Note: This will obviously contain Massive Spoilers for One Piece.
Onto the Theory:
So, I was daydreaming like usual when living in solitude with no prospects of a good future so far, thinking over the death and funeral of my grandfather who died ten days ago, and thinking over various existential crises that bother me when my thoughts turned to One Piece since it is one of my favorite anime. And then, my mind came to a sudden idea regarding Imu-Sama Theories in Youtube videos that I recalled watching.
The Freest Man In the Sea.
This had popped-up because of Imu-Sama’s name and various lore that many fans associated with him. Many posited Shanks or Mihawk as fitting the bill for this description due to various qualities that seemed to make them similar to the depictions of Imu-Sama that we have thus far. However, the idea of the Freest Man, while sufficiently associated with Pirates and even the Shichibukai/Warlords, doesn’t really comport with the mysterious ruler of the entire world who seems to be doing everything in his power to prevent the world from changing. If anything, this man represents someone who is stuck in his ways and acts as a hidden force . . . but also a pillar for the so-called Justice of the World Government. He is circumspect and doesn’t want the world to know of him while he acts freely enough to snuff out those who seek to change the world.
So, I examined the World Government and Marines instead, and wondered if any of them could fit the bill for Imu-Sama, behaving as a shadowy and knowing hand that pulls the strings and has just enough official authority to do so without being totally obvious to us viewers. I found a candidate who fit the bill hook, line, and sinker . . . and, well, you all will probably sufficiently laugh soon.
What if Monkey D. Garp is Imu-Sama?
Done laughing? Excellent, let’s review what we know about him. Garp had sufficient enough power to take down Admirals and is at least Admiral level himself, he went toe-to-toe with Gol D. Roger and was an obvious thorn for Roger while outliving the man eventually, and while Ace was conveniently hunted down and had to hide who he was from the World Government; Garp tried to raise him as a tool for the marines along with his own grandson, Luffy. Ah! But Roger asked him, right? So Garp is a good moral person! So what? Having control of Ace to raise him with Marine Ideals would be useful for the World Government.
And why was Garp so busy and away from Luffy and Ace for such prolonged periods? Well . . . presumably, he was dealing with Vice-Admiral duties. Yet, when we see him much earlier on in the Manga, he’s actually having fun training Coby and Helmeppo with no real strict guidelines as Vice-Admiral. He trains them in the Six Powers/Rokushiki, which we never see him do for either Luffy or Ace. We know he has Haki too, but he never teaches Luffy or Ace that either. We can infer it is because he would be breaking Marine protocol by doing so, even though he had enough influence to hide Ace’s and Luffy’s identities to raise them without the Marines knowing, but for some reason he doesn’t break Marine protocol by teaching them useful techniques to defend themselves? And then there is that specific tidbit of information, which is altogether unexplained.
Garp is at least an Admiral level Marine, but he chose not to move-up in ranks. We’re just suppose to assume this is a respectable thing, but for what reason? Garp was already world famous and Admiral level during Roger’s era; did he simply not want more attention drawn to himself? Or perhaps, he didn’t want to be known as a world-class threat due to what that Title entails when looking at people’s reactions in the Saobody Arc and when the Strawhats accidentally stumbled upon Aokiji who was taking a leisurely rest? Garp can go anywhere and be more inconspicuous as a Vice-Admiral, since there are so many and they quite clearly aren’t seen as big of a threat level as an Admiral and Fleet Admiral in the story. This issue of getting powerful Admirals is actually so crucial for the Marines that they presumably recruited Issho during the Time skip, yet they had a Marine quite qualified to do it, but who never took the title. They couldn’t simply order him to do so? Garp’s “fame” is one of a “has-been” who no one really notices to be anything but part of the background, he was sufficiently famous in order to try and stop Roger’s movements and capture him; then as soon as that’s done with Roger surrendering to have himself executed, Garp stifles any attempt to make himself more noticeable or attain higher ranks that would gain him more infamy across the world among Pirates. Everyone knows of the Admirals, but few seem to pay attention to Vice-Admirals, who seem more numerous and less threatening and this is shown by Ax-hand Morgan’s actions towards Garp when Garp came to arrest him.
As viewers, we assume that Monkey D. Dragon and Fleet Admiral Akainu may have a history, yet Oda was purportedly going to have Akainu killed off by Whitebeard but his editor changed Oda’s mind about that. Yet, we still assume Dragon had some issue that he discovered about the World Gov’t, or learned of some corruption, or maybe Akainu did something truly heinous. What if it is more simple, and Dragon knows who Imu-Sama is? All the information that we initially learned about regarding Monkey D. Dragon is filtered through Luffy’s grandfather. Garp gets to shape the narrative and for some reason, Dragon makes sure not to be seen or speak to Luffy but why is that? What if there’s something more to that? Possibly Dragon fearing that Garp will kill Luffy, if he makes contact with his son for some yet unexplained reason?
Consequently, Fleet Admiral Sengoku, Garp’s close friend, seems to have aged rather poorly for some reason. A quirk of the art staff or Oda’s writing, or a subtle piece of foreshadowing to Garp having a Devil Fruit power that we don’t yet know of?
What really made me wonder about this was the idea of the Freest Man being able to travel wherever they please. We can see that Garp can travel freely from the safer parts of the Grandline to Old Marine HQ, to his old hometown, to Reverie, and who knows where else? Incidentally, why is a supposedly retired Marine Vice-Admiral still on duty and just so happens to be at Reverie? Why were the Gorosei more knowledgeable about Luffy and keeping notice of him all the way during the Alabasta arc instead of just seeing him as a random pirate who happened to knock out one of the weaker Shichibukai/Warlords? And if all that isn’t enough, we know for a fact, given Ace’s death, that Garp will still defend the Marines and fight for them regardless of whatever it personally costs him. He will destroy himself to be a pillar of Justice and allow even his family to be sent to the chopping block. The Fleet Admiral may have held him back, but he practically ordered the Fleet Admiral to do so with his word choice while Sengoku called him an idiot. When faced with Dadan’s emotional turmoil, he stays silent and seems to disassociate himself from the situation. Two years later in a timeskip, he still defends the Marines and just happens to be in the same general location that Imu-Sama is revealed. Even when we first met him, he pretended that he wouldn’t attack Luffy, just to attack his ship presumably because of his “heartwarming old man nonsense” of telling the Marines that he didn’t want to attack his grandson . . . instead of just lying to them or having one of his men lie for him, if he’s bad at lying?
Finally, consider Imu-Sama from a narrative standpoint, some mysterious person who we’ve never met could potentially be the final villain of One Piece, presumably after Luffy gets to Raftel and finds out what One Piece is, if Whitebeard’s foreshadowing is any indication. But would some mysterious stranger really work to have an emotional impact after either Akainu or Blackbeard? If the true villain turned out to be Monkey D. Garp, it would redefine Ace’s death in the story for both Luffy and the Reader. It could potentially redefine the Dadan crying scene where Garp stays silent. Garp is the man who could have been the freest, but sacrifices everything – even his loved ones – as a Pillar of Justice and undisputed Hero for the Marines. He could have saved Ace, but chose not to in order to maintain the world’s balance and be the Justice of the World Government. Luffy, by that point, is the true Freest Man, and King of the Pirates. The story might end with Luffy having to tragically kill his own grandfather in cold blood because of the narrative dichotomy of Justice and Freedom, and how such a fight between Justice and Freedom goes beyond even blood.
Anyway, pretty sure this’ll be mocked and debunked in less than two minutes. Let me know your thoughts.
For more One Piece theories that I’ve made such as Imu-Sama ordering the Gorosei to kill Vivi.