One Piece is one hell of a show. It’s a shonen manga with lots of fighting, a “fight harder” mentality to get through any trouble, sprinkled with up-beat humour and colourful characters. It goes beyond the call of duty of normal shows by incorporating some hard hitting themes in each arc; betrayal, greed, slavery, racism and abandonment are to name a few.
But one of my favourite themes which continues throughout all the sagas is Justice.
The most common archetype of Marine/Pirate affairs are, Pirates do bad things and Marines catch them to maintain the peace. In One Piece this is true with many pirate crews committing some atrocious crimes like Arlong’s crew, but where do the Straw Hats stand on this?
They almost never commit any crimes and most arcs revolve around them dealing their own personal justice for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It doesn’t matter if they are Pirates or Marines, Luffy’s crew will show you retribution for wronging innocent people.
This puts me in a conundrum when it comes to a face off between the Straw Hats and the Marines. In one sense I have never seen the Straw Hats do anything serious that would warrant such aggression from the arm enforcement (apart from that time when they broke into the World Government HQ, but that was to rescue Robin so that’s ok by me). But as a Human being living in the real world where I place all my security in the police, army and the government, I would have to side with the Marines on a personal stand point.
This was especially tricky during the Battle at Marineford. I was rooting for the pirates since they were the protagonists but also for the Marines due to my grounded reality. (Also I’m sure Ace did something bad along the way as a Pirate. As a child he did steal an awful amount and hide it in a tree).
What I like about One Piece is that it doesn’t make the situation at all black and white. The named pirates that are considered Luffy’s allies are charming, have good character designs and are likeable. This makes it easier for us to root for them when the time comes.
But the Marines have been shown to be glorified pirates just sailing under the right flag. They are sometimes depicted as blood thirsty and greedy as the pirates they catch and apart from a select few like Smoker and Tagashi; the rest of them are morally doing wrong but under the flag of good. They hire the strongest pirates and grant them free reign just so the Marines can stay in power, something about that makes you wonder about their integrity.
The three Admirals are the perfect example of this grey area the Marines fall into. All of them have strong character designs and have cool powers too. But at Marineford we are not supposed to support them since they are preventing Ace from being rescued. We have seen Kuzan (Aojiki) show his sympathy in the past and Kizaru kicked some ass at Sabaody Archipelago. It was just Akainu that everyone seems to hate. Well Ok he did kill Ace and wound Luffy something fierce.
But, to me Akainu is not as bad as some of the pirates Luffy has faced. I would even consider him a good guy actually. He fights for what he believes him and as a upstanding citizen I can respect and support that. And I’m pretty sure he would never side with any pirate regardless of what One Piece Pirate Warriors 2 says.
This is what makes One Piece one of my favourite shows. I can consider it a show I can turn my brain off and enjoy the nice colours and flashy fight scenes. But I can also get really invested in the inner politics and intricacies of the show. It’s something I can talk to my friends about and learn more about their own personal beliefs on the matter.