, before his execution. Most pirates gave up their search, while the rest chalk it up to legend. Not Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy), the greenest pirate around. With laser focus, he wants that treasure so he can become “the king of the pirates,” as he’ll say two or three times an episode. (Yes, it’s quite annoying after a while.)
Some problems: He doesn’t have a ship, a boat, any maps, nautical knowledge and, oh yeah, a crew. That changes soon enough when he breaks into a Marine base and encounters thief Nami (Emily Rudd) and swordsman Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu). From there, shenanigans more bonkers than the previous episode ensue.
Netflix’s “One Piece” is fan service to a high degree. Think back to Fox’s “Gotham,” a prequel show about Jim Gordon before he became Batman’s ally. It quickly became a high-camp show, over the top, in love with its own wacky spin on the Caped Crusader’s gallery of villains. “One Piece” takes more cues from that approach than the oft more subdued one associated with English-language remakes of anime series.
Does it work? That entirely depends on the spectator. If you’ve invested the 165 days worth of audio-visual media, between all those episodes and the 15 animated films (yes, I ran the numbers), along with the printed works too – then you’re probably used to how this story “should” be told. For the uninitiated, it’s a gamble.
It’s pretty out there with pirates sporting some interesting backgrounds: shark people, clowns and even a chef pirate. Merely explaining the series might be a turn off. Plus, those wigs are something truly distracting. The transition from hand drawn imagery to the hair-and-makeup folks seems like a lost cause.
How about the acting? It feels like your average TV acting. Most of the primary cast provide competent performances with glaring blight that need not be identified here and a host of minor and supporting characters who also need not be called out since it just seems cruel.
For all its visible flaws, it never drags. Visual effects work well enough considering all the oddities surrounding the Straw Hat Pirates at the story’s core. Unlike too many pilots and even first seasons, this one develops characters on the go, with a sense of urgency. If snail phones (yes, snail phones), sea monsters and a Mr. Fantastic rip-off pique your interest, then maybe it might be your thing.
“One Piece” is silly, over the top, ridiculous fun. To call it incredible seems a step too far. Fun with a touch of embarrassment might be a more apt description.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.