One Piece is a long-running story about pirates. It is one of the biggest franchises in the world. A huge reason for that, in my opinion, is how the characters relate to each other. These pirates are a real family. Let’s give a few examples.
When we are first introduced to Nico Robin she was a villainous part of the group Baroque Works going by the name Miss All Sunday. She was working with them to learn histories of the world. After a betrayal by the leader of Baroque Works, Crocodile, Robin shows up suddenly on the Straw Hat’s boat and asks to join them. Luffy, as is his personality, just says yes.
As the story progresses, Robin becomes an integral part of the crew. That is until we reach Water 7. In Water 7, Robin is forced by an organization called CP9 (long story) to turn on the Straw Hats, attack the leadership of Water 7, and help steal some plans. In return for helping them out, the Straw Hats would be spared at that time. As the story unfolds we learn more about Robin’s past.
Her mother was an archeologist from Ohara who traveled the world invested in learning about world history. At a young age, Robin learned the ancient languages of the Ponegliffs so that she too could become an archeologist and learn about the secrets of world history. But when her homeland of Ohara was destroyed by the World Government, Robin (age 9) was forced to flee and spent the next 20 years on the run. She had been considered a danger to the world since childhood as she could read the Ponegliffs and unlock their secrets; this includes the secrets of an ancient weapon that could destroy the world.
For two decades, Robin ran and ran. She left crew after crew, group after group. She never found people to call friends.
Enter Luffy and the Straw Hats.
After Robin is arrested by the government, the Straw Hats invade a government complex to save her. They readily love and accept her for who she is. They care about her more than themselves and are willing to risk their lives as well as their reputations to save her life (see Enies Lobby arc—so good). Those bonds of familial love save her as they reunite to escape. In the Straw Hat crew, Robin has found her family.
Tony Tony Chopper
Let’s flash back a few hundred chapters to the introduction of Tony Tony Chopper.
Chopper was a reindeer with a blue nose. That was enough for the other reindeer to shun him. They never let poor Chopper join in any reindeer games. Where have I heard that line before…anyway.
Chopper ate a Devil Fruit and now is capable of walking on his hind legs. He also could go transform into various forms including that of a man (with fur). Also, he can talk. So, there’s that.
The reindeer and human communities both rejected Chopper. After being injured, Chopper encounters Dr. Hiriluk who nurses him back to health and allows Chopper to become his assistant. He learns from him the art of medicine and after Hiriluk dies, continues to learn in order to help those in need.
Even as a healer, Chopper continued to mostly hide himself. He had been alienated and shunned his entire life. So, he did not want others to see him for fear of being attacked or killed. Usopp’s first introduction to him actually reaffirms that fear when he thinks that Chopper is a yeti and screams in fear. However, that changes quickly as they realize they’re wrong. Luffy was immediately taken by Chopper and wants him to join the crew as their Doctor. Over time, the others begin to appreciate Chopper as a person after seeing his skills as a doctor.
After helping save Nami’s life, we see a striking moment with Chopper where he talks to his current Doctoral mentor about Luffy—one of the few people to call him friend.
It’s at this moment that we can tell what decision Chopper is going to make. Chopper does join the Straw Hat pirates and leaves with them becoming their ship’s doctor. He too had finally found his family.
One Piece is filled with examples of characters finding their family. It can be hard when your birth family is gone or rejects you. That is when you take comfort in your found family such as your friends in your community. That is exactly the type of family the church is supposed to be.
In Matthew, we see Jesus (Mt 12:46-50) talk about this very concept. His earthly family including siblings and his mother approach. Others call to Jesus and say His family is coming. To which He replies that they as a group are family. Those who are united in the Lord are a family together.
In Ephesians (Ep 2:11-22), Paul speaks to this very same concept again. He says that we are united in purpose and that the nature of our birth is irrelevant. Circumcised and uncircumcised are irrelevant divisions – all are one in Christ. As fellow members of the church, we are united in one household of the Lord.
In a previous piece I wrote on Barrage and family, I wrote:
All of this is to remind us that family and community matters.
Family is not solely defined by genetics. Sometimes our biological family is problematic and harmful. We must remember that these biological connections aren’t the only path to family. Friends can be family. Astro and his adopted children from the slums are family. My adopted my siblings are my family. We as Christians are, together, adopted into one family of Christ.
These families, bound by love, can be stronger than any created by mere genetics. When love is at the center, we can find for ourselves a true and faithful family.
This bond of family is still true within the community of Christ. It needs to be true.
Found Family Resonates
One common theme I’ve found in the media I’ve consumed is that of a found family. I’ve seen it in the silly short-form anime series Nyanbo! I saw it in the manga series Barrage. You see it beautifully in the manga series Mission: Yozakura Family. I felt it first hand from the love and support of the One Piece fandom. And as shown above, we see it in the One Piece manga and anime series.
For a lot of us, we are not with our family on a regular basis. While I have my wife, children, and in-laws physically close to me, my parents and siblings live hundreds of miles away. In a way, my wife is found family. We found each other, we chose each other, and we made a vow before God, our family, and the government to be united as family for life. Through her my in-laws became found family. They were her family and as we became a new family together, they became my family too. They have accepted me for the huge nerd that I am. They love me for me and provide support as I need it.
My children are my family…but they didn’t exactly get a choice in that one. I pray constantly that I can support them no matter where they end up in life.
However, we have more family than that. We have friends and those within the church. They too have become part of my found family.
These people give up their time and treasure for us. They love and give like family. They support us, encourage us, lift us up, and pray for us. And isn’t that what we all need! We need a bond of love that is far stronger than blood. We need that familial connection shining through with agape love.
It is sad when we do not get that from our earthly or biological family. Yet, as the Straw Hats have shown, we can always find a family to unite and love us. I have found mine. I hope you’ve found yours.
One Piece is published by Viz Media