Yesterday I realized that I hadn’t seen the latest One Piece movie, Stampede, yet. Obviously I ended up watching it today and although I thought it was one of the less interesting One Piece movies, it did get me thinking about something. During this movie we see both Akainu and Sengoku get a little bit of screentime, and I realized something important about the two characters. In this piece I want to look at both characters separately, their idea of justice and how the shift from one to the other is important for the eventual conclusion of One Piece.
Even though the marines have been established as antagonistic towards our main crew, there have always been exceptions. Going off the top of my head, Coby, Smoker, Garp and even characters before the start of the story, like Saul in Robin’s backstory, have often been either hesitant to do what the top brass does, or have flat out rejected it. Sengoku as a fleet admiral has been portrayed as a kind man. He cares about his employees and his employees respect him. People like Garp and Tsuyu are close to Sengoku and when Shanks stopped the war he was quick to agree. Sengoku is not a very complex character from the readers’ perspective. He gets the job done and believes that what he is doing is just. He cares about his subordinates though, and that is why he would not make a good “final boss” for the marines.
Akainu on the other hand is a very different person. His absolute justice means that he does not hesitate to use extreme measures to crush the opposition. He is willing to kill Coby during the war and was going to try and kill every pirate in Marineford if he had the chance. Obviously it is not strange for a marine to want to kill pirates, that is a big part of their existence. But Akainu is not a good guy. Akainu is a villain. He may be on the side of justice, but his idea of justice is warped. Even his own subordinates realize this and are scared of him. His absolute justice is something to be scared of, and he will most certainly be a wall for Luffy to overcome.
If Akainu had not replaced Sengoku, then the leader of the marines would still be a good man. A good person who wants peace for the citizens that are his responsibility. Personally I have suspicions that there will be a clash between the strawhats and the marines, and who would be a better foil for Luffy than the man who killed his brother. Not the kindly old buddha but the brutal hateful man made of magma. In hindsight the transfer of power that happened after the marineford war was a great way for Oda to indirectly turn the marines from an organization of good guys with some very questionable acts and people into a warmongering fist of absolute justice that lost sight of the people they were supposed to protect.
I am simplifying some things here as Sengoku and Akainu are both complex characters. If I am not mistaken the former was in charge of the marines at the time of the buster call on Ohara, as well as allowing lots of questionable acts from both marines and celestial nobles, but I do believe that fighting the big bad marines would have felt unsatisfying with Sengoku at the reign. I am looking forward to the possibility of Luffy and the gang clashing with the marines, but with Oda’s brilliant writing you never know what the final stretch of the story will look like. Maybe Blackbeard and Aokiji will be the ones to take out the marines while Luffy is still in Wano. Anything is possible with this manga.