The Straw Hat crew is setting sail for success. Netflix's live-action adaptation of the world-famous anime and manga series One Piece is making some serious waves. Though it only just debuted on August 31, the show has already managed to topple a record set by streaming behemoths Stranger Things and Wednesday.
According to FlixPatrol, which aggregates data on both VOD and streaming charts, the first season of One Piece has already rocketed to the top of Netflix's charts in 84 countries. Wednesday and Stranger Things season 4 hit No. 1 in just 83 countries when they premiered.
Though the series currently spans just eight episodes, it appears to be hitting all the high notes with viewers, especially those who loved the anime series but were skeptical about Netflix’s ability to pull it off. With an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 critic reviews and a 96% from audiences, it's clear this adaptation is resonating with fans and newcomers along, despite concerns from longtime viewers that Netflix wouldn't be able to stick the landing.
The pirate adventure follows the plucky Straw Hat pirate crew, helmed by rubber boy Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) as they seek out the legendary treasure, the titular One Piece. Joined by Nami (Emily Rudd), Roronoa Zoro (Mackenyu), and Sanji Taz Skylar), this ragtag bunch of misfits sets off for the Grand Line, where the legendary pirate Gold Roger (Michael Dorman) is said to have hidden the bounty. Luffy aims to become King of the Pirates along the way, while facing off against a colorful crew of villains.
Why is One Piece so popular with viewers?
One Piece has likely fared so well because of its faithful adherence to the source material and the stellar cast, who got the stamp of approval from series author Eiichiro Oda himself.
This time, instead of putting its own spin on a story that people love, Netflix decided to take the source material and simply bring it into the real world. It's usually what people want to see with live-action versions of the anime or cartoons that they love. And it's clearly worked well for the streamer in this case.
The series has managed to retain the heart of what makes One Piece so popular with viewers. At the same time, it's managed to fit a large portion of the story (that spans over a thousand half-hour anime episodes so far) into an easily digestible and affable show that eases new viewers into the lore while catering to longtime fans. The actors are clearly into their roles and the showrunners did their research. Everything seems to fit.
Netflix doesn't have a great track record when it comes to live-action adaptations of popular anime series. It doesn't help that the streamer has selected some of the most popular anime of all time as inspiration for its first few attempts.
Fans balked at the creative liberties Netflix took with its live-action Death Note film in 2017, which garnered an abysmal 36% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and a 23% audience score. It didn’t leave much of an impression, but reviewers did take note of its meandering narrative and strange decisions.
Netflix's take on the wildly popular Cowboy Bebop didn't fare much better, earning a 46% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60% audience score. The shaky series had some decent casting (John Cho as Spike Spiegel and Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black), but the bizarre attempt at rewriting the classic story caused a firestorm on social media. It also featured some head-scratching dialogue that didn't mesh well with the tone of the original.
With One Piece, though there are a few small alterations made to the story and characters, none are so jarring that they feel too out of line. Its affable cast, well-written dialogue, and high production values make it feel like plenty of care was taken to preserve what people love about this popular series. Surprisingly, it manages to squeeze an abundance of story material into its short first season, and to great effect.
But despite One Piece's massive popularity as a live-action series, it remains to be seen whether Netflix will renew it for a second season just yet. Wednesday was able to pull off a second season, and Stranger Things will be entering its fifth and final outing. Luffy still has plenty of pirate adventures to go on, so we’ll have to wait and see if One Piece season 2 is greenlit.
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Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over 13 years for publications including Tom's Guide, MTV, Rolling Stone, CNN, Popular Science, Playboy, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. She's also appeared as a panelist at video game conventions like PAX East and PAX West and has coordinated social media for companies like CNET. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.