One Piece Episode 2: The Nature of Authority

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The first episode introduced audiences to the world of One Piece, where pirates roam the sea for fame and fortune – Gol D. Roger’s statements immediately before his execution drove innumerable men and women to the open ocean in search of an enormous treasure he purportedly accumulated and subsequently buried in a heretofore unknown location. Piracy became an appealing occupation to many people, allured by the notion of fabulous wealth left behind by one of the most notorious pirates in recent memory; this also presents a dichotomy between those who operate outside of the law (pirates) and those who enforce the law (the Marines), an ongoing rivalry that informs the interpersonal relationships throughout the series. This episode, the second in the series, explores some of that dynamic – it introduces the third major character (after Luffy and Nami), the bounty hunter and master sword-fighter Roronoa Zoro, a man who opposes injustice in the world and would intervene to prevent corrupt officials from flaunting their power against those they are supposed to represent. Here, his interactions with the arrogant son of an authoritarian Marine captain establish the scene – when Luffy arrives, he discovers Zoro tied to a crucifix, the result of him agreeing to be punished as such for a month in exchange for protecting a girl and her mother from persecution under the Marines’ legislation. This political dynamic shows how the Marines abuse their authority – the town’s leader, Captain Morgan, especially propagates such injustice against his own men and the townsfolk, all for the express purpose of presenting him as the authoritarian figure whose rule is absolute.



As a contrast, Luffy may be a bit straightforward with his motivations, but he does not expect Zorro to simply follow him uncritically – he has a natural inclination to oppose corruption, and this drive to punish cruel individuals ultimately leads to him directly confronting Morgan, questioning his authority and protecting those suffering under his barbarous rule as a Marine. He would put himself in harm’s way to defy corrupt leaders who would penalize people who dare to object to their whims and evil actions; those who supposedly uphold the law in the fashion displayed by Morgan frequently abuse it for their own personal gain, and they’re willing to administer disproportionate punishments to those who question their motives and desires. Luffy exemplifies the desire to punish those who exhibit such arrogance and immoral behavior – he would rather work outside of the law than promote such unequal treatment at the hands of tyrannical individuals who desire power and authority in order to push others around with seeming impunity. That illusion of superiority, based upon one’s station in life, convinces someone that they can behave any way they want, believing they will not be punished for maltreating others in various ways; Morgan certainly displays that sort of arrogance that motivates him to pressure his subordinates into obedience, under threat of swift retaliation.


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The flashback revealing the exact details of Zoro’s punishment underlines the issues of both Helmeppo and his father Morgan – Helmeppo specifically has no intentions of honoring his promise he made with Zoro to spare the citizens, instead deciding to execute the bounty hunter. He perceives himself to be above the very laws he is supposed to enforce; his arrogance stems from his assumption that the citizens will not object to his rule and successfully oppose him through insurrection. Morgan has no reservations about presenting himself as the ultimate authority – he will not hesitate to punish others when he considers them to be engaging in insubordination, and he perceives any sort of questioning of his authority as such. When his underlings attempt to erect a statue of himself on his headquarters, he makes it explicit that he will have no one undermining his authority in anyway, under risk of swift and malicious retribution for their perceived “crimes”; by contrast, Luffy can see right through that facade, recognizing corruption for what it is and placing his life on the line to act against such brutality. His desire to help Zoro shows his determination to oppose inequality – Zoro may be a bounty hunter, but Morgan exposes himself to be an autocratic ruler who cares not for those he considers “inferior”. Zoro also exhibits that noble sentiment in the flashback – despite being an outsider, he nevertheless stands up for the oppressed citizens who are frightened of Helmeppo and his conceited nature. At the same time, Morgan demonstrates that same sort of egotism – Helmeppo’s arrogance stems from his perception of invincibility, as his father rules the town with an iron fist, prohibiting anyone from speaking out for fear of violent retribution from a wrathful Marine.


Coby notices this, as well – such horrible behavior seen in Morgan and Helmeppo contradict his idealized image of the Marines, who ostensibly serve as arbiters of justice and virtuous models of moral fortitude. This discrepancy leads him to the conclusion that the Marines may not be as praiseworthy as initially imagined – corruption and vice entered the ranks, making someone like Morgan more motivated by a desire for power and control than for an advocacy for a decent moral compass. He would rather not promulgate such a reprehensible system that allows for someone like Morgan to achieve authority; however, he recognizes in Luffy the potential to reform society for the better, regardless of where they stand in the eyes of the law. Luffy acts in accordance with his own moral code, where he does not judge people according to preconceived notions – he accepts people for who they are, and if someone like Morgan oppresses people, he will do what he can to protect the innocent and dispense justice to those who engage in despicable behavior. His honorable behavior motivated Coby to do the same – he still desires to be a Marine, but one who would protect and serve the populace, rather than perpetuate the greed and egotism displayed by someone like Morgan.

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The episode concludes with Luffy repelling the rifle fire intended for Zoro, and reasserting his primary goal of becoming King of the Pirates; Morgan may see him as a threat to societal cohesion, but Luffy has no desire of upending society. A Marine officer is more of a danger than a pirate – with Morgan, he uses his position as a captain to prohibit people from achieving any substantial success, and he is threatened by someone who might undermine his authority through fighting him. Someone like him and Helmeppo are more concerned about losing their authority than acting like decent people; Morgan has no intentions of behaving according to good principles, because for him, might makes right, and if he has the power, he should be allowed to act however he want. With Luffy, he places friendship and inclusiveness above any petty concerns for power – although he plans to become the Pirate King, he would much rather use that authority for public good. This distinction between Luffy and Morgan underscores the series as a whole – the primary villains throughout One Piece all exhibit some sort of desire for power that clouds their judgment, and Luffy and his crew arrive to end their corruptive rule over their respective territories.

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