Shonen movies and specials like One Piece’s 3D2Y have a difficult challenge: tell a satisfying story without doing anything to change the status quo. Nothing that happens in them can have a noticeable impact on the plot, the characters, or even the world outside of the context of the film itself. One Piece has circumvented this before by introducing and developing villains who only appear in the movie, managing to tell a satisfying story by centering it around characters like Z or Tesoro. In the case of 3D2Y, we’re given Byrnndi World.
World’s basic backstory is one we’ve seen before in shonen: the villain who started out like our protagonist but lost his way. Like Luffy, World started his journey as a young boy who wanted nothing more than to explore the world and be free. Like Luffy, he built up a crew of oddballs who he liked and trusted. Like Luffy, he started causing trouble with the government and other pirates who tried messing with his crew. His journey mirrored Luffy’s in so many ways until the day he was betrayed and captured, with his closest crewmates fleeing for their lives while the Marines arrested him. World grew bitter and obsessed with revenge, even to the point where he stopped caring about his crew as anything more than pawns in his goals. Most villains following this archetype are redeemed in some way at the end, either being reminded of what’s truly important or reflecting on the actions that brought them to that point. But with World, something odd happens: he dies without ever having that realization.
What makes his death so tragic is how avoidable it was. World made the choice to give up on everything he once valued, and everything subsequent to that decision was what led to his death. World didn’t have to attack the Marines after he escaped from Impel Down; the government didn’t even know he was at large before then! He had his ship, his crew, and his dream submarine that would’ve let him hide without much trouble. He was also powerful enough that the government, weakened after the battle at Marineford, most likely wouldn’t have gone after him if he hadn’t attacked first even if it had known about him. All he had to do was continue on his adventure with the crew that had remained loyal to him for 30 years and he’d have obtained everything he wanted. Instead, though, he gave up on everything except revenge against the World Government, which isn’t wholly unjustified.
Though there was likely nothing his crew could’ve done to save him and staying would’ve only resulted in them being killed or captured as well, that doesn’t change the fact that World’s crew abandoned him. Add in the fact that several other members of his crew straight up tried to kill him, and World’s mistrust and bitterness are understandable. Pirates in One Piece are essentially social outcasts who have to rely on their crews to survive. More than survival, though, crews can often become like a surrogate family. We’ve seen that before with the Straw Hats and the Whitebeard Pirates, and the World Pirates seem to have the same type of bond, which only makes their betrayal sting more. If the people you should be able to trust the most betray you, then who can you trust? World’s crew never addressed it because it had been 30 years for them, but, thanks to being frozen in Impel Down, it only seemed like a few short weeks to World. With his crew abandoning him and then trying to act like nothing changed, it’s no wonder that World grew resentful and bitter. Add in the World Government’s role in everything, and it’s no wonder World stopped caring about anything except his revenge.
His obsession with revenge and resentment toward his crew for abandoning him led him to throw away everything, only to gain nothing. World’s last act after losing to Luffy is to try and go out in a blaze of glory by firing the giant cannon he was so obsessed with and killing himself and all the Marines attacking him. Mihawk unceremoniously put an end to that. Instead of getting the bang he wanted, World’s last act fizzled into nothing, a failed attack that would be swiftly forgotten. Even his shot had landed, World knew that it would be futile. He and his crew had been beaten, they were surrounded by Marines, and there was no hope of escape. That last act symbolizes his entire quest for revenge: big, destructive, and ultimately meaningless. He’s left standing on the cannon, a monument to his pointless quest, with Byojack plaintively calling for them to start over and set out to sea again on an adventure like before, a cruel bit of irony since neither of them had any way of escaping. Perhaps if Byojack had asked that before, things would’ve been different. Perhaps World would’ve abandoned his revenge and returned to the life of freedom he had once enjoyed. We’ll never know in the end, as Byojack’s words were too little, too late. So ended the pirate Byrnndi World.