One Piece manga finally confirms that Zoro is stronger than Sanji (and it's not a surprise)
Prior to Saint Jaygarcia Saturn's ominous arrival on Egghead, which hogged the recent One Piece chapters, the two major battles underway on the island were Monkey D. Luffy vs Admiral Borsalino "Kizaru" and Roronoa Zoro vs Rob Lucci.
Amazed by the fast-paced fights, fans were also captivated by a compelling statement, which put an end to an age-long debate. Teased by Zoro, who told him that he would not be able to face Luffy, Lucci answered the former that killing him would still be a great achievement, as he is a Yonko's number two.
Through Lucci's words, One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda confirmed Zoro's crucial role as the second strongest man in the Straw Hats behind Luffy. With the latter now being a Yonko, Zoro, as his right-hand man, must support him to the best of his abilities, like Rayleigh did with Gol D. Roger back in the day.
Disclaimer: This article contains major spoilers from the One Piece manga up to chapter 1098.
One Piece chapter 1093 crowns Zoro as Yonko Luffy's strongest man
Lucci's statement is very important, as it comes from someone who knows well the Straw Hat Pirates. It also highlights how far the crew has come, as Luffy and Zoro are no longer just a pirate captain and his right-hand man, but a Yonko and his number two.
One Piece fans are thereby amazed by the acknowledgement of Zoro's status, as well as emotionally touched, looking back at how many things happened since the green-haired swordsman and Luffy first met in Shell Town.
As the second strongest Straw Hat after Luffy, "Pirate Hunter" Zoro has always been emphasized as the unofficial but factual first mate of the crew. No other Straw Hat was ever portrayed the same as Zoro, not even Sanji or Jinbe.
Zoro and Sanji are sometimes put in a similar class, as the"wings," the two crewmembers who can help Luffy the most. Still, while maintaining that dynamic, One Piece author Eiichiro Oda has clearly and consistently set Zoro apart, putting him on a much higher pedestal.
Sanji has only led the crew in Luffy and Zoro's absence. Zoro, either to replace Luffy in a fight or to influence his decisions, took command many times even with Sanji being present. This only makes sense, given the swordsman's superior status as Luffy's right-hand man from the very beginning of the story.
Further, some right-hand men are notably weaker than their captains, which is the case of Marco and Whitebeard, King and Kaido, Katakuri to Big Mom, and more. Instead, Zoro is, to a certain extent, comparable in power to his captain Luffy, like Benn Beckman is to Shanks and Rayleigh is to Roger.
Luffy and Zoro are the only two Straw Hats who possess the rare Conqueror's Haki. Both are strong enough to use this power at its advanced stage, which is a feat in itself. They also are the only crewmembers who have been made part of the Worst Generation's Eleven Supernovas, the mightiest pirate rookies.
Unlike the other Straw Hats, Luffy and Zoro seek immense power, as they aim to become, respectively, the Pirate King and the World's Strongest Swordsman. With this in mind, Luffy is set to exceed Shanks and Roger, while Zoro will surpass Mihawk and Rayleigh. No other Straw Hat has narrative benchmarks of such level.
One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda even had Luffy and Zoro challenging each other to prove who was the strongest. They clashed on par for two entire chapters, and the outcome of the struggle was deliberately left pending. Undoubtedly, Luffy is superior to Zoro, but they are meant to be comparable.
No Straw Hat but Zoro has ever been able to stand up against his captain's foes, including Hody Jones, Fujitora, and Kaido. Only Zoro has ever been able to fend off the crew's mightiest enemies, replacing Luffy where needed, or shielding him when he was incapacitated, like he did in Thriller Bark against Kuma, and in Wano against Kaido and Big Mom.
Zoro always beats opponents stronger or even significantly stronger than the ones Sanji defeated, or performs impressively against superior foes, like Kaido and Big Mom in Wano, and Fujitora in Dressrosa. Instead, Sanji never gets portrayed well against the crew's main enemies.
In Dressrosa, Sanji was slaughtered by Doflamingo in a completely one-sided fight. In Wano, he was not even included in the fight against the Emperors. Even when the Straw Hat crew's number two and three fight against foes of similar strength, Zoro's performances are notably superior to Sanji's.
For instance, Sanji was overpowered by Vergo, despite the latter holding himself back as he was not even using his Haki, while Zoro totally annihilated a Haki-enhanced Pica. Taking all into account, it appears clear that Sanji, while a powerful fighter in his own right, can't be seriously compared to Zoro.
Zoro's Ashura, Advanced Conqueror's Haki, and King of Hell Style easily overshadow Sanji's Diable Jambe and Ifrit Jambe. The green-haired swordsman has consistently shown a significantly higher combat prowess, which is the result of his superior ambitions and willpower.
Lucci's statement in One Piece 1093 is just yet another confirmation
Unsurprisingly, several statements in the manga as well as concurring information from the databooks and the SBS highlight Zoro as the one and only number two of the Straw Hat Pirates, with regards to both combat prowess and authority. In the One Piece manga:
- The Baroque Works agents who saw him fighting thought that he was the real captain of the Straw Hat Pirates.
- Upon seeing him in combat, the members of Franky Family wondered why Zoro wasn't the captain of the Straw Hats, or why didn't he choose to lead his own crew.
- Ohm acknowledged Zoro as the leader of the Straw Hats.
- Urouge wondered how a man as powerful as Zoro could just be the Straw Hat crew's first mate.
- After witnessing Zoro annihilating Pica's giant golem, Chinjao was astonished at such a mighty fighter being only a subordinate of Luffy.
- Bartolomeo, who represents the embodiment of a dedicated and knowledgeable One Piece fan, identified Zoro as Luffy's right-hand man and the Straw Hat crew's first mate.
- Lucci called Zoro the number two of Luffy.
In the suppletive canon sources of the One Piece franchise, there is more proof of the same:
- The One Piece Databook Red (Alabasta Arc) ranked Luffy and Zoro at the same power level, with both receiving the same score of six points out of six, while, for instance, Sanji was rated five points out of six.
- The One Piece Databook Yellow (Enies Lobby Arc) stated that Zoro's combat prowess is highly comparable to Luffy's.
- The One Piece Vivre Card Databook stated that Zoro is the second strongest crewmember right after Luffy, and that he acts as the crew's vice-captain.
On the cover of One Piece chapter 1031, Oda gathered the characters who are the second strongest of their respective groups and crews. Among them were Rayleigh for the Roger Pirates, Katakuri for the Big Mom Pirates, King for the Beasts Pirates, Sabo for the Revolutionary Army, Benn Beckman for the Red Hair Pirates, and more.
Unsurprisingly, the character chosen as the second strongest of the Straw Hat Pirates was none other than Zoro. Oda also made it clear to highlight Zoro as the crew's first mate with a dedicated scene in the recent One Piece Live-Action.
For such a scene to be present in the show, it means that Oda approved it. In fact, the creator of One Piece was actively and deeply involved in the live-action, working as one of the show's executive producers. Nothing could be included in Netflix's adaptation without Oda's endorsement.
Zoro's first mate role throughout One Piece
Deriving his authority from his superior combat power, Zoro fulfills the role of first mate in the best possible way. As a natural-born Conqueror's Haki user, he showcases dominant leadership. Moreover, he has demonstrated commendable wisdom.
When Usopp asked permission to return, Chopper begged Luffy to listen, but was ignored. Chopper then went to plead to Zoro, even though Luffy had already given his negative answer. After Zoro also refuted him, he stopped asking altogether. This emphasizes that the swordsman holds special authority in the crew.
Following the events of the Levely, Luffy said that they should head to Mary Geoise to rescue Vivi, and the rest of the crew supported the idea. However, Zoro directly addressed Luffy, telling him that they should not take action until they had a clearer picture of the situation.
Despite his own opposed understanding, backed by the majority of the Straw Hats, Luffy listened to Zoro's wise recommendation. Similarly, in Water Seven, Zoro gave Luffy advice on how to lead the crew, bearing the burden of being the captain. Later, Zoro urged Usopp and all other Straw Hats to respect Luffy.
When Luffy went to fight Crocodile, Zoro took the lead of the rest of the crew and gave orders to the others, who obeyed him. In Thriller Bark, with the captain absent, Zoro led the charge against Oars. Later, with Luffy unconscious, the "Pirate Hunter" took over and had the other Strawhats stay back while he would fight the Warlord Bartholomew Kuma.
Zoro, Silvers Rayleigh, and the other right-hand men
Usually, Zoro fights valiantly against the main villain, and overwhelms the number two, while Luffy, after a prolonged and complex battle, finally defeats the main villain. As such, Zoro is the only Straw Hat who is consistently represented clashing or interacting with the number twos of the other crews.
- In Arabasta, Zoro defeated Mr 1, who was Crocodile's right-hand man and strongest subordinate.
- In Skypiea, he beat Ohm, who was Enel's strongest underling.
- In Enies Lobby, he crushed Kaku, who was portrayed as Lucci's right-hand man.
- In Fish-Man Island, he defeated Hyozo, a fighter with comparable strength to Hody Jones. He also easily slaughtered the latter, reducing him to near death.
- In Dressrosa, he annihilated Pica, who, in the favorable environment of the island, which boosts his Devil Fruit, is arguably stronger than Vergo.
- In Wano, Zoro inflicted a crushing defeat on Killer, the right-hand man of Eustass Kid. After fighting against Kaido, he challenged and beat the Yonko's right-hand man and strongest subordinate, the Lunarian survivor King.
- In Egghead, Zoro faced Rob Lucci, the strongest CP0 agent, as well as the individual portrayed as the most powerful enemy on the island after Kizaru.
- Even in One Piece: Red, Zoro was the only Straw Hat to be paralleled with Benn Beckman, the right-hand man of "Red Hair" Shanks.
The most important parallelism is probably the one that associates Zoro with Silvers Rayleigh. With the former being Luffy's second-in-command and the latter having fulfilling the same role for Gol D. Roger, it can be said that Zoro and Rayleigh are the right-hand men of the Pirate King, the future one and the past one, respectively.
Zoro is the new generation version of Rayleigh, with the two being completely spectacular in every possible way. Their shared traits include their status, their fighting style as masterful Haki users and swordsmen, their mirror-like scarred bodies, and even their clothing and behavior.
Zoro and Rayleigh's very similar monikers of "King of Hell" and "Dark King," both recall the concept of shadow rulers, hinting at the fact that they are powerful individuals who are very comparable to their captains.
This was probably inspired by the myths of Hades/Pluto, who, in the Greek-Roman legends, are the kings of the afterlife, ruling in the shadows of Zeus/Jupiter. The Japanese name of Yama, (the Buddhist version of the King of Hell—the monarch of the underworld) is Enma, just like Zoro's new sword.
Like Roger and Luffy, Rayleigh and Zoro possess the very rare Conqueror's Haki, which means that they had all the potential to become legendary captains on their own. Despite their innate tendency, they decided to follow someone else, which only highlights the special connection they have with their captains.
Since the One Piece story began, "Pirate Hunter" Zoro has been, alongside Luffy, more important than anyone else ever could. After so many years, fans really can't wait to see Zoro achieve his ambition to rise as the World's Strongest Swordsman and help Luffy to become the Pirate King.
Be sure to keep up with One Piece's manga, anime, and live-action, as 2023 progresses.