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“One Piece” (2023)- A New Live-Action Anime Gold Standard

After many years in development, the live-action event series of “One Piece” has finally seen release. Though previous live-action anime and manga adaptations have often failed to capture the same imagination as their source material, series creator Eiichiro Oda has partnered with Steven Maeda and Matt Owens to sail the ship into the dock in the best attempt to date.

Over the course of eight hour-long episodes; the series adapts multiple key storylines from the anime and manga’s “East Blue” saga. The show sports a $144 million budget (averaging out to $18 million per episode), and every bit of that money is visible on screen. 

The cast is primarily made of lesser-known actors (with Zoro’s actor Mackenyu having previously starred in this year’s poorly-received live-action “Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac”); but all of them fit the personality their counterparts from the source material while also putting their own spins on the characters. Notably, Jeff Ward’s rendition of Buggy the Clown takes as many cues from past live-action renditions of the Joker (with strains of both Heath Ledger’s unpredictability and Jack Nicholson’s gleeful menace) as it does from the manga.

One key advantage that this event series has over previous much-maligned adaptations (which include the likes of “Dragonball Evolution,” 2017’s “Ghost in the Shell” and Netflix’s own “Death Note” film) is that it doesn’t try to downplay the more absurd aspects of the source material. Quite the opposite in fact- everything from the sets to the costumes and props fits the spirit of the original’s presentation even in its new context. In particular, the “Devil Fruit” powers and fight scenes have a gleeful energy that’s like a delicious combination of “Scott Pilgrim,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Looney Tunes.”

With a second season now in development at Netflix, now is the perfect time to set sail with the live-action “One Piece” event series. After years of uneven quality for live-action anime and manga adaptations, the show is a new gold standard for future ones.

Starring Inaki Godoy, Mackenyu, Emily Rudd, Vincent Regan, Taz Skylar, Morgan Davies, Jacob Romero Gibson, and Jeff Ward

Developed by Steven Maeda and Matt Owens (Based on the graphic novel series by Eiichiro Oda)

Available on Netflix (Season 2 in development)

Rated TV-14-V

My Rating: *****/5

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