When it comes to enigmatic characters in the One-Piece universe, if there is someone who can compete with Monkey D. Dragon for the title of “most influential”, it is Red-Haired Shanks.
A character that has been around since Romance Dawn, the first chapter of the OP manga, Shanks has certainly come a long way into becoming the character that he is right now.
From a chill, friendly, and comical young pirate, Oda has beefed up his character arc so much that apparently, he’s now twisting and turning the gears of the world in a “certain direction”.
As of this writing, we have no idea whether Shanks’ actions would make him out to be a protagonist or antagonist when his eventual Yonko arc comes along. Let’s hope it’s the former rather than the latter.
Taking into account his activities during both the Marineford and the Reverie arcs, I thought it would be a good time to compile the reasons behind what makes Shanks so influential a character.
# 1 The “Hero” of The Future Pirate King
First and foremost, no discussion of Shanks can ever be complete without the mention of Monkey D. Luffy, the eventual Pirate King.
Shanks was there when Luffy set his sights on One Piece. He became a role model for Luffy to such an extent, that, upon seeing his potential and drive, Shanks gave him the iconic straw hat – an artifact that was passed down to him by the actual Pirate King Gol D. Roger.
The Straw Hat in question, while being an important artifact in the broader storyline, also holds a lot of value for Luffy seeing as how he was visibly depressed when Buggy tore it from the head.
Ever since Luffy got his bounty, Shanks has been keeping a watchful eye over the absolute havoc he’s managed to cause throughout the series.
In contrast to the time when Luffy got his first bounty, where he drunkenly celebrated the occasion with a reluctant Mihawk, Shanks’ reactions have mellowed out a lot. Now, his overall persona seems to be shrouded in enigma, with Shanks showing just a hint of a smile for Luffy’s success.
#2 An Eye Witness of The Birth of The Great Pirate Age
As a young recruit in the Roger Pirates, Shanks was very close to the Captain Gol D. Roger. Similar to how Shanks paid homage to Roger by passing the Straw Hat to Luffy, Roger did the exact same thing to Shanks back when he was a kid.
Despite being such an integral and beloved member of the Roger Pirates, Shanks was unable to visit Raftel because Buggy came down with a fever. Knowing Oda, we can speculate that there might be more to Shanks’ ousting from the Raftel adventure besides Buggy’s sickness.
Nevertheless, he accompanied the Pirate King in his major journey to the Grand Line; seeing him fight against the Great Whitebeard Pirates and Kozuki Oden.
In Chapter 967, we even got to see him visit Tom-san, the Fishman from Water 7 who, at the time was helping Roger by building the legendary ship Oro Jackson.
Lastly, he was there at Loguetown where the Pirate King was put to death. In the Strong World OVA, we see Shanks crying with his hat down to hide the tears; a show of extreme sadness for the person who essentially brought him up.
# 3 He Understands The World More Than Anybody Else
For a person who was so jolly and outgoing when he first introduced, Shanks certainly seems to have a strong understanding of how the world works.
Before the war in Marineford ever began, Shanks was there to warn whitebeard of the impending threat that is Blackbeard and warned him to protect Ace.
Whitebeard paid no heed to his warnings and instead let things go as they were.
Later in the Marineford War, he arrived to change the gears once again by saving Coby from Shanks and giving Law just enough time to save Jinbe and Luffy from being killed permanently. However, he was unable to arrive in time to save the Whitebeard pirates due to an altercation with Kaido.
Because of his arrival, he caused a massive rift in world events. Luffy would come back 2 years later and challenge the sovereignty of the world government once again.
His understanding of the world and his enigmatic nature was once again revealed during the Reverie arc where he was able to arrive unnoticed in the Gorosei’s office and “talk about a certain pirate”.
Because of his close connections with the Gorosei and the World Government, fans have speculated heavily about the person that Shanks is because we don’t know whether or not his “alliances” will prove to be beneficial or harmful to our protagonists.
#4 His Success As a Yonko
Red-Haired Shanks’ success a Yonko comes not from Pillaging, Marital connections, and brute force, as is currently the case with Big Mom and Kaido.
From what we know right now, his crew is small with a handful (yet powerful commanders). His success as a Yonko lies in his both diplomatic and abilities as a fighter.
But besides his politics, Shanks has got a sturdy crew of pirates. So much so that when push came to shove, he was able to stop a gigantic war by challenging everyone who had the guts to fight him.
#5 His “Nakama” Are His Everything
For now, Shanks is a hero among the eyes of many OP fans. Besides being insanely powerful, he is a pirate who considers his crewmates his friends as opposed to just expendable people there to make him forward his own goals; similar to how Whitebeard and Luffy treat their respective crew members.
His crew members reciprocate by helping him out when in need of assistance as is evident from Foosha village when Lucky Roo appeared out of nowhere to help Shanks beat the mountain bandit Higuma.
A Powerful Character with Extreme Potential
For now, we have no idea what Shanks has in store for us in the future. While there are theories and speculations about his eventual role in One Piece and his connections to the WG, we can only theorize as to whether or not he will be a friend or a foe.
That being said, Shanks and his pirate crew are fan favorites and will have a wonderful character arc when Oda comes around to writing it.