Investment groups says it has “bought the copyright” to the hit anime and manga franchise, plus cast Chinese idol singer in a key role.
Update: Anime News Network reports that Shueisha, Japanese publisher of the One Piece manga, has asserted that the announcement posted on Business Wire is false. Whether this development means the news of the Chinese-produced live-action One Piece was too good or too terrible to be true is up to you.
Thanks for the tip, Noor Fakhruzzaky!
A major part of the appeal of anime and manga franchise One Piece is the way would-be Pirate King Luffy and his comrades dauntlessly sail into the unknown. Now, they’re set to once again go someplace they’ve never been before: the world of live-action movies.
Shanghai Minghuan Investment has announced, through a press release hosted by Business Wire, that it has “bought the copyright of popular Japanese manga and TV anime One Piece from the manga artist and owner of One Piece Eiichiro Oda for 1.6 billion yen (US$15.1 million).” The agreement purportedly bestows the rights to develop live-action films, TV series, and other derivative products to the China-based company, with the first project to enter development being a theatrical feature.
Oda has created a massive cast of characters during the manga’s now nearly-two-decade (and still ongoing) serialization, so obviously not all of them will be along for this voyage. The producers say they’ve found their Luffy, however, in the form of Japanese actor Masataka Kubota. The 27-year-old Kanagawa native recently played Light Yagami in the 2015 live-action TV drama adaptation of anime/manga Death Note, and also topped a recent Japanese Internet poll asking fans who they’d like to see play Luffy if and when a One Piece movie was made.
The press release also says that the “heroine” will be played by Chinese vocalist Xie Leilei. A member of idol group GNZ48, Xie has been nicknamed “The Girl from One Piece” due to her resemblance to one of Oda’s characters, but still remains a very puzzling choice, since the character she’s said to look like is Charlotte Purin.
Yes, Charlotte Purin is a character in One Piece, but it’s a yoga master-level stretch to call her the heroine since she doesn’t show up until the manga’s 824th chapter. One Piece just reached Chapter 829, meaning that Purin has only been part of the story for about a month, so it’s surprising that she’d be on the short list of characters making the jump to live-action, let alone one of the first two cast.
While we’re on the subject of head-scratchers, the press release’s use of the phrase “bought the copyright” seems a bit suspect. Considering the immense popularity and sustained profitability of the One Piece franchise, it’s unlikely that its Japanese rights-holders would sell off their entire claim for a figure as low as US$15.1 million. There’s also the unusual referral to Oda as the “owner” of One Piece, when the legal ownership of anime and manga series tends to be a complex, many-pieced pie of original creators, publishers, and production committee members.
As such, it’s probably a little early to be lining up at your local cineplex for the One Piece movie’s opening night. At the very least, you’ll probably want to wait until a few more prominent cast members are announced (and if any of the producers are reading this, I know just the guy to play Chopper).
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