The sheer number of villains occupying the pages of One Piece put every other shounen series to shame. That’s to be expected, with the length of the series. But the sheer quality of each and every one of them is something to be admired. Almost all of these bad guys are unique and interesting, and their subsequent defeats are the most satisfying you can get in manga. Oda knows how to write a compelling antagonist.
Starting this article, my question was simple: which baddie did I start with? Crocodile and Enel are great, but they lack much depth. It seemed too soon to analyze Blackbeard or Akainu, given that their stories aren’t quite done yet and are still mostly wrapped in mystery. Who, then?
Well, given that we’ll soon be discussing her arc, I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss the one villain that made me the most uncomfortable: Big Mom.
First introduced back in Fish-Man Island, Big Mom has played an antagonistic role against the Straw Hats for the entirety of their time in the New World. She is one of the Four Emperors of the Sea, making her one of the biggest obstacles that Luffy must defeat in order to become the Pirate King. The only villains who have gotten more build up than her are Kaido, Akainu, and Blackbeard.
And boy howdy, does she live up to the hype. Because Big Mom isn’t just threatening or interesting. She’s downright terrifying!
Since a young age, Lin-Lin (later known as Big Mom) had an insatiable appetite to suite her massive size. Unable to take care of her, her parents left her on the island of Elbaph, home of the giants, to be raised by Mama Caramel (who secretly worked for Cypher Pol, but that isn’t really important for this). It was here, in this orphanage, that Lin-Lin experienced her first taste of family and acceptance.
I really wish that last sentence wasn’t multi-faceted.
On Elbaph, there was a tradition that called for a week-long fast. Naturally, a creature as monstrously gluttonous as Lin-Lin couldn’t handle it. She ended up going berserk, causing much damage to the island. Luckily, she was given a pass, albeit a reluctant and temporary one.
Some time later, Mother Caramel and the other kids threw Lin-Lin a special surprise: a mountain of her favorite desert. Overjoyed, she dug in. So far in, in fact, that she fell into a hunger-induced state of stupor. By the time she came back to herself, Mother Caramel and all the others were gone. Stranger still: she suddenly had Mother Caramel’s Devil Fruit power.
After that, she was swiftly removed from Elbaph. Likely for causing another bit of chaos. What happened between then and now is still wrapped in mystery. All we really know is that she started her own pirate crew made up entirely of her own children, and at some point sailed with Rocks D Xebec and Kaido, during which she faced-off against the Pirate King himself, Gol D Roger, as well as Whitebeard and the Hero of the Marines: Monkey D Garp. Afterwards, she went on to become one of the four Emperors of the Sea and reigned as one of the most terrible pirates alive, simply titled: Big Mom.
This is among the most bone-chilling backstories in the whole series. It doesn’t do much to make Big Mom sympathetic. Rather, it only further sells how much of a monster she is. That, and it sets the stage for her twisted ambitions.
Big Mom claims to want to create a peaceful and happy world. At first glance, that may seem true. All the people living under her rule definitely seem happy. I mean, come on! It’s a utopia land made entirely out of sweets!
But take a closer look and the façade immediately falls apart. Big Mom is a god damn monster who goes on psychotic rampages every time she gets a craving. She makes her subjects pay taxes in portions of their own lifespans using her Devil Fruit power. The lady straight-up brought the forest to life in order to kill intruders! Her whole ‘world peace and happiness’ crap falls apart the instant you analyze it.
On top of that: she’s just not a good parent. Woman has cranked out over a hundred kids, and none of them have a positive view on her. To her, they’re nothing but tools to further her own ends; Pudding is just one example. Her family is so toxic and divided that Katakuri, one of her oldest sons, had no choice but to step up and essentially become the one unifying father figure that none of his siblings were allowed to have.
In this way, she is the exact opposite of our protagonist, Luffy. Whereas Luffy has all but severed his bonds with his blood family, such as Garp or Dragon, and chosen to live life with his chosen family, like Ace, Sabo, or the other Straw Hats, Big Mom instead surrounded herself almost entirely with her blood relations. Our favorite captain shows love and appreciation for each and every person around him while Big Mom sees them as tools to be used and abused.
A parallel can be drawn clearly in regards to Luffy and Vivi and Big Mom and Jimbei. Way back in Alabasta, when Vivi decided to stay behind and not become an official member of the Straw Hats, Luffy didn’t argue. They parted in good terms as friends. On the other hand, when Jimbei tried to leave Big Mom’s service, she threatened to kill him and tried to intimidate him as to steal his life force. When that failed, she just tried to murder him and Luffy.
All of this combines to make a truly despicable and frightening villain. Big Mom isn’t just creepy because of her powers or horrific backstory. She’s a vicious, manipulative, and abusive old woman that uses fear to force others into falling in-line with her fantasies. The woman is a real monster, down to her core.
And to think. She’s not even the main villain of the last few arcs.