Okay, let’s cut to the chase: Rayleigh is a god damn legendary character, that is oozing charisma, authority and mystery like Trebol does snort. A character that is respected by all and has been the main reason that luffy is now able to challenge actual yonko and is back on track to becoming pirate king, after the most traumatic moment in his life.
And so, even though we actually don’t know all to much about his past, I want to use this chance to not only discuss Rayleigh’s character and his role in the story, but also delve a bit deeper into the classic trope of the mentor, and how, if used correctly, it can enhance the fabric of a story significantly.
Oh yeah, and why the hell is he called the ‘dark king’? This is the story of the dark king, silvers Rayleigh. First of all, can we all acknowledge just how fantastic Rayleigh’s introduction was in the story? Out of all the great ones we have gotten, I’m thinking Kaido, katakuri or imu, this might have actually been my favorite one. I by that I man the entire sequence.
It’s simply done fantastically, especially in the anime. There is no music, just that slave auctioneer suddenly collapsing. Then we see this giant sitting there, and holy dawn this huge ass guy must have done something, right? But he turns around, calls out the old man sitting next to him for using something called Haki and then this.
– This is just the right way to reveal an epic character like this. This has a real shock effect. And the way that Rayleigh then enters the hall later, takes a look at the scene, deduces what happens, before knocking out all the guards. how could you not be intrigued by this mysterious old man, that we now know was the right hand of the pirate king himself.
– Rayleigh’s name has actually two sources of inspiration. One is Sir Walter Raleigh, an English 16th-century explorer and privateer. And the other is a phenomenon known as “Rayleigh Scattering”. Rayleigh scattering refers to the scattering of light off of the molecules of the air, thus changing it wavelength.
For example it’s light hitting the molecules in our atmosphere that give us a blue sky. So Rayleigh literally scattering Kizaru’s light attacks, seems to be science pun set up by Oda. The silver in his name of course is a running theme within the Roger pirates, with gold Roger, silvers rayleigh and copper Gaban. Personality wise, as most of the former Roger pirates we have met, Roger, shanks, oden, and with the obvious exception of buggy, Rayleigh is an extremely eccentric, charismatic and joyful person, that seems to be enjoying life to its fullest. and since the Roger pirates
in many ways seem to have been quite similar to the straw hats in terms of their crew dynamics, it comes as no big surprise that Rayleigh gets along with all of them quite perfectly and even more so, is immediately likable for us readers. After all, this is a guy that has the exact same values and approach to life as our heroes, but more powerful, mature and confident.
And a detail that I found really interesting in this context, is that Rayleigh as a character shares a lot of characteristics with both zoro and sanji. Hear men out. Just like zoro, Rayleigh is the first mate of the Roger pirates, the right hand of the pirate king and the first person recruited.
Both are powerful swordsmen, that are only second to their captain in terms of strength. Just like zoro, Rayleigh also has a scar above his eye, has a bit of an alcohol problem and just like zoro manages to get lost a lot, Rayleigh seems to have a tendency to get shipwrecked, as happens on his way to Amazon Lilly and after rogers death, where he is saved by Hachi.
And both seem to enjoy a good battle. On the other hand, just like sanji, the first thing Rayleigh says is how much he loves women. Before showing us his swordsman skills, he actually stops kizaru, with a quite Sanji-like kick. Also, as we see in the action house, he shares sanjis cunningness and tendency to go on small infiltration missions.
He actually lets himself get captured to steal money from the slave action that he had lost gambling. Sanii AND zoro. No wonder you can’t help but find this man awesome. Now in terms of his role in the story, Rayleigh in many ways fits the archetypical trope of the mentor pretty much perfectly.
The mentor, typically is an experienced adviser and confidante for the protagonist, that passes on his knowledge and wisdom, so that people can live better lives and society can improve. This character, not always, but very often comes in the form of the wise old man or woman, that is better skilled, faster and more experienced than their student and now pass these traits on to the them.
They may have grown too old for the task or have their own job to do. Famous examples include, Yoda in Star Wars or Tony stark in Avengers Endgame, or to go more into anime, Biscuit in hunter x hunter or all might in boku no hero. Their role is to introduce a new skill and or set of ideas and values, often hoping to pass the torch because they know their role in the world is coming to an end.
And of course, most of the time, expect them to have the same elderly, but powerful look associated with the Grandpa God. I think you agree, that Rayleigh hits this description perfectly, though compared to some other mentor figures, he doesn’t have to die to get their disciple on their feet, we’re talking Gandalf, Dumbledore or Jiraya here. For luffy, this push is replaced by ace’s death, a small twist on the trope here.
Now, What does this mentor role mean for his relationship with luffy? Reighley is pretty much the closest luffy could get to being mentored by Roger himself. Rayleigh is a relic of the pirate kings era, someone who is respected by everyone, even marines like garp or even kizaru, who doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for anyone.
Based on the stories he heard from shanks, as well as his personal experience with luffy, he believes him to be the man that Roger has been waiting for. The man, he started the great pirate era for in the first place. Luffy wears his former captains hat, has a similarly quirky crew and most importantly he has the same dream as Roger, though we still don’t know what that dream is.
and so its now coincidence that rayleigh thinks of rogers last words after luffy leaves. – Luffy has literally inherited rogers will, and thus Roger didn’t die. Now obvoiusly after the events of sabaody and especially marineford, rayleigh is fully aware, that luffy won’t be able to continue his journey into the new world at the level he’s currently at. And so its actually rayleigh that proposes and sets up the time skip and decides to teach luffy as much as he can in 2 years, so he actually has a chance against the monsters waiting in the new world. and so, not only does he pass his own knowledge and skills
on to him, but also is the one to mentally help him recover from his trauma and rekindle his believe in himself and his ability to protect his crew. And in the manner of any good mentor, despite being enormously strong and respected, his time is over.
And the fact that despite someone as strong as him being around, the world is still as messed up as it is, also serves to show us just how powerful this system is and how difficult it is to change the world. – Okay so that’s all nice and well, but let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Why is this man called the dark king? There have been a number of speculations about this, but there are two things here that I want to highlight.
One is the actual meaning of the Japanese word, meiou. If you watch too much anime, like I do, you might know the word maou, which means demon king or devil. Meiou on the other hand is the literal Japanese name for pluto, or if you prefer greek over latin, hades, the king of the underworld. Now please feel free to theorize as to what this might mean in the comments, Id love to hear your ideas.
As for me, the quite obvious meaning here, is that rayleigh, especially as a user of conquerors haki, was pretty much a king himself, one of the strongest people in the world. The fact that this is obviously not an epithet he picked himself, suggests to me, that he was seen as the king in rogers shadow. Almost as powerful, almost as dangerous, but since Roger was the one who shone the brightest, rayleigh was the dark king.
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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.