Let's tackle the World Government, the Warlords, and the many, many pirates in Marineford with Daniel Barnes!
I love One Piece and I love talking to people who love One Piece. And with the series going on 23 years now, there is a whole lot to talk about. As the series is about to publish its 1000th chapter, a true feat in and of itself, we thought we should reflect upon the high-seas adventure and sit down with some notable names in the One Piece fan community and chat about the arcs they found to be especially important, or just ones they really, really liked.
Welcome to the next article in the series "My Favorite One Piece Arc!"
My next guest in this series is Daniel Barnes, writer for the Aggretsuko comic, and his original graphic novel The Black Mage. For my chat with him, he chose the Marineford arc, in which Luffy drops into a World Government headquarters in a desperate race against time to save his "brother" Ace from execution.
A note on spoilers: If you haven't seen the Marineford arc yet, this interview does contain major plot points. Watch the Marineford arc starting RIGHT HERE if you'd like to catch up or rewatch!
Dan Dockery: Let’s say that for some reason, I get to the end of Impel Down, just before Luffy & Co. drop into Marineford, and I’m like “I’m done. This is it. I can’t handle any more One Piece.” In one sentence, what do you tell me to keep me going?
Daniel Barnes: Why are you stopping before you reach the payoff of everything you’ve read so far?
I like that! How long have you been into One Piece?
When I first started consuming One Piece in earnest, ironically enough, I was in the Navy at the time. It was 2014, and up until that point, my only exposure had been the 4Kids dub on FoxBox.
Nice. I love a good FoxBox reference. Was it recommended to you? Because I know that, when a lot of people start One Piece, it’s like “FINE. I’ll watch One Piece. You’ve convinced me.”
I don’t consume anime as voraciously as I did back then. Back then, I was an anime vacuum, but I was also in this weird spot where I was semi-depressed. But someone told me, “You gotta try One Piece, it’s the best.” And my first reaction was “Umm, the art style’s kinda weird, though.” But they told me “You’ll get over it,” and the thing that made me finally take that leap was Gurren Lagann, which also had an unusual art style and then became one of my favorite things ever. So I figured I should at least give it a shot.
That’s something I’ve heard a few times. Because in other big series like Naruto and Bleach, the character designs are much more proportionate and straightforward. And I felt the same way...until I watched it, and realized the art style is PERFECT for what it is. So, Marineford is pretty much the halfway point of the series, with characters returning from all over the place. Were there any that you were excited to see come back?
There’s a few of them. I always love it when Mihawk shows up, but I think the big one is Whitebeard. Because up until this point, he’s just sitting around and you know he’s a big deal but you’re always wondering why he’s a big deal. And then you find out in Marineford. I enjoy seeing characters that are kind of defined as the “power ceiling” in an anime universe get to do stuff, and it was cool to see him make the entire world quake.
I think I called it in an article a “Be Quiet, The Parents Are Talking” character. You’ll go through Luffy getting new power-ups and increasingly strong villains and these seemingly insurmountable admirals with their elemental powers and then Whitebeard comes in, and he’s leaps and bounds above everyone. And like you said, for the most part, he’s just sitting down beforehand.
Yeah, he’s sitting down drinking a giant gourd of sake. His name is Whitebeard, but he doesn’t have a beard. Got a real Hulk Hogan vibe to him. Who is this guy? But then you finally see him after all this time, and that’s the magic of One Piece. You see all of these things over the years and you wonder what part they’ll play and then it finally hits you and their role and strength becomes clear.
Marineford, obviously, is all built around Ace. And what you get out of the arc probably depends on how much you enjoy Ace’s character. How did you feel about him? Did it make you emotional at all? I know he has the one scene with Garp where they talk about finding your purpose in life, and that really got to me, even though I’m not the biggest fan of Ace.
Okay, I think Ace looks cool and I think he has good powers, but I didn’t really care that much when he died. I didn’t really know him enough.
Were there any characters that you did get attached to or like a lot in Marineford? I know you said you liked Whitebeard and Mihawk, but who was your Marineford MVP? Who shines brightest among all those crazy diamonds?
Okay, so the cop-out answer is probably Luffy. He’s one of the weakest characters there and he manages to survive and he plays such a big role by rallying everyone despite being constantly outmatched. So, objectively, Luffy. But maybe I give it to Coby, because Coby stands his ground against Akainu. He gives you hope that maybe the Marines can change their ways one day and when he refuses to move in front of an Admiral, I thought that was a real stand-out, awesome moment.
So Ace dies, Whitebeard just wrecks Akainu and throws him into a pit, and then, out of nowhere, Blackbeard shows up. Whitebeard beats up Blackbeard and Blackbeard’s forces kill Whitebeard. What do you think about Blackbeard as a villain? Because he’s so unlikeable. He’s underhanded, he whines whenever he gets hurt, he’s super pompous. He has cool powers, but there’s nothing cool about who he is.
He’s super interesting, to me. He has a mystery around him with his two Devil Fruit powers, and he doesn’t really fit into any shonen villain stereotype. He’s an inverse of Luffy, but not in all of the super obvious ways. When you first see him in Jaya, you see him start with basically nothing, and you watch him work through the system and the powers that be, just like Luffy. They’re both trying to achieve the same thing and reach the same goal. But Blackbeard’s methods are different.
Yeah, Luffy will punch you in the face, while Blackbeard will stab you in the back.
And getting to see that evolution is great, because they easily could’ve just said, boom, here’s the next big bad guy and given him to you without context. But it’s like I said about One Piece earlier, where it shows you stuff over time and gets you to look forward to what will happen with it later. That’s Blackbeard’s whole appeal.
You talked earlier about Coby standing up to Akainu, ready to die for his beliefs. And then Shanks comes and stops the war. How did you feel about that? Because we’re all still waiting to see what his deal is (which as you said is a big part of the continuing appeal of One Piece,) but were you hyped to see him show up?
I thought it was cool, because One Piece has done a good job of establishing him as an awesome guy. He’s a lot like Zero from Mega Man X, where he shows up at the beginning, they imply how powerful he is, they make the main character want to be as strong as him, and then they take him away and only show him sparingly. So whenever Shanks drops by, he's been handled so well that you’re just on the edge of your seat wondering what he’s gonna do.
So, after the war is over, Jimbei has to remind Luffy that he still has things worth fighting for. And then, the timeskip. Were you aware that a timeskip was coming?
Oh yeah. It’s kind of hard to exist on social media and not get a bunch of these little hints about what’s gonna happen. But that was my goal with One Piece for a little while: I’m gonna get to the timeskip. I have to get there. It’s coming, I know it’s coming, I don’t know when it’s coming, but I just have to reach it.
There are so many big moments in this arc, but looking back at it, are there any moments that stand out as prime One Piece to you?
The obvious one, for me, is when Luffy goes Third Gear and punches the giant out of the way. That’s so cool and such quintessential One Piece. A giant on an arena made of ice and a rubbery kid inflates his fist to make it huge and knocks him around. It’s so weird and it works.
ONE PIECE LIGHTNING ROUND!
Favorite One Piece character?
Favorite One Piece villain?
Favorite One Piece arc?
Which Devil Fruit would you eat if you had the choice?
Bellamy’s Spring Spring fruit.
If you had to live on any island in the One Piece universe, which would you choose?
Does the Gran Tesoro from the Film: Gold movie count? That one’s pretty dope.
Favorite One Piece fight?
Luffy vs Blueno, when he first reveals the Second Gear.
One Piece moment that made you cry the hardest?
When the Franky Gang beats up Usopp and Nami finds him and Usopp is like “I’m useless. I can’t do anything.” Whenever Usopp gets beaten up, his nose gets all crooked and he loses teeth. There’s so many cartoon-ey visual indicators for Usopp in pain. It got me.
One Piece moment that made you cheer the loudest?
When Luffy punches the Celestial Dragon in the face. It’s so cathartic.
Stay tuned for the next installment of "My Favorite One Piece Arc" as we speak with One Piece Podcast Co-Host and storyboard artist Steve Yurko about his favorite One Piece arc: Baratie!!
Daniel Dockery is a Senior Staff Writer for Crunchyroll. Follow him on Twitter!
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