Manga to Live-Action: Navigating the Queer Characters of ‘One Piece’ on Netflix

“Netflix does the impossible,” declared one reviewer. The translation of manga and anime’s cartoon-world charm into the CGI-augmented reality of live-action film has proved a notoriously unforgiving task, as Netflix’s own failed interpretations of the charismatic cult-horror Death Note and the extra-terrestrial neo-Western Cowboy Bebop testify.

“One Piece” series. Capture from Netflix.

However, ignoring the maxim that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” with their characteristically chest-out bravado, Netflix has resolved to take on Eiichiro Oda’s beloved One Piece as their next doomed-from-the-sail manga project. Except, the results have blown all expectations out of the series’ pirate-infested waters.

Debuted in 1997 as a serial in the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine, One Piece takes place in an oceanic world of marines, pirates, and sea monsters, in which the death of the formidable Pirate King Gol D. Roger has triggered a search for the “One Piece”, his mythic bounty which promises to make of whomever finds it the next Pirate King. However, the dystopian World Government has meanwhile embarked on its own guerrilla mission to stomp the scourge of piracy out once-and-for-all, giving One Piece the omnipresent leverage of a Big Brother-esque mega-villain to contend with, should tensions ever start running dry.

“One Piece” series. Capture from Netflix.

SMART. QUEER SMART.

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