Aug 01, 2023
11 One Piece Character Backstories Explained: Straw Hat Pirates, Allies & Villains
From Luffy and his Straw Hat crew to the villains, here’s a breakdown of the backstories and origins of all main characters from Netflix's One Piece. Warning: spoilers ahead for the One Piece manga
From Luffy and his Straw Hat crew to the villains, here’s a breakdown of the backstories and origins of all main characters from Netflix's One Piece.
Warning: spoilers ahead for the One Piece manga and anime.
Netflix’s One Piece live-action cast brings the Straw Hat pirates and many other iconic One Piece characters to life, along with their own individual backstories. Based on Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece manga, Netflix’s One Piece show is an important chapter in the history of one of the most popular works of fiction of all time. One Piece was first published in 1997, followed by an anime adaptation that premiered in 1999. With over 1000 manga chapters currently published, One Piece has an extensive and rich lore that includes more than 1000 characters.
One Piece season 1 covers the manga’s first few arcs and follows Monkey D. Luffy as he forms his crew. Every step of Luffy’s journey in this portion of the story ends with him recruiting a new member to his crew and making new friends, which is why the live-action One Piece cast is quite large. That is not to mention all the One Piece villains Luffy and the Straw Hat pirates run into, plus other allies and minor characters who may play a larger role in future One Piece seasons. As each of these characters has their own unique origin story, there is much background information to absorb.
One Piece’s main character, Monkey D. Luffy, has one goal in life - to become King of the Pirates. To accomplish this goal, Luffy must find the One Piece, the legendary treasure whose existence started the Great Age of Pirates. Luffy grew up surrounded by pirates, namely the crew led by "Red Hair" Shanks. Inspired by Shanks’ tales, Luffy decided very early on that he wanted to be a pirate. However, after eating a Devil Fruit and becoming a "rubber man," Luffy’s life would never be the same again.
Luffy's existence before meeting Shanks will likely not be touched upon in Netflix's One Piece. The Straw Hats' captain has no idea who his mother and father are, with a mostly-absent grandfather the single blood relation in Luffy's life. Instead, Luffy's childhood family consisted of various residents in and around Windmill Village, including a bandit, a bar owner, and two fellow youngsters Luffy came to consider brothers.
Roronoa Zoro was originally a bounty hunter who became known as "Pirate Hunter." Zoro’s reputation precedes him in the One Piece world, especially among pirates who have heard of the "demon in the form of a man." Zoro is an extraordinary swordsman who uses a unique three-sword fighting style, achieved by putting one blade in his mouth. Similar to Luffy, Zoro also has one clear goal: to become the world’s greatest swordsman and fulfill a promise to a friend.
Similarly to Luffy, Zoro's parents are not addressed in the One Piece manga, although future stories do hint the swordsman's roots trace back to a Grand Line island known as Wano - a land of samurai. One Piece's earliest Zoro scenes show him as a child, training to become a swordsman alongside other aspiring kids. Young Zoro was particularly close to a girl named Kuina, who also aspired to be the world's best sword fighter, but tragically died. Zoro intends to achieve that goal in her honor, and one of his three swords was inherited from Kuina's family.
A thief who can steal anything from anyone, Nami is not a fan of pirates. Nami, a naturally talented cartographer, can be the perfect navigator for a journey into the sea. This is why she is invited by Luffy to join his newly formed crew, even though neither Luffy nor Zoro know anything about Nami. Despite not liking pirates, Nami accepts Luffy’s offer, as the search for the One Piece in the Grand Line would help her steal even more money from the world’s greatest treasures.
Continuing the trend, Nami's parents remain a mystery in One Piece. She was discovered alongside fellow orphan Nojiko by a Marine named Bell-mère, who became an adoptive mother to both girls as they settled down in Cocoyasi Village. Nami's world was turned upside down following a pirate attack that claimed Bell-mère's life.
Usopp grew up in Syrup Village telling tales about adventures that never happened and pirates that never arrived. Usopp is the son of a pirate, but the boy never left his village, and was eventually left without either parent after his mother died. Alone and hoping that someday his pirate father would return, Usopp became known in the village as the kid who is always lying about pirates attacking. Usopp is best friends with Kaya, heir to the wealthiest family in the Syrup Village. Whereas no one in the village takes Usopp’s stories seriously, Kaya loves to hear his tales.
"The best cook in the East Blue" is how One Piece’s Sanji describes himself. Sanji joins the story as an employee of the ship-restaurant Baratie. Sanji was passionate about cooking from a very young age, and his goal is to find the mythical sea known as the All Blue. Sanji believes that there is a place where all the seas meet, and that it has the best cooking ingredients in the world. Sanji is also known for being a "ladies’ man."
Somewhat unusually, One Piece has actually revealed Sanji's origins, confirming his full name as Sanji Vinsmoke. The Vinsmokes are a notorious crime family from North Blue, renowned for their technological and scientific expertise as the so-called "Germa 66." Sanji ran away from his cruel family, and eventually found himself under the tutelage of fellow food enthusiast Red-Leg Zeff, who retired from piracy and took the boy on as a chef at Baratie.
Koby is one of the first One Piece characters to appear in the story. After boarding the wrong ship during a fishing trip, Koby found himself as a prisoner of the Alvida Pirates. Koby was forced to work for the Alvida and became a member of her crew for two years, always dreaming about the day he would escape. Koby never dared to confront Alvida, but changed his stance after a chance meeting with Luffy. Koby’s dream is to join the Marines and help those in need.
Garp is a Vice-admiral of the Marines who was first introduced in One Piece’s Diary of Koby-Meppo, a serialized story told on the cover pages of the manga. Despite his discrete introduction in the manga, Garp is an extremely important One Piece character whose journey began way before the Great Age of Pirates. Garp notoriously clashed against Gold Roger, and was involved in numerous major battles that occurred long before Luffy's era, earning himself the nickname "Garp the Hero." Despite their many fights, Garp and Roger developed something close to friendship.
Although Garp is one of the most powerful and respected officers among the Marines, he remains at Vice-admiral level. This is merely a choice, however, since Garp realizes being promoted further would restrict his ability to act independently. Despite his rank, Garp is as fearsome as any Marine in the fleet.
Arlong is a fish-man that leads the Arlong Pirates in One Piece. With a bounty of 20,000,000 berries on his head, Arlong is one of the most feared pirates in the East Blue region. The Arlong Pirates will invade a village and then proceed to charge a fee from every citizen, threatening to destroy everything and kill everyone if someone does not pay. Arlong established his base in the Conomi Islands and created Arlong Park, a monument to his power.
Before his reign of terror in East Blue, Arlong was more active in the Grand Line, growing up alongside fellow fish-men and enduring the scorn and discrimination shown toward them by humans. Alongside other notable One Piece fish-men such as Jinbe, Arlong joined the Sun Pirates, led by the respected Fisher Tiger, who wished to liberate fish-men from enslavement while avoiding unprovoked violence with humans. Arlong always disagreed with this philosophy, and after Fisher Tiger's death, the Arlong pirate crew as seen in Netflix's One Piece were forged.
Buggy, a pirate who happens to look like a clown, is one of the main villains Luffy encounters in the earlier One Piece arcs, but his story traces back to before the Great Age of Pirates. Once a member of Gold Roger's crew alongside Shanks, Buggy the Clown eventually became captain of his own team after Roger's execution, and made a name for himself in the East Blue. In a cruel twist of fate, neither Buggy nor Shanks know what the One Piece is, or how to reach it, despite being among the Pirate King's crew. Similar to Luffy, Buggy has also eaten a Devil Fruit that grants him unique powers.
The other "pirate in a straw hat," Shanks plays a significant role in Luffy’s backstory. Shanks is also at the center of other key One Piece moments that happened before Luffy’s journey began. Initially traveling with the Pirate King - the man who gave him his famous hat - Shanks formed his own crew after Gold Roger's death, splitting from best-friend Buggy in an act seen as a "betrayal" by the clown himself. Shanks went on to become a renowned pirate on his own merit, ultimately earning his status as one of the notorious Four Emperors, but not before relaxing in Windmill Village and meeting a certain Monkey D. Luffy.
Gold Roger, the original King of the Pirates, was doing piracy before it was cool, and changed the world after announcing that his treasure was there for the taking. Although One Piece is yet to explain exactly when and why Gold Roger set sail, his exploits sailing the Grand Line became the stuff of legend, inspiring a whole new generation of buccaneers, and earning the ire of the World Government for his troubles. Gold Roger’s death leads to One Piece’s Great Age of Pirates and Luffy’s eventual quest for the One Piece.One PieceOne Piece