Monday, September 25, 2023

Nakama ties Netflix’s One Piece together

Netflix’s One Piece has let me revisit One Piece in an honestly convenient and comfortable way. Many years ago, I read through the East Blue Saga, the Baroque Works Saga and the Skypiea Saga before I wanted to read more than just One Piece. So I’m not a serious fan but I am familiar with the series.

The outrageous success of One Piece is built on three things: over the top world building, unrestrained goofiness and the fact that Eiichiro Oda is an insane genius. I remember he wrote that he make Luffy a rubber man so that there would always be some silliness even when the story got dark. (And One Piece can get pretty intense) One Piece carries such a strong sense of fun even when it makes you cry.

One Piece is set in a world of seemingly endless strange and unique islands and its hero is Monkey D. Luffy who has stretchy powers and whose dream is to become the king of the pirates. It has been going weekly since 1997 and has a cast of over 1,100 named characters so trying to summarize it in any more detail is more than I want to tackle.

It’s a lot.

And that’s why this live-action version was easy for me to approach. It condensed the East Blue Saga while still hitting the major story and emotional beats. More than that, it captures emotional vibe of One Piece. That is  the value of friendship and dreams, the idea of nakama (a word I only know due to One Piece).

I’m not going to spoil it because it’s worth seeing. I do understand that Oda has a big role in it (How did he find the time?!) which may be why the series did such a good job condensing the story and pulling later elements in to make a more solid narrative.

Of course, when you transition from art to live action, that has to be some adjustments. Having human beings somehow humanizes things. It brings an extra layer of nuance. And One Piece somehow balances having the characters be believably human while still being true to the source material well. And that, more than anything else, makes this One Piece a joy.

Inaki Godoy’s Luffy is wiser and much more empathic than his manga counterpoint. Which actually works well because you can believe that this Luffy can bring a band of misfit toys together to form the Avengers. (Does that analogy work?) I could write about every character but that would double the length of this blog.

Every medium has its own tools and requirements. This version of One Piece has adjusted to the medium of television while still being One Piece. Which is dumbfounding and amazing.

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