Showrunners Steven Maeda and Matt Owens had quite the challenge when adapting a series like One Piece. Not only is it quite unique with its more cartoon-inspired style, but generally adapting anime or manga is considered quite challenging. While there have been a few projects that did manage to pull it off, any adaptation from some of the bigger names hasn’t left the impression many would hope they would.
Tackling a series like One Piece was considered “unadaptable” due to the way Eiichiro Oda drew and wrote the series. It’s crazy to think after some of the earlier reactions to the teaser that the series actually has a strong critical reception across multiple platforms for its hopeful message and more optimistic outlook; especially in how it avoids being a very dark series. In an interview with IGN, Steven Maeda highlights that they wanted to make the series stand out with the “sunny and blue skies and open water” just to make sure “it felt good” watching the series.
That was a very conscious choice to have the show be fun and sunny and blue skies and open water and to have it feel good in addition to fun and thrilling, and a little traumatic at times when you get into some of those emotional moments and character backstories.Steven Maeda
He also talks about how it was quite a new experience adapting the iconic series in a live-action adaptation that isn’t just for younger audiences, but also teenagers and adults. Monkey D. Luffy’s story is definitely something that also can inspire anyone of every age, no matter if they know the series or not.
It was definitely a breath of fresh air to be putting something out that felt like it had a sunnier view. And the trick in that is to take that optimism and not have it seem treacly and separate. You don’t want it to just be for little kids. You want it to resonate with teens and with adults and people who fell in love with the manga or the anime. We want to bring all those fans in. And then we also want to rope in new fans who have no idea what One Piece is, which was another challenge to find that balance between the fans of the underlying material and new people who had never heard of it before.Steven Maeda
They also set one important rule: “embrace silly.” In an era where comic book adaptations try to either be super serious or keep everything as realistic as possible, having a show just being what it is makes it stand out. Not every show can have a pirate pillage a ship with glitter in her canons while the cannonballs have hearts painted on them.
As far as tone though, it was always: Let’s embrace silly. Let’s embrace the over-the-top nature of it. But at the same time, let’s try to make the emotion feel real and grounded. And then let’s take something like the Love Duck, which is, let’s face it, a big pirate ship that fires glittering cannonballs and has hearts on its sails, and could be absolutely ridiculous. But let’s take that ship and paint it and do all the things we need to do, build it, and then sand it down and make it look like it’s been at sea for 15 years, in order to try and at least bring some level of grit to what is otherwise a sunny and silly look.Steven Maeda
The only challenge they had was to ensure that even with all the fun, the set design and costumes needed to showcase that time passed. Some early criticisms of the teaser trailer where that it looked “too clean” which led to some statements of it being more like cosplay rather than the real world. Still, once we saw the entire series we got a better look at everything in context.