As we discovered in our last installment of Shonen Smackdown: Return of Jafar, the heroes of shonen manga tend to be more powerful than any character in any story that isn’t written by H.P. Lovecraft (but I think Naruto v. Cthulhu would be a close match). The worlds of Bleach, Naruto and One Piece are populated by outstanding characters so their heroes must be greater and more powerful than their superpowered peers. Energy blasts, elemental powers, superhuman strength and impossible swordplay make these heroes unstoppable forces and fearless warriors. The shonen hero stops at nothing and fears no one…except these guys…
Not quite…but that is one BAD horse…
The Villains. These are the characters that make even the most powerful hero quake in fear. They are the long, dark shadow hanging over our hero’s head. They are powerful enough to effortlessly crush the hero, humiliate his friends and leave the party crawling away in defeat. Their designs threaten the worlds they live in; their plans are selfish and far-reaching. Throughout arc after arc, their influence pulls the strings of lesser baddies and fights the hero through powerful rogues galleries and dangerous henchmen. They exist to frustrate and destroy the hero and the hero often finds that he can’t achieve his goal until the villains are dead.
So with that in mind, we take a walk on the dark side and smackdown the villains of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece
WARNING: UNMARKED SPOILERS FOLLOW!
Goal: Take over the world through control of the Tailed Beasts
Affiliated Antagonists: Orochimaru and Madara Uchiha, Sasuke Uchiha
Now I know what you might be thinking here:
“Why Ben, you silly willy gumdrop head! The Akatsuki are mostly dead and gone! Surely Madara Uchiha is the big bad of the series now! Get hip with the times you unrighteous square!”
And while it is true that most of this organization has died out by the time of this review and Madara Uchiha has taken over as the main villain with his Instrumentality scheme he knicked from SEELE, I feel I must justify my response and prove that I am not a silly willy gumdrop head.
From the end of the Chunin Exam tournament arc in the first series of Naruto, one-shot villains like Zabuza fell away and we began to get peeks at a unified threat to the (relative) peace and stability the Ninja world has enjoyed.
Fear their coolie hats of DOOM!
The Akatsuki are the Legion of Doom of Missing Nin villains. Their plan is simple, even well organized, and they seem to have agents and allies in every major ninja village in the world. Even long time lurking
child molester mad scientist Orochimaru once had ties to the Akatsuki.
Their plan may be a super-villain cliche but we’re given a solid blow by blow plan of how they intend to take over the world. They perform unsavory missions that normal ninja villages won’t touch for a reduced price, thus accumulating a lot of money and driving their rival ninja villages into bankruptcy. Next, they plan on controlling the demonic Tailed-Beasts, using their power to secretly start wars and then publicly quell them to create an air of reliability. With their track record of “stopping” Tailed-Beast attacks, the Akatsuki will steal the clients of other Hidden Villages, thereby depriving their enemies of income. Finally, as the only ninja force in the world with any gravitas, they can safely destroy the other villages and take their place as military dictators of the world. This plan is a lot more attractive to me than Madara’s MacGuffin Instrumentality or Pein’s desire to create total war and if it weren’t for those two undercutting the overall Akatsuki goal with their own goals, they might have succeeded
I hate so much about the things you choose to be, Tobi…
The Akatsuki serve as good individual battles (see Team Asuma’s battle against Hidan and Kakazu for a prime example of that) but I feel like their impact as a group got pissed away during Shippuden. It became more about furthering Pein and Madara’s individual plans than any unified world domination plan. I guarantee whatever Hollywood Voodoo bullcrap Madara’s planning is going can be stopped a hell of a lot easier than systematic socioeconomic assassination and rule by military force. There were shades of great villainy here but once again the plot is hijacked by the Tailed-Beasts and we’re left wondering what if…
Oh, and there has been some talk about Sasuke becoming the final series antagonist. To that I say BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….s-seriously? Sasuke? Captain Emo Von Duckbutt? Hahahahaha…no.
Yeah, I went there. Deal With It Sasuke…
Goal: Raise Himself Above God
Associated Antagonists: The Espada, The Arrancar, Hueco Mundo
What? Captain Aizen? No no no, there must be some kind of mistake… Surely you mean Gin Ichimaru, right? Captain Aizen has always been an upstanding member of Soul Society, intent on rooting out the conspiracy behind Rukia Kuchiki’s arrest and execution order. Captain Aizen would never-
Oh, go to hell, Aizen…ಠ_ಠ
Yes, if there are three things everyone knows about Bleach they are that Ichigo is dubbed by a former Power Ranger, Aizen is the main villain and that he is a total cheating bastard.
But he wasn’t always Captain Broken as the fans have come to call him. His subtle control over the Soul Society and the high degree of social manipulation he used to pit the Seretei against one another in the wake of Ichigo’s invasion was certainly unexpected and though he and his henchmen buggered off to Hueco Mundo shortly after the end of the Soul Society arc left established him as a credible threat. He beat down on every captain that had previously taken chapters to be in the span of a few pages, performed high level kido magic without incantation and blocked Ichigo’s Bankai with the tip of his finger (even killing his theme song in the anime)
Aizen went on to create the Espada out of pure awesome and the power of his giant couch who serve as level bosses as Ichigo attempts to rescue Orihime from Hueco Mundo. But all this awesome buildup was just a diversion on Aizen’s part as we get into the Fake Karakura Town arc…and things get weird.
It is here that Aizen’s Zanpaktou power gets ridiculous. His sword has the power of perfect hypnosis which translates as “nuh-uh” to every attack made against him. Stab him with your sword? Nuh-uh, that was just perfect hypnosis. Try and attack from behind? Nuh-uh, that was perfect hypnosis, you just stabbed your friend. Thought you ordered a decaf coffee with soymilk? Nuh-uh, perfect hypnosis and you just drank half and half.
Aizen got so powerful that it cost Ichigo his shinigami powers to defeat him. Keep in mind that Ichigo was one of the most powerful Vizards in the universe and pretty broken himself. So the fact that it cost all his power to defeat (not even destroy) Aizen is a testament to how overpowered Aizen eventually got. It’s fun to have a strong villain but this is just ridiculous.
THIS was his fault. Screw you, Aizen. Screw You...ಥ_ಥ
The World Government
Manga: One Piece
Goal: Maintain Order and Eliminate Piracy
Affiliated Antagonists: 170 countries, a force of Marines
In any other anime, these would be the good guys.
In a lot of ways, they’re like the Ninja Villages of Naruto. A military force dedicated to upholding peace, eliminating roving gangs of criminals and making the world safer through law.
Unfortunately, this is a manga about pirates and the government in this world hardly lives up to its ideals about peace and justice. These are the very definitions of lawful evil. Marines who kill innocent women and children in the search for the heir of the Pirate King. Sinking entire ships of civilians to destroy one criminal on board. Commitment to Absolute Justice to a degree that would cause Hugo’s Inspector Javert to recoil.
For such a lighthearted manga, the Marines present a terrifying adversary. The Straw Hats may skirmish with other pirates and fight marine captains but their main enemy is the entire fucking world! Even if they reach their goal of One Piece, they’re still marked enemies of the World Government and the last Pirate King was executed before the start of the series. They’re enemy is the flag and everything and everyone who stands behind it. So, what does our hero decide to do?
Flags killed Luffy’s father…now he seeks revenge
In front of an army of Marines, the Straw Hats declare war on the World Government. From this point on, there is no escaping the inevitable destruction of the World Government if they are to truly reach their goals.
AND THE WINNER IS….
The World Government: One Piece
What really puts the World Government in my top spot is the amount of hell they could potentially rain down on the Straw Hats. If Luffy manages to be Pirate King, he and his crew are going to become public enemy number one and the combined force of the Marines will be up against them. And frankly, that’s awesome. Having a powerful villain as an adversary makes the hero more awesome by defeating them. I anticipate epic battles to come as Luffy makes good on his willingness to destroy the world to protect his friends.
World Government: 3
The Akatsuki: 2
Sosuke Aizen: 1
The Total so Far
One Piece: 5
So One Piece pulls ahead of Bleach and Naruto remains in third place. But, can the Ninja’s quirky cast of side characters defeat the Straw Hat crew and Kubo’s menagerie of freaks? Stay tuned and find out! Next Time: Side Character Smackdown
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Thank you all for being patient as I took a break from this to focus on my finals. Thanks to everyone who read my last post and to those who started following me, including carolinesadventuresinreality, gilgamesh8822, petronia and anaisapye! Stay tuned for my next review!