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One Piece's Luffy hasn't changed as a character over 25 years - and that's what makes him the perfect hero of the franchise

Monkey D. Luffy is perfect just the way he is.

Luffy with his straw hat
Image credit: Toei Animation

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25 years is a long time for any show, but One Piece has somehow made it look easy. Almost every week it comes out with a new episode, with more than 1000 of them available to watch as we speak. Through all their trials and adventures, the crew of the Straw Hats has changed dramatically, but its leader remains stubbornly consistent throughout. Monkey D. Luffy doesn’t change much over the course of One Piece – and that is why he works so well as its hero.

This isn’t to say that Luffy is a boring character. He wouldn’t be the star of one of the most iconic and popular anime of all time if he was boring. His consistency is part of the fabric of One Piece, which is all about the struggle for freedom in the face of overwhelming oppression. It doesn’t take long to figure this out – one of the first islands Luffy goes to is ruled by a corrupt, tyrannical representative of the World Government whom Luffy promptly punches in the face repeatedly. When he says "Shoot down that flag," he means tearing down the oppressive systems that deny people the freedom they need to thrive.

Flag burning in One Piece
Image credit: Toei Animation

All the way through the 'Alabasta' arc, that is the general formula One Piece follows – Luffy and his crew arrive on an island, find that the people are being repressed, and punch whoever doing the oppressing. They often recruit new people to help punch tyrants in the face but sometimes they simply leave a place freer and more just than they found it.

All of the Straw Hats grow and adapt because of their contact with Luffy. Everyone he meets is a better person because of it. Everywhere he goes, freedom pops up in his wake because that is who he is. He is the embodiment of freedom in One Piece. Even his powers come from the ancient Warrior of Liberation, Nika.

Most of the time we love to see characters grow and develop over time, but Luffy is the exception to that rule. For him to change from the joyous yet determined icon of freedom and liberation that he is would undermine not just him but the entire story of One Piece.

Luffy doesn’t change – he changes people and, through them, the world.


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