5,626 Pages


Upon researching for my final exam on Firday, I stumbled upon a simple book that has shaken my core beliefs about some existing business practices (as I am studying Tourism Management) which directly relate to countries and destinations. The details are unnecessary, but I would love to provide a very wonderful point of discussion: the power of a Name


Luffy calls all of his crew "nakama". The word for crewmate, comrade and even friend. But this name has a profound symbolic action that differentiates it from most of the others and plays a very significant role in the development of the story, just as much as Kaizoku'O (Pirate King) or One Piece itself.

But how often (and this is a genuine question and not a rhetorical one, it will prove useful for the discussion) has Luffy called any other character other than his crewmates a "nakama"?

Very many people have followed in Luffy's footsteps, from the allies of the SHs on Enies Lobby, the prisoners in Impel Down and all other pirates participating in the Marineford War, even the newly acquired, self-apointed and self-named fleet that helped him in defeating the Donquixote Family. 

There is this internal conflict that I experience when deciding whether to call these people "nakama" and to what extent do I mean nakama... How nakama are they on a scale of 1 to 10? Do they all count equally as a homogenous mass or does receiving more panels of interactions with Luffy or significant dialogue lines that reach us, the audience, at an emotional level, make them more worthy of the title?

Let's deconstruct the meaning (as far as I perceive it and without doing any proper research on the series)

Nakamas refers to crewmembers, that means that any crewmember of any crew is regarded by that crew as a nakama. An Arlong pirate is Arlong's, Hachi...'s nakama and vice-versa. This is the strict and objective meaning as suggested by its common use in the Japanese language, prior to receiving any One Piece-ness to it.

After the element X is added- BOOM- we get... the real nakama. A word of true essence of character. A title drenched in sweat, blood and tears of past experiences and adventures. The word describes a bond of mutual respect and trust as well as a common objective, or the willingness to sacrifice a personal objective for another's goal.

We have two values of nakama. I'll call them common nakama and real nakama to make sure we're on the same page.

Awesome. Now. Even more fullstops. No, I'm not drunk. Now you think I'm drunk, but it's just reverse psychology and since penguins can still slip on ice, let me ask a question.

Do you think that Brook became a real nakama the moment Luffy asked him to join his crew or at the end of the Thriller Bark arc? (this is rhetorical, please don't answer).

Should one start calling others as nakama suddenly grant them this super-ultra-mega-giga-attribute? No. It's because a bond is created not through words, but through actions and trust is gained the same, even though we can argue that trust can be gained through trust (if a real nakama of mine says this person is fine, they are fucking fine and I will accept it without question). But without an initial foundation of trust built through action, the name of nakama is just that, a name.

But that name would not have any meaning without identifiable criteria such as "the willingness to sacrifice a personal objective for another's goal". The criteria exist to define real nakama and real nakama is used to identify those criteria in this very complex world we live in. This is where the shocking part came to me, as I had been fooled by a continued false belief that spouting nonsense and creating images without backing them through actions is enough to win favor in today's very agglomerated media environment. 

No name functions without trust. Had we not witnessed a true nakama bond being created, we might still doubt it, but after seeing Zoro stand up to Kuma, after seeing Robin struggle to not be sepparated by her crew through the strength of her teeth, after seeing Sanji accept a relative nightmare without escape for his friends' safety and so so many more actions, I would never doubt.

This is common sense

I know. I have been talking about a very common approach to reality and social bonds. I do deny that, though I suggest no one deny the beauty of how one becomes a nakama. But, still. How often does Luffy refer to those other people as nakama?

And when he does, what do we, as viewers, feel and understand? We connect their image with that of the SHs. That simple invocation can change how we perceive those other characters. It lifts them up on the nakama scale. And the more unique the meaning, the stronger the impact when any of the SHs refers to another person as a real nakama. 

What if Oda never used this word? What if fansubs translated it into English? How does the word sound to a native Japanese speaker who all his life heard this word and associated it with simpler images rather than the One Piece version of the real nakama? 

Dude, when we speak and we say nakama, we speak in the language of One Piece! That is the power of naming and my final point in this suggested discussion:

Names such as nakama shape our perception of reality to a very relevant degree to the point that it might be a little insulting to treat Chopper as a simple crewmember instead of a real nakama. One single word can encompass all our emotional connection to all images associated with the word. The images give it meaning, the word accesses them and build more meaning on top of new images received as we speak right now.

It's simple. But in academics it has been overcoated with layers of meaning and jargon and suppositions and ideologies. Just as in politics and in religion. When you create a big enough sea of your own meaning, you can argue your points with ideas you've created, quite a big fallacy. But it can make you believe that if you work hard enough on the image of a destination, it can become more attractive. But spraying garbage with perfume will not make it a better dancing partner.

Now for a summary of points

One defines a real nakama through actions.

When those actions are observed, they can be identified as of a real nakama's.

When one calls someone a nakama, one relates them to those actions.

It is these very simple points that have broken down hundreds of pages of my reading, because, as I shall explain it simply, everyone calls everyone a real nakama. So, my dear readers, are you glad now that Luffy's got only a few nakama? Are you also glad that you can call Vivi an even more special nakama so that you can see her in her kingdom instead of wondering what the freaking hell is Franky even doing now in the Wano country?

TL; DR; Rici is reading too much, he should get drunk instead.