At first glance, the “Marineford Arc” of One Piece is just like the previous arc: a lot of fighting and running. However, everything about “Marineford” is done in a far superior way to “Impel Down”.
The scope of the battle at Marineford is huge, with dozens of characters both old and new, and while the structure of “Impel Down” was fairly straightforward (run to the bottom of the prison and then run back up), “Marineford” is full of twists and turns that kept me entranced throughout. There are a ton of “wow” moments, far too many to list, and these are expertly balanced with more intimate character beats that retain the show’s emotional core in the midst of all the action.
The star of the show is without a doubt Whitebeard, whom Oda has only really teased us with before. Whitebeard is one of the strongest characters in One Piece so far and seeing him unleash his full power is incredible. Whitebeard has long been mentioned as one of the most feared and respected pirates in the One Piece universe, and his characterization here makes it perfectly believable that he could command such loyalty from so many people.
On the opposite side of the battlefield is the Navy fleet admiral Sengoku, who has a much more demure role through most of the arc, but provides an apt foil to Whitebeard. While Whitebeard’s guiding philosophy is based around love for his “sons” and securing freedom and wellbeing for those he cares about, Sengoku is driven by an impersonal sense of justice and maintaining order in the world. The war at Marineford essentially serves as battle between their conflicting worldviews.
The true villain of the arc is the admiral Akainu. In contrast to Sengoku, he shows no respect for his enemies or even concern for the lives of his underlings. We aren’t given much insight into his motivations, but he seems far more driven by malice and hatred of pirates than any sense of justice, and he is fittingly vile for one of the major villains of One Piece‘s second half.
“Marineford” has a mixed reputation among One Piece fans, with many feeling it is overly long and drawn out, but I was gripped by it from start to finish and devoured the entire arc in only a few days. (The One Pace edit only covers the first 10 episodes, but even with the slower paced official edit, I was never bored.) The “Marineford Arc” is a wild ride and serves as a fittingly epic close to the first half of One Piece.
Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5