You cannot talk about a story, without talking about the underlying moral message that story is built upon. This goes for any major piece of literature, theater or cinematography. And One Piece, with its complex web of characters and ideologies, is no exception to this. One of the central moral themes, that is thoroughly explored in One Piece is justice.
It is a golden thread that spans throughout the entire story. What does it mean to be just? What rules does it imply? And who decides what these rules are? We explore these questions through the characters we encounter throughout the story and even more so through the actions that these characters then take based on their distinct believes.
We follow a main character that despite being a pirate often acts a lot more justly than many of the supposedly good marines. And with the revolutionary army, Oda has even introduced an entity into the story, that openly opposes an idea of Justice under which large parts of the world are suffering. However, in no other context, is the concept of justice explored as openly and distinctly as within the ranks of the marine admirals.
Each admiral has a unique perspective and take on what justice means for them. And as a consequence, each admiral impacts the story in very different ways. In this series, we will take a closer look at the four marine admirals that we know off so far and explore together, what their different ideas of justice truly mean and how they express themselves in the context of One Piece.
And what better candidate to start with than the coolest of the four. Get it? The coolest? Never mind. Kuzan, or as he is better known, Aokiji, is probably the admiral, that we have gotten the most complete picture off, so far. Next to his amazing design and his unique devil fruit power, Aokiji follows the path of lazy justice.
But how exactly can justice be lazy? And how does it distinguish him from his fellow admirals? If you´ve ever wondered about that: No worries, that´s why we´re here. Before we get into the moral structure of Kuzan´s character though, I first want to quickly update you guys on our small challenge we´ve had recently.
Once again, you have beat me to it and reached the 3000 like mark on the last blog a lot faster than I anticipated. Touché. So, this time, we´re gonna raise the bar to 3500 likes in the first 24 hours that this blog is online, and you will get the second admiral by next Tuesday. And by the way, if you are wondering why in the world, I´m trying to get more likes on these blog´s, it´s because, one, it makes these blog´s available to more people and, two, it motivates me like crazy to work more consistently to give you guys not only more
but also better content. So, smash that like button, and make me work. But enough about that. After all we´re here to delve into one of the most philosophical questions in the entirety of storytelling. So, let´s take a look at the man who is so chill that he thinks Justice should be lazy. Aokiji, Kuzan is one of the most popular members of the marines, that most of the time act as an antagonistic force to Luffy and his crew.
He is a tall, slender and muscularly built man with long, curled black hair and tanned skin. Despite being the youngest among the admirals by quite a bit, he nonetheless is without a doubt one of the strongest characters in the story, thanks to years of hard training as well as his powerful Logia-Devil-Fruit that turns his entire body into ice.
Having joined the ranks of the marines at a very young age, Aokiji has worked his way up the ranks fairly quickly. Which is no big surprise. As we know, he can be very determined and focused when he needs to. In general, however, Aokiji is a rather laid-back person, that enjoys respect and popularity throughout the ranks of the marines.
This is most likely not only due to his immense strength and influence, but also due to his personality, which is unusually kind and respectful compared to other high-ranking members. As a matter of fact, respect and fairness are two of the most defining traits for Kuzan´s personality. Not only does he treat his fellow marines respectfully and fair, but even acknowledges alleged criminals for doing good deeds.
A great example for this is letting Luffy and his Crew go free, not only for taking down the tyrannical Crocodile and liberating Alabasta, but also out of respect for Luffy´s will to sacrifice himself for his crew. What makes Aokiji a truly good character in the eye of the reader, however, is that his respectfulness and fairness are firmly grounded in the empathy and compassion he feels for others.
He takes people´s circumstances and their good intentions into account and wants to help create a world with less suffering and pain. We can see this for instance when he freezes the entire ocean only to let Tonjit return to his clan after the events at the Davy Back Fight. But I think nothing proves this point as well as his relationship with Robin.
Even though, he was tasked with tracking her down and capturing her, he was genuinely relieved and happy that she had finally found true friends. All of that, despite the straw hats just invading invaded Ennis Lobby and having declared war against the world government itself. Aokiji however is aware of Robin´s true personality and how she had no fault at becoming a criminal in the eyes of the world.
Which is exactly why he allowed her to flee the slaughter on her Island many years ago in the first place. You may ask yourself now, how someone this caring and apparently soft could possibly become an admiral in the otherwise so hard-boiled marines. As a matter of fact, many of the marines asked themselves the same question.
But the answer to that is quite simple. Kuzan has an incredibly strong sense of duty. Even though he allows himself to live according to his morals most of the time, when it is expected of him, he is always ready to follow orders and do what is expected of him as an admiral. During the war at Marineford for example, he grudgingly drops his usual laid-back and friendly nature and trades it for a more ruthless and unforgiving personality.
And when encountering Robin and the straw hats for the first time, he at first decides to leave them alone, before changing his mind and trying to take Robin, only to flip-flop again after seeing Luffy stand up for her. What becomes painfully clear, when we look at this example, is how conflicted Aokiji is between his own idea of how to act morally and his duty as a member of the marines and the world government.
As you might have suspected, all of this also plays a decisive role in his sense of justice. So now, in order to understand what lazy justice actually means, let´s have a look at Aokiji´s character arc. To understand what Kuzan means, when he talks about his lazy justice, we first have to understand how his character has developed over the course of the story.
Despite the admirals not getting a lot of screen time in the story, Aokiji has nonetheless undergone a significant change of perspective. As a base for that, we have to look at the admiral in his younger days, where he was still a vice-admiral. To be more precise even, we have to look at the events surrounding the destruction of the island of Ohara.
Back in time Aokiji had a very different take on justice in general. When first informed about the events on the island by his men, he doesn´t really care about the fate of the Island. For him it is simply the fate of criminals, that have to be taken out to protect the peace. He only changes his mind, when he learns that his friend Jaguar D.
Saul, who previously had deserted the marines to save Robin´s mother Olivia, is also on Ohara. When arriving on the island, he appears indifferent to the injustice that is happening there in the name of the world government. And at first Kuzan decides to follow his sense of duty and takes down his old friend Saul himself, who is trying to escape with Robin.
When Saul confronts him about the massacre going on, Aokiji says that he has no opinion about it. But we can already read from this response, that he is not at all happy with what is happening. Just a short time later however he has to witness Akainu sinking a ship full of refugees, simply on the whim that some of the scholars might have sneaked on board.
This seems to be THE decisive turning point for him. It becomes very clear that Aokiji indeed DID have an opinion about what was happening, and he decides to let the innocent girl Robin escape the island. What this shows us, is that Aokiji has always been good at heart, but forcefully has put his duty before his own ideals.
He needed to realize the brutal lengths to which the world government would go to protect its power. And he also needed to learn how to put his own morality into his actions as well and distance himself from the justice practiced by the higher ups. That is what the incident of Ohara was all about for his character.
So now we know how Aokiji got to follow his path of lazy justice. But we still don´t quite know what lazy is actually supposed to mean in this context. As a matter of fact, lazy can be seen in quite a variety of ways when it comes to justice. I would argue that Aokiji labels his justice as lazy to distinguish himself from his fellow admiral Akainu.
While Akainu´s absolute justice leaves no room for interpretation and situation-based morality, Kuzan´s justice is lazy in the sense that it is not always necessary to take action no matter what. Sometimes it might be the right thing to take a look at things first and see how they develop. This is exactly what we see him doing most of the time.
Observing but not taking action, unless he sees a truly justifiable reason for it. But even more so than that, I would argue that with the phrase lazy, Aokiji is actually hiding his true idea of justice. Which is moral justice. When we strip away all the distractions around his character, at his core, Aokiji´s idea of justice is based on his values.
In other words: Compassion, respect and fairness. Since this very liberal take on the issue conflicts heavily with that of the world government however, Kuzan can use his laziness as an excuse to actually take moral action in critical situations. While most people will see it as him being lazy and undetermined, Aokiji actually is able to make himself a clear image of a situation.
He can assess whether someone deserves respect or compassion and what the fair and right thing to do is. This allows him to let Robin go on Ohara, letting the straw hats get away after the Davie Back Fight or letting Luffy of the hook several times during Marineford, not dealing the fatal blow or chasing after Laws submarine.
And even when he tries to uphold his sense of duty toward the marines, we can always see glints of mercy and understanding in his actions. Even though it is quite unique in the ranks of the Marines, Kuzan believes in second chances and he usually gives people the benefit of doubt. Seeing how he actually cares for Robin and feels responsible for what happened to her in the past, really shows us how different Aokiji is from his superiors.
Which is exactly why I believe that in the end he went his own way. After having to kill his close friend on Ohara and swallow his morality during the war, Kuzan decided to change something. He tried to turn the marines into a more compassionate and positive organization that works for the people after being suggested as the new fleet admiral by Sengoku himself.
Being defeated by Akainu however, he saw no purpose in continuing his work as an admiral. Instead, he now is free to act based on his own idea of justice, freed from any restriction or doubt. Now the question here of course is, whether Aokiji is actually still a marine at heart or not. Currently he seems to be affiliated with the Blackbeard Pirates in some shape or form.
However, after being saved by him from Doflamingo, Smoker asks Aokiji who he now is. But the former admiral reassures his friend that as a matter of fact he is still himself. Well, does he mean by that that he is still a marine? Possibly. But most importantly, I think that Aokiji is still himself in the sense that he is a man of his own justice.
Someone who now is able to follow his own path of moral justice. And it´s okay if to others it looks like it is lazy. After all, Aokiji is a pretty cool dude. I hope you guys enjoyed this blog. If you did, make sure to smash that like button for a freshly made blog next Tuesday. And Subscribe, if you aren´t already part of the crew.
Also, I asked you last time to come up with an alternative title for Buggy. And I was happy to see so many creative ideas in the comments. This time I will give the win to Buggy D. Clown, which is just too good not to pick. And since there were multiple entries of this idea, I can´t state one winner in particular.
But good job everyone. This one is truly perfect. For next week, I´m super curious to see with what title you can come up with for our man Aokiji. Finally, if you wonna learn more about the characters in One Piece, you can simply click here and make yourself a great One-Piece day. Otherwise I see you around next time.
AND until then, have a wonderful week.
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.