Many fans of One Piece predict that someday Marco the Phoenix will die and be reborn in the series. But what if I told you he already has. It’s a hot, hot summer, ooor winter, depending when and and where you’re watching this, anyways, SUMMER – the season of backyard barbecues and it’s time to slice up one of our favorite, most shareable fruits.
No, I’m not talking about watermelons – I’m talking about our very favorite pineapple: Marco the Phoenix. By the way, did you know that an old name for pineapple in Japanese is the “phoenix pear” – there goes Oda, never missing the opportunity for some good play. But the real question remains: Does Marco belong on pizza? Marco the Phoenix has been a fan favorite One Piece character ever since his debut.
In the 5th, 6th, and 7th One Piece popularity polls, this character was ranked 12th, 20th, and 19th respectively. And it’s pretty impressive to break the top 20 in a series with well over 1,000 named characters. In fact, he’s the 2nd most popular Whitebeard Pirate after Ace. His own captain, the strongest man in the world, Whitebeard himself, only made 31st place in the latest poll.
Sure, Edward Newgate has been absent from the series for over a decade ever since his untimely death, but the strongest man in the world surely made an impression on the fanbase to say the least. I should say Marco’s been a fan favorite ever since his “proper” debut, once we got to see him in action at the Paramount War.
His cameo as a background character during Whitebeard and Shanks’s meeting hardly counts. Not only was his character not fleshed out yet, but his hair color wasn’t even pinned down. We had yet to know the sheer volume of cool that would ooze from this character’s amazing devil fruit power. The tori tori no mi: Model Phoenix was the first mythical zoan we were ever introduced to in the series (followed soon after by Sengoku’s Golden Buddha fruit).
And no, we’re not counting the Nika fruit since it wasn’t “formally” introduced until very recently. Why is Marco so endearing to the fanbase? Sure, he has an awesome power, but that alone can’t justify his wild popularity among a cast with so many fantastically written characters. I mean, not only does he outrank Whitebeard among the fanbase, but heavy hitters like Blackbeard, Garp, and Doflamingo.
It’s not just the powers of the phoenix, but the meaning behind the phoenix and how Marco embodies that meaning that delivers this character to such heights – (the heights of popularity, not the kind of heights he achieves by, you know, flying up there).
Someday in the final saga, we may get to see Marco die and resurrect literally, as many predict the phoenix fruit will allow him to do, however, I want to theorize that in a way, Marco already has died and resurrected – and in doing so, has shown what it really takes to be the first mate of an Emperor of the Sea.
Oh also, quick shout out to Patrisha and Austin Singer, both of whom are subscribed to the channel and thus have helped us increase our bounty by 100 Berries each, advancing us on our shared mission to overtake Trebol’s bounty and reach 100M berries: Zoro, Rayleigh, Katakuri, Marco.
So often in One Piece, the first mates are the “coolest” characters on their crews and in the story overall. Many fans would rank Zoro as their favorite Straw Hat over Luffy due to his epic three-sword style feats. Rayleigh stopped an admiral’s lightspeed kick with a sandal. Katakuri’s design initially looked so edgy that he seemed out of place in One Piece, but he quickly became a beloved antagonist.
When I say these characters are “cool” I don’t just mean they’re awesome – which they are. These characters all have subdued personalities partnered with effortless feats of brutal strength. They are laid-back in the face of danger. They ooze “cool”. But is that what makes a first mate? No, it takes a lot more than being cool to be the first mate to the world’s greatest pirates.
Each of these pirates carries the burden when their captains no longer can. When their captains are absent or incapacitated, they are leaders to their crews. They inherit the will of their captains. When Luffy was unconscious on Thriller Bark, Zoro took on his pain in order to save the crew – and he did so unselfishly, proclaiming that “nothing happened.
” After Roger’s execution, Rayleigh waited decades on Sabaody Archipelago until he found his captain’s successor. He trained Luffy so that he would stand a chance on the journey ahead in the New World and eventually find Laugh Tale. During Big Mom’s hunger pangs, when she destroys her own island and even devours her own children, it’s Katakuri who protects his family members at all costs.
And Marco, too, carries on the will of Whitebeard. In doing so, he embodies the spirit of his devil fruit: the phoenix. In the legend of the phoenix, this fiery bird makes its nest and dies engulfed in flames. From the ashes that remain, it is reborn as an egg, hatching again into a new phoenix. Which is why we have to ask ourselves at this point in the story whether Baron Tamago has a technically more accurate phoenix fruit.
On a more serious note, though, it’s fitting that this story would fit so neatly into mythology. After all, we know Oda loves drawing on various myths from around the world. The journey of the phoenix can be found in legends all across the world. The journey of Marco actually parallels a literary concept called the monomyth.
The scholar Joseph Campbell, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces recognized that many myths and legends from across the world shared similar structures. This shared, common structure for stories is called the “monomyth” or the “hero’s journey”. One focal part of the “hero’s journey” comes after great challenges – they fall into an abyss, an absolute low point: a death and rebirth.
Ultimately, after their rebirth they rise into overcoming their challenges and finding atonement. The entirety of Luffy’s story mirrors the hero’s journey very well, too. His lowest point was losing Ace at Marineford, a period of utter despair and hopelessness that he was “reborn” from after the timeskip.
But we also see this concept represented in miniature with Marco, and the legend of the phoenix in general. After the war at Marineford, when the Whitebeard Pirates lost both their captain and Ace, Marco stepped up to the role of leader. As the new captain, he sought vengeance against Blackbeard, the traitor who had caused unspeakable damage to his former crew.
However, in this Payback War, the remnants of the Whitebeard Pirates suffered a devastating loss and subsequently disbanded. If Marco’s journey parallels the mythology of the phoenix, then this is his death. While once he soared into battle, he went out in a blaze of glory, seemingly completely defeated.
It was then that he retreated to Sphinx Island. Even after the end of his crew, he never lost sight of fulfilling his captain’s will. Marco protected the island that Whitebeard considered his treasure, using his medical knowledge to take care of the people there, and watching over the graves of Ace and his captain.
Though his battle had ended, embers remained in the ashes – still burning softly with the dreams of the late Edward Newgate. In Wano, the phoenix would rise again. Reuniting with another former division commander, Izo, Marco returned to the battlefield. After hearing Nekomamushi’s plea, he knew it’s what Whitebeard would have done to help avenge his old friend, Kozuki Oden.
Now with stylish new glasses (which we could see as a new clarity of vision…at the risk of maybe overanalyzing), Marco’s phoenix form burned again, clashing with some of the great powers of the world – the commanders of two Yonkou crews and briefly with Big Mom herself. His healing powers came in clutch during the battle and he even helped Zoro make it on time to participate in Roof Piece.
Many fans also see Marco as the pheasant parallel within the Momotaro myth, in which Momonosuke restored his kingdom with the help of a Monkey (Luffy), Dog (Yamato), and Pheasant (Marco). The phoenix played an invaluable role in the Ninja-Pirate-Mink-Samurai alliance and likely helped turn the tide of the battle for Wano country.
It’s still unknown what will become of Marco in the final saga, but surely there’s more to his story. As far as we know, Whitebeard’s supposed son, Weevil, is still hunting the remnants of the Whitebeard pirates.
Will he eventually restore this crew to their former glory, finally marking a true rebirth? Will the rest of the division commanders that we haven’t seen post timeskip make an appearance?
There’s still hope, too, that the figurative death and rebirth that Marco has followed in the story so far will be followed by a literal death and rebirth, enabled by his mythical zoan fruit.
In a recent blog on this channel, the Phoenix fruit was actually named the most powerful of all the zoan fruits! If you want to know the secret to why it is the best of the best and see which fruits it narrowly beat, you really shouldn’t miss out on that blog right here.
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.