The big talk of the town this weekend is Netflix’s long-awaited adaptation of One Piece. For the most part, critics and audiences alike have been able to get on board with the live-action series, with particular attention drawn towards its cast and willingness to lean into the stranger parts of Eiichiro Oda’s manga. But since this is season is covering 100 or so chapters (and 60-ish anime episodes) across eight one-hour episodes, there were some changes to be made, and co-showrunner Steven Maeda spoke with Variety to break down how he and Mat Owens decided on the various tweaks and changes made.
It should be said that this story will contain spoilers for Netflix’s One Piece and possibly the manga from this point forward.
One of the biggest changes comes halfway through the season, when it’s revealed that Vice-Admiral Garp (Vincent Regan) is the grandfather of aspiring pirate Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy). That relationship is canon in the manga, but it occurs around the 300-chapter mark; Garp himself doesn’t really feature into those first 100 chapters in a significant matter. But Maeda said the reveal was pushed up much further for the series in order to properly raise the stakes for Luffy and his fellow Straw Hats. “One of the decisions that I made early on was wanting to have an antagonist in pursuit,” he said. The grandfather reveal wasn’t just about “keeping the jeopardy up,” Maeda continued, it was about “trying to protect [Luffy]. This is about trying to teach him and it’s where Garp feels he has failed.”
Similar consideration was made in regards to making the fishman Arlong (McKinley Belcher III) into the season’s central villain. Like in the early manga and anime, he’s had control over Nami since she was a child, but his grand plan of destroying humanity is originally much later into the source material. In a separate interview, Maeda acknowledged that deviation would be “debated endlessly,” but said the change was in service in making him a fitting threat for the first season. When Maeda and Owens elected to feature Arlong during the episodes focused on Sanji (Taz Skylar) and the Baratie mid-sea restaurant, it allowed them to “really ramp up towards the last two episodes so that Arlong is our Big Bad of the first season.”
Maeda stressed that One Piece’s changes were done with Oda’s collaboration, and that the creator signed off on each change. Though fans will inevitably bristle at the adjustments and changes made, he called it an “almost impossible task” to please those longtime fans. For him, it was important that this version of One Piece be bridge between them and those who may not even know what the series is beyond a (very long) pirate epic. The show’s mission statement is effectively “to come up with something that the diehard fans are going to love and appreciate and recognize as something of their own and go, ‘Wow, look what they did,’ and at the same time be telling a compelling story that is not inside so baseball that new fans are going, ‘What’s going on here? What is this crazy pink pirate ship?’”
One Piece’s first season is out now on Netflix.
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