I have never watched One Piece. Why? Because it’s over 1000 episodes long and has so many characters and plotlines, it’s a lot. To even begin this leviathan of an anime, you would have to quit your job, dump your partner, and possibly live in your bedroom for the better portion of a decade.
But hey… viewer… you can handle eight one-hour episodes, right? Netflix says with its salesmen charm and beckoning finger. Why yes, Netflix, I can.
This led me to watch the first episode of the Live Action One Piece, and what did I think of it?
Actually, it was really good, like surprisingly good. So much so that I wonder why I spent so long avoiding this series like the plague. So let’s dig into Episode 1: Romance Dawn.
The episode begins with the execution of the Pirate King Gol D. Roger twenty-two years ago. The head of the World government takes time to gloat, leaving the Pirate King time to leave a parting message. “My treasure is out there. Whoever finds it gets it”. I liked this beginning. The Pirate King seems more in control than the government and uses his last words to inspire anarchy in the masses. I like a guy who can willingly step into his own execution and use his last moments to inspire others. It’s a trait that you see in Luffy later in the episode, which is pretty nice, already drawing parallels between Luffy and his role model.
From this, we cut to the present to our protagonist, Monkey D. Luffy, played by Iñaki Godoy, the stand-out actor in the show to me. His facial mannerisms, attention to detail, quirks and overall delivery are the best. While he can seem a bit childish at times, I can see that Luffy and Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean are very similar, both sailing in a rickety run-down dinghy that’s slowly sinking and going on tangents. The more I see of this guy, the more I wonder who can actually physically stop him. His body is made of rubber, which to me would mean he has little to no injuries. Is he like a Stretch Armstrong? Can he, in fact, infinitely stretch? Does his body heal super well? All questions I hope the show answers later on.
The camera work, ship battle sequence and pirate wardrobe all seem heavily inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean, but then the show changes inspirations. Once the character Koby comes across Luffy’s barrel after it’s mistakenly picked up in an act of piracy, the show starts to be inspired by Treasure Island. Koby himself shares many of the attributes of Jim Hawkins. Koby, to me, is a bit of a strange character.
Within the episode, he mostly stands still, paralyzed by his own perceived uselessness. It’s not till the end of the episode that he becomes inspired by Luffy to stand up for himself. And when he does that, he straight up tells him, “I could be your enemy”. Again, I see this as like a Long John Silver deal, but with Luffy playing the heroic role as the pirate and Koby playing a less heroic role siding with the seemingly vicious marines. However the show indicates all Pirates and Marines inhabit shades of gray, and perhaps there can still be common ground despite the adversarial nature of the two factions.
The pirate Alvida shows up and is not pleased with Luffy and Koby. Luffy announces he is freeing her captive cabin boy. When attacked, Luffy comically punches her off the ship with his Reed Richards stretchy powers. Luffy screams his attack name to knock out the opposing pirate, which is the only thing jarring about this episode. In the real-world setting, it seems very out of place to me. The show tries to say Luffy’s eccentricities are to blame by calling him out later in the episode, but it remains to be seen if this will turn out more fun and endearing than out of place for me. Gum gum pistol being the name for a stretchy punch is kind of sick, though.
After this, we get some character building, showing that Luffy is a guy who lives so in the moment that he’ll willingly help Koby become a marine, the very people tasked with capturing him. This early character-defining moment is very important. Luffy is a free spirit who will do what he wants by his code, even to his detriment. But at the same time, when he notes he’s “super stealthy”, the ship in the background blows up, which he caused. This three-minute scene gives me everything I need to know about Luffy. The show’s protagonist is a crazy wild card who will do whatever he wants when he wants, and I am 100% here for that.
We then cut to Roronoa Zoro, a cool guy with swords. He wields three swords despite only having two arms. Later on, we see he carries one in his teeth. His actor is simply called Mackenyu. The action scenes with him in them are the best. His fight choreography is top-notch, and while Luffy generally uses more force, Zoro uses finesse in such a way that I can’t help but be glued to the screen.
Earlier on, a background character’s head got smushed off-screen by Alvira, so I was prepared for Pg-13 deaths, but nope! When Zoro fights, the dude gets cut in half! Saving the on-screen death for this guy was probably a smart move, as it really cements his status as a battle-hardened samurai. I also feel like this is the morally good character of the show, as in I really want to root for him despite his position as a pirate hunter. He dolls out his own form of vigilante justice, which, paired with Luffy, makes for an exciting dynamic.
Finally, we are introduced to the third member of our ensemble cast, Nami. She’s a tricky thief who wields a quarterstaff, played by Emily Rudd. I don’t know whether it was because this episode gave all the cool stunts and scenes to Luffy and Zoro, but Nami doesn’t really get to shine much.
Her whole deal is that she’s supposed to be deceitful and sneaky, but every time she tries, her performance doesn’t measure up. The actress can clearly do stunts and has good body language, but there’s something a little off with this character’s dialogue for now. Perhaps she’ll be given more time to shine later in the series. I do find it funny that someone who supposedly hates pirates has to flee a marine base with pirates for doing piracy.
I wanna see her do some more cool stuff, things that actually seem like a good skill set. Right now I’m worried that she seems kind of combative with Luffy. I’m hoping we get to see her really just pull the wool over a vastly more powerful villain and see her get a win.
When they get to the Marine port, it’s funny just how militarized this world is. The port has traders and merchants lots of ships, and enormous Gondor-looking structure purely for the military. The fact the world has gotten so bad with pirates that even a tiny marine base has to be Fort Knox makes me giggle a bit.
The fight at the bar is really funny, with Nami in the background of Zoro’s fight, mugging a marine for his uniform. Opportunist seem to be her defining character trait, which is quite pleasant. Zoro’s ongoing feud with Captain Morgan’s son is hilarious. With the Son giving Draco Malfoy vibes constantly, Zoro managing to intimate him tied up was one of those poking-the-bear moments that made me chuckle.
Captain Morgan is a guy with an axe for a hand and a metal face guard. I keep wanting to call him “first map Fire Emblem boss”. He’s built up as the top dog of the military and pretty much proves why he’s the boss. He can take on three people at once, one of which is an incredibly skilled swordsman and another being a superpowered rubber man. I particularly liked the part where he attacked his own son for whining at him. He’s ruthless, and if villains from the Marines follow this trend, it will be easy to see them as a credible threat. The best part in the episode with him was when he caught Luffy’s stretchy fist, and Luffy gave an amazing “What the heck?” face before getting thrown.
The fight scene itself is great, with all three working to take him down, Nami dealing with additional marine soldiers, Zoro and Luffy going toe-to-toe with Morgan, with Luffy getting the last hit with a stretchy kick in the end, gotta have some variety right. They flee from the base quite quickly, leading to the real climax of the episode. Koby saves them and says he wants to stay and become a marine. Warning Luffy that they may be enemies next time they meet. Luffy just smiles and says, “We’re friends right now, aren’t we?” Giving a nice bookend to the episode.
I loved this ending, every character gets what they want. Zoro humiliates a foe, Nami gets the map, and Luffy has the beginning of a crew. The strength of this series has to be its very capable and funny cast, all of which have their own ideas and desires, some conflict, some don’t. In the end, it’s gonna be how Luffy navigates these conflicts that to me, will sell the rest of the series.
Episode 1 of One Piece is, without a doubt, an amazing little mini-movie. The ongoing story of Luffy putting together his crew is established, and Koby’s marine origin is tied up in the one-hour episode length. A cliffhanger of a marine going after them was established, leading me to want to know what happens next to this mismatched group. Especially with Luffy recruiting two people to his crew who hate pirates. I enjoyed this and will definitely be watching the entire series. This show has probably gotten me into One Piece, even if I can’t feasibly watch the 1000-episode anime.