One Piece, the record-breaking manga serialized in the Weekly Shonen Jump since 1997, is nearing its end within the next few years. This was recently revealed by the manga's author Eiichiro Oda. One Piece fans also just witnessed the last curtain on the Wano Arc, which marks a milestone for the endgame of the series.
One of the most widely criticized aspects of the Wano Arc was the lack of focus on the backstory of Roronoa Zoro, a key character in the series. Zoro's background received a consistent build-up, which unfortunately wasn't fulfilled further, leaving fans disappointed. With One Piece entering its final phase, fans are eager to learn more about the background of the so-called "Pirate Hunter".
Key highlights of the article
One Piece fans can't wait to know more about Zoro's backstory
Fan-favorite Roronoa Zoro's adventure in Wano (Spoilers ahead)
Roronoa Zoro is the second strongest individual in the Strawhat Pirates and is Luffy's right-hand man. The two share a connection that resembles the one between Pirate King Roger and Dark King Rayleigh. Zoro's sincere devotion to Luffy and the incredible determination in his battle to accomplish his aim of becoming the World's Strongest Swordsman easily make him a fan-favorite.
In the first part of the Wano Arc, Zoro reunited with Luffy, and the two wreaked havoc. Later, he faced Hawkins, Killer and Apoo - some of his fellow Supernovas - and overhwelmed them all one after another. Eventually, he met Hiyori, Oden's daughter, who gifted him Enma, one of his father's swords. Aiming for the incoming battle with Kaido, Zoro started training his Haki with the sword.
During the Onigashima Raid, Zoro proved his might against the Emperors, fighting them at Luffy's side. Not only was he able to block Big Mom and Kaido's combined attack, he also inflicted the latter with a wound that left him with a scar. He later unleashed his kingly attitude, unlocking the all-powerful Advanced Conqueror Haki, which increased his strength to the point where he could outclass King, Kaido's right-hand man.
After this incredible streak, One Piece fans expected even more to come for Zoro. Disappointingly enough, their expectations were betrayed, as Zoro's spotlight was suddenly dropped. For this reason, despite an overall amazing focus with many great moments, he seemed to leave Wano with a lot of unfinished business.
Zoro didn't greet Hiyori in a proper manner. Nor did he fight Kaido in a second round. Both things received a heavy build-up, but weren't exploited when the moment came. Zoro didn't even visit Ryuma's grave, despite openly declaring his intent to do so. Moreover, his connection with Wano and his ties with the Shimotsuki clan weren't explained.
This left One Piece fans disappointed with Zoro's path in the Wano Arc. He proved himself to be a very powerful fighter, with an amazing overall performance on the battlefield, but many fans were unsatisfied by the lack of the needed focus on his roots and his development as a character.
Follow along the thread to enjoy a detailed sum of what we know about Zoro's background up to the present day.
Zoro's ties with the Shimotsuki Clan
During his childhood, Zoro lived and trained in Shimotsuki Village. In the One Piece Volume 96 SBS (a special feature where Oda directly answers fans), there was a question about the possible connection between the place where Zoro grew and Yasuie, Ryuma, Ushimaru and Kozaburo. Both that village and those individuals share the Shimotsuki name.
Oda's response to the question disclosed many details.
It all started with Kozaburo Shimotsuki, the man who forged the sword Enma and bestowed it on Oden, the Kozuki Clan heir. Then, 55 years before the current story, Kozaburo illegally departed from Wano together with a few other samurai and arrived at a certain place in the East Blue. After saving the locals from mountain bandits, they decided to settle there.
The group of Wano fugitives taught the villagers how to use swords. The place was later renamed Shimotsuki Village. Kozaburo's son, Koushiro, will later become Zoro's first master and the father of Kuina, Zoro's childhood rival and friend. This means that Kozaburo Shimotsuki is Kuina's grandfather.
When he was a child, Zoro used to meet Kozaburo. After seeing Zoro's determination to best Kuina, Kozaburo kindly gifted him two swords that he crafted himself. The old man also shared with the boy some of his wisdom about the nature of swords, while deeming Enma to be his greatest creation.
Zoro learned that Kozaburo was Kuina's grandfather when the old man died. However, Zoro was able to realize the swordsmith's true identity only many years later, during the battle on Onigashima. While having trouble wielding the Enma, he was finally able to remember the old man from Wano.
Zoro's relationship with Kozaburo Shimotsuki and the latter's blood ties with Koushirou and Kuina make a connection between the green haired swordsman and the Shimotsuki Clan really feasible. Moreover, Kozaburo created not only Enma but also Wado Ichimonji, the sword which passed down from Kuina to Zoro, symbolizing the Pirate Hunter's promise to his deceased friend.
However, Oda didn't want to reveal any further information.
In another SBS, a fan noticed the similarity between a carpenter who had appeared in Windmill Village (Luffy’s birthplace) and Franky’s boss during the latter's undercover time in Wano. Like Windmill Village, the Shimotsuki Village is also part of the Goa Kingdom due to Dragons visiting it after saving Sabo, which means they are not too far away.
When the fan asked for an explanation, Oda at first answered jokingly, but then revealed that they were two different people with the same last name because of a blood tie. He then said that a ship from Wano reached the East Blue a few decades ago, and added that one of the descendants of someone on that ship is a person that every One Piece fan knows.
Zoro is 21 years old after the time skip, so the few decades mentioned by Oda could very well be the time around his birth. A widely diffused theory is that the mysterious person on the ship was Zoro's mother, and that she gave birth to him in East Blue, which is the swordsman's officially confirmed birthplace.
Zoro's connecton with Ryuma, Ushimaru and Yasuie Shimotsuki
Before One Piece, Oda drew a one-shot titled Monsters, which is considered canon. It has Ryuma, the legendary Wano samurai hailed as the "Sword God", as its main character. In that piece, Ryuma looked like Zoro, only with black hair instead of green. Not only do they share a striking resemblance in their facial structure, and have the same scar over their left eye, both of them also harbor the ambition to be the strongest.
Hundreds of years after Ryuma's death, his corpse was zombified by Gecko Moria and animated by Brook’s shadow. Zoro met the zombie and defeated him after a heated battle. Impressed by his strength, Ryuma offered him his sword Shusui. After using it for many battles, Zoro returned Shusui to Wano.
While observing Zoro's battle against King, Hyogoro, an old samurai native of Wano, stated that both his looks and fighting style strongly reminded him of Ushimaru Shimotsuki. Hyogoro and Kawamatsu from the Red Scabbards even commented on how Zoro returning the Shisui to Wano must’ve been fate and likened Zoro to Ryuma.
Ushimaru Shimotsuki was a direct descendant of Ryuma. He was a powerful master swordsman and the last daimyo of the Ringo region in Wano. After Oden’s death, Ushimaru, along with the other daimyo, stood up against Orochi, but suffered defeat at Kaido's hands.
A popular theory assumes that Ushimaru was Zoro’s father and that he sent his wife and son away before the imminent danger. The person who had been guarding the port was Yasuie Shimotsuki (another member of the clan which Zoro would meet many years later, during the current time of Wano Arc). So it is very feasible that he could have helped some escapees sneak on a ship to leave Wano.
This theory ties to a possible explanation of Kuina's death. Assuming that Orochi knew that the former daimyo Ushimaru had a child who could potentially come back for revenge, it would make sense for him to send people after the kid. Zoro wasn’t using the Shimotsuki name, but Kuina was. Being her a child around his age, that could have led to a case of mistaken identity.
Afterall, Kuina's death from falling off the stairs has always seemed kind of suspicious.
Some One Piece fans who are believers of the aforementioned theory speculate that Koushirou knew about what truly happened but created a story to cover it, to avoid Zoro getting to know everything and receiving a massive responsibility at such a young age.
During the Wano Arc, Zoro met Yasuie and spent some time together with him, developing a bond. The latter most likely knew Ushimaru and had to notice the similarity between him and Zoro. Despite acting like a cheerful jester for years, in reality, Yasuie believed that the Red Scabbards would eventually come back. He did everything he could to help them, until the very end.
In an attempt to save the plotted revolution, Yasuie ended up sacrificing his life, leaving Zoro enraged and revengeful for the loss of his newfound friend. Yasuie's last act showed great loyalty.
During the One Piece series, Zoro, acting as Luffy's right-hand man, has shown incredible loyalty and devotion to him numerous times. So it is possible that loyalty is a distinctive feature of the Shimotsuki Clan descendants.
Further links between Zoro and Wano
All three of Zoro’s current swords were created by people from the Wano Country. Two of them, Wado Ichimonji and Enma, were created by Kozaburo Shimotsuki, Kuina's grandfather. The remaining one, Sandai Kitetsu, was created by Tenguyama Hitetsu. Even the Shusui, one of Zoro's previous swords, came from Wano, and was its national treasure. This created a blatant link between him and Ryuma.
The word "Sunacchi" also links Zoro to Wano. Which makes sense, given that the village he grew up in was founded by samurai. "Sunacchi" stands as an abbreviation for a phrase, which can be translated into “Throw away your Name and wits”. VIZ translated it as “Surrender Your Name and Be as a Child”.
This word comes from an old dialect in Kuri. Ashura Doji, a member of the Red Scabbards, used to use it when he was a kid. He and his friends used to shout it to encourage themselves. Zoro heard it from “an old geezer in his village”, who was revealed to be Shimotsuki Kozaburo. Many years later, Zoro taught this battle cry to Momonosuke.
Shimotsuki means November, Zoro's birth month
Literally meaning "the month of frost", Shimotsuki is how the month of November is traditionally named in the Japanese calendar. More into detail, there is a Japanese phrase, “nishi muku samurai”, a pun that refers to months that don’t have 31 days (February, April, June, September and November). It can be divided into “ni”, “shi”, “mu”, “ku” and “samurai”. The literal meaning is “a samurai that faces the West”.
“Ni” stands for February and means "two". “Shi” stands for April and means ". “Mu” stands for June and means "six", while “Ku” stands for September and means "nine". Finally, “Samurai” stands for November, which is the eleventh month of the year. So, because of the Japanese spelling, the Shimotsuki Village can also be called the “Samurai Village”.
Ryuma, the strongest and most famous samurai in the One Piece series, celebrates his birthday on November 6. Surprisingly enough, Zoro's birthday is on November 11, making his birthdate 11/11. Oda loves to create connections through hints, hidden meanings, symbolic numbers and elements, so this hardly seems to be a mere coincidence.
Despite a massive amount of evidence and build-up, Zoro's backstory remains all up in the air to this day. One Piece fans have created many theories to link the hints, but the manga has yet to confirm anything. Zoro might even be some random samurai’s child who looks like Ushimaru and is a one-eyed samurai just because Oda thinks it’s cool, without any further motivation.
At times, Eiichiro Oda's choices have been questionable, leading to anticlimatic moments and unsatisfying outcomes. This mostly happened during the Wano Arc. Despite it being the longest One Piece arc to date, it appears to have many missed opportunities and abandoned or unfinished storylines.
However, Eiichiro Oda’s foreshadowing rarely comes to nothing, especially when the author created such noticeable evidence. For this reason, until the opposite gets proven, most One Piece fans maintain the belief that Zoro is closely linked to the Shimotsuki Family. With Zoro being a fan-favorite and the One Piece series nearing its end, hopefully Oda will reveal his backstory soon.
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