Ever since his introduction during the Alabasta arc, Portgas D. Ace has been one of the most beloved characters in all of One Piece. Although the series has had many fan-favorite characters over the years, Ace always seemed special in that regard.
Yet Ace is also one of, if not the most, tragic characters in One Piece to date. His life as it plays out is incredibly integral to the tragedy of his character, from the first to last breath.
These six reasons perfectly highlight why Portgas D. Ace is one of the most tragic characters in all of One Piece
1) Ace’s birth
To even begin his life, Ace’s mother, Portgas D. Rouge, had to hide Ace inside her body for twenty months, over two times the typical length of pregnancy. The tragedy of Ace begins with a sacrifice before the Pirate Prince even takes his first breath of air, resulting in his mother’s death.
In other words, to even exist in this world, Ace took the life of the person who loved him most and did quite literally everything possible to protect him.
2) Ace’s childhood
Growing up knowing his lineage, Ace always felt ostracized by the world and even himself. While he always went looking for fights against those who negatively discussed Gol D. Roger and his potential son, it was himself Ace was fighting.
Even as a child, he understood the gravity of his existence so much that he questioned if he was allowed to live. Ace wasn’t looking to fight those who felt Roger and his heir should be dead; he wanted to fight himself for believing he was worthless and a stain on humanity.
3) The ASL experience
Upon meeting Sabo and Luffy, Ace finally started to feel like he had a reason to live in this world. Becoming sworn brothers, the three grew up together and spent an incredible amount of time together. However, upon Sabo’s death, Ace suddenly has one of his brothers ripped from him with no say on Ace’s part.
The experience profoundly affects Luffy and Ace, but more so the latter, who posits that he and Luffy must live their lives with no regrets in Sabo’s honor. This proclamation is integral to the rest of Ace’s life and, in particular, his beginnings as a pirate.
4) Meeting Whitebeard
Upon building the Spade Pirates to a reputable crew, Ace begins setting his sights on killing the Yonko, and who better to start with than Dad’s old rival, Whitebeard. However, he is easily defeated by Whitebeard and brought onto the Moby Dick along with the other Spade Pirates.
Ace tried killing Whitebeard at least one hundred times before accepting the mark of Whitebeard on his back after Marco discusses the parental relationship the crew and Whitebeard have. Finally, Ace relents and becomes one of the Whitebeard pirates, prompting Ace to tell Whitebeard his true lineage.
Whitebeard simply laughs it off, which infuriates Ace since he’s never heard someone laugh about this matter before. Yet, this small act of acceptance by Whitebeard completely changes Ace’s life, finally letting him feel like he’s allowed to and deserves to live, regardless of parentage.
5) In pursuit of Blackbeard
However, good things never last, and one of Ace’s subordinates, Blackbeard, soon murders Fourth Division Commander Thatch for the Dark-Dark Fruit. Whitebeard said he had a bad feeling about this one, yet Ace pushes and leaves on his own to avenge Thatch.
Unfortunately for Whitebeard, his bad feeling was correct, and the situation ended with Ace’s defeat and being turned over to the World Government. Just as he had found a place he could live and accept and love himself, Ace has it all ripped away by Blackbeard and a desire for revenge.
In particular, Ace’s desire for revenge is what makes this such a tragic moment for his journey. This craving stems purely from Thatch’s acceptance of Ace and the close relationship they’re implicitly shown to have.
Ace’s self-imposed defeat and the events that follow paint the final tragic chapter in Ace’s life.
6) Capture and execution
The final stages of Ace’s life see him in a very reflective mindset. During his time in Impel Down, Ace reflects on and discusses his life with brother Luffy. Upon arriving at Marineford, he seemingly must come to terms with his death and does so until the Whitebeard Pirates and Luffy arrive.
With their arrival, Ace is forced to accept what he never could in life before: that he is loved and deserves to live his life, no matter his heritage. Ace even begins crying as he sees all his friends dying for him, a life which many (including Ace) believed to be worthless.
Upon being saved, Ace seems to finally accept that he deserves love and his life has value.
Yet tragically, Ace dies shortly after in an attempt to save Luffy from death by Akainu’s hand. As Ace lies in Luffy’s arms dying, he remembers how being placed with Luffy and Sabo was a bright spot in an otherwise tormented and prosecutory childhood.
With his last strength, Ace calls out to Luffy and his crewmates to thank them for loving him despite his lineage and flaws. Ace then dies with a smile on his face, finally accepting himself and all the love he had been shown over the years, which he never felt he deserved.
Note: This article reflects the author’s views.