One Piece director shares Netflix's intentions for live action adaptation

Directors Marc Jobst and Emma Sullivan spoke to Yahoo UK about adapting Eiichiro Oda's iconic series

One Piece (Netflix)
Taz Skylar as Sanji, Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro,Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy, Emily Rudd as Nami, Jacob Romero as Usopp in One Piece (Netflix)

Netflix was keen for there to be "a purpose" to adapting One Piece that wasn't just making "loads of money" director Marc Jobst tells Yahoo UK.

The live-action series recreates Eiichiro Oda's iconic manga of the same name, which follows Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) and his quest to become King of the Pirates with the help of his new crew.

Oda's manga is one of the most popular series in history and has been going strong since 1997, with 106 volumes released so far.

Read more: One Piece review: Netflix live-action navigates choppy waters with surprising charm

Jobst, who directs the first two episodes of the Netflix series, explains that those behind the series felt there needed to be a reason for making the live-action other than doing it for the sake of it.

"We talked a lot about why we're doing a live action, because to me it was really important that we felt like we had a purpose," the director says.

"Not just that 'ohh, wouldn't it be great to do a live action version of One Piece? It's so popular we can make loads of money,' that wasn't enough for me, and I think for all of us really.

One Piece (Netflix)
One Piece (Netflix)

"So we felt like we could really add something to this, so that if you'd read the manga and you'd seen the anime you would get something new from the live action that you could take back, and that would add to your enjoyment of the manga and add to your enjoyment of the anime, and vice versa."

For Jobst, whose previous work includes Daredevil, The Punisher and The Witcher, this meant focusing in on the characters, their "hopes, wants, desires, ambitions, frailties, [and] pain", so that it grounded the series in reality, despite the sometimes outlandish nature of the plot.

Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro in One Piece (Netflix)
Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro in One Piece (Netflix)

"If you just try to replicate a two-dimensional world it just ends up feeling kind of like cosplay, because it has no truth to it," the director reflects.

Read more: Everything you need to know about One Piece

Steven Maeda and Matt Owens worked closely with Oda to make the series work in live-action, Jobst says, discussing the scripts with him at great length to condense the manga's plot into eight episodes whilst still being faithful to the work it was adapting.

"Sadly we've never actually met," the director says of Oda. "We were really hitting that hard Covid time, certainly in pre-production where we were still working on scripts.

Jacob Romero Gibson as Usopp, Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro, Emily Rudd as Nami, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy, Taz Skylar as Sanji in One Piece (Netflix)
Jacob Romero as Usopp, Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro, Emily Rudd as Nami, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy, Taz Skylar as Sanji in One Piece (Netflix)

"So we couldn't journey over to Japan or he couldn't come over to Los Angeles, and then once we got into South Africa [to shoot] again we got hit by Covid... so there's no way that we could again make that relationship work that way around.

"But we had a very close channel of communication through Netflix Japan and Shueisha [the publishers of One Piece]... he saw all the scripts and he saw the cast that we were interested in casting, and the sets, and the costumes, and by and large we would carry on until we heard from him."

Jobst continues: "It wasn't like he was constantly beating back, it was a much more constructive and trusting relationship than that, and it was just a huge support to us knowing that we had him as our source.

One Piece (Netflix)
One Piece (Netflix)

"He's the creator of this [story], to be able to go back to him all the time when you just wanted confirmation of something, either because we're gonna have to kind of shift this a little bit in order to make it work... or because we would say, 'this is what we wanna do", [we'd] take it in a slightly different direction [but] it's still very true to what we feel is the spirit."

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Emma Sullivan, who worked on episodes three and four of the Netflix show, adds that Oda was a helpful resource when it came to her episodes, as the manga creator gave insightful advice that helped elevate her vision for the storyline around Luffy and his crew's first meeting with Klahadore (Alexander Maniatis).

"Oda tells us what he wants really through the showrunners," the director says. "So when they're writing the scripts they're collaborating with him, and they're showing what they've done and he clears it there.

One Piece (Netflix)
Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy in One Piece (Netflix)

"And then I shoot those scripts and then he sees the cuts, so I didn't get to meet him, unfortunately in the flesh, but what happens is that once the edits were sent over he says things that he wants more of, or wants less of, and there were little adjustments.

"There was one scene that was a fight scene between Young Zoro and Quina, and he wanted us to reshoot it without kendo masks on, so we did it again and it was better. So we do what he tells us to do."

Sullivan adds that she and the creative team behind the live-action have hopes that fans of the original, and its anime adaptation, enjoy their take on Oda's story.

"I really hope the fans like it, they're really passionate and it's quite intimidating when you know how many there are," Sullivan jokes.

One Piece (Netflix)
Mackenyu as Roronoa Zoro, Emily Rudd as Nami, and Taz Skylar as Sanji in One Piece (Netflix)

"But I think the best thing is because we've got Oda-san on board hopefully they'll know that it's been through the highest authority, our source has said yes to it.

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"I just hope that the original fans will really like it and appreciate what we've done, and understand why the adaptation is as it is.

"But I also hope there are new people who just enjoy the ride and enjoy a fun world. It's a bit of sunshine, isn't it?"

One Piece is out on Netflix now.

Watch: Behind the scenes of Netflix's One Piece