The live-action adaptation of the immensely popular manga and anime series “One Piece” has been creating waves for many reasons. First, for its action and drama-packed sequences, and second, for its queerness that hits the nail without even explicitly trying or making a point or even indulging in chest-thumping.
While the show retains its adventurous spirit and whimsical world, it also introduces elements of queerness through its narrative and diverse cast of characters. “One Piece” on Netflix is a fresh breath of air that gets it right when it comes to the representation of LGBTQIA+ characters and their fluidity.
Queer Narrative Elements
Netflix’s “One Piece” takes the core storyline from Eiichiro Oda’s original manga and anime, focusing on the epic journey of Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy) and his diverse crew as they search for the ultimate treasure, the One Piece. The queer elements within the show emerge subtly but meaningfully through its storytelling.
One of the most significant steps towards queerness in the show is the inclusion of non-binary characters. In the world of “One Piece,” gender is often fluid and diverse.
The show also portrays a range of relationships that challenge heteronormative conventions. While romantic relationships are not a central focus of “One Piece,” there are subtle hints of queerness.
For example, the close bond between characters like Luffy and Sanji or Zoro and Sanji can be interpreted as deep emotional connections that transcend traditional friendship boundaries. These relationships offer a nuanced portrayal of love and affection between characters of the same gender.
The character Emporio Ivankov, a commander of the Revolutionary Army, is another example of queerness in “One Piece.” Ivankov possesses a unique Devil Fruit ability that allows them to manipulate hormones and change their own gender and the genders of others. This character defies conventional gender norms and serves as a symbol of gender diversity and self-acceptance.
It is the character of a timid yet brave Marine cadet, Koby, played by trans man Morgan Davies, who’s also the talk of the town! Luffy met pink-haired Koby aboard Miss Alvida’s ship, where he was an abused chore boy working for the pirates he hated, but Luffy saved him. Later, Luffy and Koby became friends and also enemies as their paths diverged, with Koby joining the Marines, the pirates’ arch-nemesis.
Those who have watched the “One Piece” anime would know that Koby was a mere side character, but here he has his own path and a better screen time, too!
Also, a little trivia for those who haven’t watched the anime series – The character Bon Clay (Mr. 2), who identifies as male but can change his appearance and gender at will using his Devil Fruit power, challenges traditional notions of gender identity. His ability to switch between male and female forms demonstrates the fluidity of gender and highlights the importance of self-expression.
The queerness in “One Piece” is not limited to narrative elements; it is also prominently displayed through its diverse cast of characters. The crew of the Straw Hat Pirates includes individuals from various backgrounds and identities, providing viewers with representation rarely seen in mainstream media. Interestingly, the central character – Monkey D Luffy’s own identity remains shrouded in mystery and is purely vague.
Moreover, Luffy has only shown genuine interest in adventure and food, and not any other thing or person. One could argue that since Luffy is incredibly focused on his quest, it could be speculated that he is asexual, although it has never been confirmed. It’s safe to say that he feels no love/lust toward anyone since he is immune to the “love-love fruit” (you’d know if you saw the anime series).
Characters like Nami and Nico Robin challenge traditional gender roles. Nami is a skilled navigator and cartographer, while Nico Robin is an archaeologist with a mysterious past. Both women exhibit strength, intelligence, and independence, transcending stereotypical gender expectations.
“One Piece” presents a refreshing take on queerness in mainstream television. By introducing non-binary characters, portraying queer relationships, and celebrating gender diversity, the show contributes to a more inclusive representation of the LGBTQ+ community.
It challenges societal norms and offers viewers an opportunity to explore themes of identity, acceptance, and love in a fantastical world. “One Piece” is not just a beloved adventure; it’s also a platform for diverse storytelling, making it an important addition to the growing body of queer representation in media.
As the show continues to develop, it has the potential to inspire and empower viewers of all backgrounds to embrace their authentic selves and celebrate diversity in all its forms.