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?

Uh, no.

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.

HakiLuffy 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.

DragonSo, 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.

GarpNow 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.

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  1. Candice Evenson

    I agree that Luffy is unique because he of the choices he makes, completely unrelated to a notion of destiny. In fact… he is special in that he hears about the One Piece and decides that it is his destiny to be Pirate King….and goes for it!

    You know,the gum gum fruit is really a weakness that he has learned to use as another part of himself…it leads people to underestimate him–what kind of future King of the Pirates can’t swim? When you underestimate someone just because they aren’t larger than life, you will not see that their resilience is what makes them unique.

  2. Leblanc

    But when I am alone Luffy can always make me happy and laugh

  3. Trujillo

    I like the show, but I can still understand the flaws it has. IMO, it’s hard to get people to watch it, because it starts slow and on the outside, it’s freakin’ ridiculous and childish, but it improves later, especially at the Marineford arc. I also hate how many boring episodes there are, but it’s all worth it to find the good parts, like Luffy vs Blueno, Luffy vs Lucci, ___’s death, _______’s death, every fight in Marineford. It’s good stuff if you’re patient and forgiving enough.

  4. France4it

    I’ve read the whole One Piece manga twice, and I’ve watched all of the dubbed and subbed.

  5. wish Luffy’s life was mine….

  6. I’m a fan of many anime including the big 3 and I’ve got to say that no other anime has made me laugh, cry and left me at the edge of my seat of excitement like One Piece, people should give this anime a chance because it’s just amazing. Other animes is usually pretty good through the whole series but One Piece just gets better and better from ep 1 to the latest one.

  7. I just started watching One Piece because I remember when I was kid I loved listening to the intro song before I went to sleep. I’m currently on ep.28 and so far I can’t get enough of it. The only thing that I have a problem with is that sometimes the battles are way to long and it might take like 6 episodes for Luffy to beat one character.

    • That’s almost like a standard of One Piece. Oda is really good at making battles seem longer than they actually are by showing short snippets of each fight. It gets annoying at times, especially during Enies Lobby, but its still an entertaining series.

  8. I remember when I loved One Piece… I was like, one of it’s biggest fans. The manga, that is. I’ve given up. It should have ended while it was good, but… nope. Now, all the serious dramatic moments are beyond cheesy – they are dementedly retarded. And now, the crazy characters are most of the time ungodly annoying. Not to mention, the story gets dumber and dumber. I miss the simpler times when I loved One Piece…

  9. Richelle

    I love One Piece so much the only thing they could improve is making it much faster pasted it gets so slow at some parts!

  10. this is my favorite anime series but i can still admit its flaws

  11. this show! this dama show! it,s to good to be true. one of the best animes i have watch in my entier life and im onely on ep 37

  12. Fusko Rose

    I just love how everything is unfolding! The themes are actually very dark and the series gets so intense! Its just perfect, Its made me cry (multiple times;-;) LMFAO,and all the characters are actually memorable! When ppl reappear I immediately remember them! Its also not repetative and deep (unlike narutard n bleach)

  13. Interesting article! I’ve never watched One Piece but Luffy seems like a fascinating character. I appreciate the background you provided also. Helps out your points enormously.

  14. For a long time i still watch this show and not got bored of it!!

  15. I love this show. It’s had me in tears both in laughing, and actual sadness.

  16. Mary Awad

    Luffy is such a dynamic character and that’s what makes him great. He’s got personality and good will. Main characters lately seem to have it all, good looks, super powers, brains and brawn. Luffy just has what he needs and that’s why he’s a charmer~

  17. Jemarc Axinto

    I never thought of Luffy’s character in the way you presented. I always compared him to Goku, and Naruto (I.e., great, naive heroes with large appetites. I guess that’s why I kept coming back to One Piece despite his similarities with other manga heroes.

  18. Mo Sadek

    That’s a great point. Luffy has some great abilities, but so do all the other characters in the series. It really does come down to his personality and everything he does. I’m currently reading the manga and I love it so far, but I have 300-ish chapters until I’m all caught up.

    Great article!

  19. FaheyFresh

    Nice article. I wish you had said more about Luffy’s uncanny ability to spot potential in the people he meets. You can always tell when he is interested in making someone join his crew, but you are not always certain why. I think they have mentioned it a few times as his best quality. I am not saying that to counter your article, but I think it is definitely worth mentioning.

    • In Marineford Mihawk realizes that “one by one, [Luffy] turns the people around him into his allies.” Because of that, Mihawk claims that “more than anyone else sailing the seas, that man possesses the most terrifying power.”

  20. I enjoyed this article. I definitely agree that Luffy is different from many protagonists because he isn’t different at all, which I had not thought about before. I realized that he wasn’t the Chosen One or anything like that, but it is interesting to see it put like this.

  21. Gol D Roger was not hung from the gallows, he was executed with spears on a stand in Loguetown!

  22. This article is actually something a agree with fully and also is something that I feel adds to what I believe in the Anime/Manga world is proof that the torch has been passed.

    In the sense that I feel those of us that came into Manga/Anime from the tale of Goku, Luffy could be argued to represent this generation’s carefree protagonist with no selfish bone in his body; Just something to mull over.

    Definitely the most unique character in the current roster of Anime/Manga ^_^

  23. jambles

    What I love about Luffy is his innocence. He is completely a child, yet so dynamic it makes for an unpredictable character. I think it’s great the audience knows his quirks and his attitude, but when it comes to decisions or new powers/forms he acquires I am always surprised! Queue what just happened in Dressrosa! Oda created an amazing character you want to live through and/or be friends with. Luffy is the epitome of what you would want a pirate to be, free.

  24. Luffy is awesome as he enjoy with his crews. He always care them. And they r in danger . He declared war. Like we see when robin in capture by marries. He said that also he don’t care about world government. And he coming in the action to save his crew member. And Nami Also save by luffy three time’s. After the time skip. He is able to used all form of haki. That was pretty cool. And master in second gear and third gear. And forth gear also.. its was a totally awesome. I just imagine that when he used his fivth gear awaking god monkey . How much he strong. So base on that luffy is so special in one piece…

  25. There are many good points brought up about Luffy’s uniqueness in this article. I would have liked to see his ability to accept anyone, regardless of who they were in the past or who they are in the “present”, addressed as one of Luffy’s unique character traits.

    Part of what makes Luffy, Luffy, is his complete lack of self-preservation or self-awareness. He constantly disregards danger, regardless if its source is in a place, person, or thing. He takes everything and everyone he encounters at face-value, and never allows the opinions of others to influence his judgment. It can be annoying at times for the reader – I’ve often wondered, “You idiot, *why* would you do that?” in regards to many of Luffy’s actions. (As an example, during Luffy’s fight with Gekko Moria, when he is easily tricked into chasing after the Warlord’s shadow. Another would be when his fight with Wyper on Sky Island is interrupted by a giant snake, and he ends up in its stomach for a large part of the arc.)

    In regards to people though, this ability (when it’s not directed at Navy Vice-Admirals, Warlords, or other opponents obviously stronger than Luffy) allows Luffy to make friends and allies in the most unlikeliest places, like Smoker and Law.

    And I think this is part of the reason why many readers like Luffy and find him unique – he accepts anyone as they are, without judgment or any expectations. All of us want a “Luffy” in our lives who can accept us unconditionally.

  26. Kevin Mohammed

    Luffy’s uniqueness comes from his personality. The basis of which most people call to be randomness is just Luffy’s sporadic way of looking at the world with eyes filled with wonderment. However, Luffy has a personality that resembles most other people which is what connects to most people. Like Luffy, we are experiencing most things for the first time in this world and many of his reactions are similar to how our would be in the same situation.

  27. lam chei

    i donnu if it is mentioned in the threads..but luffy has this unique ability where sometimes he can hear voices..just like gol d roger..

  28. “If the 4 yonkos use it then it’s not that special for someone to use all 3 types of haki.”
    Ya know the 4 MOST POWERFUL PIRATES IN THE WORLD. iF tHeY uSe It It’S nOt ThAt SpEcIaL

  29. Animelover556

    I disagree I think the gum gum fruit gives him an advantage and makes him stronger and it’s not a weakness but his strength. And he is specially individually as well. Naruto is pretty similar to that and luff is strong with his crew and friends as well.

  30. Your argument is very compelling and I would be inclined to agree with most of your points. Luffy is not unique in terms of his powers, or heritage, or destiny, but he is unique in his personality. By that, I mean in his ability to make allies. He is simply such a compelling person that, no matter where he is or what the odds against him are, he always seems to make friends that are willing to put their lives on the line for him. This is even stated multiple times in the anime. So while nothing else about his abilities, history, heritage, or destiny make him unique, who he is as a whole does which is why, even after twenty or so years, people still read and watch to see what he’s going to do next.

  31. I guess you could argue that there is one thing that makes him special in comparison to other One Piece characters; His ability to people towards him no matter if they’re allies or enemies.

  32. Aathi

    One Piece is my favorite series of all time. I find that Luffy is a big contributor to this being the case. He is always enjoyable to see on screen, and can be a great inspiration in times of need.

    When you said that Luffy is not special I was confused about what you meant. This is because he is the happiest character that I have ever seen, and is the character that embodies most what it means to live a life of adventure. After reading through your article, that confusion cleared up.

    I have heard of many people who argued that One piece’s main character had been given special abilities like many other Shonen anime. I had always disagreed with that notion. I am happy to see that you share my thoughts.

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