One Piece delivers a rematch for the ages in Luffy versus Lucci - but Eiichiro Oda has always made it clear that the World Government agent doesn't stand a chance

Luffy vs Lucci in One Piece.
(Image credit: Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, Toei Animation, Crunchyroll)

One advantage of One Piece's lengthy storytelling is being allowed to revisit certain characters, whether they're villains, authority figures, or notable bystanders to the action. It makes it feel like a living world rather than a simple pattern of increasingly powerful obstacles for Luffy to topple, and the chance that a face from the past might reappear adds to the anything-can-happen allure of the series. For example, Rob Lucci showing up with the rest of his CP0 cronies in the current Egghead Island anime arc is a fun way to check in on the man who was, at one point, Luffy's most dangerous opponent - and throwing the two against one another again is perhaps the most impactful rematch that the series can offer.

When it comes to One Piece villains, what they stand for is just as important as how strong they are. Crocodile was the power-hungry leader of a secret organization, Eneru was a wannabe god who relished in keeping his "subjects" in a state of eternal paranoia, Doflamingo was a deceitful mastermind who inflicted sadistic pain as a way to control his own haunted past, and Kaido was the despotic overlord of a nation that he would just as readily starve as he would rule. Lucci was the mechanical grip of the World Government, a figure pushed past empathy and into a mindset of cold subjugation. He is a weapon to be used, terrifying for as long as the arm that uses him has enough energy to swing. 

Lucci from One Piece

(Image credit: Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, Toei Animation, Crunchyroll)

In his first battle with Luffy, taking place in the looming tower of Enies Lobby, he came close to killing the Straw Hat crew's captain. If anything, he was Luffy's truest antithesis – Luffy's passions are for adventure and the dreams that exist beyond the horizon. Lucci, on the other hand, is the horizon, an iron wall that drops to sever those dreams before they have a chance to grow. By defeating him in a very close contest, Luffy doesn't just win but also proves the strength of his ideals over those that would wish to see them shut down or hidden away.

And then, years later, Lucci shows up again, ready to do his job and also to attack Luffy for many of the same reasons, still meant to play the guillotine of bureaucratically ordered annihilation. However, if anything, Luffy's purpose has only become even more outsized. His latest transformation, "Gear 5," turns him into a bouncing, laughing, seemingly unstoppable "warrior of liberation." He has come to take on the mantle of the "Sun God Nika," an ancient figure that would free slaves and inspire joy. In short, he is Luffy's original goal at its most potent, a man turned symbol. 

Luffy and Lucci fight in One Piece.

(Image credit: Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, Toei Animation, Crunchyroll)

And this time, the fight isn't quite as close. Lucci, who once promised that he would chase one of Luffy's crew members to the ends of the Earth, can barely keep up with Luffy now. Most of One Piece's villains tend to value the glory of combat as both a manner of self-expression and a way to resolve conflict (which is a battle manga and anime staple across the board), but Lucci's original glee at the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Luffy quickly turns into frustration. Lucci has certainly gotten stronger himself and even has a new form to match, but it's a fairly lopsided affair. Luffy is too fast, hits too hard, and the desperation that he showed in the original fight has been replaced by the giggling aplomb of Gear 5.

Lucci vs Luffy

(Image credit: Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, Toei Animation, Crunchyroll)

What Lucci has yet to realize is that, at this point, he’s no longer fighting a person. He never has been, really, but as Luffy's influence has expanded from simply being the charismatic leader of his Straw Hat Crew to the embodiment of a world-changing deity, the span of what he represents has increased. He's become more akin to his late idol, Gol D. Roger, than ever before – not just a powerhouse of the present but a harbinger of the future. Roger's last statements created the New Pirate Era and launched countless sails. Luffy's presence shares those aspirations of unbridled freedom with the rest of mankind and beyond.

In short, Lucci, a metaphor for restriction and spite in the form of dead-eyed justice, is now taking on the future and the endgame of One Piece itself. And it's a fight that he's destined to lose in humiliating fashion. Because to win would mean not just Luffy's defeat but the destruction of a movement and the destiny of people that now crave the impossible-made-possible. Lucci entered the story as a titanic threat and a potential death blow to the Straw Hats. Now, he's just another man in the way of history. 

One Piece is airing now on Crunchyroll.

Check our guide to Netflix's One Piece season 2, as well as all of the new anime you need to know about.

Daniel Dockery

Daniel Dockery is a writer for places like Crunchyroll, Polygon, Vulture, WIRED and Paste Magazine. His debut book, Monster Kids: How Pokemon Taught A Generation To Catch Them All, is available wherever books are sold.