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Why Netflix’s First Live-Action ‘One Piece’ Images Have Me Cautiously Optimistic

New shoes and all!

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

We’ve known since 2017 that a live-action adaptation of One Piece has been in the works. To be specific, Netflix will oversee the attempt to retell the East Blue arc in ten episodes. For six whole years, fans have had the “Will it be good?!” question looming over our heads. Given the less-than-great track record of anime-to-live action adaptations, especially from Western studios, you can’t blame anyone for being nervous. But there have been signs that fans should remain cautiously optimistic. Today, we got the first images of the live action series, alongside the knowledge that the adaptation will premiere sometime this year. And you know what? I’m cautiously optimistic.

The promotional image shows the first five Straw Hats—Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, and Sanji—from the back. There’s just enough lighting for you to make out what they’re wearing, which brings me to the single most reassuring thing about this image. With one hilarious exception (which I’ll get to in a second), it’s abundantly clear the team behind this adaptation doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel here. These are very faithful, one-to-one adaptations of the first outfits we meet these characters in. Seeing Nami’s old striped shirt, Luffy’s pre-time skip handy vest, and Usopp’s overalls … It’s all very nostalgic.

In fact, many have pointed out the similarity between this new promotional image and the first ending of the anime series, “Memories.” This first ending sequence is incredibly simple and showcases these first five Straw Hats from the back as they look out onto the sea. The lighting is even similar. Even more impressive, note the absurd similarities between Nami’s, Zoro’s, and Sanji’s stances in the promotional image for the Netflix show and the “Memories” image. Even before I revisited “Memories,” I had to hand it to Emily Rudd and Iñaki Godoy: their stances just ooze their characters (Nami and Luffy, respectively).

Our Straw Hats are facing The Going Merry, admiring her glory. Luffy, in particular, is very happy to see her. I, too, am happy to see her. We’ve gotten a peak at the Netflix production’s Merry before, alongside an extended tour of the inside of the Baratie. They straight-up built Merry as a functioning ship. I cannot understate how badly I want to go on the ship. Hi, Netflix? Please let me board that ship. I want to sit on top of Merry’s head like Luffy does, give her a loving pat, and cry a little bit.

That being said, I’m still a little unsure how I feel about the redesign of Merry’s signature sheepshead hull. The open mouth makes her look kind of creepy. It gives me the same vibe as the creepier puppets made by the Jim Henson studio. Like in Labyrinth or something. But Labyrinth is great, so maybe this Merry will grow on me!

The Straw Hats are also probably admiring the News Coo. Honestly? Thrilled a News Coo made it on here. More News Coos, all the time.

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

New Shoes

However, because the internet has to find something to nitpick, there is an aspect of this image that’s unfaithful to the original One Piece designs. Actually, it’s unfaithful to a cornerstone of Luffy’s fashion sense—something he always wears, pre- and post-time skip. Take a closer look at Luffy’s shoes.

Indeed, Luffy appears to be wearing sensible loafers instead of his signature sandals. In the manga and anime, Luffy always wears sandals, no matter how impractical they may seem. Undercover? Sandals. Climbing a mountain during a snow storm and avalanche, carrying two of your passed-out crew mates on your back? SANDALS. (Or, once those sandals have been compromised, BAREFOOT.)

So if you want to nitpick, it’s a pretty major design change. I honestly find the reaction more funny than anything else, though. Yes, it’s a cornerstone of Luffy’s wardrobe, but if the biggest deviation of this adaptation is that Luffy is wearing more sensible shoes and will therefore be less susceptible to colds, I’ll be happy.

Cautious optimism for Netflix’s ‘One Piece’

Loafters or sandals, there’s still good reason to give the Netflix adaptation the benefit of the doubt ahead of its premiere. The biggest reason for this is that One Piece’s mangaka, Eiichiro Oda, is serving as an executive producer. He’s had an active role throughout the series’ production. He even oversaw casting, which is probably why everyone seems so spot-on. Oda also seems to have given the final say in who the showrunners would be, as well. LRM Online has the story of how Matt Owens, one of the two showrunners, earned Oda’s trust by explaining why One Piece saved his life:

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

This quote makes me tear up. It’s a sentiment a lot of One Piece fans can relate to, myself included. One Piece’s incredibly empathetic view on trauma and hardship, and how it’s endured and overcome by the entirety of its main cast, is a huge part of the reason why the series means so much to so many. To me, personally, it’s vitally important that anyone interpreting the series understands that. As such, this quote also makes me have faith in Matt Owens.

Also, if Oda—the person who made my favorite thing—has “100% faith” in Owens, but that wasn’t somehow good enough for me as a fan of that thing, I’m pretty sure that would make me the asshole.

Many others involved in the show have also expressed a deep love for the series. For example, Emily Rudd has said Nami is her dream role and regularly reposts fan art on Twitter. Also, everything I’ve seen of Iñaki Godoy just exudes Luffy-ness.

So even though I’m nervous, I’m holding on to my cautious optimism. Sure, I still have an inner grump who wonders why converting animation to live action is deemed such a necessary trend, especially when going the other way around is so rare. But if there is to be an anime-to-live action adaptation that breaks the chain of underwhelming TV series after underwhelming film, I think this could be it. I’m rooting for this One Piece adaptation.

(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.