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Aurora’s One Piece song nods to anime tradition and pays off big in the Netflix show

‘My Sails Are Set’ debuts ahead of the Aug. 31 series premiere

Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

No anime is complete without a character song or an episode-closing bop — One Piece included. Between over 1,000 episodes and a handful of movies, the animation adaptations of Eiichiro Oda’s manga have spawned over 50 singles over the years. So when it came time to write music for Netflix’s live-action take on One Piece, composers Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli (who previously composed for The Witcher and wrote “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher”) knew they had to whip up at least one total banger, even if no one asked them to.

“Being fans of the anime ourselves, we knew that we had to have a song in the show,” Belousova tells Polygon. “And as soon as we watched episode 7, literally, a song was born on the spot.”

That song is “My Sails Are Set,” released on Friday in anticipation of the One Piece’s Aug. 31 premiere on Netflix. Performed by Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora, the ballad rocks out to a tune viewers will soon recognize as the theme to one of One Piece’s core characters: Nami. Played by actor Emily Rudd in the series, Nami is a thief who sails One Piece’s fantasy seas in search of pirate treasure before meeting the show’s hero, Monkey D. Luffy, who hopes she’ll settle down and join his pirate crew. Episode 7 struck a particular chord with Belousova because Nami’s mysterious motivations represent the “emotional arc of the season” and the penultimate episode of season 1… remains faithful to the manga. No spoilers for the uninitiated.

Unlike most television composers who might be handed picture-locked episodes to pepper with bits of underscore, showrunners Matt Owens and Steven Maeda tasked Belousova and Ostinelli with composing a world’s worth of sounds that could be in constant conversation depending on which eccentric characters or pirate-y locations were in play at any given moment. That meant that by the time the musical duo watched cuts of the series episodes, Nami’s theme, a flute motif with enough roar to match her rebellious nature, was already in play. That meant, unlike “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” which the duo set up in the score in the beginning of an episode and paid off 40 minutes later, “My Sails Are Set” could be the culmination of an entire season’s worth of musical ideas. That doesn’t mean the song didn’t burst out of Belousova when she finally saw the perfect place for it in Nami’s arc.

“It was born in like five minutes,” she says. “I just sat down at the piano, because we already had the theme, I played it, I sang some gibberish lyrics in the moment, I recorded on my phone, and done — in 30 seconds!”

Belousova, whose social media is littered with videos of her raining down fury upon pianos that leave little doubt of her ability to rattle off a pop tune in half a minute, eventually cut a proper demo, got a big gum-gum thumbs up from Owens and Maeda, then set out to find the right vocalist to externalize Nami’s journey. The composer says Aurora was the obvious pick.

“She has so much spirit and so much freedom,” Belousova says. “And her expression and energy… she’s able to go really small and really fragile while really highlighting an emotional component of her vocal performance.” Maybe most importantly: Aurora made her cry. Hard to beat that.

While Netflix has released the song in advance of the series’ debut, Belousova is excited for One Piece fans to hear it threaded into the fabric of the episode.

“Usually songs function as needle drops — it’s very rare for songs to have actually any sort of musical connection to the rest of the score,” she says. “But [One Piece] was just asking for it. We’re so glad that the whole team felt exactly the same way and got on board immediately and got so excited because we were really excited. I mean, we’re still so excited.”

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