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Netflix’s One Piece: Early Words from the Showrunners

by Neil Bui

Netflix’s latest live-action anime adaptation, One Piece, debuts this week and fans eagerly await the 8 one-hour episodes. For those unfamiliar, One Piece is the story of Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates crew as they embark on a journey to find treasure. There’s a Japanese word popular among fans of the series that truly resonates through the storylines, nakama, which means a spirit of friendship and family among those who share the same destiny. And for this adaptation it’s clear that nakama was a north star for the showrunners.

“Our whole season is set up in four two-episode arcs where we’re meeting a new Straw Hat, getting to know them, and finding where they fit into their world. It’s not only an origin story for how this crew comes together,” said showrunner Matt Owens. “It’s an encapsulation of the idea of found family. A spirit of togetherness and adventure.”

It’s evident that One Piece is being guided by fans with a genuine love, appreciation, and understanding of the source material. So hopefully, this will be the series to demonstrate that Netflix can successfully adapt properties from Japan.

“The other thing I really want people to glean from this is that anime can be adapted into live action. When you have the right minds and hearts behind it, anything can be adapted. Sometimes it takes the right people, the right technologies, and the right intentions to align perfectly, but it can be done,” Owens said. “This is a show that was done by a massive group of hardworking and creative people who all love One Piece. I hope that audiences can look at this and view the curse being broken.”

One Piece. Mackenyu Arata as Roronoa Zoro in season 1 of One Piece. Cr. Casey Crafford/Netflix © 2023

The showrunners really leaned into the world of One Piece and strived not to focus on making it a more grounded place, but simply tangible as a live-action series, while preserving the wonder of this world.

“I think a word that’s typically used for adaptations like this is ‘grounded,’ but One Piece is not a grounded world. It’s what makes it so wonderful. I prefer ‘tangible.’ you want to be able to feel that these things, these places, these people can exist,” Owens said. “That idea drove a lot of the crafts. It’s why we built so many sets practically. It’s why we leaned into prosthetics for the fish men over CGI, because you want everything to feel tangible. You want them to feel real.”

For Owens, his initial read of One Piece at age 10 didn’t quite resonate with him, but upon picking it up again in his 20s the story pulled him out of a dark place.

“At the time, I was going through a really bad bout of depression and I was trying to find something that could help me shut the world out. So, that’s when I finally took the dive and I honestly believe that One Piece saved my life,” Owens said. “It’s a story of people caring for people, following your dreams, found family – all of the things I felt I was missing and had to reevaluate – and it really brought me out of that dark place I was in. I have a very deep emotional connection to this property, and not just for the amazing manga that it is.”

One Piece. (L to R) Emily Rudd as Nami, Mackenyu Arata as Roronoa Zoro, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy in season 1 of One Piece. Cr. Casey Crafford/Netflix © 2023

Series creator Eiichiro Oda strove to create a series with characters that challenged the norms of manga in the 90s, by voicing their goals and ambitions.

“At the time, speaking out about one’s dreams was considered uncool in the world of manga, as well as in Japanese society,” Oda said. “That’s why I drew this manga with characters like Luffy and Zoro who were not shy about expressing their ultimate goals.”

For showrunner Steven Maeda, the enduring and endearing factor of One Piece lies in seeing characters band together.

“At its core, it harkens back to a simpler way of looking at our differences and overcoming them, all told through the lens of this great uniter in Monkey D. Luffy,” Maeda said. “He takes these people who have no business being a crew and gets them all to work together. It’s about community. It’s about family. It’s about people leaning in and depending on each other to get the things that they really want, what their hearts desire.”

Catch One Piece on Netflix August 31, 2023.

Episode Credits and Descriptions

Episode 1: “Romance Dawn”

Directed by: Marc Jobst

Teleplay by: Matt Owens and Steven Maeda

Monkey D. Luffy, an optimistic young pirate with dreams of finding the One Piece, sets off in search of the loyal crew he needs to navigate the vast ocean. His journey begins when he helps Koby, a deckhand forced into servitude, escape an undesirable situation. While in Shells Town, Luffy meets Roronoa Zoro, a famed pirate hunter, and Nami, a master thief – and the three form a tenuous alliance.

Episode 2: “The Man in the Straw Hat”

Directed by: Marc Jobst

Written by: Ian Stokes

Luffy, Zoro, and Nami find themselves imprisoned on an island overtaken by the deranged clown pirate, Buggy. Koby joins the Marines and proves his mettle.

Episode 3: “Tell No Tales”

Directed by: Emma Sullivan

Written by: Matt Owens and Damani Johnson

Luffy, Zoro, and Nami land in Syrup Village where they meet Usopp, a local who introduces the group to Kaya, a sickly shipyard heiress under the care of a trio of overbearing house staff. With the help of Koby, Vice Admiral Garp, a powerful Marine, sets off in search of Luffy.

Episode 4: “The Pirates Are Coming”

Directed by: Emma Sullivan

Written by: Tiffany Greshley and Tom Hyndman

Luffy, Zoro, and Nami fight their way through Kaya’s mansion, which has now become a prison. Usopp enlists the help of Koby, Helmeppo, and the Marines. Luffy finally gets the ship of his dreams as Garp closes in.

Episode 5: “Eat At Baratie!”

Directed by: Tim Southam

Written by: Laura Jacqmin

Luffy and the gang are tested in their ability to fight together on the high seas. They arrive at Baratie, a floating restaurant, where they encounter Sanji, a young chef with a love of fine dining. A duel on the docks shocks the group.

Episode 6: “The Chef and the Chore Boy”

Directed by: Tim Southam

Written by: Steven Maeda and Diego Cutierrez

The group is ambushed by a threat no one saw coming. After a hard-fought battle at Baratie, Sanji finally follows his dreams, while another crew member shows their true colors.

Episode 7: “The Girl with the Sawfish Tattoo”

Directed by: Josef Wladyka

Written by: Tiffany Greshler & Ian Stokes and Allison Weintraub & Lindsay Gelfand

The crew comes to the aid of a member in dire need of family.

Episode 8: “Worst in the East”

Directed by: Josef Wladyka

Written by: Matt Owens and Steven Maeda

A new pirate crew is born.

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