A pirate is, broadly speaking, any professional criminal that operates wholly or partially on the world's seas, especially people conducting robbery by ship. In most, if not all, cases they lead or belong to a group of like-minded criminals, known as a crew.
Though not the only existing type of criminal, pirates appear to comprise most of the world's significant bounty heads, and—with the possible exception of the Revolutionary Army—constitute the strongest opposition to the authority of the World Government and Marines.
While the English word "pirate" is derived from the Latin pirata ("pirate, corsair, sea robber") and Greek πειρατής (peiratēs: "brigand"), the Japanese word for pirate—kaizoku—comprises the kanji for "sea/ocean" (海?) and "thief/robber" (賊?), in analogy to such terms as "bandit" (盗賊 tōzoku?).
|— Gan Fall|
In the world of One Piece, perhaps the trait most universal to pirates, beside their sea-going activities and general defiance of the law, is the Jolly Roger: a skull-and-crossbones symbol meant for intimidation, usually flown on black flags at the top of the ships mast, as well as on the sails. The Jolly Roger has countless variants, every pirate group using their own unique design elements. The overall connotations of such a symbol is strong enough that the Marines have been known to attack ships flying it on sight, even if those onboard are not identified with any particular bounty or crime.
While the majority of pirates are male humans, it is far from unknown for women (e.g. Alvida, Nami, Jewelry Bonney), fish-men and merfolk (e.g. Arlong, Capote, Hyouzou), giants (e.g. Dorry, Brogy, Sanjuan Wolf), Minks (e.g. Bepo), and even non-sapient animals (e.g. Richie, Momoo) to also sail under a Jolly Roger and attain comparable reputations.
The (stereo)typical pirate is greedy, violent, and ruthless, willing to hurt anyone and destroy anything to gain what they want—be it treasure, power, or even personal amusement. For this reason, it is not uncommon for civilians to fear and detest pirates on principle, even if they have never personally met any.
On the other hand, many law-abiding individuals and communities are known to romanticize pirates, or at least tolerate them if they keep themselves in check:
- Monkey D. Luffy's hometown Foosha Village served as a friendly harbor to the Red Hair Pirates for over a year, strongly influencing Luffy's own childhood dream to become a pirate. The village continues to celebrate and publicize Luffy's every increase in bounty, with only the mayor ever objecting.
- Water 7's shipyards are entirely willing to service pirates as long as their shipbuilding prices are met and no violence is threatened.
- Fish-Man Island freely welcomes pirates as tourists, despite the ongoing problem of pirates kidnapping merfolk and fish-men to sell as slaves.
Generally, the Marines do not pursue otherwise law-abiding people simply for aiding or associating with pirates, though exceptions can and have been made for particularly notorious cases. They do tend to discourage children from admiring pirates, and undercover Marine Donquixote Rosinante even pretended to hate children to dissuade them from joining the Donquixote Pirates when he was working undercover among the crew.
As being a pirate is a serious crime in the eyes of the World Government, pirates are assigned bounties. The stronger the pirate is in combat, or the more serious the crimes they have committed, the higher their bounty will be. While not all pirates enjoy having a bounty on their head, a number of them take pride of the notoriety that comes with it, even going as far to try increasing it by taking down other notable combatants in order to gain evil fame (邪悪な名声 Jaakuna meisei?).
Virtually all pirates exist as part of a pirate crew (海賊団 kaizokudan?), comprising of other pirates willing to operate under the same Jolly Roger. A crew is typically led by a single Captain (船長 Senchō?), who makes (or at least has final authority on) all major actions taken by the crew. The Captain often possesses the highest combat ability and notoriety out of anyone in the crew.
Other positions common to pirate crews include:
- A First Mate or Vice-Captain (副船長 Fuku Senchō?), who advises the captain, relays orders to the rest of the crew, and usually assumes authority in the captain's absence.
- Officers (幹部 Kanbu?), usually seen in a larger pirate crew, officers are a select few elite combatants who command the lower ranked members of the crew.
- In some crews, the officer position is further divided into regular officer and top officers. The top officers are stronger and hold authority over the lower ranked regular officers.
- Combatants (戦闘員 Sentō-in?), who specialize in fighting and, depending on the crew's size and focus, may or may not have other skills. Combatant types include:
- Swordsmen (剣士 Kenshi?), who specialize in using swords for combat.
- Snipers (狙撃手 Sogekishu?), who specialize in using ranged weapons, such as firearms, a slingshot, or a bow and arrow.
- Martial Artists (格闘家 Kakutōka?), who specialize in utilizing their own bodies for combat, using punches, kicks, and other melee attack.
- Navigators (航海士 Kōkaishi?), who are in charge of keeping their crew on course to their next destination.
- Cooks (料理人 Ryōrinin?), whose purpose is to prepare meals to keep the crew fed.
- Doctors (医者 Isha?), whose purpose is to keep their crew mates healthy, treating illnesses with medicine and bandaging their wounds.
- Shipwrights (船大工 Funadaiku?), who are in charge of maintaining repairs of the crew's ship.
- Helmsmen (操舵手 Sōda-shu?), who steer their ships wheel in accordance with the guidelines of the Navigator.
- Musicians (音楽家 Ongakuka?), who specialize in playing music to keep the crew entertained.
- Apprentices (見習い Minarai?), recruited at a young age, who may be used for anything from unpleasant chores to open combat. Though the position carries little authority or respect in itself, it can serve as a valuable training ground for pirates to build skills or notoriety on.
- Pets (ペット Petto?), animals who usually serve as entertaining companions, but can also be combatants depending on their abilities.
There are other positions on a pirate crew as well. They are less common and less obvious. Such positions include:
- Scholars (?), who act as knowledge keepers for the crew, providing an intellectual perspective and information that most, if not all, other members of the crew are uneducated in. Scholar types include:
Usually, a pirate crew recruits new members at the sole discretion of the captain, who may set strict, objective standards (e.g. Demaro Black of the Fake Straw Hat Crew demanding only captains strong enough to have earned a bounty of 70,000,000 or more, or Charlotte Linlin of the Big Mom Pirates demanding new recruits create marriage ties to her blood relations). Other crews may have no standards at all besides personal fondness for the individual.
Some captains may also force unwilling individuals to join their crew; Koby was taken as a slave by the Alvida Pirates and forced to be their Cabin Boy, and the Beasts Pirates are known to make unwilling recruits work hard labor until their spirits are broken and they submit. There is also the traditional pirate game known as the Davy Back Fight, where pirates complete in various challenges and the Captain of the winning crew gets to poach members of the opposing crew, who must change loyalties without complaint. Though only the Foxy Pirates have actually been known to use it.
Pirate crews also tend to be named after the captain, whether directly (e.g. the Roger Pirates, the Krieg Pirates and the Barto Club) or through an epithet or personal motif (e.g. the Red Hair Pirates, the Straw Hat Pirates, the Whitebeard Pirates and the Heart Pirates). The exceptions are usually named after a common race or origin shared by all members (e.g. the Giant Warrior Pirates, the Kuja Pirates and the New Fish-Man Pirates) or else a deliberate communal theme (e.g. the Black Cat Pirates, the Sun Pirates and the Beasts Pirates).
Some pirate crews pledge themselves subordinate (傘下 sanka?, "under the umbrella") to another, more powerful crew. In practice, this means that the subordinate crews are loyal to the captain of a superordinate crew, but are usually free to act independently under their own captain. Examples of subordinate crews include the 43 subordinate crews of the Whitebeard Pirates, and the Bellamy Pirates under the Donquixote Pirates.
All but the newest (or poorest) of pirates sail on specialized ships that bear their corresponding Jolly Roger on the mainsail and/or flags; in most cases, the figurehead is also customized to reflect the captain's epithet or personal motif. Apart from this, a pirate ship may be of any size and equipped with any level of technology and weaponry, depending on the skills and materials available to—and ambitions of—its crew.
Of course, as criminals, very few pirates have qualms about stealing or hijacking new ships when the need arises. Don Krieg for example was particularly infamous for using civilian and Marine ships to facilitate his sneak attacks. Although it seems to be just as common for a pirate to value their own ship, in some cases as much as an actual member of the crew.
A sign of a pirate's threat is their ability to gain territory from a small island to a base over several villages. Often, to stay out of sight, they will keep their base hidden like the Kid and Fire Tank Pirates.
Because of their great power, the Seven Warlords of the Sea held countries, while the Four Emperors have chains of islands under their control, and a number of other territories under their respective flags as well.
Categories and Classes
While pirates operate in all of the world's known seas, different crews can vary sharply in power, scope, and notoriety. These disparities are often reflected by a crew's area of operation:
- Those in the Four Blues (East, West, North, South) are regarded as lesser—particularly the East. The World Government largely ignores them, leaving their apprehension to non-Headquarters Marines.
- Those who successfully enter or start out in the Grand Line are commonly deemed rookies (ルーキー Rūkī?) and paid more serious attention by Marine Headquarters and older pirates, though not universally.
- Those who establish significant reputations and power-bases, particularly after crossing the Grand Line's first half and entering the second half, may be deemed Great Pirates (大海賊 Daikaizoku?). Thus far, only five individuals (Shanks, Edward Newgate, Charlotte Linlin, Kaidou, and Gol D. Roger) have been given this descriptor.
It should be noted that these designations are largely informal, with (at best) vague parameters. They stand in contrast to the more formalized categories and titles listed below.
The Seven Warlords of the Sea (王下七武海 Ōka Shichibukai?, lit. "Royal Seven Martial Seas") are a selection of pirates legally allied with the World Government. While not employees or officials per se, they are allowed to pursue most pirate activities without threat of arrest (their bounties being completely frozen), along with a number of other privileges. In return, they are expected to further the World Government's interests, mainly by giving over a share of their plunder (and, implicitly, limiting their targets to other pirates).
Warlords are recruited somewhat arbitrarily, but always with a focus on power and notoriety; as such, they are widely feared (and/or reviled as "government dogs") by most other pirates. Nevertheless, they vary widely in abilities, methodologies, and personalities, some operating alone while others maintain full crews and are even acknowledged as legitimate sovereigns.
After the Warlords Crocodile and Donquixote Doflamingo were both discovered to be directly undermining member kingdoms of the World Government (Arabasta and Dressrosa, respectively), the Council of Kings instated a complete abolition of the system, reverting all of the remaining Warlords to "common" pirates.
The Four Emperors (四皇 Yonkō?) are a widely recognized group of four New World veterans who rose to prominence after the execution of Gol D. Roger and are widely regarded as the strongest pirate captains in the world. Of the five known pirates to hold this title, three were formerly members of the infamous Rocks crew. There is a strong degree of overlap between the Four Emperors and those who are considered Great Pirates, with the original four all being known as such. As the strongest and most influential pirates in the world, a certain level of strength and prestige is needed to be recognized as an Emperor. The Four Emperors and their subordinates are considered one of the three great powers of the world, along with the Marines and (formerly) Seven Warlords of the Sea.
Pirates regarded as emperors are extremely powerful as combatants, captain notoriously strong (and often large) crews, and hold immense levels of influence over the goings on of the New World. Typically, emperors of the sea will hold territory; islands which they either have defacto rule over or are directly involved in the internal politics of. In addition to this it's not uncommon for pirates of this level to have other notable crews serving under their own as subordinates.
The title of Fifth Emperor (５番目の皇帝 Gobanme no Kōtei) was unofficially given to Monkey D. Luffy by Morgans of the World Economy Newspaper following he and his crew's escape from Big Mom's territory. It should be noted that this title was given based on highly embellished accounts of the Whole Cake Island incident, and as such is seemingly not recognized by the World Government or Marines yet. However, in the eye of the public Luffy is perceived as a figure standing adjacent to the Four Emperors.
Pirates considered emperors of the New World are known to have many extremely impressive feats under their belt. Red-Haired Shanks, the second most recent addition to the Four Emperors, is known to have regularly dueled against the greatest swordsman in the world prior to losing his arm. Edward Newgate was widely known as the late Pirate King's career-long rival. All pirates to be referred to as emperors hold extremely high bounties, all of which are in the billions. The late Whitebeard previously held the second highest bounty of any pirate to have existed, while Kaidou currently boasts the highest active pirate bounty (additionally, these two are regarded as the Strongest Man in the World and Strongest Creature in the World respectively.) When fully assembled, a pirate crew of this level may even be strong enough to stand a chance in a battle against the entire Marine force and Seven Warlords of the Sea, as demonstrated during the Summit War of Marineford.
The Pirate King (海賊王 Kaizoku-Ō?, also called King of the Pirates in the English versions) is a title applied to the strongest pirate alive. Its latest—perhaps only—universally-acknowledged holder was Gol D. Roger, who inextricably linked it with the mythical treasure known as One Piece.
Before his death, Roger hid the One Piece in an unknown location—popularly believed to be Laugh Tale, the farthest-known island on the Grand Line. The frenzy over discovering and owning such a massive treasure sparked the "Great Age of Pirates". Whoever finds and claims the One Piece shall officially become the next Pirate King.
During the last portion of his life, Edward "Whitebeard" Newgate was generally acknowledged as the man "closest" to being the next Pirate King, though he admitted to having no interest the title at all. One of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Donquixote Doflamingo, believed that had Whitebeard truly wanted to become the Pirate King, he would have already. Many people who had met Luffy, such as Vivi and Koby, believe that he will become the Pirate King; Kokoro also addressed Luffy as the Pirate King and Shakuyaku has stated that both she and Silvers Rayleigh were rooting for Luffy to achieve this goal.
The reasons for a person wanting to be the next Pirate King vary; individuals like Buggy, Gecko Moria and Blackbeard wish to acquire it for the power and influence the title would come with, while others like Luffy and Crocodile (prior to the event that caused him to let go of it) wish to become the next Pirate King simply as a personal dream. The Four Emperors are considered candidates for it because they are extremely powerful and are very close to it. Among them, Blackbeard, Big Mom and Kaidou have shown interest. Luffy, as well as Crocodile in his youth, seem to only want it for the adventures that are involved with locating the One Piece.
The Pirate King is said to be the ruler of the sea; something that Luffy confirmed when asked about it by Enel. But when talking to Silvers Rayleigh, Luffy said that the Pirate King is not the most powerful or wealthiest person in the world, but simply the person with the most freedom on the sea. After hearing this Rayleigh smiled to himself, possibly because Roger himself had also stated this being his primary value.
One thing is for certain; the journey to become the next Pirate King is very long and extremely dangerous. Even Mihawk claimed that such a goal is far more difficult than challenging him for the title of the "Greatest Swordsman in the World". After the death of Portgas D. Ace at the hands of Akainu, Luffy considered giving up his dream after seeing how powerless he was until he was reminded of those who believed in him by Jinbe.
History of Pirating
Before the Golden Age
Pirates have long been a part of the way of life in the One Piece world. The oldest known group of pirates mentioned were the ones under Dorry and Brogy from more than 100 years ago. However, despite pirates existing back then, none of them were known to be noteworthy enough to shake the world.
Then all that changed with the arrival of the great pirate Gol D. Roger (and others like Edward Newgate, Kaidou, Big Mom, and Shiki). Roger set about to do what no one had done before - conquer the Grand Line. He succeeded and in doing so made his way to Laugh Tale and left behind something somewhere in the world, his most prized possession, One Piece. Roger brought about an air of romance about being a pirate and upon his death his final words sent others to sea to become pirates. Things would never be the same again.
The Golden Age of Piracy
The death of Roger sent many pirates to the Grand Line, hoping to find his treasure and become the Pirate King. However, with the new wave of pirates came a new change that even Whitebeard noted.
Over the next few decades the old figures of the pre-pirate age began to disappear due to the span of time. This left fewer and fewer people aware of the days of piracy before Roger's death. Many old values shared by the pirates of the pre-pirate age slowly began to die. Even once commonly sung songs like Binks' Sake have begun to fade out of memory, save from the minds of those who still remember the olden days of piracy (such as those like Brook and Shanks). Although newer pirates still adopt these values, some go in a completely different direction; the most prominent is Bellamy who speaks of a New Age where pirates should stop dreaming.
With the Great Age of Piracy spiraling out of control, the World Government became deeply concerned. In response, they created the Seven Warlords of the Sea and sent them out to kill other dangerous pirates. The World Government also allowed themselves to easily be manipulated by Spandam into a machination to acquire Pluton to combat the increase in pirate activity, unaware that he had ulterior motives in mind.
The New Age
At the start of the storyline, the New Age was fast approaching. This New Age of Piracy was brought upon by changes in the world. Various characters who have mentioned it either spoke of a world on the verge of chaos, or a great age where pirates no longer chase their dreams.
Related to this oncoming age in particular was the capture of Whitebeard's 2nd division commander Fire Fist Ace, recognized as the biological son of the late Pirate King Roger, by the Marines. This significant action resulted in the Seven Warlords of the Sea and Marines assembling together in preparation for a war against the Emperor himself. During the war, Ace and Whitebeard both lost their lives at the height of the battle. It was also notable that before Whitebeard died, his famous last words proclaimed the real existence of One Piece that may also aid in increasing the amount of pirates going onto the sea for the treasure. Finally Whitebeard, who held the Age of Pirates together, died, leaving his vast territories for conquest by other pirates in the New World. It may also be noted that after Blackbeard took Whitebeard's Gura Gura no Mi powers, he said that this age will be "his age" shouting aloud for everyone in Marineford and Sabaody Archipelago (viewing via visual Den Den Mushi) to hear. The "New Age" is a phrase used to emphasize the fact that the world is changing, and different pirates obviously have different ideas about what the coming age will be like. Bellamy believed the coming age would be an age without dreams, while Blackbeard believes just the opposite.
Between the Golden Age and the New Age, eleven top rookie pirates, with bounties over 100,000,000 from nine different pirate crews arrived in the Sabaody Archipelago before the Whitebeard War, each having made their names and reputations in public known as Supernovas. Shakuyaku also said that one of them could potentially be responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of pirates and also forge the New Age. All of the Supernovas (with the exception of Zoro) witnessed the Summit War of Marineford, while Luffy and Trafalgar Law actively participated in the battle, afterwards heading towards the New World to make their marks.
With the start of the New Age, a new wave of pirates went to sea looking for One Piece, having heard Whitebeard confirm its existence. A number of pirates from the previous era escaped Level 6, and it was noted by X Drake that a new age also means that the Marines themselves now must change with this. However the exact direction this new era will take is still as of yet unknown.
The eleven Supernovas and Blackbeard have become known as the "Worst Generation" to the world. Whenever any of them causes an incident, other pirate crews get involved and annihilated. The Brownbeard Pirates were devastated by the Hawkins Pirates, and the Kid Pirates wiped out and mercilessly crucified an unknown pirate crew that were trying to go back to Paradise. The Blackbeard Pirates defeated and captured the Bonney Pirates and allowed them to be arrested by the Marines. However, Jewelry Bonney later escaped custody.
It has been hinted that things are moving farther and farther out of the government's hands, with pirates everywhere seeming less and less mindful of the government. Even the people of Luffy's hometown noted the increase in pirate activity in the seas after the war. To counter this, Fleet Admiral Sakazuki moved Marine Headquarters to the New World to better combat the growing threats to the organizations of Justice. It has been stated that the Marines have now been granted unprecedented power by the World Government.
Due to the abuse of the Seven Warlords of the Sea's privileges that led to two kingdoms suffering turmoil, the Levely has decided to abolish the system, with the Marines intending to implement the new SSG to supplant the seven pirates who were dismissed from their positions.
Early One Piece
These terms were once again mentioned in Romance Dawn, Version 2, however, they are not mentioned in One Piece itself. This is largely because while some pirates display these original concepts, most pirates are a combination of the two.
A peace main is a pirate who goes on adventures and does not really care about treasure or fighting other pirates. That is not to say that they would not steal and fight other pirates at all, but their primary goal is usually not to own it and greed is generally not their motivation. More often than not, a peace main pirate sees his or her own crew as their most valuable treasure. It should be noted that both of the words "peace" and "piece" have the same katakana spelling in Japanese ("ピース"), however, it's unknown if this connection was intentional.
A morganeer fights for treasure and personal ambition. They are greedy, love to fight, and often enjoy causing other people pain and misery. Many pirates that Luffy and his crew meet are morganeers. Luffy dislikes them and only wants to recruit peace main pirates. The peace main pirates generally only steal from morganeers, so it is safe to say that relations between the two types of pirates are not the best.
- Bandits: Criminals that operate exclusively on land instead of sea, supposedly the antitheses of pirates.
- Underworld: A vast network of criminals, operating primarily in the New World, that facilitates slavery, mercenary and assassin work, illegal arms development, and smuggling—any one of which may involve pirates as clients, targets, or executors.
- In One Piece, the Seven Warlords of the Sea are based on real world privateers. A privateer was a pirate with papers. As the name suggests, privateers were private individuals commissioned by governments to carry out quasi-military activities. They would sail in privately owned armed ships, robbing merchant vessels and pillaging settlements belonging to a rival country. Privateers sometimes went beyond their commissions, attacking vessels that didn’t belong to the targeted country. This extracurricular raiding and pillaging was indistinguishable from piracy. The Happo Navy also had a similar deal with the Kano Country, until they cut ties with their country. The Straw Hats themselves have done things similar to privateering such as fighting Crocodile and the Baroque Works for Arabasta where initially, Nami only agreed to protect Vivi for a price.
- The "Age of Pirates" established by Gol D. Roger, is based on the real world's own golden age of piracy.
- "Pirate King" was a real historical title used by powerful Japanese pirates who operated in the Inland Sea.