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Wednesday, September 06, 2023 

One Piece's mangaka really shouldn't have approved of adapting it to live action on Netflix

The New York Times interviewed mangaka Eiichiro Oda about the new live action adaptation on the one and only Netflix, which IMO, is decidedly a sign not to bother:
When it comes to adapting a phenomenally popular manga and anime series like “One Piece” to live action, what do you have to keep in mind?

A live-action adaptation of a manga doesn’t simply re-enact the source material on a one-to-one basis: It involves really thinking about what fans love about the characters, the dynamics among them — and being faithful to those elements. A good live-action show doesn’t have to change the story too much. The most important thing is whether the actors can reproduce the characters in a way that will satisfy the people who read the manga. I think we did it well, so I hope audiences will accept it.
Well I'm sorry, but no thanks. These live-action adaptations have long gotten way out of hand, and no amount of special effects is going to conceal how fake they actually feel.
Something that sets “One Piece” apart from many adventure manga is the powerful, capable women in the story, including the archaeologist Robin and Nami, the navigator.

There are many strong women in the world of “One Piece” — women with intelligence like Robin, or with abilities like Nami. There are even attractive and strong women among the enemy pirates. In the manga I read as a kid, there was always a point where the heroine existed just to be rescued. That didn’t sit well with me; I didn’t want to create a story about women being kidnapped and saved. I depict women who know how to fight for themselves and don’t need to be saved. If a moment comes where they’re overpowered, their shipmates will help them out, and vice versa.
Sure, it's great the manga presents ladies who're capable of doing their best in a battle, but what if this live action series makes any of them less sexy than they are in the manga? If so, then this won't be worth watching even for the babes (and what if any of the performers is as overtly political as anybody else in Hollywood?). In this era, something Oda may not be considering, is that wokeness is still a very prevalent problem.
As a boy, Luffy ate the accursed gum-gum fruit and it turned his body into rubber, allowing him to deliver fantastic stretchy kicks and punches in fights. Isn’t he better suited to animation than to live action?

When I first started, I didn’t think there was any point in drawing a manga that could be remade in live-action. But when I saw the movie “Shaolin Soccer,” it felt like a manga-esque world brought to life. I changed my mind. I realized times had changed, and there was technology available that could make a live-action “One Piece” happen. So I shifted to finding the right partner to bring the manga to life.
Well sorry again, but no advancement in technology has the ability to convince me at this point, and I'm honestly disappointed Oda's selling out.
Actors have portrayed Luffy and his crew in stage shows and even in a Kabuki play. But attempts to adapt popular anime into American live-action movies and series have generally been unsuccessful, as in the widely panned “Ghost in the Shell” (2017) and the short-lived “Cowboy Bebop” (2021). Did that worry you?

Various manga had been made into live action, but there was a history of failure; no one in Japan could name a successful example. Would fans of “One Piece” — and viewers who don’t know the manga — accept it? Perhaps it was time to search for the answer. Thankfully, Netflix agreed that they wouldn’t go out with the show until I agreed it was satisfactory. I read the scripts, gave notes and acted as a guard dog to ensure the material was being adapted in the correct way.
Some people may already be convinced, but even if it's ostensibly better than most past, Netflix again is not a network to finance.
You’ve spoken with enthusiasm about the possibility of a second season of the live-action series, and “One Piece” collections continue to appear on best-seller lists around the world. When you started Luffy’s saga back in 1997, did you ever imagine it would run for more than 25 years?

I never thought “One Piece” would last this long: When I began, I imagined it might run for five years. But it was my first time doing something serialized, and I found that as I kept writing, the characters took on lives of their own. Before I knew it, they were writing the story for me, and it just kept going.
Oh, now here's a most interesting case study to bring up. Not just the manga, but even the TV anime series have been running for over 25 years now, with more than 1000 episodes for the latter. It's much like the case with the Simpsons running for more than 34-plus years already, with no end in sight to date, even though it's long lost its edge, and has turned more into frustration than funny fare. And what's this about characters taking on lives of their own? Sorry, but when they don't exist save for the inside of the creator's mind, they don't take on their own lives.

The anime franchise, along with the manga, may still offer more entertainment and laughs than the Simpsons does. But even so, it's still been going far too long, and it's surely time to retire it. And while there may be more advanced technology today, Hollywood's not the place to do a live action TV program like this anymore.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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