Netflix Executive Talks About The 'Pressure' Of Live-Action One Piece And Why They're Taking Their Time Making It

Monkey D. Luffy on One Piece on Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix is in the process of adapting the beloved manga and anime One Piece to live-action, and understandably, there’s some skepticism from fans on whether or not the streamer can pull it off. Live-action anime adaptations have a spotty history as it is, and few are celebrated. One Netflix executive recently spoke on the “pressure” of getting things right for the upcoming series, and why it’s taking so long to make. 

For those keeping score at home, news of an American adaptation of One Piece first sprung up in 2017, and in 2020, it was announced that Netflix was producing it for its platform. Despite how long ago the project was announced, we're still waiting on even a trailer. Now, we have at least some idea of why it's taking such a long time.   

Netflix's Director of Original Series Ted Biaselli made an appearance on the Gayest Episode Ever podcast and made it clear that he doesn’t want One Piece to be another failed live-action anime adaptation. He explained the steps he's taking to try and prevent that from happening, and create a series as epic and as beloved as the One Piece manga and anime: 

The pressure of live-action anime has always been a disaster, and I do not want that on my record. I want to be the guy that understands what they're making and the intention behind the source material and how we translate that and bring that to life. As opposed to trying to recreate shot-for-shot, or as opposed to taking the IP and throwing everything else away. There is a middle ground to understanding the throughline in the truth behind all the source material, and then figuring out how that makes sense in a live-action cinematic approach.

One major struggle live-action anime adaptations have is figuring out how to scale or portray iconic scenes in the previous work. With animation, it’s much easier and less expensive to make a giant pirate ship battle where a stretch pirate is bouncing from ship to ship using a slingshot method. Obviously, when it comes to live-action, creating such a huge battle would present more (and pricy) complications, and ultimately might not look as good as animation would.

Netflix has made past attempts to try and find the balance between live-action and anime, and to be quite frank, the results weren’t likely driving anime lovers to renew their Netflix subscription. While some loved the new direction of John Cho’s Cowboy Bebop series, Netflix pulled the plug on it after just one season. It also released a live-action Death Note movie that was panned by critics and audiences alike, though the original creators appreciated the movie

Despite those past failures, Netflix is trying again with a live-action Death Note series, and continues to plug away at the upcoming One Piece series. It’s taking some time, but Ted Biaselli made it clear he’d sooner take the time to get the series right rather than rush it out just for the sake of having it done: 

I've been with One Piece for the past three years – it's been four years actually, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not about how fast you can get it on. My little mantra is 'get it right before right now' and it takes a while and that's ok. We're working directly with Eiichiro Oda and he has a vision. He's also never worked in television so it's a give and take of what works in live-action and what doesn't work in live-action. Sometimes he tells us, 'You guys are missing the point. That's not what this scene is about. This is what this scene is about and we all go 'Oook'.

No doubt there are fans out there excited to see this One Piece series, though others with a good deal of skepticism about whether or not anyone can pull off a live-action adaptation. The anime series currently sits at over 1000 episodes, which is an unrealistic goal for most live-action television shows to reach. As such, the Netflix version seems to be condensing the material it’s adapting, which can always make waves with fans. 

As Biaselli said, it’ll be about the give and take of what’s necessary and what can be chopped, and making sure the message of the overall series remains the same across the board. Will it break the mold of lame live-action anime and manga adaptations? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Production on the One Piece live-action series wrapped back in early September, so it's possible it could arrive in mid-2023. If so, it’ll fit in amongst an already impressive 2023 TV schedule, that should have audiences excited for the upcoming year. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.