As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hello, everyone! I’m Mokugyo (木魚), a Japanese otaku that loves anime. Through my Anime Study I want to take you in a journey of otaku exploration. And our first adventure will be trying to identify one of the most mysterious characters of One Piece, Ryokugyuu!
Ryokugyuu is one of the Navy admirals appearing in One Piece. Since his name has only been mentioned once by Doflamingo, his name is not well-known among One Piece fans. The rumors say that he is as mighty as another admiral, Fujitora. Nothing has been revealed about this character so far: not his (or her?) gender, age, nature, or abilities.
Before we start searching clues about Ryokugyuu, let’s remember the rest of the Navy admirals that have appeared in the show.
Sakazuki, known as “Akainu/Red dog”, was one of the three admirals when he first appeared, and won the position of Fleet Admiral two years later. He has a Logia-class ability to manipulate magma. He is Luffy’s enemy because he killed his brother, Ace. He is the kind of man who believes in absolute justice and is determined to carry out his justice no matter what it takes. Following the Battle of Marineford, he defeated Kuzan in a duel which lasted for ten days at Punk Hazard. As Kuzan resigned from the Navy, Sakazuki succeeded him as the Fleet Admiral.
Borsalino, known as “Kizaru/Yellow monkey”, is an easygoing man. His ability is Pika Pika no Mi (or Glint-Glint Fruit): He can turn himself into light and shoot laser beams from his fingers. He and Pacifista once cornered the Straw Hat Pirates on Sabaody Archipelago. He is still an admiral.
Kuzan, known as “Aokiji/Blue Pheasant”, is a former-admiral. His ability is Hie Hie no Mi (or Chilly-Chilly Fruit): When he encountered the Straw Hat Pirates, he cornered them with his freezing super power. After the Battle of Marineford, however, he confronted Sakazuki for the Fleet Admiral position and lost. He then resigned from the Navy. In ONE PIECE: FILM Z, you can see him wandering about after having left the Navy.
Isshou, known as “Fujitora/Wisteria Tiger”, first appears in the New World series. He is a blind swordsman in a kimono. He can manipulate gravity and summon a meteor to fall from the sky. He is disgusted with the Shichibukai (Seven Military Seas) system that accepts pirates in the service of the World Government.
Many characters of One Piece are based on real-life actors and musicians. All Navy admirals are based on Japanese film stars.
Sakazuki is based on Bunta Sugawara (菅原文太) from the Japanese film Battles Without Honor and Humanity (仁義なき戦い). It’s a yakuza film, and Bunta Sugawara played the role of a yakuza member. The admiral was designed based on that role. We can see how the creator, Eiichirou Oda, is attracted to the actor’s manly role. Borsalino is based on Kunie Tanaka (田中邦衛) from Torakku Yarou: Bakusou Ichiban-boshi (トラック野郎・暴走一番星/Truck Rascals: The First Star). Kuzan is based on Yuusaku Matsuda (松田優作) from Detective Story (探偵物語), and Isshou is based on Shintaro Katsu (勝新太郎) from Zatouichi (座頭市/Zatoichi). The protagonist of Zatouichi is a blind iai master (Master of Iaido) and the character resemblance is very obvious.
Unless you are familiar with Japanese films, you may not recognize these actors. The films are very old, and many young Japanese don’t watch them any more. The original creator may have wanted for the young people to know the charms of these old films by presenting us the essence of the great classic actors. Or maybe he is just a huge fan!
Since all the Navy admirals are based on film stars, we can expect that Ryokugyuu is also based on a film star. The most likely candidate is Toshirou Mifune (三船敏郎), known for playing in Akira Kurosawa’s films such as Seven Samurai. There is an illustration of a man with horns in the 70th volume of the manga, who resembles Mifune, and that makes this argument the most persuasive. Toshirou Mifune was a renowned actor, having won the Volpi Cup (best actor) twice at the Venice Film Festival.
There are many different guesses as to what his ability will be like. The most convincing one so far is about an ability to manipulate plants, since the word “green” is in his name, Ryokugyuu. If not anything else, we need someone in the series who can create a forest or two. It will be amazing.
On the other hand, he may be able to manipulate winds. Imagine a character who can create typhoons and blow ships off the water.
And then there are those who suggest that he will be able to manipulate time. We already have characters with great abilities in One Piece, and the new admiral may need a huge impact like being able to stop time.
There is a famous folktale in Japan, called Momotarou (桃太郎/Peach Boy). A boy born from a peach takes a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant with him to go defeating Oni (demon ogres) who live on Onigashima island. The story is very well-known to Japanese people.
Some suggest that the Navy admirals are based on the plot of this folktale. The enemies of this story’s protagonist are generally depicted with bull’s horns and tiger-skin loincloths. Ryokugyuu might cooperate with Fujitora as Oni and fight against Akainu (dog), Kizaru (monkey), and Aokiji (pheasant).
Moreover, there is a presumption that Coby would be playing the role of Momotarou who takes Akainu, Kizaru, and Aokiji to fight Oni. Coby’s pink hair reminds us of Momotarou’s color, as ‘momo’ means both peach and pink in Japanese. He advanced from a cabin boy to a captain in just two years.
What do you think? Ryokugyuu is still the most mysterious figure of the series, but that gives the room for many interesting interpretations. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!