It is very rare for me to find my love for an anime through a live action series. All the live action adaptation that I have come across so far did not hold any positive reviews. The closest I got was trying to watch Cowboy Bebop's first episode, but the live action adaptation felt all wrong esp. after having watched the anime.
So, when One Piece hit Netflix last week, I was quite skeptical and ready to push it under the rug. I had heard great things about the anime, but catching up to more than a thousand episodes was really daunting. One of my criteria for any new anime I watch is if it is 24 episodes or under. So, it never made it to my watchlist.
But after the Anime festival that was held in my town last Sunday, where I saw quite a bit of One Piece cosplayers & merch, the anime was back on my radar. I mean you see a Zoro cosplay with his 3 swords you are sure to get curious to know more. And this time it was easily accessible on Netflix. I thought why not give it a try and started watching the series.
The plot starts with the execution of Gold Roger, who before his death, reveals that his treasure, the One Piece, is up for grabs and unlike the end of piracy as expected by his executor, the Marine Vice Admiral Garp, Gold Roger kicks off the era of piracy.
Jump to a few years later and we meet this optimistic kid, who wants to become a pirate. His name is Monkey D. Luffy and his hope is infectious.
"If the path to what you want seems too easy, then you are on the wrong path."
You could feel the actor embody the character of Luffy.
Luffy's Dream: Become the King of Pirates
We get to learn a little bit of Luffy's motivations through flashbacks and this seem to be a recurring pattern for all other members of the crew. Over the first episode and the following episodes, we are introduced to the rest of Luffy's crew, who join him albeit reluctantly. Each of them are fully flushed out characters with their own hopes and dreams and origin stories.
Soon after, we are introduced to Koby, who is part of Alvida's pirates and seems to be trapped in his duties. It is Luffy that frees him from his bonds and through Luffy that he gets to initiate his dream towards becoming a marine.
"You should never let anyone tell you what you can’t do." - Luffy to Koby
Koby's dream: Become a marine
The man himself, wielder of three swords, pirate hunter, Roronoa Zoro, has his reasons for being trapped in the Marine Base. He joins up to help Luffy later reluctantly (though I hear his recruitment is much better portrayed in the anime).
"You shouldn’t draw your blade unless you’re prepared to use it."
The actor who plays him pulls off the serious character with ease and you can feel his drive and his angst.
Zoro's Dream: Become the Greatest Swordsman in the world
We meet Nami, the thief who is also trying to rob a map to the Grand Line and the path to One Piece, when Luffy makes his way into the Marine Base. Her motivations are a mystery and it is great to see her story unravel as the series progresses.
Nami's Dream: Map the entire world
We meet Usopp in Luffy's next adventure and quite a wholesome one it is. It is through Usopp that Luffy is able to secure his ship, Going Merry. Usopp loves telling tall tales of adventures and it is actually good to see him finally get to go one of his own (actually).
I loved Usopp's story arc because it was tense and unexpected on how it was going to conclude.
Usopp's dream: Become a brave warrior of the sea
Sanji is the last member of the crew we get to see join up for this season. It seems his character is on par with the suit-wearing flirtous handsome anime counterpart of the comics.
Sanji's Dream: Go to All Blue and cook with ingredients from all the seas
Vice Admiral Garp
I did not expect Vice Admiral Garp to play such a prominent role in the series and I was pleasantly surprised by his role and motivations. I think it goes to show how strong the source material is and how much Netflix has worked to capture the spirit a fact they failed in all their other live action adaptations.
Recurring throughout the series is Luffy's purcuit to draw up a perfect flag for the ship. It is such a small detail as we know where it all ends up, but it is good to see his journey and the number of iterations it goes through. Just like Spider-man in the early iterations of his suit.
The theme of following one's dreams is recurring throughout the series and Luffy makes it his aim to help others, esp. those in his crew to follow theirs. The ulterior theme that they are going for freedom and that everyone has a dream that they should be free to pursue. That is the reason Luffy is a pirate and the reason why his crew sticks around with him.
My Final Thoughts
As I watched more and more of the show, I could feel that they were passing through the key highlights at a pace, wrapping up plot points within an episode. They had seemed to take the key elements of anime and brought it together and the casting choices were on par for the colorful cast of characters.
The series did not seem to focus the spotlight on just one character with each character getting their fair share of time in the sun. Gun to my head, I would still be hard pressed to choose any of the characters as the best because each plays out their character quite well.
Courage, dreams and family. It seems that the first season is off to great start in establishing a solid foundation in all its aiming to be.
I am curious to explore the anime and I did get some strong criticism for the show from a friend who is a big fan of the anime. But I guess, for better or for worse, Netflix One Piece is my introduction to the world of One Piece and in it, it has had me as a fan. I can now empathize with those big fans of the Harry Potter movies, with whom I have had the constant arguments that the books are better. They are two distinct entries and must be treated as so.
I will leave you with a quote from Luffy:
"You can hit me all day long, but I’m never giving up on my dream."
So, on to your dreams...
P.S. It's on for Season Two