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Who Is Great Imu in ‘One Piece’?

Great Imu chilling in their garden in One Piece

Of all the many mysteries of One Piece, there are three questions which remain the most tantalizing. What is the One Piece? What happened in the Void Century? And when will Sanji and Zoro finally come to terms with their sexual tension—I mean, what the hell is Imu’s whole deal?

While the One Piece and the Void Century are mysteries posed since the earliest arcs of the series, Imu (or Im, depending on your translation) was only introduced in the (first) Reverie arc. That arc only appeared in 2018 in the manga and 2019 in the anime, which is relatively small slice of One Piece‘s 26-year history. However, Imu’s very existence is a huge revelation, which turns the rules of the world in One Piece on their head. They’re so powerful that Uta (in a fun Easter egg) copies their fashion in One Piece Film: Red in the sequence for “I’m Invincible.”

So what do we know about Imu? Let’s find out! I’m going to separate this article into two parts, so those who want to avoid spoilers for storylines not yet covered by the anime can easily do so.

World Government 101

A review of a basic history of the World Government is in order. Since the World Government was introduced to us in the earliest arcs of One Piece, we’ve been fed the same narrative as the populace of One Piece‘s world. The World Government was founded by 20 kings after they emerged victorious in the war which engulfed the Void Century.

The 20 kings made a pledge to be equals before what’s now called The Empty Throne. In modern day, that pledge means that the monarchs would each have an equal amount of power. This leads us to the Reverie: the event where all the monarchs come to debate and revise World Government policy.

Sounds nice and idealistic, right? Well, if you’re a citizen of the real world, you won’t be surprised to learn that idealism isn’t reflective of One Piece‘s reality. Of those 20 kings, 19 became Celestial Dragons (along with their families). Celestial Dragons are treated as infallible gods in the current day. The monarch of Alabasta, the descendants of our beloved nakama Nefeltari Vivi, declined this invitation.

And besides, there’s a body in the World Government with higher authority than the monarchs (who are the lowest level) and the Celestial Dragons (who rank above them). That would be the Five Elders, some old men who make up the highest authority in the World Government. Very relatable to the real world. Anyway, exactly who these geezers are remains to be revealed. We do find out (relatively minor spoiler) that one of them takes his last name from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, so that’s fun.

It’s also worth noting that World Government really hates it when people look into the Void Century or try to figure out what happened in the time before it. It’s a crime punishable by death—and then some. The Nav razed Robin’s home island Ohara to the ground and killed all of its inhabitants simply because the scholars there had the gall to research the Void Century.

So where does Imu fit into the World Government?

During the Revelry, we find out that there’s an authority even higher than the Five Elders. However, their very existence is completely secret to everyone except (it seems) the Five Elders themselves. And that authority is Imu.

The Five Elders bow to Imu when in their presence (Imu’s gender identity is currently unknown.) Imu seems to spend most of their time in a secluded, beautiful garden. But to really hammer home their position, Imu sits upon the Empty Throne. Imu is essentially the ruler of the entire world, but they do so from the shadows.

Imu is also seen with a gigantic straw hat, which is kept deep within Mary Geoise. I really want to tell you more about this, but it’s all we know.

*Manga spoilers from here on out!!

In fact, just to know about Imu is a death sentence—and, you guessed it, then some. Sabo sees Imu sitting on the Empty Throne and attempts to tell the rest of the revolutionary forces about it over the phone. The government intercepts the call, and when Sabo is about to spill the beans, Imu themself erases the entire island Sabo was on, Lulusia. Or at least, appeared to be on. We don’t understand the ins-and-outs of how tons of people survived that one yet.

What’s important is that a beam of light appears out of nowhere and eviscerates the island instantaneously. After that, the new narrative is that Lulusia never existed. This narrative is even enforced on the Navy forces which intercepted Sabo’s call.

Who is Imu?

Imu sitting on the Empty Throne in One Piece
(Eiichiro Oda / Shueisha)

*Spoilers for One Piece 1084 below!

We haven’t been told Imu’s identity yet, or even seen what they look like beyond a mere sillouhette. But chapter 1084 gave us a pretty major clue.

King Cobra of Alabasta informs us that there’s actually only 19 swords in front of the Empty Throne. The story goes that Queen Lily, the reigning monarch of Alabasta during the World Government’s foundation, didn’t become a Celestial Dragon. She returned home and didn’t pledge her sword before the Empty Throne. Which seems … odd, right? Why would opting to go home dis-enable you from contributing a weapon in a symbolic pledge of monarch equality?

This makes it especially strange that there’s a spare saber dug into the ground of Imu’s garden. And that, as Cobra finds out, historical records in Alabasta have no mention of Queen Lily coming home. It seems the actual ruler of Alabasta after the Void Century was her brother.

One Piece 1084 stops just short of the revelation. It stops when Imu says their first word in the series: “Lily.” But we can see where it’s going. Either Queen Lily was killed by Imu … or she became Imu. And the evidence seems to point to the latter. Unless there’s a way to stop a person from aging for 800 years (the best shit’s always reserved for the ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful), whoever is Imu now is her descendant.

So … what’s going to happen with Vivi?

(featured image: Toei Animation)

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