After years of silence, the live-action Straw Hat Pirates finally set a course to their debut.

It’s been less than two weeks since Netflix unveiled its streaming partnership with Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, but the company has already dropped another huge announcement for anime fans: it’s creating a live-action, U.S.-produced version of One Piece.

Eiichiro Oda’s pirate adventure manga was more or less an instant hit when it debuted in 1997, and the anime adaptation, which premiered two years later, has become one of the most beloved and successful anime series of all time. Word of a U.S.-made live-action One Piece first came all the way back in 2017, but with the complete lack of public updates on the project, you’d have been forgiven for assuming it had died on the vine. On January 30, though, Netflix broke the big news that it will be carrying the live-action series, with the current announcement listing it at 10 episodes. The brand-new official Netflix One Piece Twitter account has already posted a statement from Oda himself, in multiple languages.

The English version reads:

I know I announced the production of this back in 2017, but these things take time! Preparations have been slowly progressing behind the scenes, and it seems that I can finally make the big announcement: Netflix, the world’s leading streaming entertainment service, will be lending us their tremendous production support! This is so encouraging!! How far will the story progress over the 10 episodes of Season 1? Who will be the cast!? Please be patient a little longer and stay tuned!!

– Eichiro Oda

As with any live-action adaptation of a beloved anime series, the big question is whether Netflix’s One Piece will look, or feel, anything like the preexisting version of the story fans already know and love. Oda is listed as an executive producer on the project, but that title is flexibly vague and could mean anything from an intensely hands-on role to a gesture of respect that comes with no actual authority. Netflix’s One Piece script is being written by Matt Owens (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage, The Defenders) who is also one of the project’s five currently announced executive producers, the others being Steven Maeda (Lost), Marty Adelstein (Hanna film), and Becky Clements (Hanna series). Tomorrow Studios, which is also working on Netflix’s injury-stalled live-action Cowboy Bebop series, is handling production. Netflix has yet to announce when the live-action One Piece will begin streaming.

▼ Though you can watch the gorgeous “One Piece characters as Japanese high schoolers” anime ramen ads right now.

One Piece isn’t Netflix’s first foray into live-action anime adaptations (in addition to Cowboy Bebop, the company previously released a U.S.-set Death Note movie, which is getting a sequel), but the stature and unique characteristics of Oda’s mega-hit present their own special challenges. As mentioned above, the first season is scheduled to have 10 episodes, but the One Piece anime has 919 already-aired episodes. Even assuming that Netflix’s will be an hour long instead of the standard-for-anime 30 minutes, Season 1 of the live-action One Piece is going to be a drop in the bucket compared to the ocean of content the franchise already has, meaning that a lot of fans’ favorite moments and characters have zero chance of showing up in Season 1. Weighing established fans’ desire for the show to hurry up an get to the really good stuff with new viewers’ need for time to establish One Piece’s world and character relationships is going to be a tricky balancing act in terms of pacing.

▼ The Japanese-language version of Oda’s live-action message

Another thing that sets One Piece apart is that while the stories of Bebop and Death Note were finished by the time Netflix decided to remake them (Death Note’s coming-soon new manga installment notwithstanding), there are still new One Piece anime episodes/manga chapters coming out every week. Granted, it’s not like Netflix is in danger of catching up to the source material anytime soon, but adapting a work-in-progress probably isn’t making Owens’ job any easier.

Still, One Piece climbed to the top of the anime/manga world despite some long odds. Japanese franchises about pirates are few and far between, and Oda purposely set out to make his art look weird. Once the story started, though, it didn’t take long for fans to be hooked, so maybe Netflix has a chance for its own unlikely success.

Source: Cinema Today via Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@onepiecenetflix
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