Hatchan the Villain
It’s during the Arlong Park Arc of One Piece that readers are first introduced to a group of fishmen who, led by Arlong, have taken over Cocoyasi Village, the home of Straw Hat navigator Nami. It’s a distressing development, as Nami had spent years trying to raise the funds to free her hometown from the clutches of Arlong the Pirate and his band of fishmen troublemakers, including an octopus fishman by the name of Hatchan.
As one of Arlong’s cronies, Hatchan was a willing accomplice to the group’s crimes. He seems like a dimwitted fool, willing to do whatever Arlong asks of him. This leads Hatchan into direct conflict with Luffy and the Straw Hats as they come to the aid of Nami and her entire hometown.
Hatchan as a villain fights hard against our heroes, proving to be an incredibly powerful swordsman who, for a time, is able to hold his own against even Zoro.
But upon losing, Hatchan accepts defeat gracefully. He is later found leaving town as Arlong’s crew leaves. At that point, in a series so vast and featuring so many characters, the expectation might be that we’ll never hear from this octopus swordsman again.
But then, the Straw Hats reach Sabaody Archipelago.
Hatchan the Chef
At the Sabaody Archipelago, One Piece introduces readers to a mermaid who is trying to save a friend she refers to as Hachin. Ever the friend to those in need, the Straw Hats follow along to find that a foolish gag character named Duval (long story, but it’s funny) had kidnapped the mermaid’s friend and kept him in a cage. They free Hachin only to discover who he is—their erstwhile enemy and former Arlong Pirate crewman, Hatchan.
Since leaving Arlong and his men, Hatchan has tried to move on with his life and currently runs a restaurant ship named Takoyaki 8.
He’s also been trying to repent for his past sins, and so when he sees Nami, Hatchan recognizes that he deserves her scorn for life. He knows he has warrant any anger or hatred she might send his way. Hatchan even says that he entirely does not expect her to forgive him. After all, he committed terrible crimes against her family and her homeland. All he wants now is to be able to serve her and the Straw Hats.
At this point, Nami even response by saying that she doesn’t forgive him. However, she adds, they can both move on as individuals and work alongside one another going forward. And honestly, that was more than he could have hoped.
As the crew work their way through the Sabaody Archipelago, Hatchan becomes an important asset. He knows his way around, the players, and the cultural norms of the Archipelago. He is able to give advice and assistance to the entire crew all along the way so they can all keep themselves safe and be on their way. What he does not expect is to have his mermaid friend, Camie, kidnapped while they’re on the island and sold off into slavery.
Hatchan convinces most of the Straw Hats to not rock the boat and see if they can pool their resources together to buy Camie at auction. This entire section of the story is horrific. As you watch other races of beings (giants, fishmen, mermaids) treated as sub-human, you see the inherent, systemic racism these people face every single day. None of them are safe doing everyday things like going to a market or visiting an amusement park, where Camie was kidnapped. Fishmen and mermaids are not co-equal with humans in this society, but less than.
In Paul’s letters to the Colossians and Galatians, he points out that arguments over race are irrelevant (Galatians 3:27-29, Colossians 3:10-11). We are all co-equal in the Lord and our lineage has no impact as to whether the Lord loves us. We should be lucky to see each other that way.
When the Straw Hats fail to save Camie, Luffy goes ballistic and tries to rush at the vile Celestial Dragon who had purchased her as a trophy. Hatchan over and over again stands between them to stop the fight. However, this does not go well.
Hatchan the Martyr
What the Celestial Dragon sees is a sub-human fishman in his way, potentially preventing him from securing his new property. So what does he do? He doesn’t think. He doesn’t talk. He simply pulls out a gun and shoots Hatchan.
As Luffy tries to march up to the Celestial Dragon who shot down his friend, Hatchan calls to him from the ground and takes the blame for every issue they have had.
Hatchan knew he was a sinner. He knew he was a failure. He knew he did wrong. He knew that eventually his evil would catch up to him and, frankly, when it happens, he deserves it. He deserves punishment for his crimes.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of two men (Luke 18:9-14). One is a Pharisee who publicly announces his prayer. He is larger than life and important above all. The other is a tax collector who recognizes his own weakness and sin. He has his head down low and is begging the Lord to have mercy upon him for all his failings.
In this scenario, Hatchan is the tax collector. He knows his own failings and that he is undeserving of mercy. Yet, unlike the tax collector, he sees the cruel world around him and does not ask for anything. He expects the world to remain evil. He is fine suffering if his friends can be saved by his sacrificial death.
The Parable of Hatchan
Before we get too far, I want to say one thing up front—Hatchan does not die here. He survives this encounter and Camie is freed from slavery by the power of her friends. I just want to make that clear before delving any further.
With that said, what can we learn from the Hatchan’s story?
All Fall Short
Various passages in the Bible point to the fact that all humans are sinners, but nowhere is it more obvious than in Romans 3:23. In this passage, Paul explains that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When he says “all,” he means everyone. He means himself. He means the apostles. He means you. He means me. Everyone has sinned at some point and may sin again in the future.
Hatchan shows us this through his actions and his statements. He freely admits that he was a failure and a sinner who sinned against the Straw Hats, but especially against Nami and her hometown. He recognizes and acknowledges that he falls short.
Evil is Around Us
Evil is a real presence in the world. I am not talking some physical incarnation of evil we see as monsters in fairy tales. I am talking about deep rooted evil that exists in the hearts of man.
I am speaking about the racist evil that led to human beings of African descent created in God’s image to be bought and sold as chattel in the United States.
I am speaking about the evil of police officers who abuse their authority to harm those they are sworn to protect.
I am speaking to the evil of eugenicists who sought to wipe out entire races of people.
I am speaking of the everyday evil of people who lie to their friends or gossip about their enemies.
I am speaking of even the passive evil of ignoring the plight of our fellow man.
Evil is all around us and can be overwhelming. While we cannot dwell on it at all times, we also should not ignore it or pretend it does not exist. Hatchan tried to convince the Straw Hats to turn a blind eye to the evils at the Sabaody Archipelago. They refused. And we, too, have the choice to refuse to ignore the evil happening around us.
All Can Be Forgiven
Hatchan was a fallen criminal, but he was also able to move toward a better future and create a new life despite his past. While Nami does not accept any apologies at first, by the time this arc in Sabaody Archipelago concludes, Hatchan has transformed from a former enemy to an ally of the Straw Hats. All can be forgiven, and forgiveness can be offered.
Christ commands Christians to do just that. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. This includes those we may despise. It feels hard to want to forgive those who have wronged us, but let us not forget that the Lord does just that for us. In Romans 5:8, Paul reminds us that while we continue to sin, the Lord loves us anyway and gave His only begotten Son to free us from Sin.
As the Lord forgives us, we are to forgive.
As the Straw Hats forgive Hatchan, we are to do the same.
There is Hope
While there is evil and sin in the world, there is still hope! It becomes easy to lose sight of it, but it nonetheless remains. The Lord provides us with an eternal hope that one day He will make all things right.
In the meantime, though, we can see the world being restored bit by bit. We see it in the compassion of Mary Johnson who forgave the man who murdered her son and helped him get back on his feet after he got out of prison. We see it in the examples of public repentance of the Southern Baptist Convention, a convention which was founded by white slaveowners in support slavery in the United States, over their racist roots. We see it in the stories of the Lost Boys of Sudan who worked together to protect one another after losing their families in the Sudanese Civil Wars.
Things can get better and the Lord is here to help. Yet He requires us to be active participants in changing things for the better. He wants us to be like the Straw Hats. He desires for us to see evil, and then to do the only thing we should—to stand up for what’s right.
One Piece is published by Viz Media
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2 thoughts on “Newman’s Nook: The Parable of Hatchan”
Oh man, one piece has so many stories that could be read as parallels to biblical events\tales, it’s kind of amazing, i can’t wait to read the next one!
[…] may or may not realize it but One Piece tackles deep themes like racism, the mistreatment of native peoples, caste systems, punitive vs restorative justice in a broken […]