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Please Chill Out Over Luffy’s New Shoes In The Live Action ‘One Piece’

The reaction may be overblown, but why you'd be nervous is understandable

Promotional image of the Straw Hats for Netflix's live action One Piece

Earlier this week, the first images from Netflix’s live action adaptation of One Piece were unleashed upon the internet. Heartwarmingly enough, the reaction was largely positive. As a whole, One Piece fans were willing to give the adaptation the benefit of the doubt, especially since mangaka Eiichiro Oda is heavily involved as executive producer. That hopeful, open trend in the fandom is part of the reason I love being a fan of One Piece so much. But, of course, naysayers and nitpickers are inevitable. And the backlash to a small detail on the first images got a little out of hand.

First, your eye goes to the outfits: Luffy’s vest, Nami’s classic striped shirt, Usopp’s overalls. Then you notice the real-life Going Merry in the distance. Perhaps you take note of the News Coo before you look for even smaller details. And, besides Merry’s newly open mouth, there’s only one detail here that is “unfaithful” to Oda’s original designs: Luffy’s shoes. Instead of Luffy’s signature sandals, the live action version—played by the delightful Iñaki Godoy—is wearing something more akin to loafers.

In reacting to these first images, some fans took to Twitter to voice their discontent. I initially found this quite funny—nitpicking was inevitable, and One Piece inspires a lot of attention to detail, so it struck me as humorous that this was what people were getting worked up about. I also enjoyed it because I could make a “new shoes!” Twin Peaks reference. I don’t think there’s a huge crossover between One Piece and Twin Peaks mega-fans, so no one got my objectively funny reference, but that’s okay.

However, over the course of the day, it became clear that the “new shoes!” discontent was quite strong indeed. Some fans were already dismissing the show as “bad,” scoring it “0/10,” or opining that it should be cancelled immediately. To say a show is bad before you even see it because of some shoes, you wonder if it’s maybe about more than just the shoes.

Related: The 10 Best One Piece Characters on Attack of the Fanboy

Why this adaptation deserves the benefit of the doubt

Are Luffy’s sandals a staple of his design in the anime and manga? Yes. He always, always wears sandals, even in the freaking snow. And as someone who doesn’t like the trend of turning animation into live-action, I understand why people would be nervous. I’m nervous. When you look at Netflix’s own history of turning anime into live action—cough cough Death Note—it doesn’t inspire much confidence. If you’re coming from that lens, I can see how changing a staple of the main character’s wardrobe could lead someone to thinking, “They don’t care about One Piece at all! It’s going to be shit!”

However, there is very good reason to believe that One Piece will be different from that laughably terrible Death Note. Primary among them is Oda’s involvement, which—at bare minimum—should mean that the series won’t veer too far off the rails from the original series’ tone. You can see that result in the casting alone. I mean, Iñaki Godoy is basically Luffy incarnate. Look at this guy! You couldn’t ask for a better casting. Back off this golden gentleman.

While whatever higher-ups at Netflix probably ordered this series because they saw dollar signs, it’s hard to say the people who are actually working on it “don’t care” when the executive producer is the famously detail-oriented mangaka. Even below Oda, I’ve gotten the impression, over and over again, that the people who are working on this show care about One Piece very deeply. One of the showrunners, Matt Owens, has said One Piece saved his life. I’ve posted this quote before, but I’m posting it again, because I think it perfectly demonstrates that this man truly understands why One Piece means so much to so many people.

I told Oda, ‘One of the great things about One Piece is it’s really a story about how everybody has tragedy, pain, sadness in their life, but it’s not what defines you. What defines you is how you use that to motivate your future, and that no one has to do it alone. No one has to be alone. When you find those people around you who motivate you, lift you up, and help you, that’s the greatest power in this world. And that is the story I want to put out into the world. So I know that One Piece means a lot to you, Oda. It means a lot to me, because I honestly think that One Piece saved my life.’ He looked me in the eye, and he held his hand out across the table and said, ‘I have 100% faith in you now.‘

Matt Owens, via LRM Online

It very much seems like this show is being created with a reverence for Oda’s original. Aside from the shoes, every other aspect of the costume design exhibited in this first image says as much. The actors love the series (Emily Rudd, who plays Nami, is the perfect example), the crew love the series. As someone who is routinely skeptical about adaptations like this, I’m truly, honestly, cautiously optimistic about this one.

Why the shoes changed

Now that we’re maybe a little more open-minded about this particular live action adaptation, let’s get back to the shoes. If this production is so loving of the original, then why would they change Luffy’s shoes? The answer, almost undoubtedly, is that while Luffy is heretofore has existed as a cartoon character, this Luffy is a being portrayed by a human being’s whole body. And while a cartoon can do jumps and kicks and all kinds of stunts in sandals, that is simply not a reasonable thing to expect of an actual human body.

We want our guy Iñaki Godoy to be his happy, energetic, bombastic self so that he can give that same energy to Luffy. Unless you’re a middle school boy who also doesn’t wear a jacket when it’s below freezing, it is physically hard on your body to be active in sandals. The thought that someone should hurt themselves to play my favorite character in fiction makes me sad.

I do love a hiking sandal, but Luffy doesn’t wear hiking sandals. He wears normal-ass chilling sandals, like a cheap version of Birkenstocks. Do you expect an actual human to run around and Gum-Gum Stamp people in Birkenstocks? Please don’t. Also, when I wore hiking sandals on a mountain hike in Japan, everyone asked me why I wasn’t wearing shoes. Specifically “shoes.” It was probably not my best idea.

Grappling With Live Action

“Well, if they’re going to have to adjust things like that to accommodate for the shortcomings of the actual human body, why make a live action version of a cartoon at all?” Aha, my young padwan. Now you’re asking the real questions. Grab a cup of tea and sit down next to my rocking chair.

The “adapt cartoons to live action” trend really took off after Disney’s 2010 adaptation of Alice In Wonderland, the one helmed by Tim Burton. As Disney has continued this trend of adapting their cherished golden eras of animation into live action, it’s been hard for me to see it as nothing more than a cash grab. One that comes at the expense of investing in and inventing new ideas, but that’s another story.

Japanese studios were adapting anime into live action long before Disney kicked off their little trend, but you see these adaptations really take off after 2010. I’m no scholar in this area, but I’d guess that’s because 1) anime got super popular worldwide around then, 2) Disney is a global trendsetter, and 3) easy money. With those ideas in mind, it makes sense that Hollywood would jump on the “anime to live action” trend, too. IMDb finds 10 examples of films and series made between 1995 and now which fit that description. Half of them were made since 2014—and that’s not including our One Piece. Way, way more are coming.

I liked that 2010 Alice In Wonderland, because it was different enough from its source material to justify its existence. But then the adaptations kept happening, and I found myself feeling more and more curmudgeonly. Executives at Western studios have a demonstrated tendency to undermine the importance and artistry of animation—look no further than the current Warner Bros. Discovery merger fallout to see how that’s still relevant. You get the feeling that all these executives ordering these adaptations think that animation is lesser than live action—or, at the very least, more “Serious.” Maybe even at Disney, as much as that hurts. If that’s not the case, then where are all the animated adaptations of live action classics? It’s even weirder when you consider that films like The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and even Avatar: The Way Of Water are touted as “live-action” when they are 90 to 100 percent freaking animated, just in a realistic style.

There’s a bitter irony that these live action adaptations have to resort to animation to make up for the shortcomings of the new medium that’s supposed to “revolutionize” the animated source material in the first place. The new One Piece is going to have some of that, too. How else are Luffy’s arms going to stretch? Hell, what’s going to happen if they get a season 2 and have to introduce Chopper?!

Why am I going on this long-winded, obviously repressed history lesson and soapbox? Because I think, to give the shoe-haters the benefit of the doubt, this is what we’re really grappling with here. I don’t doubt that the executives who ordered the show are thinking solely about that cash grab and talking about this adaptation in terms of “revolutionizing” One Piece.

However, in this one, incredibly specific case, I do think the people who are actually making the show—the people who really count—don’t see a need to “revolutionize” something they already love deeply. They don’t see a need to make One Piece “better.” In this one, incredibly specific case, I think the team behind this adaptation is jumping at a chance to get inside something they love and retell it for a new audience. If you’re in a creative field and someone gave you this chance, you’d probably say “yes,” too! (I certainly would, heh heh nudge nudge.) Plus, One Piece has been retold countless times: as video games, as films, as live action stunt shows. This is simply another medium through which it’s going to be retold.

If the shoe-hate isn’t grappling with why this trend exists, it’s a sign of some fans who won’t be able to be satisfied with whatever this adaptations serves up. Given my long-winded explanation, I heartily understand why the tendency for bad faith exists, but if we can’t give that benefit of the doubt … oh boy. The shoe change is a reminder that our expectations of what these characters do will have to be adjusted. Cartoon characters can do more than real people can, because they’re cartoons. To enjoy this adaptation, some flexibility is going to be asked of the viewer. Despite my little soapbox, I still think that allowing this adaptation that flexibility will be rewarding in the end.

The One Piece live action adaptation was going to happen regardless, because of those executives and those sweet, sweet dollar signs. Given that reality, I’m so freaking glad that the team behind it is who they are. If the worst offender is a pair of more sensible, comfortable shoes, I’ll be absolutely thrilled.

(Featured image: Netflix)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Zelda (among other anime and games), she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.