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The Crucial Show for Netflix: One Piece’s Impact and the Challenges of Adapting Dragon Ball


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One Piece: A Crucial Show for Netflix

In 2017, Weekly Shonen Jump magazine announced that One Piece, a popular manga series, would be adapted into a live-action television series as part of its 20th anniversary celebration. The production of this series was taken seriously and received a substantial budget, with Netflix taking charge in 2020. The final result is set to be revealed in just a few days. If the series succeeds, it could pave the way for Netflix to adapt more live-action anime shows, including the highly acclaimed Dragon Ball.

The Challenges of Adapting Dragon Ball into a Live-Action Show

When discussing the idea of adapting Dragon Ball into a live-action series, the infamous failure of the film Dragon Ball Evolution comes to mind. This film, which completely missed the mark in terms of staying true to the source material, became a symbol of the belief that anime cannot be properly adapted by Western studios. This curse seemed to continue when Netflix’s adaptations of Death Note and Cowboy Bebop also failed to meet audience expectations. These two productions had relatively “realistic” source material compared to the colorful and power-driven world of Dragon Ball and Naruto. These prior disappointments create doubt among One Piece fans about the upcoming Netflix show.

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Unlike Dragon Ball Evolution, which claimed involvement from Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, Netflix has made it known that Eiichiro Oda, the original mangaka of One Piece, has heavily invested in the project. Oda has repeatedly spoken about the adaptation in interviews, hinted at it before chapters, and even shared a letter on the walls of the Japanese subway. This serves to reassure fans that the adaptation will remain true to the original work by having the direct blessing of the mangaka. Netflix is determined to learn from past mistakes and increase the chances of One Piece being a successful adaptation. The series is set to premiere on August 31.

The Temptation and Risks of a Dragon Ball Live-Action Adaptation

If the One Piece series, and potentially the later adaptation of Yu Yu Hakusho, achieve great success, Netflix could use it as evidence that their teams are capable of properly adapting shonen nekketsu, a style of manga known for its initiation stories and epic fights, into live-action format. This success would encourage Netflix to break the curse surrounding Dragon Ball and produce a new adaptation that can make fans forget the disappointment of Dragon Ball Evolution. The Dragon Ball franchise remains popular and profitable despite the original manga ending in 1995 and no current anime airing.

However, adapting Dragon Ball into a live-action format presents significant challenges. As demonstrated by Dragon Ball Evolution, the universe of Dragon Ball is difficult to translate into our reality, as its distinctive manga codes and elements do not easily align with live-action expectations. An example is Son Goku’s iconic and unconventional hairstyle, which might work on paper but appears unrealistic in real life. Additionally, to capture the essence of Dragon Ball, the production will need to deliver exceptional special effects to showcase the power of the fights, which are a primary strength of the original manga. However, it remains uncertain whether these effects can be as convincing and impactful as in the anime format. The reception of the One Piece series in the coming days will play a significant role in determining the feasibility and potential success of a Dragon Ball live-action adaptation.

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