It's already been 10 whole years since Luffy stormed Marineford?
Alex P here with a special one.
Whether you’re a One Piece fan or not, you’ve heard the legends surrounding The War At Marineford, and the influence it has had on the action genre as a whole. From high stakes, constant fights, and major appearances, to ... heart-wrenching deaths (with minimal filler to boot), this Arc has cemented its place in the Hall of Fame.
Let’s celebrate 10 years by diving deep and taking a closer look.
Impel Down — the big and momentous snowball that starts this season strongly — begins rolling in the season prior.
Impel Down is a maximum-security fortress where the World Government locks up the universe’s most threatening criminals. This structure recreates hell with dangerous layers that make it inescapable … or so we thought. It’s located in Paradise and has very close ties to Enies Lobby, so you KNOW you’re in for a good ride from the beginning.
After 35 episodes pass, Luffy befriends delinquents and does that thing where he manages the impossible by overcoming Impel Down’s wardens.
This is where the stakes start to rapidly increase.
Luffy’s fiery “Will of D” and overwhelming desire to save his brother from execution gives him the strength he needs to clear these initial obstacles. Then it gets trickier, because although we’re conditioned to believe that Luffy is an unstoppable force ...
… one after the other, Marineford introduces very powerful characters that Luffy hasn’t gotten to meet. Terms such as “Admirals,” “Warlords of the Sea,” and “Pirate Emperors” have constantly been thrown at us to create these powerful identities and build the world further; but until this point, we hadn’t seen them gathered in large quantities.
It’s here where we think to ourselves: “Can Luffy accomplish this? Is he capable?”
Doubting an anime protagonist is usually risky business. Though these moments have a different feel that makes you question everything you know.
Luckily, Luffy’s high charisma stat and similar convictions had netted him a few of his own powerful allies, like Pirate Emperor - Edward “Whitebeard” Newgate, Vice Admiral Garp, and Warlord Boa Hancock. One of my favorite quotes is when Mihawk references this charisma and says “that man possesses the most terrifying power.”
Whitebeard is a special case. He’s quite literally known as “The Strongest Man In The World” and his grand entrance provides some of the most thrilling moments within the arc because he’s the one ace (haha) … the ONE TRUMP CARD, that makes watchers believe the resistance can swing the outcome of the war. For an Arc to get a perfect 10/10 rating, I feel that it’s crucial that the outcome is ambiguous. It needs to pull you back and forth.
Yet it’s still safe to say that this behemoth wasn’t enough — approximately 152 bullets, 46 cannonball shots, and 267 sword wounds later, Whitebeard is finally brought down … but not literally, he dies standing. Despite all of it, his proud backside “never received a scar from running away.”
Then we’re brought to the war’s conclusion … the reality of what’s happening, and the hardest pill to swallow.
Admiral Akainu impales Ace with his magma fist technique, killing him in front of his younger brother Luffy. Every desperate leap Luffy took meant nothing in the grand scheme of it all because he failed to accomplish the one goal of saving his brother.
As fans we’re so baited by this whole sequence because Luffy’s persistent demeanor has muscled through every ounce of conflict until this point. Luffy himself had even been convinced that nothing bad can happen if he just doesn’t give up. Think about when he saved Robin from CP9 and Enies Lobby, there was never ever a doubt. Just optimism with a smile.
You can see the hope leave Luffy’s body before the boy turns to shambles. Every scream and blubbering tear released by this moment rattles your CORE. Heck, it was like my own brother had just died.
It’s a reality check that One Piece needed, to emphasize that being a pirate isn’t all fun and games. The Government's strict laws are constantly being broken, and in exchange … loss is inevitable. That notion is pounded into us over and over as corrupt Admiral Akainu preaches his personal idea of justice. This is the lesson you THINK is supposed to be taught. Instead, after emotional turmoil, Luffy’s takeaway is that it’s time to get stronger. Drastically stronger, so his loved ones and his crew are never put in a situation where they’d have to say goodbye ever again.
The largest source of character growth in all of One Piece is concentrated into this stretch of episodes. It’s a treat when you see a headstrong character with a lot of potential get so humbled.
Interestingly enough, the war concludes with an angry “Red-Haired” Shanks (who’s never angry) appearing and putting an end to the war. He leaves us with important questions to consider, questions that are applicable to the real world and its cycle of hatred:
How much of the fighting that took place was necessary?
Was bloodshed really the only answer to our differences in ideology?
Did Marineford make you cry? What's your favorite anime arc of all time? Let me know in the comments!
Alex Poehlman is a Features Writer for Crunchyroll. Want to talk One Piece? Follow him on Twitter!
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