One Piece: The two dynamics in Monster Trio, explained

Luffy, Zoro and Sanji are the three most powerful members of the Strawhat Pirates (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)
Luffy, Zoro and Sanji are the three most powerful members of the Strawhat Pirates (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)

One Piece features the concept of Monster Trio, the three strongest fighters within the Strawhat Pirates: Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji. Luffy is the captain and the leader of the crew, while Zoro is his right-hand man and the second strongest after him. Sanji is the third most powerful member of the bunch.

This piece will explain the meaning of the Monster Trio as well as the different connections between the three members of this fan-favorite group, trying to shed light on some controversial points. Follow this thread to find out everything.

Disclaimer: This article contains major spoilers from the One Piece manga up to Chapter 1067 and reflects the opinions of the writer


What is Monster Trio in One Piece?

Monster Trio is a canon concept

The Monster Trio is a real thing in One Piece (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)
The Monster Trio is a real thing in One Piece (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)

The term "Monster Trio" indicates that Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji are the three most powerful members of the crew. While some fans believe this is a fan-made concept, in truth it's something One Piece author Eiichiro Oda himself came up with.

In chapter 455, Nami referred to Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji with "Kaibutsu Sanningumi" which translates to "Monster Trio". Caribou used the same term after witnessing Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji attacking the Kraken.

Since the beginning of the series, within the Strawhat crew, no one has ever been comparable in strength to Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji. They have always fought the strongest opponents and led the crew, protecting the weaker comrades.

During the Onigashima Raid, Luffy fought Kaido, the captain of the Beasts Pirates and one of the Four Emperors. After various vicissitudes, he managed to beat him. Zoro assisted Luffy in the fight against the Emperors. He was able to block their combined attack, as well as inflict a serious injury on Kaido.

Later, Zoro fought and defeated King, Kaido's right-hand man, and most powerful subordinate. Meanwhile, Sanji ended up winning his battle against Queen, the third strongest member of Beasts Pirates. The enemies defeated by the other Strawhats don't even come close to those beaten by Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji.

However, the fact that Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji are grouped together as Monster Trio doesn't mean that they are equally strong - Luffy is even more powerful than Zoro, who in turn is clearly stronger than Sanji.

Luffy and Zoro share several strength-related traits, such as being born with the rare Supreme King's Haki and having evolved that power at its advanced stage. Lacking those traits, Sanji can't compete with Luffy and Zoro. Regardless, he is a powerful fighter, worthy of being part of the Monster Trio.

After the Wano arc, the new bounties highlighted that the reward for Sanji's head was not only lower than Luffy and Zoro's, but also Jinbe's, with a difference of several tens of millions of berries. Many fans interpreted this as a hint at Sanji being weaker than Jinbe.

However, bounties aren’t purely a reflection of strength. Jinbe's bounty could have been inflated by his past as a former member of the Seven Warlords and a former subordinate of the two Emperors, Whitebeard and Big Mom.

While Jinbe's background may have raised his bounty, many fans noticed that, no matter what, One Piece author Eiichiro Oda had the former Warlord's head worth a lower price than Zoro's, but higher than Sanji's. Admittedly, this could be a compelling point.

While the author deemed Luffy and Zoro strong enough to prove their value against mighty foes such as the Emperors, Sanji was emphasized with such a spotlight. Instead, Jinbe is always treated with respect. Every time he appears on screen, he makes a good impression, whoever he faces.

Jinbe has consistently good portrayal, but it's hard to see Oda kicking Sanji out of the Monster Trio. He and Jinbe may have comparable strengths now, but while the latter has already peaked, the former has the potential to improve. Sanji will certainly surpass Jinbe. Most likely, he is already stronger than him.


The two different main dynamics of Monster Trio

In One Piece the two main dynamics of Monster Trio are Luffy-Zoro and Zoro-Sanji (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)
In One Piece the two main dynamics of Monster Trio are Luffy-Zoro and Zoro-Sanji (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)

The Monster Trio involves two main dynamics between its members. The two usual pairings are Luffy-Zoro, as the captain and his close right-hand man, and Zoro-Sanji, as the Wings, the two most powerful members of the crew. The Luffy-Sanji dynamic is rather irrelevant compared to the other two.

The series clearly emphasized this, having Luffy and Zoro share so many aspects and parallels. Conversely, Zoro and Sanji, while having their connection, maintain completely different backgrounds, paths, powers, benchmarks, and goals.

While being a powerful fighter in his own right, Sanji is often put on a lower level compared to Luffy and Zoro. He only defeats the number threes of the opposing group. Every time Sanji tries to fight the main arc villain, or a number two, he always gets quickly overpowered.

Instead, Zoro not only defeats the number twos of the opposing group, but also often fights valiantly against main villains, getting hyped and performing well. Finally, Luffy defeats the main villain.

The only exception to this being "Ax Hand" Morgan, from the first arc of One Piece, and Saga, the main antagonist of the fifth movie of the franchise. Both of them were defeated by Zoro. Other than that, all the main villains have been defeated by Luffy.


Luffy and Zoro, the captain and right-hand man duo

Luffy, the captain, and Zoro, his close right-hand man (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)
Luffy, the captain, and Zoro, his close right-hand man (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)

Monkey D. Luffy is the captain of the Strawhat Pirates. His loyal right-hand man is Roronoa Zoro, who is also the most powerful after him. As such, Zoro acts as the crew's vice-captain. They make a formidable pair, with a similar connection to that between Roger and Rayleigh.

Luffy and Zoro are the only two Strawhats to share certain strength-related achievements. Within the crew, Luffy and Zoro are the only two to be Supernovas of the Worst Generation, the strongest pirate rookies.

Both Luffy and Zoro aim to reach the top of the One Piece world, as, respectively, the Pirate King and the World's Strongest Swordsman. Among Strawhats, only the two have confirmed top tiers, such as Roger, Rayleigh, Shanks, and Mihawk, as their narrative benchmarks to reach and surpass.

They are the only two Strawhats who were born with the rare Conqueror's Haki. Impressively, both managed to upgrade that ability at its all-powerful advanced stage.

Several One Piece characters have wondered why Zoro is not the captain of Strawhats, or why he doesn't lead his own crew. This is due to his threatening aura and crazy feats of strength. However, Zoro deeply respects Luffy and doesn't step out of his position unless strictly necessary.

Countless scenes in the manga, as well as concurring information from the databooks, depict Zoro as the closest person to Luffy. Further proof was given with the evident parallel between the two duos of Luffy/Zoro and Roger/Rayleigh.

Luffy and Roger connect through a fated and mysterious straw hat. Moreover, the former will become the Pirate King, while the latter was the first to achieve such an accomplishment. Roger's son, Ace, became Luffy's adoptive brother.

Zoro and Rayleigh are completely specular, from their roles to looks. Their similar monikers, "King of Hell" and "Dark King", recall the concept of shadow rulers, hinting at the fact that they are powerful individuals who are very comparable to their captains.

People born with Supreme King's Haki inside them don't follow others. They are the kind of people who lead, not the ones who tag along. Nevertheless, despite being Conquerors in their own right, Rayleigh and Zoro decided to follow Roger and Luffy, respectively.

Possessing the very rare Conqueror's Haki just like their captains, Zoro and Rayleigh aren't just subordinates, but powerful individuals who are strong enough to be compared to their leaders. As such, the connection between these individuals is simply unparalleled.

In many battles and other circumstances, Zoro selflessly stepped in and risked his life to protect Luffy. For instance, this happened during the Thriller Bark Arc, or during the heated battle against Kaido and Big Mom in the Wano Arc.

Those unforgettable moments emphasized the special bond between Zoro and Luffy. Unlike other Strawhats, Zoro's strength is close and comparable to Luffy's, and his attitude is very similar to him as well.

While the other crewmembers joined Luffy out of the need for protection, Zoro joined him because of the spontaneous trust he felt for him. Thus, their relationship is different. Zoro is not a mere follower of a leader, but a king who decided to join another king, believing in his vision.

Deriving his authority from his superior strength, Zoro, despite not having that formal rank, acts as the vice-captain of the crew. Several times, Zoro replaced Luffy and protected him in moments of danger. He also gave him precious advice and insight when required, as well as giving orders to his comrades.

Even in the most recent arc of One Piece, Zoro was the only Strawhat to support Luffy in the heated battle against Kaido and Big Mom. He intercepted and blocked the Emperor's joint move. He then attacked Kaido, injuring him. In both circumstances, Luffy would have died without Zoro protecting him.

Luffy and Zoro have immense respect and admiration for each other. They have been together since the very beginning of the series. Zoro's devotion to Luffy, which the latter retaliates with complete trust in the former's capabilities, make them one of the best duos in the series.


Zoro and Sanji, the Wings

Zoro, the number two of Strawhat Pirates, and Sanji, the number three (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)
Zoro, the number two of Strawhat Pirates, and Sanji, the number three (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)

Zoro, the number two, and Sanji, the number three, are the most powerful crewmembers of the Strawhat Pirates. This makes them the "Wings" of Luffy, the future Pirate King.

Sometimes this concept has been distorted by fans, who have been trying to promote that Zoro and Sanji being the Wings means that they are comparable in strength, if not equals. However, this appears to be a flawed argument.

First of all, the wings of birds aren't equal. Every bird has a dominant wing. The homonymous concept in the One Piece series likely inspires to that. In fact, it is rather evident that Zoro is put on a higher pedestal of strength and prominence compared to Sanji.

The color spread of chapter 1031 depicted the line-up of the "Number Twos", the second strongest individuals from the most prominent crews and groups, featuring Zoro for the Strawhats, Rayleigh for the Roger Pirates, Benn for the Red Hair Pirates, Sabo for the Revolutionary Army, and more.

In a subsequent SBS, One Piece author Eiichiro Oda confirmed that the characters portrayed in that line-up are the second strongest members of the group they belong to. This indisputably implies that Zoro is stronger than Sanji. Which is only logical, given that Zoro is Luffy's right-hand man.

In One Piece, the right-hand man is usually the strongest after the leader. As the captain's most loyal subordinate, the right-hand man supports him in battle and encourages him. The green-haired swordsman is consistently represented interacting or battling with the Number Twos of other crews.

The right-hand man often operates as the first mate, the top officer who ranks only below the captain. Even when not having that formal rank, a right-hand man can hold authority similar to that of a first mate, deriving such prestige from his superior individual strength. This is the case with Zoro.

Before the time skip, Zoro was also directly stated to be very close in power to Luffy. The One Piece Databook Yellow declared that Zoro's strength is no less than Luffy's, adding that he acknowledges him as his captain because he believes in him and that he steps in only when it is necessary to protect him.

In the One Piece Databook Blue, which features the strength ranking of the Strawhats during the Alabasta Arc, Luffy and Zoro were both rated a solid six out of six. Instead, Sanji was rated with a five out of six.

After the time skip, the One Piece Vivre Card Databook declares that Zoro is the second strongest after Luffy and that for this reason, he acts as the vice-captain of the crew. The databook also confirmed that Zoro always fights stronger opponents than Sanji.

Depending on the arc, the gap between their opponents can vary, but Zoro's arch-enemies are never weaker than Sanji's. Against Fujitora in Dressrosa and against Kaido and Big Mom in Wano, Zoro wasn't able to win. Still, he performed very well against them.

In comparison, during Dressrosa, Sanji was brutally overpowered by Doflamingo in one of the most one-sided fights in the entire series. In Wano, the author didn't even include him in the fight against Kaido and Big Mom.

Despite the author pairing Zoro and Sanji as Wings, he clearly put the swordsman on a whole different level. Zoro constantly receives greater hype, better feats, and a consistently higher portrayal.

Like Luffy, Zoro is among the five èlite members of the Worst Generation Supernovas and is able to use the outstanding Advanced Conqueror's Haki. Instead, Sanji is not a Supernova, and he doesn't even possess the basic Conqueror's Haki, let alone the upgraded version.

Unsurprisingly, it was never hinted, let alone stated, that the concept of Wings meant that Zoro and Sanji are close in strength. They being Luffy's Wings simply means that they are the ones who cover the back of the captain far more than the other crewmembers could ever do.

In fact, this concept was first introduced in volume 73 SBS, which merely says that Zoro and Sanji, despite not getting along with each other, are trustworthy men who cover Luffy's back. The words used in the SBS are the same exact ones Nico Robin used in chapter 1020.

As such, the concept of Wings needs proper context. Both Zoro and Sanji are powerful fighters, but the difference in strength and role between them was undisputably emphasized throughout the One Piece series.

Zoro and Sanji have completely different personalities. For this reason, they are often bickering, resulting in funny gags. Nonetheless, they are Luffy's biggest pillars within the Strawhat crew. In the direst moments, no crewmate can help Luffy as much as them.


The parallel between Monster Trio and Metal Trio

Luffy, Zoro and Sanji have a clear analogy with Gol D. Roger, Silvers Rayleigh and Scopper Gaban (Image via Toei Animation, One Piece)
Luffy, Zoro and Sanji have a clear analogy with Gol D. Roger, Silvers Rayleigh and Scopper Gaban (Image via Toei Animation, One Piece)

One Piece author Eiichiro Oda created a clear parallel between Roger Pirates, the first crew to find the One Piece, and Strawhat Pirates, their heirs. Strawhats' Monster Trio, composed by Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji, recalls Roger Pirates' Metal Trio involving Roger, Rayleigh, and Gaban.

Roger and Rayleigh's original names are based on gold and silver, two precious metals, while Gaban's is based on copper, which is a metal but not a precious one. This hints at Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji having a similar dynamic.


Final Thoughts

The Monster Trio is the subject of frequent discussion among One Piece fans (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)
The Monster Trio is the subject of frequent discussion among One Piece fans (Image via Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, One Piece)

Monster Trio members are the three top fighters in Strawhats. With all of them having received noticeable power-ups, they aren't opponents to be messed with. Even within the Monster Trio, there's a clear hierarchy.

Declaring Zoro as Luffy's right-hand man as well as the second strongest right after him, the author officially put an end to any debate regarding the subject. References from manga and databooks are pretty clear about this.

The way Zoro handled the situation during the Thriller Bark Arc in the "Nothing happened scene", as well as the battle on Onigashima's rooftop, emphasized the difference in strength and prominence between Zoro, the number two, and Sanji, the number three.

Similarly, One Piece author Eiichiro Oda has highlighted Luffy's immense power. Making him one of the Four Emperors, the author refers to Luffy as an absolute monster who is stronger than anyone else in his crew and in his generation.

Fans can't wait to see how strong Monster Trio members will be at the end of the series. Luffy will surpass Shanks, Roger, and Joy Boy, while Zoro will exceed Mihawk, "Dark King" Rayleigh, and "Sword God" Ryuma. Sanji will overtake Scopper Gaban and further establish his superiority over Jinbe.

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Edited by Vinay Agrawal
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