Since One Piece follows a group of pirates, the Straw Hat Pirates, the Marines are considered one of the main antagonists of the series. They are constantly chasing the Straw Hats and making life difficult for them. While the Straw Hats aren’t necessarily evil, they aren’t the epitome of goodness 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 notable results against the pirates are next to nothing. Of course, they’re not all bad. There are fan-favorite characters like Garp, Sengoku, and Koby in their ranks, but that does little to alleviate the organization’s poor image. Nevertheless, 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 the Marines’ coats. In summary, Marine justice comes down to giving criminals their due punishment, but One Piece has repeatedly shown that such a vague concept is left to interpretation. The main members of the Marines have their own conception of justice, and Smoker even encouraged Tashigi to create his version. This leaves room for the likes of Fujitora, who opposes legal but inhumane practices, and Garp, who does what he wants to do. On the other hand, it also allows characters like Rob Lucci to use it as a reason to commit heinous acts and stay at large.
Much of the Marines believe in absolute justice, which means that anything against the law is inexcusable and the guilty should be punished, even at the cost of civilian life. Fleet Admiral Sakazuki, or simply Akainu, is a notorious adept of this principle. He doesn’t let a single criminal go, even if it’s a child, which casts doubt on whether Marine justice is truly justice.
Just as the Marines have several interpretations of justice, so do the other factions. The Straw Hat Pirates, in particular, base their actions on Luffy’s moral compass. Regardless of what’s legal and what’s not, Luffy defeats anyone he deems evil. This includes celestial dragons, marines, and other pirates. He ignores any rule or definition of evil established by anyone else and follows his own code of ethics. Doflamingo takes a darker but realistic view of the matter; according to him, justice prevails simply because justice is that which remains standing.
With multiple viewpoints on the matter, it’s reasonable for fans to be confused as to what true justice may be. The series follows the Straw Hat Pirates, so it’s very likely that fans’ view of justice – when it comes to One Piece – leans in their favor. However, to understand what justice really is, it must be considered as a concept and not as a character or a group of characters. Justice is fundamentally about doing what is right. If the Straw Hat Pirates seems to fit that description, it doesn’t. After all, they’ve stolen plenty of treasure, sunk countless ships, and killed countless unnamed characters in the process – and they’re still chasing their dreams.
The concept of justice can be difficult to grasp because it can be interpreted in different ways. Although some interpretations make a lot of sense, they are not necessarily the norm. Ultimately, justice is about acting on what is right.