Who is Kuina in One Piece? Roronoa Zoro's childhood rival, explained
The One Piece live-action has been incredibly successful and attracted a new wave of fans for the expansive world of the series. Episode 4 of this adaptation gives viewers insight into an essential part of Roronoa Zoro's past, specifically, his relationship with Shimotsuki Kuina.
Their shared aspiration to become the world's greatest swordsman (or swordswoman) was a pivotal moment in their lives. However, Kuina's premature death tragically set Zoro on a lonely path to pursue this dream. This article explores Kuina's character and delves into her profound impact on Zoro's journey.
Disclaimer- This article contains spoilers for the One Piece live-action, anime, and manga.
Zoro was never able to best Kuina in a match in One Piece
Kuina, the daughter of Zoro's sensei, was not only his rival but also a formidable swordsman. Despite Zoro's relentless training in the early chapters of One Piece, he could never quite match her exceptional sword skills, and she defeated him over 2000 times. This constant defeat served as both motivation and frustration for Zoro. And the effect could be seen in the later chapters of the manga.
However, Kuina herself struggled with self-doubt due to societal expectations around female swordsmanship. She believed her dream of becoming the greatest swordsman was unattainable simply because she was a woman. In contrast, she assumed that Zoro would eventually surpass her solely due to being male.
In a world where gender limits the potential of individuals, Zoro was appalled to see Kuina accept these restrictions. He firmly believed that skill and talent should be the sole determining factors in swordsmanship.
In one of the emotional moments in One Piece, the two dedicated themselves to a shared goal - becoming the world's strongest swordsman, without any excuses or compromises. However, tragedy struck unexpectedly soon after their pact was made. Kuina sadly lost her life after falling down a flight of stairs at her home.
The loss of his greatest rival, Kuina, left Zoro devastated. He pleaded with his father to pass on her katana, the Wado Ichimonji, promising to honor his commitment in her memory.
From that moment on, Zoro's sole determination was to train tirelessly and fulfill his vow to himself - to become stronger than Kuina ever could. Once he surpassed all the swordsmen in their village, Zoro embarked on his journey, fueled by his unwavering commitment to honor his promise to Kuina.
Even after finding a new family with Luffy's Straw Hat Crew, Zoro was still motivated by the legacy of Kuina. Whenever he faced doubt or feared losing his newfound companions, thoughts of Kuina's tragic death reminded him of his determination to become the greatest.
Despite her brief appearance, Kuina's impressive skills and untimely demise set Zoro on a path toward his ultimate dream. By inheriting her sword and carrying on her promise, Zoro carries Kuina's spirit as he strives to become the world's strongest swordsman.
Kuina's Backstory in One Piece Live-Action
Kuina's existence and Zoro's backstory were revealed in the fourth episode of Live Action which adapted the Syrup Village arc, even though there were a few differences in the story between the manga and the Netflix live-action adaptation.
In episode 3 of the Live action, Captain Kuro's goons throw Zoro into a well. Episode 4 begins with Zoro gaining consciousness and trying to climb out of the well. During his attempt, Zoro gets a flashback of Kuina and is reminded of their promise of becoming the strongest swordsman in the world. The flashback motivated Zoro to climb out of the well, and soon, he returned to Kaya's estate to help Luffy.
The section of Zoro remembering Kuina was a nice touch, but contrary to popular belief, it is an entirely original scene from the live-action. In the One Piece manga, Zoro has this flashback of Kuina and Shimotsuki village during his debut when the Marines captured him.