US production company Tomorrow Studios recently announced that they would adapt the much-loved manga and anime series One Piece into a live-action series for Western audiences. One Piece, created by Eiichiro Oda, is by no exaggeration one of the most popular, beloved, and profitable series in the history of manga and animation. So, as long as the live-action series is at least passable in quality, everyone involved will likely make a decent chunk of cash.
However, the announcement also left many longtime fans of the series confused and concerned. One Piece is an incredibly fantastical and imaginative series, and it’s difficult to envision how some of these elements could translate into a live-action adaptation. Fans are also worried that a sub-par live-action interpretation would bring down the series’ reputation, similar to the whitewashed Ghost in the Shell and upcoming Death Note movies.
With these concerns in mind, here are five suggestions to the people behind the One Piece adaptation that should help the upcoming show live up to the source material.
Focus on the Beginning of the Series
One Piece goes off the rails pretty quickly. This isn’t all that surprising, though, for a series that features reindeer doctors, cyborgs, and a skeleton musician. However, compared to the series as a whole, the first few story arcs are actually pretty grounded. The creators of the live-action adaptation should focus on the early portions of the series, as these adventures are more easily and affordably portrayed than the more recent parts of the series.
Cast the Actors Best for the Role
One Piece already has millions of fans and much of the draw for the loyal fanbase over the series’ 20-year run are that the characters have loads of depth. As such, actors should be chosen based solely on their ability to play the part. Any kind of star power attached to the series would only pull the show away from what made One Piece great in the first place.
Casting the roles of the Straw Hats should place particular emphasis on diversity as multiculturalism is a big part of One Piece’s appeal. The author of the manga has weighed in as to what the most likely nationalities of the Straw Hats would be if the story took place in the real world. And producers should take note. With a lot of backlash from recent whitewashed anime as well as other major TV shows and movies, long-time fans aren’t likely to accept a One Piece with a largely white cast.
Keep Action Scenes Brief
At its core, One Piece is about adventure; not fighting. While the action scenes do usually tend to be some of the best moments in the series, the live-action show shouldn’t focus on these segments any more than what the anime does as there’s almost no way it could possibly live up to the source material. It’s even debatable whether or not the anime lives up to the manga when it comes to these more intense scenes, so the series would need to work even harder.
Stay True to the Source Material
The live-action show needs to stay true to the source material, as One Piece fans have had to suffer through heavily-altered versions of the show before. The controversial 4Kids dub of the anime changed major plot points, removed episodes, and even changed the name of a main character. This version of the anime, understandably, outraged fans, and if the live-action One Piece series is too liberal with the source material, that ire could easily bubble up again.
Take Your Time
There are over 700 episode of the One Piece anime and over 800 chapters of the manga. The creators behind the live-action show have the scope to take their time in crafting the show and telling the story. In a standard season of 24-26 half hour episodes or 12-13 hour long episodes, the live-action One Piece should only cover the first three or four story arcs. It took the anime 30, half hour long episodes to cover the same ground, and with source material not likely to run out anytime soon, it’s worth investing the time and effort in developing the characters and the unique universe.
After all, One Piece is a story that’s not even three-quarters of the way done after 20 years of publication. If the creators behind the live-action version want it to be successful, they need to give it just as much time and consideration as the series creator has. However, even if the live-action version ends up being only half as good as the manga and anime, it would still be one of the best shows on TV.