Here is the thing; one piece has a ridiculous ton of characters and it is a testament of Oda’s skill as a story teller that he some how manages to give each and everyone of them something to do. And as we have seen in so many similarly cast anime and manga series, that isn’t something that everyone can do; most series that i have come across with such large casts have allowed many of their characters but the central cast to lie dormant besides one or two introductory arcs.
The size of one piece’s cast is such that the straw hat pirates are merely one facet of the whole; sure they are the primary protagonists and it is their story we are following, but what i love is that unlike most shows, the world of one piece doesn’t revolve around them. In fact, for a very long time, the straw hats didn’t matter as far as the larger pirate world was concerned and it was nice to know that while they indeed played their part in the overall story, these four or five kids weren’t the one force the world was waiting for to save it or something, as is done by so many series.
While Luffy was passing time fighting Arlong, greater events were occurring on a much larger scale; wars and battles whose outcome would affect the future of the word were happening; even now, with the straw hats finally emerging on the world stage and making waves through out the known world, it is clear that there is still more to the one piece world, specifically the new world than we have seen; more characters still wait to have their moment on stage and arcs that will further catapult the straw hats to greater more important status as far as the future of the world is concerned are yet to happen.
My point is, in the times that the topic of one piece has risen to the fore of my thoughts, maybe during a particularly interesting one piece episode, i have sometimes found myself wondering about the importance of the straw hats, specifically if they are the reason that one piece is, well, one piece. They are the centre of the one piece story but are they really the nucleus, the core, without which the whole collapses?
In other words i am asking, would one piece be as good without the straw hats? Could it survive without the weight of their characters? Are they really the best pawns and pieces on the board that is the one piece world. Could one piece be the amazing story it is without the straw hats.
I personally looked at this question from Oda’s point of view, in that i believe he possesses the creative capabilities to create a one piece story that could thrive without the straw hats. And if that is the case, then what would be the best replacement for the straw hats as a central cast of characters around which the story rotates.
Like i said, one piece is blessed with a cast that isn’t only large but also very interesting and as far as i am concerned, capable of carrying the mantle of central character. So if the straw hats couldn’t be the central characters; maybe they died in the first few arcs, maybe they never existed; what ever the case, what other crew or character would be able to carry the entire one piece story on its back? I mean a cast of characters that you can imagine having watched or read about all these past 600 something chapters, a cast that would provide as much action, deep back story and great plotting to make a series as good if not better than the original straw hat based story.
When i considered this, i came up with three possible replacements for the straw hats:
1. The white beard pirates – who doesn’t like the white beard pirates, though it makes sense to wonder if we should still call them white beard pirates when white beard is dead. None the less they are an interesting and eccentric looking group of people. I say ‘looking’ because we still do not know anything about them,
and all Marine ford revealed to us was their powers. There are still stories to be told about this crew, stories that we will probably never learn because of the sheer of number of the characters in one piece but which i suspect would be intriguing. If the white beards were the main characters of the story, i could see this story occurring from two different angles. First of all, we might follow Edward Newgate’s story; we saw him as a kid, or a young man-i couldn’t tell. We know he grows up to be the world’s strongest man but we do not know how that happens and what adventures lead him to possess the title and status he does now. It would be interesting to watch him follow the ‘luffy' path’ of going on quests and gathering nakama but on a larger scale, since we know the white beard pirates are a larger crew than the straw hats and that doesn’t take into account the alliance he leads.
IN the second scenario, we could start from the marine ford arc and white beard’s death, at which point we would follow Marco’s story and what happens to the crew after the leader falls. Maybe the plot will revolve around the crew retaking the power they lost and re-gathering territories lost after their captain’s death. It would be interesting to see Marco try to control a crew that large and powerful; at least from my point of view i can see enough story to last several hundred chapters.
2. Buggy- i say buggy because i do not remember what his crew is called. And i know having his crew as the primary protagonists would change the show into a more comedic series, but that wouldn’t necessary be the case. We know that one piece is a silly story about silly characters in a silly world, yet it somehow manages to be serious; if he wanted to, i am sure Oda could take buggy and turn his story into something more serious and interesting. I can see potential in him; maybe the story would revolve around his rivalry with shanks, and weak as he is, it would be interesting to watch him lie his way to the top. The straw hats could even feature as his closest rivals that he must beat to stand a chance against shanks. Maybe its because i like baggy but i believe that it would be a good story
3. Coby – Coby is the one character i believe would have a far more interesting story than Luffy, because his character, at least as far as i am concerned, looks like it could be far more interesting than the basic shonen type character that Luffy is. Of course his story would occur from the marine side of things and like Luffy, Coby would have to fight both pirates and crazy marines; like luffy he would be striving to reach the top of the marine world, to become what ever that giant Buddha guy with glasses is, and on the way he would have to contend with both admirals and the four emperors. Now granted this might still happen in one piece but in my scenario it would occur in a more detailed format which is what would make it so interesting. I can see luffy taking a shank’s like role in his life as the person who made him who he is and who coby eventually has to find beat.