I have a severe love/hate relationship with One Piece. Barely two weeks into reading about it and I wanted to pull my hair out while simultaneously being unable to look away from such a rich, original work. From day one I fell in love with the concepts of Haki and Devil Fruits, complex lore and a number of interesting characters. Oda’s penchant for extreme exaggeration, cartoonishness and utter lack of subtlety really bothered me at first, and still does to some extent, but I’ve learned to deal with it. Conversely, my profound frustration with One Piece is caused by a singular factor, a problem that has been the bane of my One Piece experience since the beginning. That problem's name is Monkey D. Luffy. Luffy is one of the worst protagonists in fiction history, in my opinion, and the fact that he wasn't eaten by that Sea King as a child is a disgrace. You could make trading cards out of all the flaws Luffy has in his character, but for the sake of expedience, I will focus on the three largest. Fair warning: This post is extremely long (nine pages and 4071 words in Google Docs). He's Mind-shatteringly Stupid Luffy's stupidity seems to be the only aspect of his character that other fans/detractors of One Piece find fault with the same way I do, if these articles are any indication. Every One Piece fan knows Luffy is stupid, yet very few of them seem to be rubbed the wrong way by it, (disregarding those above) which I find puzzling. Not only is the "Idiot Hero" a convention that's overused (and ineffective) in media in general, but it is particularly spammed in the world of manga. Goku and Naruto come to mind. Thus, Oda has managed to create a protagonist that is concurrently incompetent, unoriginal and unrealistic. A triple-threat, if you will. I don't know about you, but I’m typically not one to cheer for a hero who would be outperformed on an IQ test by a shovel. It still boggles my mind how no villain has simply put a steak in the oven and invited Luffy over for dinner. He would invariably comply and, upon arrival, race over to the oven and jump inside to get the meat. The villain then simply turns on the oven and cooks him alive. There. Series over, hero defeated. Seriously. He’s that dumb. If he was asked to solve a Rubik’s Cube, it would initiate Armageddon. His Plot Armor is Infuriatingly Thick In 1999, Kurt Vonnegut published Bagombo Snuff Box, a collection of 23 short stories. In the introduction, he presents the reader with his “8 rules to writing fiction”. Of these rules, number six reads “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them, in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” This is a rule Oda violates with gusto. In the entirety of the series, Luffy has never had to work for a single thing, nor suffered any losses whatsoever, save for Ace’s death. I’m sure some of you are reading that last sentence with open mouths and dilated pupils, so I’ll give some examples. Look at his fights with Crocodile. First fight, saved by Robin, second fight, saved by Oda, third fight, saved by Robin again. What a capable hero, am I right? How about his fight with Lucci? Luffy was stuck in a wall, perfectly vulnerable, staring down his inevitable death. Of course, Lucci had to realize that his legs were broken at that exact moment, causing him to have an internal monologue, allowing Luffy to recover. Strange, since his supposedly “broken” legs hadn’t hindered him in the scuffle outside of Enies Lobby, nor did it hinder him at any point after he realized they were broken. Curious. It’s almost like Lucci’s injury served no point whatsoever except to make Luffy’s journey to One Piece even easier. The most recent victim of Luffy’s plot armor is Doflamingo, who was defeated because---wait for it---Luffy blew air into his body. Doflamingo, one of the most powerful characters in the series, with 31 years of piracy experience, a private army, an awakened Devil Fruit as well as Haoshoku Haki, was defeated by a spindly, 19-year-old mental midget because---he blew air into his body. So basically Oda is telling me is that I could take successfully over the world if I stuck a blow dryer in my mouth. There are no words for how horrendous that is. One Piece should have been called “Author Saves the Protagonist Over and Over Again: the Manga”. He’s Had Zero Character Development Luffy’s previous two shortcomings wouldn’t be nearly as egregious if he actually learned from them or showed any growth at all over the course of the series. I thought Luffy would clean up his act after Ace died. Apparently, Oda’s talent for disappointment knows no bounds, as Luffy came back from training with long-haired, four-eyed Tommy Chong with the maturity of Spongebob, a grin like the Cheshire Cat and the IQ of a wet paper towel. Most One Piece fans seem to find this endearing; I only find it more contemptible. You could throw a chair across the room and it will have developed more as a character than Luffy has. If none of his attributes were ever going to change over the course of the series, you might as well have him dig up One Piece in his own backyard. It’d be about as interesting. Counterarguments It would be pretty unfair of me to post a thread like this without knowing the other side a little. I mean, there must be some reasons people like Luffy, right? I did some research, and here are the top reasons people flock to this abomination, as best as I was able to find. He's Extremely Determined and loyal This is by far the most common reason people are enamored with Luffy, and the one that blows me away the most. Don't get me wrong, loyalty and willpower are divine qualities in any individual, but when it comes to heroes, they are the blandest, dullest, most monotonous character traits you could possibly give them. Think about it, have you ever seen, heard or read about a hero who was a weak-willed backstabber? I sure haven't. Besides, plenty of other characters have demonstrated just as much loyalty and dedication as Luffy has: Whitebeard, Shanks; hell, even antagonists like Doflamingo, Lucci and Crocodile (with Mr. 1). Why aren't they the protagonist then? What makes Luffy so special? He's Lovable This is a sentiment I can’t begin to comprehend. First of all, even if he was lovable (and he's not)---who cares? Since when were heroes supposed to be lovable in the first place, outside of Saturday morning kids cartoons? Heroes are supposed to be respectable, not lovable. They’re supposed to make you look up to and admire them, not pinch their cheeks while you bake them a plate of cookies. Even worse, supporters of this argument assert that Luffy’s sense of humor is the cornerstone of his supposedly “endearing” nature. Um, what? The humor in One Piece has always ranged from “terrible” to “non-existent”; and believe me, the barely measurable whisper of amusement that almost gets half a chuckle out of me every four months is not the result of Luffy. Unless spontaneous nose-picking, infantile toilet humor and an irritating high-pitched voice are considered funny these days. I didn’t know One Piece doubled as an Adam Sandler movie. Luffy’s about as funny as a blood clot and as witty as a nipple. He's Not as Dumb as People Think he is Let me begin by saying, yes, he is. Proponents of this argument insist that Luffy’s stupidity is simply ignorance, or that he may be dumb, but he’s smart when it counts. Both of these are wrong. Ignorance is lacking knowledge. Stupidity is lacking IQ. Luffy lacks both. If Luffy was only ignorant, he would learn from his travels. He would realize that the vast majority of organisms excrete in some form or another, that anything his defective, shit covered brain can’t comprehend isn’t automatically a mystery, and that he blows at drawing. He would show at least some growth. Yet he has remained about as fleshed out as a spilled milk carton. The second argument, simply flipping the Smart Switch whenever he feels like it, is just Deus Ex Machina incarnate. You're telling me a kid so stupid he thinks Bananawani are crocodile-wearing bananas, that drenching your friend in beer is a viable medical treatment tactic, and that digging a hole in front of him won’t fill the hole behind him, can voluntarily adjust his IQ level? Yeah, sure he can. Now where’s Ashton Kutcher telling me I’ve been punk'd? But hey, if you mosey on down to your local special needs center and discover a mentally handicapped person who can jury-rig a jet engine from a coffee maker, maybe I’ll change my mind. Who the Hero Should Have Been By now, you're probably wondering who my mystery hero is. After all, we know why Luffy is a bad protagonist, but who else in the series could possibly usurp Luffy's position, especially after he's held it since July 19th, 1997. Who else could support the weight of the best-selling manga series of all time on their shoulders? I'll tell you: Ace. Before you have an aneurysm, let me assure you, no, I'm not some mindless Ace fanboy posting this thread without any solid evidence. I went through weeks of thought, research and editing to support Ace's suitability for hero of One Piece. That said, let's take a look. He Actually Looks Like a Hero I'm aware of how shallow and two-dimensional this sounds, so let me explain: I had the good fortune of running across an interview between Eiichiro Oda and Akira Toriyama during my research for this post. During their discussion, the interviewer asked Oda what he had in mind when he was creating Luffy. You know what Oda's response was? "Manliness". Now I have a little experiment for you. Go online and bring up two pictures; one of Ace, and one of Luffy. Study them. Which one looks more masculine? Yeah, I thought so too. This is what I'm talking about. Ace is not only the better hero overall, but he was actually created like the hero Oda wanted from the beginning. Everything about him, from his name, to his epithet, to his Devil Fruit, to his physical and mental attributes scream testosterone and awesomeness. That's a captain I wouldn't mind getting behind. Luffy, the actual hero, looks more like a pencil with a face that dressed up as a human to avoid government testing. Similarly, his epithet is just as brittle. "Straw Hat?" Oh boy, here comes the Pirate King. And his name, "Luffy", sounds more like a fictional adjective from a Dr. Seuss book. It's like Oda planned on having Ace as the protagonist, but on the first day of writing got drunk and centered it around Luffy by accident. I wonder if Gol D. Roger knew his successor was going to be a deformed midget. He's Gol D. Roger's Son The hero being the offspring of their idol or person their trying to surpass so I can understand if you have misgivings about this one. I will address these later, so let's press on for now. Ace's heritage is probably the biggest reason towards my partiality to him being the lead. There are two facets to this portion of the argument, so I'll detail each one individually. 1. Tremendous character development opportunities This is by far the most attractive element of Ace's lineage for me, and what enrages me the most about Oda's choice of heroes overall. We know from Ace's last words in Marineford, as well as his conversation with Garp, that Ace harbored doubts about the fact that he should have ever been born. Combined with his loathing for his father and his inherent connection to the previous generation, this could have been used as the centerpiece for the entire series: a young man following in his father's footsteps, not because he wants to be like him, but because he's trying to find the answer to his existence and his family legacy, all the while creating his own. His hatred for his father could serve as a further plot point; Ace begins his journey with a strong repugnance toward his father, but through his own experiences on the Grand Line learns to respect Roger’s decisions and influence on the world. Lastly, Ace's automatic ties to the legendary figures of his father's generation would greatly enhance his relationships and interactions with them. Think of Rayleigh. How much more impactful would it have been for both of them had Ace been the one he trained? For one, training the son of his former captain, and the other, mastering the art of Haki from the one man who knew his father best. Ace could have also learned more about Roger from Rayleigh, coming that much closer to unraveling his family legacy. Moments like these are just some of the spectacular character growth opportunities Oda missed out on. 2. He's pirate royalty The fact that his father was the metaphorical "king" of pirates, would make Ace the metaphorical "prince". This would only further distinguish him as the most promising Super Rookie as well as the one to reclaim his father’s treasure. His Birthday According to the One Piece Wiki, Roger's birthday is December 31st, while Ace's birthday is January 1st. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Sunset and sunrise. The end and the beginning. Roger's birthday can be easily interpreted as representing the end of the previous pirate era, while Ace's birthday can be said to mark the beginning of the Great Age of Pirates. As soon as the sun sets on Roger's time, it dawns on Ace's. This is made even more fitting by the fact that they are father and son. January 1st is also Oda's birthday. He Has Haoshoku Haki It was recently revealed to us that Haoshoku Haki denotes a person with the qualities of king; a divinely chosen, natural born ruler with the potential to change the course of human history. It's basically God giving you a VIP card. Although he was never shown using this in the main storyline, it was disclosed in a flashback that Ace was capable of using this type of Haki. Unlike his brother, however, Ace totally deserves it. Not only does Ace have the perfect character traits for this color of Haki, but he is also in a uniquely suitable position to claim it thanks to his pedigree, since virtually all Conqueror's Haki users revealed thus far bear some official or unofficial royal title. Ace fits perfectly into this club with his status as the "Pirate Prince", like I discussed earlier. His Birth During the War of The Best, the identity of Ace's mother and details of his birth were released; Portgas D. Rouge, fearing for the life of her child, fled from the World Government and held Ace in her womb for an incredible twenty months. Upon delivery, Rouge only lived long enough to name her son before succumbing to the extreme stress of carrying her child for so long. Because of her sacrifice, Ace decided to take her surname for himself rather than his father'. Having such a poignant start to life is yet another archetypical hero attribute. Not only that, but giving Ace such an emotional birth is completely pointless if you just have him get fisted to death in the same arc anyway. He’s a More Unique D. Than Luffy Ace, while possessing most of the typical D. traits, is also a rarity among his D. peers. Firstly, he is currently the only known D. carrier to be born from two D. carrying parents, Roger and Rouge, which is dubbed by the One Piece Wiki as a “unique event”. Furthermore, he is the lone D. to actually ponder whether or not he should exist, as well as being the only one to not desire something of tremendous impersonal value. But what makes this segment most attractive to me is the fact that Blackbeard, the inevitable final boss of the series, is portrayed as a very unique D. as well, with his fear of death and unscrupulous nature. Having the main antagonist as well as the hero be anomalous even among their own exceptional breed is yet another appealing poetic element that went entirely ignored by Oda. He Has All of Luffy’s Positive Traits, and more Indomitable will? Check. Great loyalty toward allies? Check. Highly respected by his crewmates? Check. Haoshoku Haki? Check. Incredible physical strength and durability? Check. D. carrier? Check. Even if Ace was the lead, it’s not like the qualities of the hero would be completely revamped. Ace has the exact same kind of heroic appeal as his brother, plus some extra, so fans of Luffy should be fans of him as well. Additionally, Ace’s casual demeanor is much more magnetic than Luffy’s, something his (Luffy’s) own crew noted when they met Ace in Alabasta. Hell, even Zoro, Luffy’s first mate and arguably the crew member most loyal to Luffy, stated he wanted Ace as his captain after knowing him for 60 seconds. Even the other Straw Hats know Ace should have been the lead. Lastly, Ace is far more competent than his brother. He was a skilled navigator, since he wore a Log Pose on his way to find Luffy and Blackbeard, and was also able to easily pilot his Striker craft on his own. Van Augur also stated that Ace was a highly capable fighter even without his Devil Fruit, unlike Luffy. Both of these qualities would only make the Straw Hats respect Ace more if he was their captain. Counterarguments Just as I know people have a multitude of arguments in support of Luffy’s effectiveness as the lead, I’m sure those same detractors will find fault with my proposed choice of hero. Hopefully I can put your concerns to rest with these. Ace is Way Too Overpowered I can certainly sympathize with this argument, since I felt the same way about virtually every character in the series when I first got into One Piece. However, I believe Occam’s Razor applies in this situation: simply make Ace less powerful. After all, Oda’s the one creating the manga, he can make his characters as powerful or weak as he wants to. It’s not like the version of Ace we saw in the canon series would necessarily be the same iteration that I would have liked to see. I would hate such an overpowered hero as much as you. I would see him eat a less powerful fruit than the Flame-Flame fruit, but one that still fit his personality, (not the dumbass Gum-Gum fruit) and change the Straw Hat Pirates to the Spade Pirates. Besides, if Ace is overpowered, then what do you call Luffy? Ace may have a stronger fruit, but Luffy has the greatest ability any fictional character could possibly have: the protection of the author. There’s nothing any character, no matter how powerful, can do against a protagonist that the creator personally watches over. How is that not more overpowered than Ace? Ace is a Gary-Stu It is very easy to see Ace as a Gary-Stu. He’s polite, easy to get along with, intelligent, good-looking, charismatic, the works. However, people forget how heavily Ace’s heritage weighed on him; even as a child, Ace questioned his very right to live, much like Robin, since he was descended from a “demon.” Additionally, while speaking his final words in Marineford, Ace referred to himself as “good for nothing”. This is in direct contrast to Luffy, who only ever thinks about meat and being Pirate King (this was confirmed by Oda in a SBS) and wasn’t fazed in the slightest about the revelation of his father being Monkey D. Dragon. The epitome of bland characterization. Ace also possesses other character flaws and quirks, such as his quick temper and recklessness (the cause of both his capture and death), his dine-and-dash routines, narcolepsy and occasional lewdness (wiping his face with a woman’s skirt at Spice Bean). Furthermore, all of these flaws (and potentially new ones) could have been much more fleshed out had Ace actually been the hero. Doesn’t sound like a Gary-Stu to me. Being Gol D. Roger’s son is too cliché I mentioned earlier that I was going to address this argument, and we’re finally here. Just like the previous two points, viewing Ace’s blood relation with Roger as stereotyped and trite is a natural reaction. But even if this is true, what do the two of them have in common besides blood? What’s more, how many connections have already been made between Luffy and Roger, who aren’t blood related? Why don’t we take a look at the connections both Luffy and Ace share with Roger and see who has more. Ace 1. He’s Roger’s son 2. Shares a couple personality traits, such as never running from a fight, fierce loyalty to allies and great recklessness Luffy 1. Extreme recklessness and loyalty 1. Desires Roger’s title and treasure 2. Personality is very similar to Roger’s 3. Wears the exact same hat Roger wore 4. Luffy’s and Roger’s ships are the only ones to be made from Adam Wood 5. Luffy and Roger are the only two characters shown to be able to hear Sea Kings speaking 6. Both are from the East Blue 7. According to Shanks, when Luffy declared he would be Pirate King, he used the exact same words Roger used when he proclaimed the same thing decades earlier 8. Every freaking person Luffy meets that knew Roger is reminded of him by Luffy 9. Both were scheduled to be executed in Loguetown, with Luffy having escaped Really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Sure, Ace may be Roger’s son, but that and some similarities in temperament are the only connections Ace has to his father. Besides, Ace himself hated his father, and it was stated by Whitebeard that Ace and Roger’s personalities are polar opposites. Additionally, Ace had no desire for notoriety or wealth; only the answer to his existence. On the other hand, Luffy, not related to Roger at all, is virtually Roger’s clone: same hat, same dream, same ocean, same disposition, same sense of carelessness. What’s more, Luffy is the son of Dragon, causing MIhawk to refer to him as the “Next Generation’s Golden Child”. How is any that not more cliche than Ace being Roger’s son? I will never like Luffy as a character, (if you can call him that) nor will I ever tolerate him, but it doesn’t matter. The damage has been done. One Piece has been going strong for over 800 chapters and 17 years, there’s no hope Oda will come to his senses at this point. This is a colossal disappointment, given how much improvement the manga and anime could have seen by making Ace the hero. But you know the worst part? Even after everything I’ve said, we’ve only scratched the surface. There are still so many other imperfections in Luffy’s character I never detailed that I could probably delete this whole post and rewrite it, at equal length, with entirely different information. You have know idea many things I had to cut out or edit down to even get the argument to this size. Like I said at the beginning, enough flaws to make trading cards out of. Whatever. At least I finally this giant opinion piece out of my head. Shame on Oda for ignoring the perfect protagonist right in front of his face, and shame on him for picking an inbred two-by-four with a straw hat instead. I need a drink.