“Wealth, fame, power. Gold Roger, the King of the Pirates, attained everything this world has to offer. And so, many men head for the Grand Line to find the great treasure he left behind, the One Piece. The world has truly entered a Great Pirate Era! Wearing the straw hat sworn upon him by the great pirate, Shanks, Monkey D. Luffy heads out to the sea on a journey on the road to become King of the Pirates!“Eiichiro Oda
If you’ve talked to me in the past year, it is no surprise to you that I am taking every chance I can to talk about One Piece. For anyone who has also taken the nosedive into the series, it is also no surprise to you, familiar with me or not, that I am feverishly trying to talk about One Piece.
To all the others, then either “hello and welcome to all that is me!” or “oh boy, my condolences” are in order. Regardless of which one it is, I hope that I can at least entertain and inform if you do so dare to continue reading the mountain of words that this post will become.
And I hope this helps make it clear that there will be spoilers ahead, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I simply cannot convey to you how difficult of a choice this was for me. Unless you’ve experienced the series, you absolutely do not have a grasp on how many options I was spoiled with as far as examples of Luffy being a hero. And honestly, it doesn’t even stop at that. Luffy isn’t the only one who gets to be a hero, it’s baffling. The character work, the emotions, the struggles, the mysteries, the payoff… THE PAYOFF, DUDE. Yeah the series has been going for over twenty years, ample time for real quality content to get made, but buddy you gotta trust me when I say it doesn’t take twenty years to get to that point. The story arcs have been hit after hit after hit after hit and also Fishman Island is a thing and then HIT AND HIT AND HIT AND-
Sorry I should slam on the brakes before I go on forever, lemme get more on track.
For the sake of simplicity, and for anyone who isn’t familiar with this, it’s a story about pirates. Monkey D. Luffy set out at age seventeen on his journey to become King of the Pirates, and as any captain of a pirate crew does, he finds people to join his crew. From that idea alone, you get a real heavy “found family” thing going with the characters. There’s even multiple other crews where you get the same feeling, because yeah they may not be the main focus of the story, sure you may see them once every few hundred chapters, but they’re all living their own lives in this world too. They can also experience things that the main cast does.
This facilitates the world and the stakes. The relationships, the dynamics, they feel as real as the setting does. Without that, I’d be hard pressed to feel the emotions that pushed me to choose a moment from this series as a truly heroic moment. And while it took a lot of pondering to figure out what I wanted to pick, I feel no lack of confidence in my decision.
Allow me to introduce you to Dressrosa…
Dressrosa is a kingdom introduced post-timeskip in the story of One Piece. This scene is the first time seeing it for both us, the viewers, and for most of the cast featured. Anyone with eyes or ears can tell it’s based off of Spain, as its architecture, clothes, and music are all reminiscent of it, but it also has the extremely unique and strange concept of living toys making up part of its citizenry. Even if you know nothing of the story, the main characters’ reactions to these living toys is evidence enough to clue you in that hey, that’s whack.
Everyone on the surface likes to tell people that everything is fine, that they live in a nice and peaceful place. And to their credit, they certainly believe that. What they don’t know is everything going on in the shadows…
Donquixote Doflamingo. Not just one of the coolest names you’ve ever heard, but this dude is a manipulative, intimidating, unstoppable force of rage and pride. This damnable dictator, this repugnant ringleader, this blonde bastard is the ruler of the kingdom. Dressrosa sees him as a savior, a man who has done no wrong. Doflamingo stole this kingdom out of the hands of the family who ruled it for generations, a family who always put the people first. And with one well put plan, facilitated by the sheer amount of destructive power Doflamingo has (literally and figuratively at his fingertips), he changed the peoples’ perception of the king and they welcomed him in as their new leader once he “saved” them.
As for the toys that live in the kingdom, Doffy has been making that happen too. One of his crew members has the ability to turn people into toys that obey them against their will, and once they are turned into toys, the memories of that person are wiped from everyone’s minds but themselves. Forced to watch their families move on from within these husks, the toys are unable to speak out against this, either living out “new” lives or slaving away behind the scenes at whatever deeds are required of them.
Oh yeah and Doflamingo used to have slaves as a kid and killed his own dad and brother, but that isn’t important right now.
Anyway, listen. Luffy is an extremely active advocate that slavery is a no-no. And when I say ACTIVE advocate, I mean he has freed groups of people from slavery on like, four or five separate occasions. His whole deal with becoming King of the Pirates is not about wanting to rule over people, but instead to be the most free out of anyone in the world. Luffy believes and always believed that people deserve to have the freedom of choice throughout their lives unless your choice is to take that freedom away from others. So naturally, his arrival into Dressrosa spells out the end of Doflamingo’s reign. Luffy meets Rebecca, a member of the original royal family who ruled over the kingdom, and eventually she tells him of what life has been like for her ever since her family was ruined. Not just the deaths of those around her, but also the treatment she gets from the citizens because they were tricked into believing her family was evil all along. All of this just adds fuel to Luffy’s flame
Alright now that’s a lot of setup (and spoiling) that I’ve done. Oda always sets up a TON of moving pieces in his arcs, it’s astounding how many things he keeps track of and how it all comes together in the end. So I will do you the favor of skipping ahead to what all of this is culminating to.
The people catch wind of what’s happening when all the toys return to being human again and now the entire kingdom is against Doflamingo. And since they are not following him, he has no use for them anymore. He sets up his fallback, The Bird Cage.
The Bird Cage is a series of strings that surround the entire kingdom and begin slowly enclosing themselves around it. These are indestructible, razor-sharp tether lines that begin cutting through the ground and all the buildings and, after an hour has elapsed, will have reached the center of the kingdom, effectively killing everyone in it. So naturally, stakes are pretty high and all the people are hopeless.
And THIS makes up the setting of Luffy’s fight against Doffy. With the timer ticking down, Luffy vs a man who has never lost makes its debut. In total, Luffy fights Doffy for about twenty episodes, going off of what I remember. The likes of which is mostly broadcast to the citizens of Dressrosa and is JUST some pirate fighting an unstoppable force for THEIR sake. Luffy isn’t from this kingdom and he certainly doesn’t owe it anything, from the peoples’ point of view he has no reason to be fighting for them. Clearly, it’s a grueling fight that spans multiple episodes, really taking its toll on Luffy. In the end, in typical main character fashion, he triumphs over his opponent.
BUT WE’RE NOT DONE HERE YET FOLKS!
I can finally get to the moment this post was for. THAT’S RIGHT, I FOOLED YOU, IT WASN’T LUFFY’S FIGHT THAT WAS THE HEROIC MOMENT I WANTED TO HIGHLIGHT!
After all is said and done, the kingdom destroyed but its people safe, Luffy is still a pirate after all. The Navy has been after him for a long time at this point, and now is no different. Sent to arrest Luffy is a Navy Admiral going by the name of Fujitora, a blind man who has gravity powers.
Fujitora is one of those types of powerful characters who doesn’t need his eyes to see, and instead has a sort of truesight. Long ago, he was appalled and disgusted by what the world had to show him, and so instead of tolerate seeing what else would disgrace his eyes, he blinded himself. Even without his eyes, he can see injustices on both sides of the world, amongst the lawless and those who enforce the laws. He knows this, but still understands that a pirate, no matter the moral compass, condones lawlessness through their status alone. He knows Luffy saved the innocent people living here and put an end to Doflamingo’s reign, but still must bring him in. So, as Luffy runs from him, he gathers all loose debris possible and suspends it above his ship, ready to send it all crashing down on him, taking him out for good if he really can’t succeed in arresting him. And what follows is one of my favorite monologues, period.
The citizens, knowing that a man working for the government can’t knowingly put them all in harms way, rush out after Luffy, keeping Fujitora from sending all the gravity-suspended debris from falling on him.
It wasn’t some big sacrifice, it wasn’t one man taking on the world. It was a group of people coming together to do what they can to help. All they did was run in return for all of Luffy’s pain for their sake. And that’s all that was necessary.
Fujitora’s wish to truly meet Luffy is the cherry on top. I cannot fully convey the same kind of care and meaning behind these moments as experiencing the source material in its entirety would. I am merely giving you a portion of a view into the bigger picture, but doing so is making me hold back tears because this moment just reeaalllyy kills me.
I know I rambled. Potentially too much. But I hope the rambling helped to show why-