Netflix announced this week that it ordered a second season of One Piece, a show based on one of Japan’s most beloved graphic novel franchises, after it became the most-watched show worldwide for two straight weeks.
This is potentially great news for South Africa’s film industry, as One Piece was not only filmed at Cape Town Film Studios but also extensively used local actors, stunt performers, and production crew.
One Piece is Japan’s best-selling graphic novel — or manga — with over 500 million copies sold worldwide since 1997.
It is also a wildly successful Japanese animated series (anime), which has run for 20 seasons since 1999. The current season is on its 184th episode, which aired last week. The anime spans over 1,000 episodes in total.
Live-action remakes of beloved animated shows and films have had a rocky history. Netflix and Disney’s various attempts have been met with mixed reviews.
One Piece broke the so-called “live-action curse” and has received praise from critics and fans alike.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 85% of 55 critics gave the series a positive review, and its average audience score is 95%.
Its summary of the critical consensus is: “One Piece captures the essence of its beloved source material with a charmingly big-hearted adaptation that should entertain longtime fans as well as patient newcomers.”
Overall, One Piece accumulated over 280 million hours watched by 37.8 million viewers in less than two weeks of its release.
Netflix has said that One Piece was its biggest-ever production in Africa, spending over $48.7 million (R897 million) on local suppliers.
This is according to Netflix’s socio-economic impact report for South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. Currency conversions between US dollar and rand were done in April 2023.
Netflix said it used 625 local suppliers, mostly small, medium, and micro enterprises.
It estimated that One Piece created 1,000 full-time equivalent jobs in South Africa, of which 27% were women.
Looking through the show’s credits, it is apparent that South Africans were instrumental throughout the production.
Although the show is based on a Japanese manga and may not have been written and directed by South Africans, it featured dozens of South African actors, stunt performers, crew, and post-production services.
Several South African actors have recurring roles in the show. To avoid any spoilers, only the actor’s name is listed, not the character they play.
Recurring roles: Aidan Scott, Langley Kirkwood, Kathleen Stephens, Armand Aucamp, Ntlanhla Morgan Kutu, Laudo Liebenberg (also of aKING fame), Celeste Loots, Alexander Maniatis, Bianca Oosthuizen, Albert Pretorius, Jandre le Roux, Brett Williams, Steven John Ward, Len-Barry Simons, Chioma Antoinette Umeala, Kylie Ashfield, Grant Ross, and Rory Acton Burnell.
One Piece was created by Eiichiro Oda, and fans credit the live-action remake’s success to the fact that he was deeply involved with the production.
Netflix executives said the live-action adaptation was a close collaboration between teams in the US and Japan, with Oda presiding over the cast and characters.
Its 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,” said Peter Friedlander, Netflix vice president of scripted series in the US and Canada.
“We really partnered together across the time zones and across languages. We knew how important that was for the success of it.”
Netflix hopes to execute a similar joint production with the second season.
The company also sees this 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, Netflix’s vice president for content in Japan.
Although Netflix didn’t confirm plans beyond the next season, the company sees potential for longevity in the manga’s many characters and storylines.
Netflix said details for Season 2, including episode count, will be announced later.
“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!”