ONE PIECE: The King of Extremely Punch-able Villains
So, I've watched How Oda Writes Great Villains by Mr. Morj. It was a great analysis on why ONE PIECE villains work so well. One thing he said is something I noticed early on and loved so much, not only in ONE PIECE but Dragon Ball before it as well:
One Piece Villains are totally unsympathetic! By the climax of each villain's arc, you as a reader/watcher, want nothing more than punching the villain in face!
Mr. Morj in the linked video, said a lot of things better than I can say them, so I'll put the video below then add my comments to it. If you're new to One Piece there are spoilers in the video so you can skip it as my comments on the video are standalone.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW:
It's interesting that ONE PIECE doesn't only make their main villain as unsympathetic as possible, it does it for the minor ones too. The first three characters in my "List of villains I want to see punched in the face" are all from ONE PIECE and all of them got their beating in the story:
Saint Charlos! (God! That was amazing punch!)
Orochi Kurozumi (The Shogon of the current Wano arc.)
Spandam (Can't believe there are two people more hateable than this guy!)
Hody Jones (Even if his plan succeeded he wouldn't survive in the next step. I feel sorry for him.)
Donquixote Doflamingo (As much as I like him, I really wanted Luffy to destroy him!)
Finally Bellamy isn't on this Top List but I can't say that punch wasn't Satisfying!
Arlong: The Best Example from Early ONE PIECE
Arlong is one of my favorite examples, because he is not totally evil like all the villains that came before him, (and most after him.) Arlong cares for his men, unlike any person Luffy fought before. You can see that in his actions as even when he sees his men as inferior, he's enraged when they're hurt. Arlong character becomes more complex in retrospect when we meet other fishmen.
But in the context of his arc early in the series, Arlong is totally unsympathetic! He sees humans as nothing more than trash. He conquers a village in the weakest sea and demands money to let them live. He enslaves a girl for eight years and lies about his promise to her to free her in the end.
Even if you see Arlong's point of view, you still can't forgive him and that makes you cheer for Luffy even more when the fight eventually happens. Arlong is the best villain in East Blue Saga! The formula Oda used to write him, is used, refined, deconstructed and subverted in almost every villain after him!
Frieza: Best Dragon Ball Z Example
One Piece isn't the only series that succeeds with only completely black characters. The best example I can think of from other works is Dragon Ball's Freeza! (By the way, there's no 'i' in his name.) He's an evil ruler of the galaxy who's so evil that destroying planets is an everyday occurrence to him!
Some characters later in the series destroy planets because they are supposed to, unlike Freeza who's doing it because he enjoys showing superiority.
Freeza is a type of villain you would hate even before seeing him, and watching him beat all Goku's friends, making you want to see beaten at any cost.
The Villains you Love to Hate
One Piece and DBZ villains are the type you love for their role in the story, because they do their villainy so well, but you absolutely hate them as a people. That's why Doflamingo is one of my favorite characters of all time, despite being utterly morally wrong! He's so good at doing bad things that you can't help but admire his cunning and stubbornness.
By the way, this way of writing villains is the opposite of one used in Naruto's Mange & Anime, where almost every enemy has a legitimate cause to fight for. Hunter x Hunter does things differently too, because it gives you morally deprived villains then give them enough humanization that you can't help but connect with them.
In the end I want to add that ONE PIECE does have morally grey villains. Sometimes even good characters who play the antagonist role to the heroes at many points in the series. The vast majority of the main villains are unsympathetic, however.If you like stories in which villains have no sympathetic side, ONE PIECE is your best bet. I advice you to at least watch a few arcs of the anime before dropping it.
What do you think?
This article was first published on Hive Blockchain (Oct 2020.)
Images from One Piece and Dragon Ball Manga/Anime are used according to the Fair-use doctrine. I don't own any of the images in this post.
One Piece has the most creatively designed villains in animated medium, that's what I observed so far. Very good analysis you have here bro.