Netflix’s gamble on Japan’s ‘One Piece’ manga series pays off

SINGAPORE (Bloomberg): Netflix Inc is scoring social-media buzz and positive reviews for its new Japanese pirate series One Piece, released on the service Thursday.

The eight-episode adventure series is a live-action retelling of one of Japan’s biggest manga comic-book franchises. It focuses on pirates searching the seas for a fabled treasure.

The comics, created by Eiichiro Oda, have sold more than 500 million copies globally since 1997. An animated TV version, introduced in 1999, is still going strong after 1,000 episodes.

One Piece fan communities on X and Reddit have cheered the live-action adaptation, especially for the casting of its main characters. It’s gotten a 95% audience approval on the review aggregator site RottenTomatoes.

It scored less well with critics who averaged 80%. Netflix viewer data for the show won’t be available for a few days.

Anime, or Japanese cartoons, is a growth industry globally, with many media companies, including Sony Group Corp., investing in the business. Streaming services such as Netflix are trying to make more local content, while simultaneously looking for programming that can resonate with viewers around the world.

Turning anime into a live-action series or film has been a challenging task. Many of live-action adaptations, including Netflix’s own Cowboy Bebop series in 2021 and the 2009 Fox film Dragonball Evolution, failed to satisfy fans and general audiences due to twists in characters and storylines.

Learning from past lessons, Netflix spent seven years adapting One Piece, in close collaboration with creator Oda and directors known to be fans of Japanese comics.

"I read the scripts, gave notes and acted as a guard dog to ensure the material was being adapted in the correct way,” Oda said in an interview with the New York Times.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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