2000s Manga Era and the Success of “One Piece” Live-Action


The series brings forth a sense of trust and adventurous spirit, reflected through the five members of the Straw Hat Pirates. That’s why, whether you’re a “One Piece” fan or not, you can still understand and empathize with the eight-episode journey of this pirate crew.

Currently, the “One Piece” live-action stands at the top in numerous markets, claiming the number one spot on Netflix in 84 countries.

Main characters


The story revolves around live-action films, which have always been a subject of debate. The trend of creating live-action adaptations of flourishing manga works is on the rise.

However, many people oppose these adaptations because they believe that live-action versions often damage the original source material or deviate from the atmosphere of the original work. The failure of the “Cowboy Bebop” live-action (2021) serves as an example. Shinichirō Watanabe, the director of the original series, openly criticized the lack of faithfulness to the source material. And as a result, Netflix canceled the series after just one season.

However, with the recent release of the “One Piece” live-action on Netflix, we have witnessed the explosive impact of a successful adaptation. Being the best-selling manga in history, in 2018, “One Piece” had over 440 million copies sold worldwide.

Debuting in 1997, “One Piece” is a part of the childhood of the 90s generation. A time when innocent moments were spent passing around precious manga volumes borrowed with spare change from early morning meals. The success of the “One Piece” live-action can be partly explained by the words of director Marc Jobst in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“To achieve something like ‘One Piece,’ you have to embrace risks. You have to be bold. You have to dare to do it.”

One Piece Manga
As the best-selling manga in history, in 2018, ‘One Piece’ had sold over 440 million copies worldwide.”

The vivid South African backdrop

Created by Eiichiro Oda in 1997, ‘One Piece’ is an extensive narrative about a group of pirates known as the Straw Hat Pirates, who venture through a fantastical world in search of a legendary treasure. With its multi-episode structure and a diverse cast of characters, ‘One Piece’ appears tailor-made for 21st-century audiences.

The live-action adaptation of ‘One Piece’ centers on the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates, led by their youthful and enthusiastic captain, Monkey D. Luffy. Just like Eiichiro Oda’s original creation, the series unfolds in a sprawling world that bears a striking resemblance to Earth, with the vast ocean as its backdrop. This is an age dominated by pirates, all while being closely monitored by a powerful armed naval force and a totalitarian government.

Main characters
Live-action One Piece stars include Mackenyu, Iñaki Godoy, Taz Skylar, Emily Rudd and Jacob Gibson

In this world, various factions vie for a mythical treasure, the control of the seas, and supremacy over various tribes. Encompassing everything from traditional horse races to magic and the supernatural.

The diverse cast of actors

Mexican actor Iñaki Godoy takes on the role of the pirate captain, Luffy. In his youth, Luffy witnessed the public execution of Gol D. Roger, the infamous pirate, and was entranced by Roger’s last words. Anyone who discovers the hidden treasure known as One Piece will gain unimaginable wealth and claim the title of Pirate King. Ever since that moment, Luffy has aspired to be a pirate and set off on a dangerous quest to locate the One Piece treasure.

Mackenyu Arata as Roronoa Zoro

During his quest for the One Piece, Luffy recruits a group of orphaned and uniquely talented youths, assembles a crew, acquires a ship, and sets out on their treasure-seeking mission. The name “Luffy” reflects their humble and impoverished circumstances.

Fortunately, Luffy possesses Devil Fruit powers, which make his body as stretchy as rubber. Allowing him to bend and stretch easily, turning him into a formidable warrior.

(L to R) Vincent Regan as Vice-Admiral Garp, Morgan Davies as Koby, Aidan Scott as Helmeppo
(L to R) Vincent Regan as Vice-Admiral Garp, Morgan Davies as Koby, Aidan Scott as Helmeppo

“The film “One Piece” is based on the universal idea of living with dreams and pursuing adventure.”

Director Marc Jobst shared “With the 5 characters of the Straw Hat Pirates, especially Luffy, who is full of hope and optimism, we aim to inspire people to believe in their dreams and in themselves. To me, this is a story that everyone in the world should listen to.”

Main Characters

Luffy’s crew includes Roronoa Zoro, a Japanese warrior portrayed by Mackenyu Arata, who is the son of martial arts legend Sonny Chiba. Zoro wields three katanas and dreams of becoming the world’s greatest swordsman.

Among them are Nami (Emily Rudd, star of Netflix’s horror series “Fear Street”), the skilled thief and sharpshooter Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson). The man helps protect their first ship, the Going Merry.

Sanji (Taz Skylar), a talented chef and martial arts expert who has his own struggles. Through various challenges, viewers also get to witness the stories behind each character. Their experiences of loss and abandonment, leading to why they come together on their pirate journey.

Looking back at the “era of the One Piece manga” in the 2000s

Filmed primarily in South Africa, “One Piece” creates a fresh and lively atmosphere, aligning with Luffy’s boundless enthusiasm. The series’ aesthetics somewhat exaggerate to evoke a sense of fun and joy, reminiscent of the original “One Piece” manga. It strikes a balance between digital precision and traditional artistic elements.

Special effects are pivotal in the “One Piece” series. Notable examples include the elaborate makeup and costumes for the pirate crew led by Arlong (McKinley Belcher III) and his fish-men team. They feature prosthetic teeth and dorsal fins inspired by classic Japanese tokusatsu monster characters clad in rubber suits. All these elements contribute to the immersive and mysterious atmosphere of the “One Piece” live-action adaptation.

restaurant Baratie
One of the grandly constructed settings in the series is the floating restaurant Baratie.

CGI effects for the characters in the series

The production team allocated a substantial portion of the budget for CGI effects on the series characters. The estimated cost for these effects is approximately 12-18 million USD per episode.


It can be said that “One Piece” is one of the best and most successful live-action adaptations to date. Currently, the “One Piece” live-action series holds the top position in many markets, ranking 1st on Netflix in 84 countries.

It’s impossible not to mention the collaboration with the creator of the “One Piece” manga – Eiichiro Oda. Alongside the largely praised diverse cast and their embodiment of the characters “stepping out of the pages,” the well-crafted screenplay, and harmonious music. In both the scriptwriting and production of this series, Oda played a crucial role. Furthermore, the way the series captivates a global audience is also quite surprising. It’s much like how Oda’s manga brought his story to the entire world.