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One Piece: The Best and Worst Changes Netflix Made in Its Live-Action Adaptation

From reducing Don Krieg's role to incorporating the Marines' storyline early

Kat Moon

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Netflix's One Piece. Read at your own risk!]

Netflix's One Piece live-action adaptation is here at last, which means we can finally talk about how it compares to the story from Eiichiro Oda. Of course, picking apart every single difference in this new series would be an impossible task. Instead, we are going to focus on the best and worst changes Netflix made from the iconic anime that first premiered in 1999 to suit the new series.

We are saying changes from the anime and not the manga because, full disclosure, I have only seen the anime. And to be transparent, I've seen the first five arcs of the East Blue Saga — up to where the live-action series adapts — and my comparisons are based on that. But it's important to note that the anime is an adaptation of the manga series written and illustrated by Oda, which was published in 1997, and is ongoing.

Oda has been heavily involved in the Netflix show's production, and has written that Netflix wouldn't launch the show "until [he's] satisfied." That is likely a huge reason that, even though there are more negative changes than positive ones to the live-action series, Netflix's One Piece is a solid telling of the Straw Hats' journey and one that undoubtedly captures the spirit of Oda's original work.

Positive: Adding more interactions between the Straw Hats 

Taz Skylar, Mackenyu, Iñaki Godoy, Emily Rudd, Jacob Romero Gibson, One Piece

Taz Skylar, Mackenyu, Iñaki Godoy, Emily Rudd, Jacob Romero Gibson, One Piece


Let's start with a positive change from the anime. The most notable one is that there were more scenes of the Straw Hats interacting with each other. That isn't to say that the anime didn't feature the main characters. But from the eight episodes of the live-action series, it felt like there were longer moments showing the Straw Hats' relationships and I absolutely loved it. One Piece fans already knew from teasers that the casting was a highlight of the adaptation, and the scenes focused on the Straw Hats are just gold. 

Take Sanji (Taz Skylar) meeting Nami (Emily Rudd) for the first time at Baratie. Yes, the anime also shows the chef being instantly struck by her beauty and turning into a heart-eyed simp — what else is new with Sanji? But this longer scene with him flirting with Nami, and the other Straw Hats' reacting to it, was pure comedy. "Apologies, madam, I didn't see you there," Sanji says as his entire demeanor changes. "Perhaps you'd like a glass of Umeshu. Something sweet for someone sweet?"

Nami's unimpressed response at his wink — "is something wrong with your eye?" — was delivered impeccably. And Zoro's (Mackenyu) interjection as he asks Sanji for beer adds to the humor but also begins to set up his and Nami's relationship — a dynamic we see more of, and earlier, in the live-action series. I loved the additional scene of a drinking game between the pair, where they guess things about each other and end up sharing perhaps more than they planned. Mackenyu and Rudd's chemistry is undeniable, and every scene between them is one to savor.

Watching the first few arcs of the anime, my biggest complaint was that the fights were too long — many episodes consisted of one long battle between characters. I longed for more interactions between the Straw Hats, so having more doses of drama amid the action in the live-action adaptation is a welcome change.

Negative: Reducing Don Krieg's role

I didn't want as much action in this show — and remember texting a friend about how dragged out Luffy's (Iñaki Godoy) fight against Don Krieg felt. But for Don Krieg to be nearly entirely erased in the adaptation? That was a loss. In the anime, Don Krieg was the main antagonist of Baratie Arc and his fight with Luffy, although long, was key in showing the protagonist's character. Besides, witnessing Luffy's undying resilience in this battle heavily influenced Sanji's decision to join the rubber boy's crew. Without the confrontation between Don Krieg and Luffy, both Luffy and Sanji's character development were lacking in this part of the story.

And while the One Piece anime often had too many villains within one arc, Don Krieg's right-hand man Ghin was definitely one of the most compelling. To not have him in the live-action adaptation also felt like a missed opportunity. In the anime, Ghin ended up helping Sanji and Luffy against his captain's direct order and played a key role in establishing the theme that there's no clear right or wrong. Thankfully, that motif is gradually established by other characters as the live-action adaptation progresses. But I do wish Ghin was included also because his fight with Sanji was the first time viewers saw the chef's deadly kicks. 

How the Mind-Blowing Sets From One Piece Were Made

Positive: Making Sanji and Chef Zeff's backstory darker

But there is a positive change in the live-action adaptation for Baratie Arc. Everyone knows that One Piece excels at backstories, and Sanji's past with Chef Zeff (Craig Fairbrass) is easily one of the most poignant. In the anime, kid Sanji and Zeff — known as pirate Red Leg Zeff before he became a restauranteur — narrowly escaped a shipwreck. In fact, Sanji only survived because Zeff jumped into the ocean to save him — the older man lost his leg in the process. The two of them were stranded on an island for months and quickly began to starve. 

The change in the live-action was that after reaching the island, Zeff gave Sanji all his food and the former pirate cut off his own leg and ate it to survive. This was actually taken from the One Piece manga, but had been changed in the anime seemingly to be more palatable to a broader audience. The live action made a bold choice in including cannibalism — it makes the series darker and adds an extra layer to why Sanji feels indebted to Zeff. Broadly speaking, the adaptation being less sanitized than the anime also makes it more realistic. There are more deaths, injuries, and serious consequences to the Straw Hats' actions.

But I have to ask, where was the scene of Sanji bowing on the ship floor when the Straw Hats were leaving Baratie? That was the first moment from the anime that had me bawling at 2 a.m. The live-action does have a goodbye between Sanji and Chef Zeff but it didn't pack the same emotional punch.

Negative: Incorporating the Marines' storyline early

Vincent Regan, Morgan Davies, Aidan Scott, One Piece

Vincent Regan, Morgan Davies, Aidan Scott, One Piece


Another change I did not love, and probably the biggest departure from the anime, was the incorporation of the Marines storyline — which does not appear until later in the anime. Garp (Vincent Regan) is at the forefront here, and is doggedly pursuing his grandson Luffy after Koby (Morgan Davies) and Helmeppo (Aidan Scott) have joined the force. It's not hard to imagine why Garp was introduced earlier: Through him we're able to see Luffy's resolve to be a pirate at a young age, and Garp also serves as a point of continuation across the eight episodes. But the scenes with him were the least compelling part of the live-action adaptation. It's even worse that there was no payoff to watching Garp's pursuit: When they finally have their confrontation in Episode 8, Garp reveals that he was just testing his grandson. What? This felt unsatisfying and made me wish that instead of following the Marines, we could have spent time with characters that were removed in the Netflix series — such as Hacchi. 

Negative: Shortening Arlong Park a bit too much

That brings us to the changes with Arlong Park arc. First, I was disappointed there is no underwater battle between the Fishmen and the Straw Hats — that is the main point of the Arlong Pirates, that they are stronger underwater! The result was that while Luffy and Arlong did have an epic showdown, Zoro and Sanji took a backseat — especially unfortunate for Sanji since he didn't have his fight with Ghin, either.

Another highlight of the Arlong Park arc in the anime was Nami stabbing Usopp (Jacob Romero Gibson) and the unknown of where her loyalty lay. That scene was not included, and also contributed to Arlong Park arc feeling rushed. Of course, a scene-by-scene recreation is impossible and not what I was expecting, but it was upsetting that some of the beats I most looked forward to did not make it into the adaptation.

With that said, thank goodness the iconic moment of Luffy giving Nami his straw hat — after he stopped her from continuing to cut into her arm to remove her Arlong Pirates tattoo — was featured. Their bond was very believable throughout the adaptation, and is another dynamic to watch if the show is renewed for a second season.

Netflix's One Piece is available to stream.