Netflix’ first season of its live-action adaptation of the iconic fantasy manga series, One Piece, has finally released to surprisingly positive reviews from both critics and fans alike. Making it possibly the first time a western production of a live-action manga adaptation has received such a warm reception. As a recent fan of the manga, I personally didn’t click with the show right away, and had some initial concerns with Iñaki Godoy’s performance as Luffy during the the first few episodes. But having just finished the season, I’m very pleased with how the show and its cast—especially Godoy—found its footing; allowing itself to both stay faithful to its source material, while also taking minor liberties to make the adaptation across mediums work. However, I fear the biggest challenges for the show are yet to come.
As both the Writer’s Guild of America and Screen-Actor’s Guild continue their strikes against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with the WGA having been on strike for over four months as of writing, production (and marketing) across film and television remain halted. This, of course, has an impact on Netflix productions as well. Speaking with Variety, Marty Adelstein—CEO of Tomorrow Studios who developed the first season of the show—says that the scripts for season two of One Piece are ready, but due to the strikes won’t be able to go into production until after the guilds have come to agreements. President of Tomorrow Studios, Becky Clements, would go on to elaborate on the timeline of when we can expect season two’s release by saying:
“Realistically, hopefully, a year away, if we move very quickly, and that is a possibility…Somewhere between a year and 18 months, we could be ready for air.”
On a related note regarding the strikes, Netflix, in an absurdly out of touch post on X, shared a screenshot of a billboard with their logo dawning the cover and the empty space next to it filled with the words, “What would Luffy Do?” Though tone and intent is difficult to gauge with something like this, it’s hard not to feel that Netflix were using the post to take a jab at the guilds, using Luffy as a way to say that he would end the strikes; giving credence to the idea that the higher-ups at the company haven’t a clue about who Luffy is.
To think that his character would aquiesce to the powers that be instead of the workers fighting for their rights is laughable. This is a character who has, quite literally, taken down and burnt the flag of a world government. The post saw an avalanche of replies with fans and creators alike writing, in similar words, “Luffy would pay his writers and actors,” which is a clear jab at Netflix’s own history of having their writers go unpaid.
One of the primary criticisms of the first season was its break-neck pacing. The show somehow managed to condense fifty chapters of the manga into just eight episodes; covering everything from Orange Town and Syrup Village, to Baratie and Arlong Park. In so doing, many of the quieter, more intimate moments between characters was missed. Although I felt Netflix did a commendable job in hitting the key moments, some establishment of character motivations and relationships got overlooked, making for an at times jarring experience that broke immersion. Speculation about what arcs the second season will cover mention that the show will be going through all of Arabasta. And for anyone that’s read the manga, I’m sure your eyes are just as widened as mine were when first reading that idea.
Arabasta itself could take up an entire season, if not more. It’s the arc that many consider the one where One Piece truly “gets going” in terms of expanding the wider mechanics of the world, with key characters that play an immense role in the stories moving forward. Not to mention the scope of the world and the cities involved are far larger than anything we’ve seen in the first season.
Personally, my hope would be that Netflix renew the season and increase the episode count from eight to twelve, with the episodes covering all the way through Drum Island and the season finale ending with Luffy and Co. making their way to Arabasta. Drum Island has such a wonderful story that introduces the fifth member of the crew, whose story shouldn’t be undercut due to the show wanting to cover as much ground as possible—something that I felt happened to Usopp in season one.
When it was first revealed that Netflix were going to be making a live-action adaptation of One Piece, my first reaction was, “how?” Mainly do to the incredible spectacle that is the world of One Piece. From fantastical creatures to surreal landscapes, One Piece is one of the most imaginative fictional worlds ever penned to paper. Irrespective of the amount of money Netflix are willing to put into its production, the sheer technical mastery that is required to faithfully bring this world to life is only doable (in my eyes) by the greats over at Weta Digital; whom I’m sure Netflix aren’t able to either afford nor allow the necessary time.
Still, the VFX artists at Tomorrow Studios did a fairly decent job in realizing the world of One Piece in season one. The use of practical effects, real sets, and old-school filmmaking techniques credited as being the elements that brought it all together. But the worry for fans wasn’t necessarily about the first season, as many of the fantastical elements in these opening arcs are fairly tame when compared to what’s to come. It will be impressive if they can pull off all the wacky things that are set to come on The Grand Line, but the constraints of television budgets as well as a hastened production schedule will no doubt make an already difficult endeavour all the more arduous.
We’ll have to wait and see how season two of Netflix’ One Piece pans out, but the fact that I alongside many fans are even looking forward to it is a success for the show in and of itself.