It’s hard to describe Netflix’s Live Action One Piece as anything less than something special. Having overcome many of the stigmas associated with live action anime through rigorous consultation with series creator Neiichiro Oda, the series even features the original anime cast reprising their roles for the Japanese dub.
We caught up with the legendary voice actors Mayumi Tanaka (Monkey D.Luffy), Kazuya Nakai (Roronoa Zoro), Akemi Okamura (Nami), Kappei Yamaguchi (Usopp) and Hiroaki Hirata (Sanji) about their experiences taking one of the longest ongoing anime and carrying that experience forward in the Netflix adaptation.
Of course, one of the biggest things to go between languages is pronunciation. It’s why scholars will continue to debate the correct pronunciation of things like Gurren Lagann’s Simon. According to Mayumi Tanaka, she opted to keep the Japanese-style pronunciation of Luffy’s signature moves.
“Because there’s a difference in language, Japanese and English. And even if it says gomu gomu in Japanese Inaki would say gum, gum. And I would say, add the words like no. So it had to fit when you listened to it in Japanese by and also preserving the English line reading”, she says.
Akemi Okamura also highlighted that it wasn’t just about reading a Japanese script- she also had to match her English counterparts performance.
“In anime, when your mouth is open, that’s when you breathe or that’s when you speak. But a you are voicing an actual person in this case. So they have their own way of breathing and you want to be in sync with that. And that’s a challenge. But it was a joy”, she says.
For Kazuya Nakai, however, he had a unique problem- MacKenyu brought a lot of his own charm to the role of Zoro, which means that Nakai had to treat the performance as that of a different character, based more around MacKenyu’s more stoic charm.
“At the beginning of the adventure, Zoro has a huge expression, big eyes, or he opens his mouth very wide. But Mackenyu’s Zoro is very cool and calm”, he says. “That was a new challenge to approach a different Zoro. But for me, in anime dub versions, you have your own ideas that you prioritize”.
For some of them, inspiration came from the actors themselves. Kappei Yamaguchi says he worked with Jacob Romero Gibson, who plays Usopp, to get his own performance right.
“It was like we were hand-in-hand with Jacob creating the character Usopp. And that wasn’t difficult. I think it was more joyful”, he says.
Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask them how the cast of the One Piece anime would have reacted when they first heard about the live action series.
“Nah, that’s [not] gonna be possible”, said Hiroaki Hirata.
“We were apprehensive”, Mayumi Tanaka added.
“I thought that was amazing. I mean, even trying to attempt to create this one piece world in live action…” , said Kappei Yamaguchi.
Hirata did, however, joke about having his sights set on being the Strawhats chef even in the Netflix version.
“It’s like, ‘I’m not gonna be able to speak English in time for the shoot!’ “, he laughs. “I was ready to be in it”.
Netflix’s One Piece is now available to stream on Netflix, with the Japanese dub being voiced by the original anime cast. Our thanks to Netflix for getting us time to chat with the voice cast, as well as the legendary voice actors themselves for taking the time to chat with us.