The Pitch: In the fantasy world of One Piece, pirates are a commonplace scourge on the high seas. And the young and eager Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) has a dream — to become king of the pirates. It’s a dream he believes will come true if he can track down the legendary One Piece, an infamous treasure left behind by the last pirate king.
Of course, a pirate needs not just a pirate ship but a crew, and Luffy’s fully committed to the cause of recruitment, first enlisting swordmaster Zoro (Mackenyu) and master thief Nami (Emily Rudd) — neither of whom want to be pirates or be on a pirate crew, but find themselves drawn in by Luffy’s confidence, especially after they successfully steal a map that could lead them to the aforementioned ultimate bounty.
While Luffy’s the nice kind of pirate, there are plenty of other pirates (with very high bounties on their heads) who are not so nice, and Luffy and his new friends have a real knack for stumbling across them. They’re also being hunted by the Marines, the sole force of law enforcement in this otherwise lawless world, as well as their respective pasts…
A Pirate’s Life for Them: People have been telling stories about pirates on screen for nearly as long as they’ve been telling stories of any kind on screen, starting with D.W. Griffith’s short film The Pirate’s Gold in 1908, and continuing forward through the silent era into sound. Dozens of pirate movies were made during the 20th century, including multiple adaptations of The Black Corsair and Treasure Island (with and without Muppets).
Since the 1995 disaster Cutthroat Island (Geena Davis innocent), though, the genre’s hit a downturn interest-wise, outside of the Pirates of the Caribbean films… and the One Piece animated series and movie spin-offs. Based on the epic manga series created by Eiichiro Oda, there have been 15 One Piece movies in addition to the 20-season/1,073-episode anime series, and in Netflix’s live-action adaptation, you can feel the weight of that vast media empire at the edges of the frame.
To the show’s credit, though, it’s careful about just how much information to throw at the viewer. Establishing (with narration by Ian McShane!) that this is a pirate story is a great place to start; most people have seen at least one Pirates of the Caribbean movie, after all. The first episode also establishes the legend of the One Piece and that Luffy, following his consumption of a “demon fruit” as a child, has stretchy superpowers similar to Mr. Fantastic or Mr. Incredible. All that, plus introducing a decent percentage of the show’s primary characters, is more than enough for a pilot.