To the delight of treasure-hunting pirates everywhere, Netflix announced Wednesday that it will debut a live-action adaptation of One Piece, the bestselling manga franchise in Japanese history, on its streaming platform later this year.
In a note handwritten in Japanese for the announcement, series creator Oda Eiichiro announced that Netflix’s One Piece will launch with a 10-episode initial season, and asked fans to be patient for more details. The official One Piece Netflix Twitter account further clarified that Oda would be overseeing the production, which would be co-written by geek franchise veterans Steven Maeda (X-Files, Lost) and Matt Owens (Luke Cage, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
Oda has been planning the live-action adaptation of the series since at least 2017, when he first announced his intent to make the show as part of the manga’s 20th anniversary celebration. One Piece has published regularly in Weekly Shōnen Jump, Japan’s most popular manga magazine, ever since it began in 1997. With over 1,000 individual chapters, it holds a Guinness World Record for the most number of comics published by a single author and has topped the bestseller list of Japanese comics for the last 14 years straight. More than 450 million One Piece comics have been sold globally since its inception, making One Piece second only to Batman as the bestselling comic in history.
Despite the series’ massive popularity — or perhaps because of it — Oda’s streaming platform of choice gave many fans pause. While Oda thanked Netflix for its “tremendous production support,” Netflix hasn’t entirely earned the trust of fans — as you can see from the initial skepticism some fans showed in response to the announcement, as evidenced by this meme:
Other fans were more positive, citing Netflix’s recent live-action adaptation of novel-turned-video-game-franchise The Witcher as a faithful, fan-friendly success that could boost the series’ profile.
If One Piece on Netflix is good, this could be GREAT news for One Piece as a whole. Look what a great Netflix series has done for The Witcher. It’s boosted the popularity of the series overall, boosting sales of the books and the games, to the point books sold out at bookstores!— Noah @ Golden Deer And FFXIV Hell (@ThousandSundae) January 29, 2020
Netflix’s continued interest in anime shows no sign of waning, in part because the wealth of anime series available for streaming gives the company an edge in the streaming wars. Despite 2017’s critically panned live-action adaptation of Death Note, Netflix seems to have had ongoing success bringing fans popular classic anime series like Full Metal Alchemist, alongside their spinoffs like Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The platform made inroads last year with an important, if controversial, re-release of the vital, groundbreaking anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, alongside new installments in that franchise.
Most relevant is that Netflix is also producing a live-action adaptation of another foundational anime, Cowboy Bebop. Netflix’s take on the classic series (a cult 1990s hit that’s something of a space Western) was at first slated for a 2020 release but has recently delayed production due to star John Cho’s injury.
The company has also invested heavily in producing original anime series, launching more than 30 exclusive shows globally in 2018 alone. It recently announced the development of a Witcher anime feature film, a follow-up to the massively popular live-action fantasy series. Clearly this is a space Netflix is determined to keep inhabiting, even if it makes fans nervous.
But back in 2017, Oda clearly anticipated fans’ unease. As part of the 2017 announcement, he vowed to do live-action justice to the story of Luffy the Pirate King and his faithful companions. “Firstly,” he said, “‘I will never betray the fans who have supported me for 20 years.’ This is my condition. There may be many who are uneasy, but please, give me your voices of hope.”
In other words, fans who’ve trusted Oda with the story he’s helmed for over two decades should keep the faith. For our part, if you’re wondering whether we’re excited, there’s only one correct answer: