Live-action adaptations of animated work have been a plague on the animation industry for a long time now. From beloved cartoons like The Lion King to classic anime like Ghost in the Shell, studios keep on attempting to translate these stories from drawing to reality. Unfortunately, none of them understand why they were animated in the first place.
Netflix has become one of the worst offenders of this. I’ve lost track of how many live-action anime they have produced at this point. Do you remember their attempt at live-action Fullmetal Alchemist? How about live-action Mob Psycho 100? You’ve probably heard of their recent attempt at live-action Cowboy Bebop. They just keep making this stuff!
And now, they’re trying to make live-action One Piece. Which is a sentence that makes my skin crawl.
We don’t know much about the show at this point. We’ve seen the logo and we recently got the cast for the Straw Hats, at least those we meet in the East Blue. And to be fair, I’m fine enough with that casting. The actors all seem very passionate about One Piece, and they more or less look like real versions of their characters. My only worry is that they were chosen for their looks rather than their acting skills, but I can’t say anything definitive about that point until the show comes out.
Honestly, I feel bad for these actors. Because no matter what happens, this show is not going to work. No matter what they do. The idea alone has failed before it could even get off the ground.
One Piece is one of the most unique-looking manga/anime ever drawn. It looks more like an eastern take on a western cartoon. It does start to look more anime-like as the series goes on, but it always has that cartoonish charm to it. It’s one of the single most important aspects of the series’ identity!
A charm that you cannot capture in live-action. Ever.
Not just because it would sacrifice the look of One Piece. The aesthetic is actually an important part of the series’ tone and story! One Piece is goofy and cartoonish! It’s filled to the brim with characters with ridiculous powers that only work in Oda’s art style! For god’s sake, Luffy’s rubber powers revolve around him looking like a cartoon!
It’s not just Luffy, either. So many characters are like this! Remember Goemon and his chest-shaped body? Or how Usopp the liar had a Pinnochio-style long nose to hint at his lies? Or literally any of the villains? Can you imagine Captain Kuro and his long-ass claws and poop-embroidered shirt in live-action without it looking like an absolute nightmare?
It’s not just the visuals, either. That problem applies to every live-action adaptation of any material. Sure, it’s an especially big problem for One Piece. But there’s an even bigger problem: the length.
Ask anyone about One Piece, and chances are they’ll mention how long the series is. That’s literally the first thing that comes up in conversations about it with people who haven’t read/watched it. It’s a huge series that covers dozens of locations and hundreds of characters and so, so many plot threads. For fuck sake, the entire East Blue section is just the prologue and it is one hundred chapters long!
Being generous, and considering the trends of past live-action anime adaptations on Netflix, I’d say this first season will be about twelve episodes long. Maybe twenty-five if they’re lucky. Given that they’ve announced the casting for Sanji, we can assume that we’ll get up to at least the Baratie arc. Although they’ll probably try to go to Arlong Park, given how strongly its set up in Baratie and how popular that arc is.
That gives them twelve to twenty-five episodes to cover:
- Luffy’s backstory with Shanks
- Luffy meeting Coby and Zoro
- The Orange Town arc
- The Syrup Village arc
- The Baratie arc
- Arlong Park
All of that took roughly eighty chapters of the manga and forty-four episodes of the anime. Meaning that the studio in charge of the live-action version has to cover all that material in less than half, or maybe even less than a quarter, of the time the anime version did. Unless each episode is fifty minutes long, which I highly doubt will be the case, that is completely impossible.
The only solution to make that work would be to cut out large swathes of the story. But the thing is: you can’t really do that. One Piece is incredibly tightly written. Each detail, whether big or small, comes into play later on in the story. Every little moment of every arc is absolutely crucial to the plot. Cut one out and the whole thing falls apart. You’ll either destroy the arc you’re currently in or you’ll fuck up an important plot point later on in the series.
Although I highly doubt they’ll ever get that far. Fuck, I doubt they’ll ever get a season two.
No matter how I look at it, live-action One Piece seems like an awful idea. It’s been chosen purely because of how popular the series is, so they thought there might be money in it. The concept alone is doomed to fail. Even if the people involved in the creative process work with everything they have, even if they pour all their love and dedication into it, this show just won’t be able to work. The whole thing is an inevitable disaster.
More like an inevitable nightmare, given the typical budget of these shows. I get the feeling live-action Luffy stretching is gonna haunt my dreams…