One Piece: Where would the Straw Hats Pirates be without Luffy, explored
One of the most interesting aspects of author and illustrator Eiichiro Oda’s original One Piece manga series is the relationship its main cast has with one another. The bond of the Straw Hats overall is incredibly engaging, but breaking down the group into specific relationships and analyzing said relationships is particularly intriguing.
This is especially true for the one-on-one relationships that One Piece’s core protagonist Monkey D. Luffy has with each individual member of his crew. Generally speaking, Luffy influences the lives of each of his crew for the better, both before and after they join his pirate crew.
While Luffy has undoubtedly bettered the lives of most of his crew members, it’s intriguing to think about what would have happened if he wasn’t able to help them or their loved ones. Likewise, considering the state of the Straw Hat crew members' lives if they had never met Luffy is an incredibly sad and, for some, harrowing thought to have.
Lives of One Piece’s Straw Hat crew without Luffy undoubtedly proves the value of his presence
Fittingly, this article will start with the very first future Straw Hat that Luffy meets on his journey for the titular One Piece treasure. This is none other than Roronoa Zoro, whom Luffy meets at Shell Island in the East Blue. When Luffy first finds Zoro, he’s being held captive by Marine Captain Axe-Hand Morgan for killing the pet wolf of Morgan’s son, Helmeppo.
Thanks to Luffy, Zoro is eventually freed. However, this would likely not be the case if Luffy hadn’t come along. No one else on Shell Island, aside from a girl named Rika who gave him food, would help Zoro escape or even survive the captured.
In all likelihood, Zoro would either have been executed, or been locked up in prison. While it’s possible he could’ve become a Marine, this seems unlikely both to be offered and to be accepted by Zoro.
The next Straw Hat to officially and fully join the crew in One Piece is Usopp, whom Luffy meets in Syrup Village. Here, Luffy is able to help Usopp save the day against Captain Kuro, who planned on killing Kaya and taking her fortune. While Kuro originally intended to do things quietly, he eventually decided on both pillaging the area and running off with Kaya’s wealth.
Had Luffy not been there, Usopp would’ve almost certainly died, as would the other citizens of Syrup Village. With Usopp being viewed as a liar, his warning of pirates approaching would’ve fallen on deaf ears, with Kuro and his crew being given free reign to invade the town. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case, and is instead a grim “what if” scenario.
Sanji joined One Piece’s main pirate crew after Usopp, leaving behind his life at the Baratie sea restaurant and mentor Red-Leg Zeff in order to search for the All Blue ocean. Before this, however, Sanji and Zeff were forced to deal with Don Krieg and his crew, whom Luffy was instrumental in defeating.
That being said, it’s possible that Mihawk would have also defeated Don Krieg and saved the day, but it's fairly unlikely. Even if this did happen, Sanji’s father would’ve eventually come for him to marry Charlotte Pudding as seen in the setup to the Whole Cake Island arc.
As a result, Sanji’s life without Luffy would end in death one way or another, either by the hands of Don Krieg or by those of the Big Mom Pirates.
Nami was the next to officially join the crew, having only masqueraded as one of Luffy’s loyal friends up to this point in One Piece. In the process of her joining the crew, Luffy successfully defeated the Fishman Arlong and liberated Cocoyashi Village from his clutches. This also allowed Nami to begin chasing her dream once more rather than continue working to buy the village back from Arlong.
Had Luffy not met Nami and liberated Cocoyasi Village, she would likely still be toiling away at trying to raise money to buy the village back from Arlong. As seen in the arc, Arlong had clearly always intended on sabotaging her just as she approached the 100 million Beri valuation.
Considering Nami’s love and loyalty for her mother Bellemere, sister Nojiko, and the other citizens, she likely wouldn’t run away or take her own life to escape her duty.
Chopper, Nico Robin, and others
While all of the East Blue crewmates’ lives are fairly easy to analyze in a “what if they never met Luffy” scenario, the other crewmates are somewhat more difficult to do this with.
Take One Piece’s Tony Tony Chopper, who only joined Luffy and his crew after meeting them, learning how to make friends, and realizing that piracy was his calling.
Had Chopper not met Luffy, the sad, harsh reality is that he’d likely still be a sad, reclusive reindeer who lived with Dr. Kureha all day and spoke to no one else. While he and the others may have been able to figure out a way to defeat Wapol without Luffy’s help, the pain in Chopper’s heart likely still wouldn’t be fixed. This is especially true when considering that Luffy’s words about the flag of Dr. Hiriluk (Chopper’s adoptive father) were a major factor in Chopper’s healing.
One Piece’s Nico Robin would also share a similar fate, with Luffy having saved Robin’s life when they first met, and later teaching her that it’s okay for her to both live and want to live. Had she never met Luffy and the rest of the crew, Robin would, at the very least, still think her very existence is a crime due to her Oharan origins.
Furthermore, she would either be dead or still working under Crocodile. While the latter may seem preferable, hindsight says otherwise, seeing how happy she is with the Straw Hats and, likewise, how clearly unhappy she was with Crocodile. At worst she’d be dead, but there quite frankly isn’t any possible scenario for Robin’s life without Luffy that’s a significant improvement.
One Piece’s Franky is another particularly interesting case, as all Luffy and the Straw Hats did was provide him a means of closure regarding both his past and his surviving family members. That being said, Franky was certainly in danger of death regardless of the Straw Hats’ intervention.
As a result, Franky’s best-case scenario is maintaining the life he had in hiding, and the worst-case is death at the hands of CP9 for hiding the Pluton blueprints.
Similarly, Brook wasn’t exactly in any immediate danger when Luffy and co first met him. He was restricted to the Florian Triangle and had to avoid sunlight at all costs, but he was surviving on a day-to-day basis without any immediate danger. However, meeting Luffy and the Straw Hats gave him true emotional closure which he deeply needed.
By meeting the Straw Hats, Brook was able to find a reason to live again, and a desire to progress around the world once more. While he’s always faithful in and supportive of Luffy’s dream of finding the One Piece, he also now had his own reason to make the journey.
Had this not been the case, Brook would’ve been content with merely surviving, constantly trying to win his shadow back but failing each time.
Last but certainly not least, Jinbe likely has the most definitive Luffy-less life amongst all of One Piece’s Straw Hats. That is to say, Jinbe’s life would’ve been the same up to when he gets thrown in jail for refusing to fight against Whitebeard. It’s only here that Luffy’s influence changes Jinbe’s life for the better, thanks to his choice to break into Impel Down.
Had Luffy chosen not to break into Impel Down, Jinbe would likely be in prison for the rest of his life. Considering his history of piracy, status as a former Shichibukai who went against the World Government, and his being imprisoned in Impel Down’s secret sixth level, it’s more likely than not that he’d spend his life in prison, if not be executed for his crimes.
As is apparent, Luffy has changed the lives of each and every single Straw Hat he meets in the One Piece series for the better. While this isn’t true for all the characters in the series, it’s undoubtedly a universal fact for those he calls his friends.