Disclaimer: This post contains minor upcoming spoilers for the One Piece anime.
I don’t want to see Monkey D. Luffy follow in the footsteps of Gol D. Roger. It is not enough for him to become the Pirate King.
More to the point, I have a love-hate relationship with “inherited will,” a theme that pervades every connecting fiber of the One Piece.
Inherited will… The tide of the times… People’s dreams… These things cannot be stopped.
As long as people seek the answer of freedom, these things will never cease to be!
This subtitled translation to the second One Piece opening mesmerized me as a budding fan. The phrase inherited will snagged me like a lure. That a given episode could be so carefree and light-hearted yet open with such ostentation and romance dug into the mystery-seeker in me and has yet to let go.
The narrative cycles that inherited will allows for remain as satisfying as ever. In each instance of the phenomenon, dreams left unfulfilled by dreamers past are taken up as a torch by the new generation. On Skypeia, Luffy rang the golden belfry, whose reverberations traversed not only the sky island and the sea below but also time as a symbol of the bond between Montblanc Noland and Calgara. Nico Robin has undertaken the treasonous burden of her mother and colleagues by seeking out the truth behind the poneglyphs and the Void Century. Franky followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Tom, by crafting the ship of a Pirate King-to-be. Most recently, Trafalgar Law used any means necessary to carry out Corazon’s final mission of saving Dressrosa from the terror of the latter’s brother, Don Quixote Doflamingo.
These examples illustrate how the unfinished business of our predecessors may come to fruition as they become the dreams or motivations of our heroes. Eiichiro Oda never disappoints when it comes to the emotional satisfaction that is reached by the realization of these unyielding dreams.
Having said all that, I have my reservations about Luffy carrying out Roger’s will. At the heart of this story is the simple dream of becoming the King of the Pirates, and doing so will require reaching the end of the Grand Line, just as Roger did. In short, we are hypothetically bearing witness not to the making of history, but to the repetition of history. If there is one simple criticism to make of inherited will, it is the intrinsic flaw of being unoriginal.
The crux of my beef with inherited will then essentially hinges on this: Does the theme of inherited will and the obvious connections to Roger cheapen Luffy’s adventures and accomplishments?
The parallels between Luffy and Gol D. Roger have intensified the further the Straw Hats have traveled along the Grand Line. Luffy’s survival in the face of certain death on the very platform that Roger was executed was the first indication that the two pirates’ fates were intertwined. Two members of Roger’s legendary crew, Shanks and Silvers Rayleigh, both recognized a glint of their former captain in the boy. “There was a kid in East Blue who said the exact same thing Captain Roger said,” Shanks once mused to Rayleigh. Whitebeard saw fit to approve of his rival’s bet on the next generation after Luffy’s bravery in the War of the Best. The Sea Kings at Fishman Island took note of Luffy’s ability to hear their voices, making him the first person able to hear them speak since Roger, and a reference to the claim made on Skypeia that Roger could hear “the voice of all things.” Of greatest significance, the famed Straw Hat passed down to Luffy from Shanks was a memento of the Pirate King himself.
In the beginning of my time as a One Piece fan, these revelations wholly excited me. After all, the appetite of the fan base for clues into the history of this fictional world is never sated, and “Gold Roger” (as he was called then) remains a particularly mysterious key to the past. However, seeing Roger don the famed straw hat had a profound and rattling impact on the way I perceived Luffy from then on.
For Luffy to trace the former Pirate King’s footsteps isn’t what I want out of a protagonist. I’ve grown too attached to Luffy throughout his adventures, triumphs, and lows not to be offended by the possibility that he could be a carbon copy of Roger, down to the iconic hat, smile, and devil-may-care attitude. I do not wish inherited will to overlap with predetermined fate. I do not want Luffy to be a clone or Roger reincarnated.
Naturally, if one is to optimistically assume that this will not come to pass, the initial step would be to contrast the two characters. Aesthetics aside, what separates Luffy from Roger, if their most recognizable traits are shared? Their journeys differ in a couple of ways. Most obvious is that Luffy desires to become the Pirate King, a title Roger did not conceive of until the public began calling him that after his journey had ended. Roger set out with his crew on their final, fateful journey only after he had contracted a terminal illness, whereas Luffy is youthful and in good health to my knowledge (damage accrued from Second Gear, Fourth Gear, and Ivankov’s hormone treatment notwithstanding).
It is unknown whether or not Roger possessed a Devil Fruit at the time I am writing this. I must say that if it is revealed at a later date that Roger, too, ate the Gum-Gum Fruit, I will feel quite dejected about this parallel between them, but this seems unlikely given that characters who could have brought this up before (Shanks, Buggy, Whitebeard, and Rayleigh) have made no indication.
In the end, Luffy’s actions at Raftel and afterward will separate the two. It is widely if not unanimously agreed that the discovery of One Piece and the truth behind the Void Century will shake foundations of the world and trigger a war unlike anything before it. Evident as this may be, I never hear it discussed: if Roger and his crew knew the secrets of history and understood the ramifications that such knowledge would have on the world, why didn’t they act upon it? Why didn’t the Roger Pirates trigger the war that we are now building up to?
Gol D. Roger’s death was imminent, meaning he would not be able to see through the consequences of his actions. This is not a reason of itself, but perhaps a contributing factor. An explanation as hokey as “the time was not yet right” or “it was not his burden to bear” may not be satisfying now, but there is evidence for it.
“It’s almost as if Roger created this Great Pirate Era on purpose,” Usopp astutely surmised upon hearing Rayleigh’s tale on Saobody. Added Rayleigh to Nico Robin, “We—and Ohara—might have hurried a bit too much. It’s possible you’ll be led to a different answer than we were.” If Roger was in fact before his time and therefore intended his will to be snatched up by a greenhorn of the next generation, Luffy will surpass him by finishing what Roger could not. Realizing Roger’s will, however, does not dispel my qualms over Luffy being a clone or extension of Roger.
Ideally, Luffy will make the One Piece and title of Pirate King his own in a way that fundamentally separates himself from his predecessor. The perfect example of this is Law, who carried on Corazon’s will in spite of their differences. Corazon was unable to pull the trigger on his brother, and rather than taking after his mentor and becoming a carbon-copy of him, Law prided himself on being able to pull the trigger. Although Law did not dispose of Doflamingo himself, he showed no mercy to his former idol, and made the necessary allies to dethrone him.
When Luffy learns of the One Piece and the true history, I want him to, as Rayleigh put it, arrive at a different answer than Roger did. I’d like to see him acknowledge the choice Roger made in keeping the history and the One Piece a secret. As we see more of the Roger Pirates the closer we get to the series’ conclusion, I hope to see more of what made Roger unique. Perhaps most of all, I don’t want Rayleigh and Shanks and even we the audience to look at Luffy and think of Roger. I want there to come a definitive moment when the comparisons break off.
The moment Roger’s dream is complete will be a satisfying one, of that I am sure. The moment Luffy makes that dream his own should be the most memorable moment in One Piece.
How do you feel about the similarities between Luffy and Roger?
Give me your take either in the comments or on Twitter @renfield89. Piece Out!
“Piece Out!” is a bi-weekly editorial feature that is posted every other Friday, only at The One Piece Podcast website.