It’s nothing new that any live-action adaptation of anything has drama surrounding it, but there’s something “special” about the discourse of a manga or anime being brought to the West. We’ve long lived in an era where adaptations have been a pipedream as in the early days of Hollywood they’d simply adapt something for the sake of its popularity, such was the case with Avatar: The Last Airbender or Dragonball Evolution. Those involved seem to have a surface-level understanding of the property and simply rushed out a product that doesn’t reflect the thing most of us grew up with.
Netflix hasn’t been that innocent either with their very Americanized Death Note and the recent Cowboy Bebop adaptation, which tried to take an existing property to create something a little more streamlined. Even the anime’s creator, Shinichiro Watanabe, openly spoke out about it was “clearly not Cowboy Bebop” due to a lack of involvement with the project. Even with the existence of actual good adaptations like Alita: Battle Angel, the Rurouni Kenshin movies, Blade of the Immortal, Speed Racer, and others, we still tend to hold on to that Dragonball Evolution comparison even to this day.
The sad thing is that this focus kind of develops this overall negativity surrounding any discourse. Projects are “dead on arrival” long before we’ve seen anything that actually gives us a good feeling of what exactly we can expect from an adaptation. The same has now happened with the One Piece series with the first look at the Straw Hat crew. We’ve seen a variety of reactions as while there’s a good positive surrounding it, there are also quite a few reactions focusing on some curious details.
The biggest may be the fact that Monkey D. Luffy, played by Inaki Godoy, does not wear his usual sandals but rather has shoes. Surprisingly no one has pointed out that Nami isn’t wearing her usual high-heels but the debate is if the sandals are a “must” for the character’s carefree attitude. Nami actress Emily Rudd even had to publicly point out that sandals aren’t safe for bringing the stunts to life, especially as they tried to do their own stunts throughout production.
It’s understandable that people are protective of projects they love, especially something that has been running for 25 years. Yet, the main focus has been on the entire project falling apart and being terrible due to Luffy not wearing sandals. This “Sandalgate” sadly generally reflects a discourse on how the Internet generally handles any live-action adaptations nowadays. In the era of The Last of Us, Marvel films, and so much more, we have gotten quite spoiled by what is and isn’t possible.
Yet, we see a lot of discourse of the most minute details as a “make or break” for any project. Moon Knight was highly discussed because it wasn’t “comic-accurate” enough but may be one of Marvel’s most diverse characters with a long history behind it. Even Thunderbolts are currently being scrutinized based on who is part of the team and we haven’t seen any footage of it so far. In the digital era, we have access to so much information that it also becomes a challenge to be part of the discourse.
It’s also a showcase of how often certain groups reflect the same talking points. The Last of Us is praised for recreating specific shots but also dragged down for an episode that takes a character in a new direction, even going as far as having it review-bombed to make a point. Even with the creator’s strong involvement, it’s not something people focus on as we work with what we get. We create content and reactions to be part of the discourse, which subsequently leads to repetition.
Luffy wearing shoes instead of sandals is sadly a strong reflection of that very discourse. In the end, it has no bearing on the quality of this series and serves a practical purpose. We know that live-action adaptations have to make changes due to the fact of it having real people involved, a different structure, and a media format to work with. To some degree, it feels like people want to be mad about something and don’t have a lot to go off from.
At this point, it sometimes feels like people want to be upset. To some degree, it’s understandable, as most experiences people have had with live-action adaptations of anime and manga haven’t been the greatest. It also involving Netflix adds to that very concern. So, no matter the quality of the show, the online discourse is very likely going to be a nightmare; something Marvel fans might be familiar with given how each project ends up being discussed. We don’t know if it’s going to be good, especially not going off of a poster alone.
It becomes even more depressing once you enter the discussion points surrounding Nami, who proclaim that she doesn’t “match Eiichiro Oda‘s original vision” given she doesn’t share the same body type as Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘s Jessica Rabbit. Not only is it an impossible standard to set but given Oda‘s heavy involvement, it creates a similar discourse like how people co-opt Stan Lee to reflect how they personally feel about whatever Marvel Studios is doing they don’t like.
We’re sadly not learning our lessons but continuing to fall down a deeper rabbit hole. Based on a poster, we have no idea how One Piece will turn out. Some will be more optimistic than others, but there’s a certain level where the discourse becomes absurd. Is it a shame that Luffy doesn’t have his sandals? Yes, but we don’t know if there are scenes where he might still have them on but don’t involve any action.
Even Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop fell victim to it due to the oversaturated reactions regarding Eden Perkins‘ performance as Edward or even just Daniella Pineda‘s take on Faye Valentine not being “revealing” enough like in the anime. The show had its faults but that is more in how it simply struggled to revive that unique spark that the anime offered us in our childhood back in 1998. It was less episodic and embraced the Bebop we know and love, but it wasn’t the cast.
John Cho was a great cast Spike Spiegel, even if an older take on the character. Mustafa Shakir gave us an iconic Jet Black on top of it all. Pineda had her moments to shine even if her character was a bit of a departure from the original. Cho gave a heartfelt statement on losing out on the show given he was heavily injured shooting the series and was forced to take a year off. In our discourse, we tend to forget real people are working on these projects.
Yet at the end of the day, we’ll always tend to jump the gun as fast as possible to be that trendsetter. Instant gratification can feel good and we get swept up by it all. Sadly, we don’t give chances like we used to, which creates a higher barrier of entry for any new project trying to establish itself. One Piece has a chance to do what The Last Of Us, Arcane, The Cuphead Show, and many more did for video game adaptations. But if we draw the line at sandals, we may have never deserved the projects we got.