The producers of Netflix’s live-action One Piece adaptation made some clever decisions about what to include in this first season. As well as changing just enough of the early chapters of the manga and bringing a key character's introduction forward to help with pacing, they picked the perfect arc to end their eight-episode run. The show does a good job of bringing the most important scene in One Piece to life in a way that will tug on the heartstrings of new viewers and satisfy the lofty expectations of existing fans.
The 'Arlong Park' arc is the first time that One Piece gave readers a glimpse of the beating heart beneath its silliness. Most fans would agree that the moment when Luffy puts his hat on a crying Nami’s head, entrusting her with his greatest treasure while promising to save her, is the scene where Eiichiro Oda first showed us who Luffy truly was and how special One Piece would become.
Other characters had revealed their tragic backstories, but they were stories of the past, long resolved and no longer a danger. Here, Oda presented pain in the present, in front of Luffy for the first time. The previously unerringly joyful Luffy’s first real bout of rage in the manga is brought on not just because of Nami’s pain but because Arlong committed the most unforgivable sin in the eyes of the future King of the Pirates. He tried to steal her dream from her.
This was a crucial scene for the Netflix show to get right. Failure would rob viewers of the emotional payoff and, more importantly, signal to fans that this adaptation had failed to capture the soul of One Piece. It would have made the entire season fall flat, unable to appease the existing, highly opinionated fans or exciting new ones enough to invest the time to finish the season and become excited for future ones.
Everyone involved does an admirable job bringing this scene to life. Emily Rudd’s Nami gives us the right amount of feral grief and Iñaki Godoy relishes the opportunity to bring a touch of depth to the ever-joyful Monkey D. Luffy. The framing brings the manga panels to life and we’re left with a suitably emotional moment between the two characters before the inevitable fight against Arlong in the finale. Like the rest of the show, it gets the major notes right and gives fans what they need, even if some of Luffy’s poses look better on paper than with real people.
Getting this simple exchange right shows that Netflix’s One Piece understands what makes Oda’s original work so special to so many people in a way that their previous attempts at live-action anime didn’t. There is high adventure and a silliness to many of the chapters, but this scene shows that there is a depth to One Piece that had yet to be explored.
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