It is strange that this argument has never erupted before. I mean, i have heard all the hullabaloo over the status of Ichigo's bleach and his place as Bleach's protagonist. I have heard the idea floating about that luffy could the best protagonist anime has ever seen, besides Goku that is. While there might be some grain of truth to that (I think i will go with Naruto Uzumaki on this one), i have always wondered what the show would be like if Zoro was at the helm.
Let's look at the facts; Luffy is the most basic cliched hero in anime history; from the early days of anime, we have seen heroes that are perfect,with little to no flaws, upright morals and an indomitable skill set. Basically they were gods in human flesh, moving from obstacle to obstacle fixing the problems of the world, ever triumphant, wholly unstoppable.
Sufficing to say we got over that; we want heroes that are real and raw, that face challenges that can actually bring them down, and tackle decisions that would break the normal man.
I am going to say something that most people will not agree with, Luffy is none of those things. Luffy shares this undeniable flaw with Natsu and the rest of his fairy tail friensd. Luffy has never changed ever since One piece began. It's like he came into existence perfect, with all the skills he would require mentally and physically to achieve his goals.
He doesn't change, he doesn't grow, doesn't learn, beyond the fancy skills and techniques he masters every few months. Just like Natsu Luffy faces every new challenge with the very same mentality and skill that he used against every other foe he came across before,and he always triumphs. It doesn't matter how much of a battering he takes, Luffy comes off as invincible.
Admittedly i enjoyed the the Impel down and Marine ford arcs, mostly because i felt Luffy's struggle and actually believed that his life could be in danger. Anyone that keeps complaining about how there is no death in Naruto, answer me; how many straw hat pirates have ever died? The mention of Ace is somewhat justified, but as shocking as that was, we are talking about a pirate that barely got any screen time.
In fact his death didn't even hit me that hard until i watched those flashback episodes and got to know him a little better.
I digress, this was meant to be about Zoro. Is this not what we want, why we watch anime? To watch that one individual with all the weaknesses of a human but with the will and guts to face giants. Zoro is what Luffy isn't, the underdog; the pirate hunter that has spent the last couple of years honing his skills to face the demons and ghosts of the open seas, demons like Luffy with the powers of gods, but which Zoro will face down and fight, even when the odds are so set against him.
If it seems like i am rooting for Zoro because he happens to be an unpowered human, then i would say yes. No one can deny the excitement they felt in watching a young Goku go up against the demon Piccollo, knowing well that all this little monkey boy had going for him was a little strength, speed and agility, basically no business in facing such a monster. Then he grew up, realized he as an alien with near limitless power and the solution to every villain was reduced to eating a senzu bean, and achieving a new super saiyan form, maybe even a new fusion form-rather silly.
Personally watching Zoro go up against Mihawk was a much more interesting feat than watching Luffy face the admirals, a bunch of devil fruit users just like him-though admittedly stronger.
I like the fact that Zoro has to face great challenges to arrive at any point, whereas Luffy almost always goes the route of Ichigo; basically he is a fighting genius that learns as he does battle.
I understand the argument that Luffy, just like Zoro, must train to acquire new skills; but the training Zoro does can't be compared to the training Luffy has to do. What wold Luffy be without a devil fruit? We know that Zoro is a bad ass merely with the power of three pieces of metal-though it took me a while to the get use to the whole sword in mouth bit.
For me, the question of superiority between Zoro and Luffy has never been a question; Zoro is clearly superior. How about a story where Zoro hunts Luffy down, luffy kicks his ass and over the course of 500 chapters, Luffy shows Zoro the potential he holds even without a devil fruit by nominating him to be captain of their soon to be formed pirate crew, and as Zoro finally reaches the peak of his capabilities, Luffy finally acknowledges his skills as a true pirate king who he is willing to follow to the very ends of the earth.
Then of course we can fit in all those other side characters; Luffy can still to meet up shanks who now has taken an interest in Zoro, specifically the idea of teaching him some haki; while Mihawk convinces Luffy that in learning the way of the sword, he can overcome his one weakness, even without using a sword (that's a katanagatari reference by the way)...
All in all, i might be ranting because i just completed the Fish man island arc in the anime and i mostly skipped what is the worst arc in all of one piece; but i think it is a valid argument that Zoro would make a better protagonist than Luffy. For those that might suggest that, based on my argument, Sanji would also fit the profile as a superior protagonist, i only have to point out one fact; all protagonist must be cool in one way, form or manner, be it attitude, look, powers and so on; Sanji isn't cool, sorry...