By Marlene Polywka | Jul 31, 2023 at 4:11 p.m
Netflix releases a significant amount of self-produced films and series every month. The hope is that from this mass a title will be particularly successful from time to time. In August, the most expensive production of the year will be released on Netflix: the expectation is correspondingly huge.
Of all the streaming services on the market, Netflix continues to be the one with the highest number of original productions. These so-called originals are becoming increasingly important because they are the key factor in setting yourself apart from the competition. Netflix therefore launches a comparatively large number of new titles every month – sometimes with more, sometimes less success. If you now look at the list of all the new products on Netflix in August, one highlight in particular catches the eye: “One Piece”. Netflix seems to be banking a lot on the anime adaptation. After all, the project has the potential to become THE show of the year — or one of the most expensive flops in the history of the streaming service.
“One Piece” costs Netflix many millions
The proud budget already shows that Netflix takes the “One Piece” project quite seriously. The streaming service made around 18 million US dollars (USD) per episode. For comparison: The most successful series of all time to date, “Game of Thrones”, also cost “only” 15 million USD per episode in the opulent eighth season. Netflix should therefore bet a lot on the live-action adaptation of the successful anime of the same name.
In the past, however, cheaper productions that did not receive as much attention beforehand have proved to be particularly successful with the streaming service. “Squid Game” is certainly the most prominent example of this. The series cost just $2.4 million per episode and is still the undisputed leader of the all-time bestseller list with an incredible 265 million views. So far, only “Wednesday” has ventured into similar spheres; this success was also rather surprising. In any case, there are great expectations of “One Piece”.
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This is what the Netflix series One Piece is about
In the template and also in the Netflix adaptation, everything revolves around the legendary “one-piece”. This is a mysterious pirate treasure hidden by the legendary pirate captain Gold Roger. Young Monkey D. Luffy wants to find the treasure to become the most powerful pirate of all time. To do this, he gathers a crew with the most diverse characters around him.
There is the taciturn swordsman Zorro (Mackenyu) with the green hair, the ambitious navigator Nami (Emily Rudd) or the master chef Sanji (Taz Skylar). Luffy himself has the ability to stretch and expand his limbs to extremes thanks to a magical fruit. Together, the Straw Hat Pirates – named after Luffy’s trademark – experience a lot of adventures, meet other pirates and grow together as a crew.
Will Netflix’ “One Piece” be the series of the year – or a huge flop?
The TECHBOOK editorial team is also divided when it comes to Netflix’s “One Piece” series. The first teaser has already been hotly debated. The special thing about the project is that it offers great potential in both directions. Perhaps Netflix will be rewarded for its bravery and once again manage to keep a show entertaining for weeks. Or it completely backfires, which would have cost the streaming service many millions of dollars.
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“One Piece” could be the best live-action anime adaptation! – Natalie Wetzel, TECHBOOK Editor
Am I stretching myself too far to say that One Piece is the new and perhaps only hope for live-action anime for now? In any case, the Netflix adaptation of the mega manga “Death Note” can confidently be described as a catastrophe and many other live-action adaptations have failed miserably. A residual risk that “One Piece” will be the flop of the year remains. But there are many things that give me high hopes that One Piece could finally break the anime curse.
The gigantic budget alone doesn’t guarantee a good series, but it certainly helps. The production decided to use less CGI and more costumes, masks, props and expanded sets. This includes real pirate ships! Although the Straw Hat gang in the manga almost always wear the same clothes in their first adventures, a team of 70 takes care of the many and varied costumes of the pirates, marines and – spoiler alert – fish people. The series also ties in with the detailed drawing style of the manga and die-hard fans will definitely enjoy the scene design. And who knows, maybe Pandaman is hiding somewhere in the crowd again?
But there are one or two more reasons that make me optimistic. Above all, it is the strong involvement of Eiichirō Oda that could help the Netflix adaptation to succeed. The creator of the one-piece universe worked closely with showrunners Matt Owens and Steven Maeda, allowing him to keep an eye on the spirit of his characters and stories for himself. The first results with a high potential for goosebumps can already be seen in the trailers for the series.
The fact that every change in the story was first approved by Eiichirō Oda is also extremely reassuring. However, the trailers so far suggest that the series sticks closely to the template. However, it would be desirable that the female characters, especially Nami, of course, didn’t have to constantly take a back seat to their male companions in the fights, as is unfortunately all too often the case in the anime. At least one can assume that with the submission of at least 100 manga volumes there would be enough material for further seasons without the threat of unnecessary filler successes and repeated flashbacks (as is unfortunately usual with anime).
But even a brilliant story is nothing without a dedicated cast. With Iñaki Godoy (Luffy), Mackenyu (Zoro), Emily Rudd (Nami), Jacob Gibson (Usopp) and Taz Skylar (Sanji), the crew is as diverse as it is anime-savvy. From the trailer snippets, you can already tell how well they capture the essence of their characters, which is a real art with anime characters. And for all those who have learned to love “One Piece” in the German dubbing, there is still good news. The live-action film is dubbed by the anime’s voice actors! So you can look forward to familiar voices.
All of this together already makes One Piece the best live-action anime adaptation I’ve seen. In view of the previous adaptations, however, the bar is low, while the expectations – also in terms of financial success – are extremely high. So the suspense stays until the end.
Live-action adaptations of anime can’t work – Marlene Polywka, TECHBOOK editor
I’m more excited about the Netflix adaptation of One Piece than I thought. However, I’m generally critical of live-action anime, especially when they come from Netflix. “Death Note”, “Fullmetal Alchemist” and “Cowboy Bebop” made me very careful.
And also, if you look at Hollywood, then in my opinion the negative examples outweigh the negative ones. Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johannsen, wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t good either – especially not as good as the fantastic original. “Black Butler” actually had nothing to do with its great original. “Speed Racer” was just an ugly CGI battle. And let’s never say a word about The Legend of Aang again. What director I adore, M. Night Shyamalan did with one of the best anime of all time still pisses me off.
As for One Piece, I have very similar concerns. After all, Netflix seems to have understood that there’s no point in cramming an anime of this magnitude into a movie. A series format is simply the most sensible in this regard. And yet the project has so many pitfalls that, in theory, Netflix has to fall over at least one of them. The template is characterized by a special charm and wit that would be difficult to transfer to a live-action film. In all likelihood, Netflix will also not use the sometimes somewhat leisurely pace of narration.
Above all, Netflix cannot possibly construct the imaginative backdrop of an anime with the same emotional depth. The medium simply does not allow that. The same applies to the fight scenes, which are of course completely unrealistic from a realistic point of view. Animes like “One Piece” thrive on totally exaggerated sequences in which a sword blow suddenly causes a hurricane. It just looks ridiculous in a live action film.
While I’m not a hardcore fan of the One Piece anime, even I’m put off by certain details. Whether you want to hang on to the fact that the protagonist Luffy doesn’t wear sandals but sneakers – the reason for this is safety during stunts – is up to you. But the whole look, of which you could get an impression in pictures and trailers, scares me a bit. At no point does this feel like the “One Piece” I know. In any case, the potential is there for the whole project to fail with a bang.