Netflix Inc. is ordering a second season of the new Japanese pirate series One Piece after the live-action, comic-book-based show was the top-watched TV title worldwide for two straight weeks.
The eight-episode series, based on one of Japan’s biggest manga franchises, took the No. 1 spot on Netflix in the week after its Aug. 31 launch and has stayed there through mid-September, attracting 37.8 million views globally in its first 10 days.
One Piece is Japan’s top-selling comic book, with more than 500 million copies sold worldwide since 1997. The show has attracted huge support from fan communities of the manga created by Eiichiro Oda, with viewers generating memes on social media platforms such as X and TikTok.
The live-action adaptation marked a close collaboration between teams in the US and Japan, with creator Oda presiding over the cast and characters, according to Netflix executives. The company’s Japanese team ensured the production stuck to character narratives and nuances, while the US team worked on the storytelling. It was Oda’s decision to do the show in English.
“This was the first time where we had IP that really invited and required multiple perspectives and different creative teams,” Peter Friedlander, Netflix’s vice president of scripted series in the US and Canada, said in an interview. “We really partnered together across the time zones and across languages. We knew how important that was for the success of it.”
Netflix is aiming for a similar joint production with Season 2. It sees that cross-cultural playbook — with US teams helping to develop popular stories from other countries — working for projects beyond anime.
“It has expanded the possibility of live action not only in Japan but also in the world,” said Kaata Sakamoto, the company’s vice president for content in Japan.
One Piece follows the adventures of young pirates on an ocean journey to find a fabled treasure. An animated TV series based on the comics spans 1,000 episodes, and One Piece is expanding through PlayStation games, films and merchandise.
It remains to be seen if the show can deliver long-term viewership that matches other monster hits from Netflix, which recently changed its metrics. Season 4 of the fantasy series Stranger Things generated more than 1.8 billion hours viewed over three months, according to Netflix. One Piece has more than 280 million so far.
Although Netflix didn’t confirm plans beyond the next season, the company sees potential for longevity in the comic books’ many characters and story lines. Details for Season 2, including episode count, will be announced later, Netflix said in a statement.
“It’ll still take a while to get the scripts ready, so please be patient,” Oda said. “From here on, it seems to me the Straw Hats will need a great doctor…We will see!”
The business of anime, or Japanese cartoons, is growing faster outside Japan. Streaming services operated by Sony Group Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are also betting on the genre.
It took seven years to turn the 26-year-old manga characters of One Piece into a live-action series, according to company officials. The cross-border partnership between the two production teams wasn’t easy, especially during the Covid, Friedlander said.
Partnering with Tomorrow Studios, filming was scheduled originally in Cape Town in 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic. The cost per episode came to about $18 million, according to reports. The US and Japanese teams held Zoom meetings at odd hours to facilitate their cooperation and there was also a language barrier, Friedlander said, adding his team started learning Japanese.
“We are all on this adventure together,” Friedlander said. “We are sailing off for the next one.”