So I wanted to make this just as a rebuttal to the belief that Blackbeard or Akainu or Im must be the candidates for the final antagonists in the series.
This is in NO WAY a statement outside of my own thoughts or belief, I just personally have been a huge skeptic of Shanks as this “perfect” pirate that Luffy should look up to. Before responding, please read the whole thing. There is no tldr, other than the fact that I’m not saying Shanks is evil, but rather a morally grey antagonist that may serve as an eventual foil for Luffy. There are things in the story that support this so I’m just going to list them out below. Up to you if you want to believe any of it or agree. Some of it is direct evidence from the manga, some of it is a little bit of theorizing from said evidence in the manga.
That said, Blackbeard imo, is still an intrinsic part to the climax of the story, so don’t feel too deterred from reading if that is the case. Anyway:
- Oda has known the ending to his series since before his series began. This is very unlike most other long running manga because usually the bigger they get, their endings have to fluctuate based on what can be done. We do know (as Oda reminds us always) that his ending hasn’t changed. This is important because no matter how much bigger One Piece gets, it seems that it will return to its roots primarily for this reason. There are 2 major things that have remained constant since the beginning of the series: Shanks and the Straw Hats. They are the biggest things that come out of chapter 1. Blackbeard wasn’t hinted at until the 130’s and wasnt introduced until the 230’s. While there is no evidence to say Oda hadn’t conceived Blackbeard from the beginning, we can be sure Shanks was an idea already when Oda drafted his ending. The same goes for Akainu/Im, whom are characters even conceived even further into the story.
- Shanks himself is probably the most enigmatic character in the series. We know next to nothing about his motivations or primary feelings about pretty much anything. There are some things that seem to give away to his character though. He is an interesting harbinger of peace, but it’s by which he achieves said “peace” that’s odd: His relationship to the World Government. Sengoku seems to respect him. This seemed normal until we got chapter 906, his discussion with the Gorosei. This does not make sense in context. The Gorosei murder and commit genocides in droves. This should be the biggest red flag for anyone thinking Shanks is a primarily “good” person.
- Shanks is 39 years old and God Valley incident happened 38 years ago. Oden’s flashback also seems to hint that Roger has had Shanks since he was a baby (and maybe even Buggy, who is also the same age). On top of this, Oden’s flashback left us with a weird moment where Oden catches Shanks asking Roger an “unknown question”, to which Roger responds and Shanks crying. This is a BIG TELL that there is more to Shanks’ character than what we know, a hidden emotional connection to Roger or that question.
- God Valley itself is yet another enigmatic island like Laugh Tale. The World Government erased the island from maps for a reason, which means Rocks D. Xebec was there for a reason they didn’t want another pirate to repeat. If it was just killing the Celestial Dragons, erasing the island doesn’t make much sense when many of them seem to have relocated to Mary Geoise. On top of this, the term used is “erased from maps”, not destroyed. I think this will play a huge role in the climax, not just Laugh Tale.
- A BIG confirmation happened also during Oden’s flashback that shows Shanks and Buggy never went to Laugh Tale. This really hurts the whole “gatekeepter” theory because it proves that Shanks wasn’t any closer to One Piece than the other Yonko and wouldn’t have known where Laugh Tale was.