Adapting One Piece will be a monumental task for Netflix, and some changes to the original story might, unfortunately, have to be made. Set in a fictional world dominated by pirates, One Piece stars Monkey D. Luffy and his crew as they sail towards the end of the world to find the legendary treasure known as “One Piece.” Along the way, Luffy’s Straw Hat Pirates fight corrupt governments, evil dictators and murderous fellow pirates, and encounter strange new allies with abilities that range from shape-shifting and controlling fire to stretching body parts and turning into a dinosaur.
Wildly popular in Japan for over 2 decades, rumors of a live-action One Piece have been abound for years, but a recent announcement confirmed that Eiichiro Oda’s series would be finding its way to Netflix shortly, with a 10-episode first season confirmed. Details on casting and which chunks of manga would be adapted weren’t specified, but Oda himself is heavily involved, and has reassured fans that he wouldn’t have allowed the project to go ahead unless he felt it would do justice to the original.
Fans aren’t quite so sure. In terms of anime adaptations, One Piece is perhaps the most challenging there is, and if Netflix can botch Death Note (which potentially could’ve translated quite well into live-action) there’s little reason to harbor hope for One Piece. Aside from the outrageous powers and quirky cartoonish humor, a One Piece adaptation would be faced with several unavoidable obstacles to surmount. The anime is currently approaching the 1000 episode mark and is only just reaching a point where an end might be in sight. 10 live action episodes would barely cover the most whistle-stop of introductions. Furthermore, One Piece is structured as a sea voyage, meaning the setting constantly changes as the Straw Hats move from island to island, requiring a rapid turnover of sets and locations.
As a general rule of thumb, the best anime adaptations tend to stick close to their source material but, whatever way Zoro slices it, One Piece just doesn’t fit into the standard template of a live-action season-by-season TV series, necessitating some changes. The original One Piece story spends many chapters building the initial group of Straw Hats, with Luffy gradually meeting each member of his crew. There’s no way of fitting all of that material into 10 episodes, so it would be wiser to tell the formation of the Straw Hats via flashbacks, with Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, Nami and Usopp already together in the present day.
Secondly, even if the One Piece manga ended tomorrow, it would still take at least 40 live-action seasons to adapt in its entirety. Given Netflix’s tendency to stop at 3, there might need to be a few cuts. Perhaps the best approach (but admittedly still far from ideal) would be to focus solely on Luffy’s pursuit of the One Piece treasure, with a rival (most likely Blackbeard or the World Government) pushing him each step of the way. Stripping back everything else, a rough arc structure for a live-action One Piece might be Alabasta, the Paramount War, Dressrosa, Wano and, finally, Raftel, with each island taking up an entire season. That skips out an awful lot of material, but it would at least ensure a proper ending to the central goal of Luffy finding the One Piece.
The final change Netflix’s One Piece might consider making is to alter the conclusion of the manga series, whatever that might be. Exactly what the One Piece is remains a mystery, but it’s no doubt tied into the void century, the will of D, Joy Boy, the strange figure that sits on the Empty Throne and the poneglyphs. A live-action series would struggle to fit every one of those plot points in, so why not alter the nature of the One Piece to something more straightforward. This would also help avoid spoiling One Piece if the live-action series wraps up before the anime and manga – a distinct possibility given the first chapter came out in 1997.
More: One Piece: 15 Biggest Mysteries And Questions Left Unanswered
Netflix’s One Piece is currently without a release date. More news as it arrives.