One Piece: Why Shanks is just as important as Sanji or Zoro

With protagonist Monkey D. Luffy’s goal of Pirate King status approaching ever-closer as One Piece progresses, the future Pirate King’s wings have been hot topics lately. Whether due to their latest bounties or what they’ve done for Luffy’s journey, fans can’t stop discussing Zoro and Sanji and how integral the two have been to their captain’s dreams.

Especially after their Wano arc achievements, fans are raving over the two’s growth throughout One Piece and how constant and important their devotion has been to Luffy. However, this led fans to bring up another character integral to Luffy’s journey to Pirate King status, Shanks.

Naturally, fans started comparing and contrasting the two Straw Hats with the individual mentioned above, analyzing who was more important in Luffy’s journey. Follow along as this article explains why Shanks is just as important as Sanji or Zoro in One Piece.

One Piece’s Shanks is like Luffy’s 3rd wing, supporting him when and where Zoro and Sanji cannot

Why Shanks is just as important

Shanks as seen in the One Piece anime (Image via Toei Animation)
Shanks as seen in the One Piece anime (Image via Toei Animation)

One of the most important relationships Luffy is shown to have throughout the One Piece series is his friendship with Shanks. In many ways, the former Roger Pirate has heavily influenced how the series’ protagonist looks at piracy and carries himself as a man throughout his adventures on the high seas.

Their relationship’s importance stretches beyond the lessons taught, with Shanks even assisting Luffy in significant ways at two distinct points in the story. One of them even sees him essentially be directly responsible for saving Luffy’s life, intercepting Akainu to let him escape Marineford.

The other moment comes during One Piece’s Wano arc, where Shanks deters Admiral Ryokugyu from moving forward with his plan to take Luffy’s head. While it’s likely that the young pirate and his crew could’ve handled the admiral themselves, the situation still emphasizes how close the two are and what Shanks is willing to do for his protege.

What Zoro and Sanji did for their captain

Zoro as seen in the series' anime (Image via Toei Animation)
Zoro as seen in the series’ anime (Image via Toei Animation)

The only other One Piece characters shown to regularly risk their lives or speak their minds for the better of their captain are Zoro and Sanji. While both have certainly had their moments in this regard, Zoro’s moments, in particular, are striking for the sacrifice he makes and how devoted he is to his captain.

One Piece’s Thriller Bark arc sees Zoro beg Shichibukai Bartholomew Kuma to take his head, sparing Luffy’s in the process. Kuma agrees, even giving Zoro a possible out, should he be able to survive the task before him. That task demanded that he absorb all of the pain and suffering Luffy felt and endured throughout the arc, which Kuma’s powers allow to take a corporeal form.

Zoro endures the pain, however, nearly dying himself in the process. It emphasizes how devoted he is to his captain’s goals, even willing to give up his own life and dreams to ensure Luffy has a chance of achieving his. Other similar moments from Zoro see him constantly keeping Luffy in check as the crew’s captain, further emphasizing this dedication and devotion.

Sanji as seen in the series' anime (Image via Toei Animation)
Sanji as seen in the series’ anime (Image via Toei Animation)

Meanwhile, Sanji makes a similar choice to give up on his own life and dreams to give Luffy a better shot at achieving his own. The Whole Cake Island arc is squarely focused on this, with Sanji sacrificing himself and marrying Pudding to guarantee the safety of all the other Straw Hat Pirates.

He even goes as far as to reject any friendship the two have ever possibly had, doing so to Luffy’s face as he pummels his former captain to a pulp. It’s an incredibly touching moment that shows that, no matter how hard he tries to act otherwise, Sanji truly cares for his captain, wanting to support him even when he has to act like the enemy.

Resultantly, all three find themselves of equal importance and status in their influence on Luffy’s journey to achieve his goals. All three have sacrificed something to ensure Luffy finds the One Piece, with some risking their lives, their arm, or giving up the only true family they’ve ever had.

Be sure to keep up with all One Piece anime, manga, film, and live-action news as the year of the series’ 25th anniversary progresses.

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