CHARACTER EVALUATION: MONKEY D. LUFFY
It has been my habit to write character analysis of my favorite manga/anime characters. Just like what the term implies, I dissect the character from his core, analyze his every part, and create reasonable description about him. Since Luffy is one of my favorite characters in One Piece, I have written his character analysis long before I started to write reviews here. I update them whenever I spot development in his character…. After witnessing his monumental progress in both Shabondy and Amazon Lily arcs, I suddenly felt a strong longing to rewrite his character analysis. So I tried my best to find time to visit the rotting corner in my computer which contained all of my character critiques. After doing all my rituals, I started to revise Luffy’s character evaluation and I thought I might as well share it to everyone…. Especially if you have some spare time for reading One Piece reports.
Before you begin reading, let me just express some things about my character evaluation. I am not trying to be arrogant here, but I don’t consult wikipedia articles nor any One Piece “e-sources” simply because I want my character evaluation to be as authentic as possible. If I forget something important about Luffy, the name of his technique for example, I do the initiative of researching it by fishing the earlier chapters of One Piece. I don’t seek encyclopedia-like sources because they usually contain other essential information about the character such as his background, idiosyncrasies, attitude, fighting skills, etc. Reading such articles might influence my way of assessment, thus, it will lessen the authenticity of my character report. Manga sites and my own sense of analysis are the only tools I use to make a bona fide character evaluation.
I hope you appreciate my little sharing about Monkey D. Luffy as much as you appreciate my efforts in writing One Piece chapter reviews.
“Mugiawara no Luffy.” “Mugiwara.” “The most popular man in East Blue.” “The idiot.” “The captain of the Strawhat Pirates.” Several titles have been given to the main hero of this epic series. Several adjectives have also been used to describe his personality. Like other colorful characters in manga, Monkey D. Luffy has showcased a distinguishable feature that establishes a monumental mark in shounen history!!!! Okay, I can be describing him in a hyperbolic manner, but the thing is, Luffy is undeniably a well-loved character who every shounen fan will remember. In fact, he is one of the best characters in One Piece and he has gained every right to become the main protagonist of this epic.
His dream has driven him to embark on the most colorful adventure he’s ever imagined. He chooses the path of the sea’s dancing waves instead of taking the justice’s upright road because he vows to become the next Pirate King. His grandfather, Vice-Admiral Garp wants him to become a man of justice, a Marine officer who will fight for the oppressed and the abused, become the man whom everyone looks up to. But, he’d rather follow his own passion and take the risk of being labeled a “criminal” in the world’s view, rather than granting a grandfather’s wish that won’t reward him with happiness. So…. He embarks on naval journey with a well-chosen set of nakama, all sharing the same fervent for dreams that one day, they will achieve. Monkey D. Luffy is that man. He is the captain of the infamous Strawhat Pirate – an array of dreamers with colorful personalities and interesting antics: the manly swordsman; the practical navigator; the lying sniper; the flirtatious cook; the naïve doctor; the sly archeologist; the euphoric shipwright; and the gentle musician. They enter the Great Age of Pirate with their dreams, their sense of adventure, and of course, with their overwhelming sense of “nakama.”
Parallelism to other Shounen Heroes:
Luffy’s personality is one of the most typical in the shounen world. In fact, he bears many similar characteristics with his fellow shounen protagonists….
Dumb brute – formidable fighters who are capable of beating their powerful opponents with their brute strength, but are extremely, mentally poor. Their techniques are not that extraordinary but they promise a huge deal of speed, power, and endurance. Through their skills, they have gained firm reputation – which can intimidate fighters with devious plans and excite and impress equally powerful opponents. While they are undeniably incredible in the “brawn department,” they become undeniably poor in the “brain section.” They find it so difficult to understand even the simplest things that their comrades stop to exert an effort for explanation. Naruto’s idiocy is simlar to Luffy’s.
Insatiable eater – connoisseurs – only that they do not have any sense of sophistication and poise. These gluttonous heroes particularly like to feast with many sets of smorgasbords, and they won’t hesitate to take another plate of dessert after enjoying their thousand entrees. Gokou’s inhuman appetite is on par with Luffy’s.
Compassionate heroes – people with a strong sense of humanity. They can forgive the worst kind of villains and even give them second chance. Their unconditional concern for people has moved and changed many secondary and minor characters, looking at them as heroes and idols. Their ears can even listen to the unspoken voice of the wronged, and they will risk their life to take the first step for these people’s betterment. Gon’s heart-warming compassion is comparable to Luffy’s.
Though our One Piece hero resembles many characteristics to other shounen heroes, Luffy does not fail to capture his audience’s attention. His typical personality doesn’t stop him from being so popular and well-loved.
Aside from his famous strawhat, Luffy wears light, red vest, knee-length trousers, and slippers most of the time. This outfit has become his instrument of distinction ---- wear a red vest and a shounen reader will perceive you as Luffy’s fan. Oda says that the color red represents Luffy, a shade that is perfect for his role in this series. Red is usually portrayed as the “leader’s color,” because of the dominance it radiates. In sentai series, the one who acts as the team leader – the one who is placed in the center of their group formation is the “red man” (Red Mask, Red 1, Red Ranger). Aside from that almost 80% (can’t tell the exact percentage) of the world flag contains red. It looks very “prevailing” and very captivating. Its bold shade and its catchy tone is a perfect way to get one’s attention – similar to Luffy’s attention-grabbing personality and fortitude in fighting.
His overall outfit fits perfectly with his easy-going manner. If I’ll rationalize it further, people with an adventurous spirit usually prefer things that they can easily carry, so they can enjoy their journey without feeling any discomfort. Since Luffy’s outfit looks so light and comfy, he can indulge in his adventures well. Besides, it looks very similar to Shanks’ clothes – his childhood hero.
Many arrogant opponents misjudge Luffy’s fighting capacity because of his child-like appearance. He is a smiley kid who usually goofs around, that is why none of the characters gets intimidated by him (at least on their first meeting). His emits similar fun-loving aura with Shanks, making someone feel comfortable at his presence. This is another reason why characters find it difficult to acknowledge his powerful strength at first glance. If he hadn’t gained a staggering amount of bounty on his head, I bet almost all the characters would doubt that he’s a pirate.
Luffy’s manner is one of the sources of hilarity in One Piece. It is just filled with natural goofiness. His table manner usually pisses Sanji, their cook. Using Gomu Gomu no Mi’s advantage to the fullest, he stretches his hand to steal his nakama’s food. And before they even realize it, their delightful share is already in his mouth. In anime, I am always pleased to hear him talk while he eats. The sound it produces makes you think that he’s eating the best foods in the world and it even encourages you to dig in your meal. Since his mouth can stretch, he can stuff many foods in his mouth simultaneously, often resulting in comical forms. And that even adds more brightness in his personality.
Aside from lacking food etiquette, he doesn’t have a sense of tact, or maybe, his tactlessness is heavily influenced by his (too much) honesty. The first victim of his “too much honesty” is Alvida. He carelessly tells Coby that she’s ugly and fat simply because she looks that way. Even if the female pirate captain has expressed her irritation for calling her “ugly,” Luffy still continued to call her that way, adding harsher words like “hag” ---- because he always tells the truth. His lack of tact also stops him from remembering and calling his acquaintances by their real names. He identifies them through their most distinguishable trait: He calls Montblanc Cricket “diamond-head ossan” because of his diamond-shaped hairdo; he refers Toto-ojisan “dried-up ossan” because he looks very thirsty and tired; he identifies Rob Lucci as “pigeon guy” because Lucci has a pet pigeon. Fortunately, none of them seems annoyed being called that way; it’s either they don’t mind being given a new name or they must have perceived that Luffy is just a tactless idiot. Aside from substituting their outstanding feature from their real names, he also uses the word “mystery” as a replacement to jargons and other terms that he doesn’t understand. “Mystery effect” is described as “diamond-head ossan’s” physical distress from too much diving. “Mystery powder” refers to dance powder, a drug-like substance forbidden in Grand Line.
His knack for imitating his nakama is very funny…. And he is very skilled in doing so. He has imitated Sanji, Zoro, Chopper, and Usopp in various chapters, which can either irritate them or humor them. He usually does this when he’s bored and when he can’t find any item that interests him. But perhaps his most favorite hobby is sticking chopsticks on his nose and mouth, creating a very comical face. He has done that many times and has influenced his nakama (he even encourages Robin to do so) to do that during huge festivities.
There are many adjectives that perfectly fit Luffy…. And one of them is “gullible.” Because he is very simple-minded and honest, he thinks that people are like that as well, giving him the impression that all the things they say are true. Of course, his lack of caution has put him in many episodes of inconvenience. Bellamy’s offering of beverage made him think that the “guy is very nice” and the bounty hunters’ welcome party in Whiskey Peak left him the impression that they are allies because “enemies don’t offer you food and drink.” However, his gullibility surprisingly leads him in “not-so-grave” situations, and oftentimes, it just turns into a comic relief in the series. He immediately believed that Usopp led 8,000 armies in Syrup Village and that Sogeking is a real superhero, despite the blatancy of the fact that this “hero” is his long-nosed nakama. Most of the time, One Piece characters use the term “idiot” to described this trait to impress the idea that Luffy’s one heck of a gullible guy.
Laid-back and adventurous. His zeal for adventure is one of the sources of his enjoyment in being a pirate. Because Grand Line is filled with mysteries, Luffy is one of the first people who gets pumped up when they reach an island. He even becomes more exuberant if an island displays forbiddance, threat, and mystery. This is because he strongly believes that such things make their adventure more fun. In addition to that, his easy-going pace lessens the pressure they usually get from their fight. He takes his time to look at his surroundings, enjoy its extraordinary features, and seize the opportunity of their situation. Through combined enthusiasm and simple-mindedness, he is able to appreciate things in extreme level – almost to the point where he can no longer listen to his nakama’s rationalization. His admiration towards the island’s culture and products put him in a “starry” state, where his amazement is shown in comical fashion. He also expresses his likeness in parties where he can eat as much as he wants, goofs around with the other goofballs (Usopp, Chopper, Brooke, and other funny minor characters), and sing and dance like the way pirates do. Because of his enjoyment, he usually encourages his nakama to stay longer in the island, but, much to his dismay, most of them disregard his wishes due to crucial circumstances (Alabasta). On the other hand, he decides on the period of their stay if their disposition is smooth and convenient (Sky Island). These traits are also heavily influenced by Shanks.
Straightforward and decisive. These terms describe Luffy’s clear-cut choices and feelings. He’s never expressed ambiguous thoughts and ramshackle decisions since he’s established what he truly wants from the beginning. Even if a strong disagreement occurs, Luffy will never change his mind. This is showed during his fight with Usopp. Among all the Starwhats, he has expressed the strongest attachment to Going Merry. Luffy is aware of this, yet, despite the frightening thought of his nakama leaving the crew, he still remains firm and straightforward. Logic doesn’t stop him from getting what he really wants, either. His encounter with Bellamy proves that. He provides strong, logical explanation regarding Knock-up Stream and Sky Island, yet he prefers to just cover his ears and still yearn to find this island. It’s not that he cannot understand the latter’s explanation (well, that might be the actual case…. Oh well….), but the thing is, his wants/dreams are far more important than logic. His unwavering firmness in his decisions and choices makes him a worthy leader. If he expresses uncertainty or confusion, his crew will start to become unstable.
Humble and compassionate. He never brags about his overwhelming achievement even if that will put him into wider popularity. In fact, he should have gained higher bounty than 300,000,000 million belli considering that he beats another Shichibukai and Enel (can be a very powerful and fearsome pirate). Even if one questions his strength, he never tells him/her that he’s beaten formidable and infamous enemies. Another manifestation of his humility is his complete acceptance that there are things that he cannot achieve. His fight against Arlong reflects that. He blatantly expressed that he couldn’t comprehend even the most fundamental things that a captain should know. Furthermore, he contended that he truly needed everyone’s help otherwise, he wouldn’t survive the harshness of the sea. Luffy has a moving ability to listen to others. Because he understands that there are people who don’t have enough strength and courage to change their life, he will gladly stand as their instrument to achieve their goal. His adventure in Skyland manifests his compassion. His initial goal was to find the Sky Island. However, upon meeting the Saruyama Alliance, listening to their stories, and feeling their fervor towards their dreams, he became so intent to find the mythical lost city of gold and ring the magnificent Golden Bell. In fact, Luffy’s strongest motivation to defeat Enel was to prove that the Golden City did exist. By ringing the famous Golden Bell, he would be able to tell Montblanc Cricket, Shojou, Masira, and their monkey-looking crews that this legendary Golden City was located in Sky Island. Thus, it would serve as their dream’s achievement. If he weren’t compassionate, he wouldn’t risk his life to defeat Enel because he just wanted to check out Sky Island. If he didn’t care about the Saruyama and their dreams, he would be willing to go back to Grand Line after seeing Sky Island.
Keen. Surprising as it may seem, but Luffy can distinguish the margin between two matters: (1) the margin between confidence and arrogance. He represents the former idea of course. He has proclaimed his victory over Arlong and Crocodile, saying that he can beat them and surpass them. Yet, he never expresses easiness or convenience in doing so. In fact, he is aware that his life is at risk upon facing them and that he can be defeated…. He even admits that Crocodile beat him twice, but he still remains confident. (2) the thin line between surpassing his limits and knowing the boundaries. To reach his goal, Luffy has to become stronger than anyone; being the Pirate King requires beating many powerful opponents. His kicks may be lighter than Sanji’s since the latter has shown excellent skills in kicking. Besides, that is the cook’s forte, so he must have wielded enormous power in it. So, Luffy’s kicks may not be as upscale as Sanji’s and that is his boundary. But because he needs to be much stronger, he has to modify and upgrade all of his fighting techniques, thus, Gears Two and Three are born. With that, he has surpassed his limits. (3) the thick line between breaking a rule and being plain reckless. It’s not that Luffy actually cares about the law. Besides, if he gives a sh*t about it, he wouldn’t even vow to become the next Pirate King. However, he doesn’t intentionally break a law just because he is into it (---- that’s being plain reckless). He only sees it appropriate if a certain matter looks morally wrong. I remember him being pissed when Rosward abused his noble right and killed his “pet.” If it weren’t for Hachi’s request to stay away from the Tenryuubito, he would have definitely protected the pirate and beat the noble. However, when someone really important to him is the one who gets insulted and abused, he will no longer hesitate to break any law nor ponder on its consequences.
Conviction…. How has Luffy risked his life to become the Pirate King…. There are countless accounts where his capability to achieve his goal is questioned. He’s been tested by notorious villains who stood as major threats to his dreams. As he continues to taste the harshness of his obstacles, he still remains dedicated to what he wants to achieve. Thanks to his unwavering will and conviction, he has overcome conflicts and has carried on, with valuable people beside him. Back at the earlier chapters of One Piece, he has expressed his determination in achieving his dream. When he met Coby and faced Buggy, he proves that he is ready to die without any hint of fear nor speck of regret because he tried his best to achieve his dream. That kind of conviction and will are things that can only be found in the strongest ones. This is one of the reasons why many people have put all their faith in Luffy. He has gained very excellent and pure-hearted nakama and has earned the respect and admiration of renowned people because his unparallel conviction and will are very palpable. Furthermore, he remains unbent even on the hardest situation because he completely believes that he’ll be able to overcome his conflicts and challenges.
Deep sense of “nakama.” The essence of nakama (or friendship) has been emphasized since the beginning of this series. To him, these people are the core of his life and dreams, whom he can dedicate and share his happiness with. Since he has a very profound sense of this, he never judges anyone and even accepts them as friends. Nami and Robin have both witnessed how he shows their worth as his nakama by risking all of his might just to get them back. They have appeared like vicious antagonists and have even done deception and destruction just to achieve their goals. However, he continued to be loyal to them and welcomed them to his crew like nothing happened. His worth for nakama is deeply touching. In fact, they have become the primary source of his strength and weakness. He’s able to beat very powerful opponents like Lucci because he wants to save his nakama and continue his journey with them. Despite being optimistic and ardent, he has faltered and suffered for losing them. This is why he puts everything he has to remain strong and powerful so he can keep them.
This is just the first part of my character evaluation on Luffy. I’m not sure when I’ll post the other parts. Aside for my desire to share this little piece of report to other fellow One Piece fans, I also want to create a “filler” – since this Review corner will be in a state of silence for a week, this one might be able to fill its bareness. Hopefully it can entertain you as well.