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One Piece (Netflix) review: Never a dull moment

One Piece (Netflix) review: Never a dull moment

Note: This article was first published on 5 September 2023.

All hail the Straw Hat pirates. (Image Source: Netflix)

In search of the One Piece

You'd be forgiven for thinking about the One Piece live-action adaptation with trepidation. It can be an immense challenge to translate Japanese manga and anime series to live action, and Netflix's track record with shows like Cowboy Bebop doesn't do a lot to inspire confidence. That said, for someone who has neither read the manga nor watched the anime, One Piece turned out to be a whole lot of fun.

The TL;DR version:One Piece sets its heroes loose on a terrific adventure.

Each of its eight hour-long were packed with swashbuckling action, and there was hardly a dull moment. The series runs on a relentless energy, largely driven by Iñaki Godoy's Monkey D. Luffy. The Straw Hat captain has an almost pious belief in himself, and his optimism and determination know no bounds. When faced with insurmountable odds, Luffy remains undeterred — and his can-do attitude eventually spills over to the rest of his crew.

Luffy is the definition of what it means to manifest your destiny. The Straw Hats are a crew that runs on dreams, whether it's finding the mythical One Piece to become the king of pirates, becoming the world's greatest swordsman, or locating a legendary ocean and chef's seafood paradise.

Red-haired Shanks. (Image Source: Netflix)

This isn't a series that bothers with nuance. For better or worse, most characters are almost caricatures, distinguished by a familiar refrain, a propensity for hyperbole, or in the case of Luffy, a dogged expectancy that everyone will come to know his name. Having said that, One Piece isn't for everyone. Luffy's charming optimism can easily be perceived as a foolishness bordering on stupidity, while Usopp's (Jacob Romero Gibson) simple-minded tales can quickly grate on your nerves. A lot of the time, Nami (Emily Rudd) is the only one of the crew that appears to be in possession of anything resembling a brain.

But that may be exactly what makes One Piece work. The show is 100% heart, andeveryone is perfectly cast— from Godoy's almost maniacal expressions to Mackenyu's stoic portrayal of pirate hunterRoronoa Zoro, the cast never misses a beat. Set in a world that is mostly ocean, where pirates run rampant and sea monsters prowl a treacherous stretch of sea known as the Grand Line, One Piece sets its heroes loose on a terrific adventure.

Garp, Koby, and Helmeppo. (Image Source: Netflix)

The series makes the sheer idealism of its characters work, with the help of some slick action sequences and elaborate sets. The sets themselves are incredible, spanning a wide range of locales including the fish-shaped Baratie, Arlong Park, Kaya's mansion in Syrup Village, and the lovingly constructed Going Merry.

ShowrunnersSteven Maeda and Matt Owens did not shy away from having fun with One Piece, and it shows. With bounty posters introducing major characters, the show consistently turns up the notch as it progresses. Dracule Mihawk(Steven Ward) is particularly delightful to watch, as he toys with Zoro with a tiny sword the length of a toothpick. Luffy's rubber-like abilities are also on full display, never feeling out of place as he stretches and pummels all manner of opponents into submission, each move more creative than the last.

World-building was also clearly an important component of the show. With casual mentions of the Grand Line and the sea beyond the East Blue, the world of One Piece feels vast and lived in. Myths like the One Piece and the All Blue dominate, alongside moving vignettes that detail the backstories of each character and their motivations.

Image Source: Netflix

In many ways, One Piece is a show about creating the reality you want to live in. Pirates terrorise villages and danger runs rampant on the high seas, but Luffy's optimism shines through it all. He believes he's got the best and most loyal crew to ever sail, and he eventually makes it happen, dragging his brooding companions kicking and screaming into the light of day.

At its core, One Piece is a pirate adventure, one that promises volumes upon volumes of action and triumph against all odds. I found it difficult to stop after getting started. After all, who doesn't want to watch a boy conquer the oceans and grow in power to eventually become the king of pirates?

One Piece is now streaming on Netflix.

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