The shocked Marine asks, “What do you call the act?”
Topman proudly responds, “The Philanthropists.”
There was once a mystery in ONE PIECE that spanned a whopping 560 (hey, ‘gomu’!) chapters and had an ever-so-unassuming answer that not only went over the heads of Western readers, but many Japanese readers as well. In Chapter 233 where the Five Elders made their debut, eagle-eyed readers could just barely make out the kanji 愛 (‘love’) displayed proudly on the right interior archway of the entrance to the Elders’ room.
While it could have been assumed that a kanji was also displayed on the left side, what this kanji was (or even its existence) was not answered until years later in Chapter 793.
Which, when you think about it, makes sense since the Elders were always huddled in the center of the room and with the action facing them, it didn’t leave many opportunities for Oda and his team to frame a panel focusing on the backs of the Elders unless a guest was seeking audience with the mysterious group.
The kanji was revealed to read 博 (‘gain’) which combined with 愛 makes 博愛 or ‘philanthropy’.
Wow. Not uh, what many people expected I’m sure. The implication here is that this phrase, which from their perspective they’re constantly faced with, is their motto. Just like high-ranking Marines display their motto, this ideal is at the back of the mind, weighing each decision they make…or enact.
So, is it a sham, or does such a humane motto really reside in the heart of their dealings? Considering they authorized the destruction of an entire island, the easy answer seems to be…er…no. But since we still don’t know their perspective, it’s tough to know what ‘philanthropy’ means to them. As opposed to ‘benevolence’ (yes there’s a difference between them in Japanese too) ‘philanthropy’ carries a nuance of goodwill carried out through monetary means and that immediately conjures up imagery of power-holders supporting those without power. So, from the get-go, philanthropy does seem to establish them as holders of wealth who use their wealth to enact ‘benevolent’ actions. But really, when such wealth is obtained by borderline extortionist means, again, the wholesomeness of their ‘philanthropy’ seems suspect.
Still! It remains a fact that these normally stone-faced men once broke their composure when they were forced to order the execution of Clover 20 years ago on Ohara.
Their swift adoption of Imu’s proposal to destroy Lulusia seems to clash with the anguish they expressed in ordering Clover’s death. What was the difference?! We recently learned that Clover was an explorer in his younger days but is it possible he too had roots in Mary Geoise and was an acquaintance of the Elders? They seemed fine with the Lulusia order but broke composure because of a single execution? I dunno, seems suspicious.
Or…is possibly that because of Clover’s words they were remembering something? A painful past that led them to where they are today?
These kind of ponderings can’t be answered yet but it does help to keep in mind that because we know so little about them, they might be pawns of Imu who are doing their best in order to preserve a delicate balance of ‘peace’ in a world that they believe has no better option than to follow the mysterious ruler’s whims.
Philanthropists? Or monsters? We’ll find out in good time I’m sure!
One Piece Vol.25 Ch.233
One Piece Vol.41 Ch.395
One Piece Vol.79 Ch.793
One Piece Vol.105 Ch.1060
Weekly Shonen Jump #28 Ch.1086