The announcement of a live-action adaptation of a manga or anime is always met with trepidation. More often than not they tend to miss the mark entirely by not understanding what made the source material so great in the first place. Netflix was the biggest culprit of this in recent memory with their adaptations of properties based on books, games and manga; by picking the wrong elements to focus on, completely changing key aspects of the story and characters, and even going so far as to have their writing/production staff cause creative differences in how they want to adapt each franchise to live-action. When it was first announced there would be a live-action adaptation of One Piece, I was hesitant; believing they would dive head-first into the same pitfalls as they had previously. However as the release date loomed and they started to promote the show it was clear that the original create Eiichiro Oda was heavily involved, the production staff had a level of respect for the source material and its audience, and wanted to create a show that captured that same sense of adventure captured in the early chapters of One Piece. I for one, believe that they not only achieved this but did a good job.
One Piece is the story of a young Pirate by the name of Monkey D Luffy who sets out in search of the One Piece, the mythical Treasure of the late King of the Pirates, Gold D Roger who sailed to the end of the Grand Line and left his treasure all in one place. Luffys dream is to not only find this treasure but to become the next king of the Pirates - in order to fulfil this dream he'll need a crew who have their own grand desires and adventurous spirit.
One Piece's live-action series adapts the East Blue saga and its arcs from Romance Dawn up to the end of the Arlong Park arc into 8 episodes ranging from 48 minutes to just over an hour each. These arcs covers 95 chapters of Manga and 44 episodes of anime respectively. So from that it would suggest a lot of content is either trimmed down or streamlined.
The live-action series takes the approach of keeping the story flowing whilst hitting the main beats with only an episode or two being focused on each arc. The two that get the most prominence are the Baratie and Arlong Park arcs which act as real turning points in the story that cements Luffy's crew as a unit capable of taking on ever stronger enemies and tougher pirate crews. We see the live action handle this with some great fight choreography that shows the level of detail they took from the source material. The characters all look as they're supposed to, with slight alterations made to make them feel more believable. Zoro still has his 3 signature swords, Sanji fights only with his hands and Luffy has stretching powers from his devil fruit. We also have each character's back story interwoven at certain points throughout various episodes in order to flesh them out. One nice touch is that each episode has a different version of the logo that informs the viewer which character will feature prominently.
Whilst the live-action adheres to the main story beats it does trim out some things. Some events are changed around such as the events with Buggy and Captain Kuro for instance, turning an arc preventing the destruction of a town and a pirate invasion into a circus show and haunted mansion style thriller. There are quite a few creative choices here that fit things a lot better in live-action. Mostly these seem budgetary, where you would need to feature open areas with hundreds of characters that would go beyond the scope of what could be achieved for TV unless you were Game of Thrones. Instead, the show takes the opportunity to close in on only a few characters in enclosed spaces making things feel more personal and intimate. We spend a lot of time getting to know the relatively small cast compared to how many characters appear in the manga. This gives the audience time to get to know both our heroes and villains and provide quite a bit of depth.
On that subject the show also introduces characters from later chapters much earlier in the story and gives them more presence. The Marines are seen a lot more in this show than they were in the early chapters of the manga; especially Coby who disappears for a while before he interacts with Luffy again. Garp is also a present and major antagonist of this show, hunting down Luffy from the get-go. There's an interesting contrast here with the show cutting between Luffy following his dream of being a Pirate and Coby following his of being a Marine. It does quite a nice bit of world building, hinting at the corruption with the World Government, the wider world at large and ideas that are introduced later.
Taz Skylar(Sanji), Mackenyu Arata (Zoro), Inaki Godoy (Luffy), Emily Rudd(Nami) and Jacob Romero Gibson (Usopp)
Visually the show gets the spirit right with things looking rather "piratey". Characters look as they should but toned down on their cartoonish aspects. The cast are also great. The actor for Luffy, Inaki Godoy, nails his optimism, high energy and recklessness, but also gets Luffy's more serious and contemplative moments right. The rest of the cast are just as picth perfect, in particular Mackenyu Arata as Zoro gets his stoic and quiet determination spot on. In all not a single complaint about the cast.
That being said, there's not as many comedic moments in the live-action as there should be. with emphasis on a lot of very serious moments, a fair bit of bad language and a lot of scenes taking place at night where its hard to see things. But on that note I think it does get the tone right for when things matter. You can tell that this was made to adapt the story whilst still paying respect to the original. Its taken the core story, ideas, concepts and values and transferred them to a different medium - it throws little references in here and there but never bombards the viewer like most media tend to do these days.
For One Piece fans its a solid adaptation of a beloved manga, while the casual viewer can enjoy a lively and well directed big-budget series that provides a fun and exciting Pirate story about a crew with grand dreams and a love for adventure. In all, something for everyone.