As One Piece follows a group of pirates, the Straw Hat Pirates, the Marines are considered one of the main antagonists in the series. They constantly chase the straw hats and make life difficult for them. While the Straw Hats are not necessarily evil, they are not the epitome of good either. They do what they want to do, good or bad, and save a lot of people along the way. This may have affected how fans view the concept of justice on the show.
It’s easy to hate the Marines in One Piece. After all, they are the main culprits behind Ace’s death, and their remarkable results against pirates are negligible. Of course, not all of them are bad. There are fan favorites like Garp, Sengoku, and Koby in their ranks, but that doesn’t do much to mitigate the organization’s bad image. However, this does not change the fact that the inhabitants of this pirate world consider them the embodiment of justice itself.
Justice plays a major role in the Marines. It’s even written on the back of Marine Corps coats. In short, maritime justice is due to criminals being given the appropriate punishment for them, but One Piece has shown time and time again that such an ambiguous concept is left to interpretation. Principal members of the Marine Corps have their own concept of justice, and Smoker has encouraged Tashigi to create his own version. This leaves room for the likes of Fujitora, who is against legal but inhumane practices, and Garp, who does whatever he pleases. On the other hand, it also allows characters like Rob Lucci to use it as a reason to commit heinous acts and remain at large.
Many Marines believe in absolute justice, which means that anything against the law is unforgivable and the guilty must be punished, even at the cost of civilian lives. Fleet Admiral Sakazuki, or simply Akeno, is known for his mastery of this principle. He doesn’t let a single criminal go, even if he’s a child, which casts doubt on whether maritime justice really is justice.
Just as the Marines have many interpretations of justice, so do other factions. The Straw Hat Pirates, in particular, base their actions on Luffy’s moral compass. No matter what’s legal and what’s illegal, Luffy defeats anyone he deems evil. This includes celestial dragons, marines, and other pirates. It ignores any rule or definition of evil made by anyone else and follows its own moral code. Doflamingo takes a darker but realistic look at the matter. According to him, justice prevails simply because it is justice that remains.
With multiple viewpoints on the matter, it’s reasonable for fans to be confused as to what real justice is. The series follows the Straw Hat Pirates, so it’s quite possible that fans’ view of justice – when it comes to One Piece – is tilting in their favour. However, to understand what justice really is, it must be considered as a concept and not as a personality or group of characters. Justice is basically about doing what is right. If the Straw Hat Pirates seem to fit that description, they don’t. After all, they’ve stolen so many treasures, sunk countless ships, and killed countless unnamed characters in the process – and they’re still chasing after their dreams.
The concept of justice can be difficult to understand because it can be interpreted in different ways. Although some interpretations make a lot of sense, they are not necessarily the norm. In the end, justice is about doing what is right.