Mihawk took Zoro in because of Luffy. Have you ever been so bored that you went out of your way to start beef with a Yonko? Well, me neither. However, this guy has. Mihawk is an incredibly interesting character in the story for a number of reasons. As the strongest swordsman, his strength and position in the hierarchy of the One Piece world, are probably one of the most heatedly discussed topics in the fandom at this point.
And while there are probably just as many people who find this debate pointless as those who blow it way out of proportion, Mihwak’s power actually is a big part of his character. Because even though he might not seem like the type, being one of the most stoic and serious characters in the story, Mihawk has a surprisingly interesting character arc, starting all the way back at the Baratie and coming to a close with him taking Zoro in as his student.
And so, even though Mihawk rarely actively appears in the story, he actually plays a really important role for the One Piece world building overall, but especially so for Zoro and his journey towards becoming the strongest swordsman in the world. So, how did Mihawk change as a character during and after Marineford? How strong is he really? What’s the deal with him and Perona? And will he fight Zoro and Shanks again in the future? This is the story of the strongest swordsman, rival to Shanks and former warlord of the sea.
This is the story Dracule Mihawk. At his introduction early on in the story, Mihawk serves as a Sign-post of how strong people in the world of One Piece truly are. As a fellow warlord, he brilliantly sets the stakes for the Baroque works saga and the fight against Crocodile. I already talked a lot about all the symbolism that is associated with Mihawk in my Scene analysis of his fight with Zoro in Baratie, so if you are interested in that, I suggest you check that video out afterwards.
To sum it up, like most swordsmen in the story, Mihawk has a very strong religious theme going, giving him the appearance of a Spanish inquisitor. This mostly serves to show the duality of both his strong dedication to his beliefs and creed, while at the same time highlighting his violent, unforgiving and strict side as well, just as the Catholic church used to be, during The Inquisition.
This creed that Mihawk follows, is not Christianity however, but the Bushido, the path of the samurai, that Zoro also follows, although approached through a Buddhist lens, while shanks represents nordic mythology and its values and beliefs. Long story short, swordsmanship, and by that I mean REAL swordsmanship is a sort of religion in the world of One Piece.
And only true believers and followers can rise in the ranks of the very best. This serves as the framework for the interactions and relationships Mihawk has with Zoro and Shanks. All have quite different beliefs, values and powers, but they all respect the Bushido, and thus are worthy opponents, when it comes to sword fighting that is.
This is regardless of their actual power level. The reason why Mihawk suddenly started respecting Zoro and treating him as a worthy opponent is not because Zoro suddenly became as strong as him, but because he demonstrated his will to follow the path of the swordsman to the death, and Major spoiler from the manga, please skip ahead 10 seconds if you aren’t caught up, of course by that will, I also mean Zoro’s conqueror’s haki that Mihawk most likely saw when he used the three thousand worlds against him.
We have this short moment, as Zoro launches his attack where Mihawk is clearly shocked by this reveal, as it serves as the ultimate proof of Zoro’s will and potential to make it to the top. So how is it that Mihawk went from seeing Zoro as a potential future rival, to becoming his mentor throughout the time skip? Let’s look at Mihawk’s surprisingly deep character arc.
Writing a great character arc is actually pretty damn hard. And as with all new skills you want to learn things, it helps having someone explain it to you in great detail. And that is exactly what Skillshare is all about. Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of inspiring classes for creative and curious people covering pretty much any topic you might ever want to learn about.
Be it starting a YouTube channel or how to make your very own Manga. I’ve been using Skillshare for quite sometime, mostly to improve my work here on YouTube. For example, if you write yourself, I recommend this excellent course on character arcs. But It can really be anything. For example I personally have really enjoyed this course on knife skills by Elana Karp recently, so I can slice my Onions in true Mihawk fashion now.
And look, there is even a class on Bladesmithing. If you also love learning new skills, then you should definitely give Skillshare a try. Not only is it pretty affordable, with under 10 bucks per month for an annual subscription, but the first 1000 people to use my link in the description will get a free trial of Skillshare Premium so you can try it for yourself.
But, now back to my fellow knife master. Mihawk’s perspective on the central moral theme of One Piece, freedom, is that the best thing is to be a lone wolf, bound by no-one and seeking out other wolves to test his strength. Or I guess in his case it’s actually a lone hawk. One might even say he’s a me-hawk.
The major turning point for Mihawk was the war at Marineford. Before the war, we get introduced to him as an extremely self-centered person. He is pretty much the only strong person out there operating completely without a crew or any other people around to support him. He is literally a one-man crew, that sails the seas bored out of his mind as he has no-one to test his ridiculous strength on.
This becomes especially clear in his relationship with Shanks. Regardless of Haki, Shanks was powerful enough as a swordsman alone to spar evenly with Mihawk, leading to the legendary rivalry between them. No doubt Mihawk came looking for Shanks quite often to have a duel. But when Shanks sacrifices his arm for Luffy and inspiring him to become a pirate, Mihawk doesn’t care at all about his motivations and the reasons, he simply sees Shanks sacrificing his strong sword arm as an insult to their rivalry and doesn’t even bother to draw his sword against him.
Shanks, the only man who was able to excite Mihawk, gave up on being a top tier swordsman for a mere kid. Given that Shanks has ridiculous haki abilities, he probably doesn’t care about that though, and their rivalry turned into a sort of friendship. However, that left Mihawk with absolutely no-one to rival with and test his skills on and he ended up so bored and aimless, that he chased after powerful people like Don Krieg, just to get a bit of a kick.
This self-centered person, who only cared about strength, would not have accepted Zoro’s show of throwing away his pride as a Swordsman by bowing to him. This is basically what Shanks did in Mihawk’s eyes. And so it’s no surprise that this proud, ridiculously powerful swordsman, despite becoming a warlord, was never really willing to follow the directions of the world government.
What made the war at Marineford different, was not the fact that he was scared of the government’s repercussions, as we just saw, Mihawk didn’t really care at all about losing his warlord title, no, the reason he participated in this war, was because he would be able to challenge Whitebeard. The strongest man in the world vs the strongest swordsman.
Basically Mihawk went to Marineford for a kick – to fight the only man he believed worth fighting. And yet, when he showed his hand, Jozu, shielded his captain from his attack. It begins to dawn on Mihawk that Whitebeard wasn’t only feared because of the beast of a person he was, but also because of all the people he had gathered around him.
And later, the very same thing happens again with Luffy. Deciding to test his resolve and power again, after already having taken an interest in him at Baratie, more and more of Luffy’s allies kept getting in Mihawk’s way. At this point, Mihawk understands that the ability of gathering allies is the greatest power he’s seen on the seas.
And yet, his mind doesn’t change here yet completely. When Shanks arrives to end the war, he realizes that there are no more worthy opponents left to fight and he leaves, Shanks is the last person he wants to fight after he ruined their rivalry, and of course to be fair also because Shanks as a yonko is most likely just out of his league when he uses his haki.
Things really only change for Mihawk after the war, as Zoro is transported to his island. And it is this interaction between them, that brings Luffy’s impact on Mihawk to full bloom. Zoro is the only character, as far as we know, who Mihawk hopes can grow to one day challenge him. And yet Zoro is telling him that fighting for the self-centered greatest Swordsman pride, something that Mihawk only cares about, does is no longer his motivation.
Zoro wants to become the strongest swordsman in order to help Luffy become pirate king. At first this leaves Mihawk disgusted. He thinks that Zoro is weak and wasn’t even strong enough to beat the monkeys on the island, that were trying to imitate him, by the way a really nice metaphor for what he thinks of most other swordsmen, and he believed that Zoro came asking him for help to get off the island.
And yet for the very first time, these things are now becoming personal to Mihawk with added perspective. When he sees that Zoro had beaten all the monkeys and could leave whenever he wanted to, Mihawk realizes that Zoro is asking for help for Luffy’s sake and not his own which is why he agrees to train him.
Mihawk finally listens to Zoro and accepts his plea given that he’s seen that fighting for others is worthwhile in its own right since Luffy and Whitebeard fought for Ace and in turn very many people fought for them as well, ultimately making his presence at the war irrelevant, as he was never willing to go all out anyways.
Mihawk is no longer the lone wolf, realizing that having someone by your side to fight for, is what gives one true freedom and purpose. And so, the fact that he lets Perona and Zoro stay with him on his island for two years, forming real relationships for the first time, is something prewar Mihawk would never have been able to do.
And I ultimately believe that Mihawk’s character arc would be fully completed if he ever decided.
Thanks for reading!!!!
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.