Earlier this year, the impossible happened for anime fans. Eiichiro Oda came forward to announce that One Piece would be getting a live-action series from Hollywood. After twenty years, Japan’s most popular franchise is ready to make a claim on Hollywood, and One Piece could become the next Game of Thrones if Tomorrow Studios plays its cards right.
Doing justice to One Piece won’t be easy, and Hollywood has every opportunity to let the franchise down. Anime fans will be the first to remind audiences that Hollywood has an abysmal reputation when it comes to live-action adaptations, but the industry will one day move past its Dragonball Evolution shame. Much like comic book movies, there will come a time when anime has its Iron Man moment over in Hollywood, and One Piece could be the franchise that opens those floodgates.
Tomorrow Studios has a lot of work ahead of it; the company will need to balance both One Piece’s quirky fantasy elements while playing up its more general storylines to hook fans. Oda’s series is a long one, so decisions will have to be made about what gets put on TV and what gets left behind. HBO was faced with a similar dilemma with Game of Thrones as George R.R. Martin’s novels aren’t known for their brevity. The network was able to distill the story’s core and turn Game of Thrones into a television phenomena. If Tomorrow Studios can do the same, then Hollywood may get a shot a redemption with anime fans, but it has to do a few things first.
Like Game of Thrones, One Piece has a truly epic scale. The series is first and foremost a story about pirates and their long hunt for treasure. Captain Monkey D. Luffy has been leading the Straw Hat Pirates for years now as they look for the One Piece. The crew have encountered hundreds of foes and friends alike, and their journeys have taken them to dozens of islands.
If HBO can make Westeros manageable, then One Piece can do the same for the Grand Line and beyond. As far as One Piece’s battles go, Tomorrow Studios cannot afford to be stingy. Some members of Luffy’s crew will be difficult to bring to life, but folks like Zoro and Nami need to have involved character arcs to keep fans interested. And, if Luffy cannot go Gear First, then the live-action show better go ahead and give up.
If you thought the politics of Game of Thrones were intense, then you have never seen One Piece. The show may come off as a simple tale about piracy, but Oda has filled the story will much more than crow’s nests. Luffy may aim to become the Pirate King, but corruption and political deceit are the backbone of how One Piece operates.
Game of Thrones is interested in seeing the Iron Throne filled, but One Piece is ultimately concerned with who can find the One Piece. Luffy is just one of hundreds of pirates vying for the kingly gift, and he’s not the most powerful one. The World Government is overseen by Marines, a police force looking to take down pirates before they can gain too much control. If the Marines don’t get you, then you have the Yonko and Shichibukai to fear. Both groups are filled with immensely powerful pirates who will stop at nothing to keep the status quo in their favor.
When HBO made plans to adapt Game of Thrones, the books were popular, but not quite a phenomena. Since the show debuted, Martin’s books have sold over 60 million copies worldwide, but that is absolutely nothing when compared to One Piece. Oda’s beloved story has sold over 430 million copies worldwide, a number that puts it on Batman’s level. It is the highest-selling manga ever, and One Piece has the fandom to back it up.
Tomorrow Studios may be a western company, but it’s adaptation of One Piece will be scrutinized on a very global platform. The franchise has a massive fanbase that has a large variety of sexes, ages, and nationalities tied into it. Instead of whitewashing, the adaptation needs to embrace diversity with its casting. The eyes of the world will be on One Piece when it airs and interest will be high regardless; Tomorrow Studios needs to focus on getting its casting right, and it cannot afford to alienate the culture which made One Piece so famous in the first place.