After 25 years as a beloved manga and anime, the swashbuckling journey of Monkey D. Luffy and crew finally got the live-action treatment, to great avail.
The series has gotten rave reviews, with some going as far as to say it is "king of the Netflix shows." But its success was not a foregone conclusion.
Many were skeptical if One Piece could succeed, given the franchise's storied history and the relative lack of success seen when translating other anime into live-action in the past.
The Pressure of Making One Piece
In several interviews (recorded before the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike), One Piece actor Mackenyu tackled the pressure he felt working on the series.
Netflix's live-action Roronoa Zoro actor told Collider he felt "there was pressure" as the team was working on "the biggest ongoing manga ever:"
"They are all different in their own special ways. But this one was definitely the biggest long-going manga ever. So, there was pressure, but I kept my focus on the role and how to bring Zoro to life."
In a conversation with Vogue Hong Kong, Mackenyu made it clear he really wanted "to please the fans of that anime" and "people that may have never seen or heard of it before," but tried not to worry too much as to distract him:
“I want to please the fans of that anime as well as people that may have never seen or heard of it before. But anime is anime, live action is live action.”
"If you love the anime, and that’s your thing, then that’s fine," the actor continued. But he also asked that fans "open [their] mind" to "watch something new:"
"If you love the anime, and that’s your thing, then that’s fine. But if you’re willing to open your mind a little and challenge yourself to watch something new, there is always something new that live-action can add. We are always thinking about how we can take things up a level and make it the very best we can.”
Mackenyu called translating an anime to live-action as "not an easy thing," hoping the changes made can be for the better (per GamesRadar):
"Fans who love anime want to see it come to life exactly as they know it, however, translating to live action is not an easy thing and sometimes requires changes and additions as well as editing down to fit into a series. People unfamiliar with the anime can enjoy it as something original and that’s how everyone should enjoy it, as a new original that’s based on anime source material."
Why Making One Piece Was So Hard?
It has been made clear - by Mackenyu and so many others - that everyone involved in the production of One Piece felt the pressure of bringing one of anime's biggest stories to live-action for the first time.
Traditionally, these anime adaptations have not had the best of luck on Netflix. The last attempt at one on the service came in 2021 with the live-action Cowboy Bebop series. The reimagined take of Shinichirō Watanabe's classic space-western arrived to dismal reviews, earning a meager 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and only ever getting one season on the platform.
So, surely the One Piece team wanted to break the depressing precedent set by some of these poorly received live-action takes on classic anime.
Plus, add in the baseline pressure that comes with adapting beloved material, and one can easily see why people involved were nervous.
However, as star Iñaki Godoy previously told GamesRadar, even though that pressure exists, the team had to "find a way to have fun:"
“But if there's one thing that I have learned from 'One Piece,' it's that even though things are challenging, you have to find a way to have fun. So yeah, there was a lot of pressure, there was a lot of anxieties, but there was also a lot of fun! And there was a lot of love. And just like any adventure, it was exciting. You know, I was so excited to get to be a part of something this massive and so incredible, and it's an exciting adventure.”
And it was this fun and effort to honor the source material that made the live-action series as good as it is.
Netflix's One Piece is streaming now worldwide.