One Piece: The Uniqueness of Monkey D. Luffy
Gold Roger was the King of the Pirates and when the Marines hung him from the gallows the last words he uttered were, “My fortune is yours for the taking. I left everything I own in One Piece.” These very words started a Great Age of Pirates as people from all across the world set sail for the illusive One Piece. Now jump twenty years into the future and Monkey D. Luffy, the protagonist for One Piece, is introduced. He’s your typical shonen male protagonist: not that bright, a superb fighter, always hungry. However, Luffy is a very unique protagonist in one specific way: there’s nothing special about him.
Monkey D. Luffy is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and his ultimate goal is to find the fabled One Piece, the treasure at the end of the Grand Line that will make him the Pirate King. Along the way, he recruits powerful crew members, fights even more powerful enemies, and declares war on the World Government. The series in its anime and manga adaptions is extremely entertaining, and Luffy himself is something so different.
Many stories have a driving force behind their main characters. They are special because they have a power only they possess or a prophecy that has singled them out for greatness. Monkey D. Luffy is unique in that there’s nothing special about him. Yes, he is the only person in the world made of rubber, but that’s because he ate a Devil Fruit and he’s come across tons Devil Fruit users. Up until the Enies Lobby arc, Luffy was relatively unknown to the World Government despite having a 100 million berrie bounty on his head. Currently in the series, he holds a 400 million berrie bounty and the World Government still doesn’t even seem that interested in him, even after Impel Down and Marineford.
Now, there are many arguments for the case of Luffy being special: Haki, the D carrier, the son of Monkey D. Dragon and grandson of Monkey D. Garp. I will tackle these in the coming paragraphs so hold your horses. Luffy not being special is so different from many protagonists in many forms of media, especially that of fantasy and science fiction, that he stands out. Take for instance, Naruto Uzumaki of Naruto. Naruto is the jinchuriki for the Nine-Tailed Fox, the son of the Fourth Hokage, and the Prophesied Child that will bring about peace in the ninja world, or destroy it. He’s so special it almost borders on cliché.
I’ll start off with Haki, a supernatural aspect of the world similar to the Force in Star Wars. In its three forms it allows users to accurately predict the future up to a few seconds, armor themselves against damage and even hurt Devil Fruit users, and knock people out simply by thinking. It’s a pretty wicked power. Luffy is a rarity in the world as he can use all three Haki abilities, even combining them with his Devil Fruit powers. That would make him special, right?
Haki is widely used by pirates and marines, especially the Prediction Haki and Armoring Haki, though the Conqueror’s Haki is rare. It is even stated before Marineford that all Marine Officers must have at least one type of Haki, though it doesn’t matter which one. Shanks is able to utilize all three forms of Haki, as well as Whitebeard, and though never stated, it was hinted that Kaido and Big Mom could use all three as well. A person using all three Hakis isn’t that special if all Four Yonko have the ability.
Luffy was introduced to Haki in the Skypeia arc, where it wasn’t explained and didn’t make another appearance until Amazon Lily where Luffy used Conqueror’s Haki instinctively. He would again use Conqueror’s Haki instinctively during Marineford. Haki was given a broader definition and eloquently explained by Silvers Rayleigh, who also can use all three Hakis (in the last chapter before the Time Skip). Haki was used more as a plot device to give Luffy and other characters the ability to fight with Logia-type Devil Fruit users without being completely overpowered.
Luffy’s middle name has been a point of mystery for a while, and could easily be argued that it does make him special, except for the fact that no one knows what a D carrier even means. The D for Luffy’s middle name was first brought up in an early SBS, in which Eiichiro Oda responded by saying, “that it was just a D for now and [he] would reveal the truth in time.” Though eight characters have been introduced with the D, it has not played a large role in the series and has only been mentioned a handful of times.
So, Luffy has some pretty famous relatives. His dad, Monkey D. Dragon, is the leader of the Revolutionaries, a band of outlaws trying to overthrow the World Government, and has gained the title and bounty of Most Wanted Man in the world. Luffy’s grandfather is none other than Monkey D. Garp, one of the most famous Marines in the history of the series, ranked at Vice Admiral. Despite not having any Devil Fruit powers, he is immensely powerful. You would think this would make Luffy special. In my opinion, it doesn’t. You have to add in a few quick facts about his relatives before you can argue how special they make Luffy.
The most significant argument is that his relatives barely play a role in Luffy’s life. Luffy has never formally met his father; he was even surprised when Garp told him he had a father after Enies Lobby. Dragon and Luffy have only been in one scene together, and that was during the Loguetown arc when Dragon saved Luffy from Smoker. However, Oda never detailed who Dragon was and Dragon disappeared quickly after saving his son’s life. We don’t even see Dragon’s face, confirming him as the man that saved Luffy in Loguetown, until Impel Down where he was shown in a flashback with Ivankov. Continuing, Dragon has yet to play a significant role in the series besides being mentioned by several characters, the cameo-like bit he played in Loguetown, and hints that Nico Robin might have been in his company during the time skip.
Now we move onto Monkey D. Garp. Luffy’s grandfather is another barrel of monkeys entirely. Luffy has known Garp since he was young, but he wasn’t raised by Garp. Garp, so focused on his job as Marine, left Luffy in the care of Curly Dadan, who also happened to be raising Portgas D. Ace at the time as well, another child that Garp was suppose to be the caretaker of. Garp would periodically appear to check in on Luffy and Ace, but beyond that he never influenced Luffy, except maybe to fear his fists. Garp, who plays more of a role in the One Piece series than Dragon, was not formally introduced until the Post-Enies Lobby arc, though he made numerous appearances in the Coby-Helmeppo cover stories and it’s subsequent anime arc. None of those stories revealed his full name, relation to Luffy or Dragon, or even his face, preferring to wear a dog mask instead. Since his introduction after Enies Lobby, Garp only made cameo appearances at the end of Sabaody Archipelago, Amazon Lily, and during Impel Down. In all three he seemed amused by Luffy’s behavior when Admiral Sengoku was annoyed or he was discussing what to do with the then-captured Portgas D. Ace. Garp played a larger role during Marineford, as well as many other supporting Marines from the series, and even hindered Luffy’s progress during the arc. In none of these appearances could you argue that he helped or influenced Luffy.
Part of Luffy’s uniqueness is that the world isn’t shaped by his destiny; it’s shaped by the choices he makes. Whatever decision he makes can either affect the world of One Piece as a whole, or not at all. Many of his decisions don’t have much of an effect up until Enies Lobby when he declared war on the World Government, and even then the world didn’t change that much. That choice just proved that Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates would go to great lengths to save Nico Robin, and that they might be a bit crazy.
In our eyes, Luffy is special. I couldn’t see One Piece without him. He’s such an engaging character, and the fact that there isn’t anything special about him makes him even more fun to follow in his adventures. He’s unique in that within the storyline he has no outside special ability beyond the others around him and he doesn’t affect the world by just being alive. He truly is a most unique character.
What do you think? Leave a comment.