Boa Hancock isn’t one of the most popular characters in One Piece, because she is beautiful or because shippers have taken over the fandom, but because she represents the core values and themes of the story like almost no other character.
And in this blog, I will tell you exactly what those characteristics are, how Oda designed Boa Hancock to tie together some of the most high-stake parts of the story before, during and after the time skip and why I believe that the snake princess will return to the story sooner than we all might think. On the most superficial level, Boa Hancock is a character of extremes.
When we first meet her in the story, she appears to be extremely arrogant, spoiled and cold hearted. After falling in love with Luffy, this quickly changes from total disdain to suddenly total devotion, caring and thinking about nothing but Luffy. When looking at it from this perspective, it’s quite easy to understand, why some people are confused why Hancock enjoys such popularity in the fandom.
After all she seems to go from saltily cold to clumsily lovestruck, giving her character an annoying twist, just so the main character can progress in the story. Of course the only logical reason why people like her character then, must be her looks. But while Hancock has undoubtedly one of the best visual female designs in the story, her charm comes form a much more fundamental and emotional place.
Because most of the time, whenever Oda does something that appears to be questionable to fans, he usually does so for a deeper reason. And as so often is the case in One Piece, the key to understanding her character lies in her backstory. As you might remember, one of the big reveals about Hancock is the mark that is burned on her back.
As a child, she and her two sisters were abducted by slave traders and sold to the Tenryubito. Since it’s still a Shounen manga, Oda only hints at all the horrors that the 3 sisters must have gone through during their captivity, but he leaves no doubt that these experiences left them deeply traumatized.
Coming from a nation of women, this first encounter with the world of men obviously led to even deeper hatred and rejection towards any men, than originally was already the case. But the consequences of this past reach even deeper. Hancock is characterized as extremely cruel and cold-hearted. She is convinced that her beauty is enough to let her get away with anything she wants.
And if that ever shouldn’t be enough, which it usually is, she still has her power. Oda caricatures this literal heartlessness as her kicking puppies and baby seals, but it’s meant to embody the pain, vulnerability and insecurity deep inside of her. For years, Hancock as a slave had to be fully subservient to her masters, being treated as nothing but an object.
And so after being freed by Fisher tiger, it is only natural that she fully embraced her new freedom, never to let go of it again. That also means that accepting or even acknowledging any sort of help from others is impossible, as it would make her indebted to that person and give up even the tiniest bit of control. This is for instance why she can’t seem to thank elder Nyon.
And yet, the mark of the celestial dragons, that is burned into her skin, keeps her from truly being free. She and her sisters are terrified tho let anyone know about it and serves as a constant reminder and trigger to their horrific past. The true irony of her character is, that while her charm and even her devil fruit powers seem to be centered around love, lust and romance, she herself is not able to love or be loved by others.
She isn’t even able to form any meaningful bonds with her own people, even though she clearly cares for them deeply as their Queen. After all she took the step to become a warlord and join hands with the very same world government that had caused her so much pain, just so her people could live in piece. And so, with the reveal of her backstory, we suddenly see that all the arrogance and coldness we had seen form her up to that point is more than just understandable. We as the reader, have now gone from hating her,
to feeling empathetic for her. But how then did that empathy turn into a genuine fondness for her character? The answer, as mostly is the case, is her relationship with Luffy
As I extensively discussed in my character analysis of Luffy, his biggest trait is his condition-less altruism.
He sees people’s true hearts and pulls them out of their darkness. For someone who has only known the cruel, egoistic and dominant world of men, Luffy’s approach to life shattered her world view completely. To illustrate this point, take this scene, which I think is one of the most important for Hancock’s character. During the battle in the arena, Luffy covers her sisters back to prevent her slave mark from being revealed.
His rational was that this didn’t have anything to do with the fight, and instead of exploiting her weakness, he chose to respect his enemy’s emotional weakness. The past is in the past. Don’t bring it into present. This act of respect and kindness, deeply resonated with Hancock. To begin with, she was already shocked that Luffy had no lustful feelings towards her and didn’t treat her like a Queen of beauty, but like a normal person. And now, he had shown her that one’s past must not necessarily define one’s present.
Even though Luffy showed Hancock, that just like her he had the qualities of a king, he didn’t mind bowing down and pleading for the life of Margarita, a commoner that he became friends with. Luffy is a very forgiving person as he always forgives the mistakes of his crew, without blinking an eye.
Sanji kicked him in the face until he fell unconscious, yet he forgave him. He views his crew-mates as his friends, not his underlings. Boa Hancock, on the other hand, based on her experience, is not very forgiving. She expects obedience and she expects everyone to live up to her expectations. We see this even with her own sisters. And yet, as her true self is that of a very kind and caring person, Luffy’s personality resonated deeply with her. So deeply, that she has fallen head over heels for him.
Not because Luffy is strong, but because of what he stands for and who he is, which is very genuine love. And so ironically enough, the only person her love powers won’t work on, is the one person she genuinely loves. Luffy enables her to show more of her true and vulnerable self. To from relationships with her people and to let go of her past and embrace the future.
While loving Boa Hancock can turn you to stone, Luffy has taken her own stony heart and brought it back to life, allowing her to trust and love again. This change of heart, pun absolutely intended, was so intense for her, that literally fell ill, being overwhelmed with emotions that she had surpassed for so long. And so, what makes it almost impossible for us not to fall in love with her character in return is the fact that we went from one extreme to the other with her.
At the beginning, Hancock gave us one reason after the next to dislike her. After falling in love with Luffy, she’s basically giving us reason after reason to like her. She is the one that helps him get into impel down to free his brother. She talked to Ace about him, covering for him, and she gave Luffy the keys to his handcuffs.
And finally, she was the one to protect him and take him in after Ace’s death and the events of the time skip. All of this was neither required nor expected of her and it shows us, just how genuinely she cares for Luffy with no ulterior motive. And while some people seem to dislike this innocent and girly side of her, those of us with a heart understand that this is simply the honest side of a traumatized girl that has started to heal and has fallen in love for the first time.
And that care she has for Luffy and the willingness to sacrifice everything for him, is what makes her so popular. Because her love for Luffy is an extension of ours for him. Boa Hancock unites all of the core themes and values of One Piece. Freedom, Love, the cruelness of the world and most importantly, why Luffy is the one to change it. And with the abolishment of the warlord system, her enormous power and her relationship with Luffy, I think it’s extremely likely that she will make a re-appearance very soon.
Oda even hinted at her, Sato and Vivi playing major roles in the story again. So I think we can all be excited for that. And I recommend you check out my 2 blogs on Luffy’s character here. Thanks for reading. Peace.
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.