For Mihawk Being Stronger
Mihawk is the holder of the “World’s Strongest Swordsman” title and we know that Shanks is a confirmed swordsman. In one of his Vivre Cards Oda mentions how Mihawk is “waiting for a swordsman to surpass even his rival, Shanks”.
He also lists Mihawk alongside Whitebeard and Shanks as “Legends” of the One Piece World putting them at least close to each other.
Shanks rose to fame due to his sword duels with Mihawk which are also said to be “legendary” when Whitebeard talks about them.
He has a named sword “Gryphon” and every time we have seen Shanks clash with someone he uses a sword to do so. Shanks vs Whitebeard, Shanks vs Akainu and when he challenges Marines and Blackbeard to a fight he grabs his sword.
Only piece of information that we got that contradicts this is a widely spread misinterpretation from another of Oda’s SBS questions where he ponders how does Shanks actually fight. Many have taken this part and went ahead and assume it meant that Shanks fights without his named blade but this could still easily refer to how Shanks fights with his sword. What is his sword style and what are his techniques like.
How Does Shanks Fight?
For reference take Vista. We know he is a 2 Sword Style user but his sword style is also known as “Flower Sword” style. Oden is also a user of 2 Sword Style but his is specifically called “Oden 2 Sword Style”. We even see other characters (Akazaya Nine) use this style as well as “Oden 1 Sword Style”.
We never got information on who won their “Legendary Duels” but we can speculate that they at least ended in a draw. Knowing Mihawk I don’t think he would call himself The World Strongest Swordsman if he lost to Shanks or that he would be waiting for a swordsman to surpass Shanks. Even with their duels being a draw is hard to believe that Mihawk would accept the title. These duels ended abruptly when Shanks lost his arm to a Sea King.
Now, exact reason why Mihawk stopped dueling Shanks is unknown but I think it’s safe to assume Mihawk considered Shanks to be not worthy of dueling. He even calls Shanks “has-been”. One thing also worth noting is that it’s very possible that Shanks used to be left handed judging by the flashback where he has a sword in his left hand and the position of the sword on his hip. Usually, sword on your right side is for left handed while on the left is for right handed.
The 12 year gap between now and their last duel are often seen as an opportunity to argue that Shanks got stronger than Mihawk. Especially since in that 12 years gap, he became a Yonko. But this only works if we are under assumptions that Mihawk stagnated and didn’t improve himself. I don’t doubt Shanks got stronger than he was when they initially dueled but I also don’t doubt Mihawk got stronger. If they were drawing 12 years ago, then Mihawk with 2 hands and in his prime surely got stronger than Shanks with 1 hand in his “prime”. This is confirmed by the reveal of Miwak’s current bounty being just around 500M lower than Shanks’.
Not to mention that Yonko status, while heavily tied with strength has other requirements to be achieved. Like having your own territory and crew and Mihawk lacks both. Chapter 1058 has confirmed that Mihawk is not an Emperor because he simply has no interest in being one.
Another problem that Shanks being stronger than Mihawk will lead to is Zoro and his goal. We all know that Mihawk is Zoro’s end-game. His dream is to be WSS and to do so he needs to beat Mihawk. If Shanks was stronger than Mihawk and a swordsman then that would mean the entire journey Zoro has had is misguided since he is chasing the wrong man. He should be chasing Shanks. And while it’s not impossible for Oda to do this, I find it very unlikely to be the case since he already seemed to have planned Shanks’ story to be tied with Luffy and Blackbeard so trying to fit Zoro chasing Shanks for WSS title feels out of place.
Lastly, Chapter 1058 straight up gives us a definitive answer that Mihawk is a better swordsman than Shanks.
For Shanks Being Stronger
I think that the latest few revelations we got in the story have skyrocketed Shanks’ chances of being stronger than Mihawk even with all of the above.
This is such a monumental chapter In One Piece’s history. It literally changed the game when it comes to Haki and how we perceived it so far. In this chapter we get the reveal that you can coat your Conqueror’s Haki to such a degree that it dwarfs even advanced application of Armament Haki.
Apparently, this is the technique that only few, top tier people can use. This is also what the Emperors use to split the Sky in their clashes, Luffy vs Kaido, Kaido vs Big Mom and Shanks versus Whitebeard. So we can assume that Shanks has this degree of Haki mastery.
How is this relevant? Well it’s possible that Shanks couldn’t coat his Conqueror’s Haki when he dueled with Mihawk (Film Red Revealed Shanks Bounty at this time to be 1.040B but I’m not sure if this is canon). The 12 year gap leaves plenty of room left for Shanks to grow in strength and master this ability which would put him over Mihawk, who, as far as we know, does not have Conqueror’s Haki. At least it isn’t revealed he has it. This ability would put him over Mihawk if Mihawk himself does not have it.
There are two issues I see with this assumption:
- If Shanks indeed has learned this ability in those 12 years and Mihawk knew about it then he would undoubtedly want to duel Shanks, even if he has lost his arm. Mihawk is waiting for someone to surpass his rival Shanks so if Shanks is indeed this much stronger than before then Mihawk would want to fight him.
- Zoro has Conqueror’s Haki, so if Mihawk didn’t have it then their duel would be “one sided”. I know you don’t need Advanced Conqueror’s Haki to be a formidable opponent but it would be weird for Zoro’s end fight to not be a clash of Kings.
For years there have been heated debates over “True Swordsman” and “People who use swords”. Most people would dismiss the notion of “People who use swords” not being “Real Swordsman” as nonsense and something that has no basis in reality. If you use a sword then you are a swordsman. But we now know this to be false. Chapter 1023 has finally settled this debate and the fact is there is some sort of requirements to be a swordsman. We see this with Zoro fighting King where Zoro acknowledges King, someone who uses a sword, to not be a “real swordsman” because he is using his fists, kicks and spikes to attack.
This gives more validity to the notion of Shanks not being a pure swordsman just because of his named sword and him clashing with other people while using said sword. The issue however is that we don’t know what else Shanks could do to not be considered a pure swordsman.
We see King using punches while fighting with a sword but Shanks can’t do that because he’s a cripple with 1 arm. We see King transform with his Devil Fruit and use his Pterodactyl wing-arms to attack but Shanks can’t do that because he is fruitless (or isn’t confirmed to have one). We see King use his Lunarian fire to attack but Shanks can’t do that because he’s seemingly a normal human. Only thing we see King do that Shanks can do is kick, but is that enough for him not to be pure swordsman?
I’ve seen people talk about Shanks’ Haki being something that makes him not be a pure swordsman but so far everything we have seen shows us that Haki is an essential part of every swordsman as Mihawk tells Zoro.
Is Zoro not a swordsman because he can coat his weapons with Armament? Is he not a swordsman because he has Observation Haki to predict movements? Is he not a swordsman because he can coat his swords with Conqueror’s? I don’t think so.
So for this speculation to work, Shanks need to show a new power which could very well be a Devil Fruit he acquired in the past 12 years.
Debunking Few Things
- “Shanks is stronger because he is an Emperor while Mihawk is a Warlord”
Like I said to be an Emperor you need few things besides the strength. Things like strong crew and territory. Mihawk does not care to be one. This however does not exclude him from being strong especially since “Warlord” is not a power level as their members vary in strength. Buggy and Moria are nowhere near the likes of Doflamingo, Kuma or Law.
- “Mihawk’s strongest attack was stopped by a Division Captain”
That attacks was dubbed “World’s Strongest Slash” by fodder marines and not Mihawk himself and it also wasn’t stopped by just anyone. It was stopped by a Diamond Man.
In Alabasta we are introduced to the concept of Ryuo or Armament Haki where it’s said that skilled swordsman can cut things they want to cut and not cut the things they don’t want to cut. Cut Steel, not cut Paper. We see this on full showcase in Marineford. Mihawk tries to cut Whitebeard and fails because Diamond Jozu stops him. It’s because his intention wasn’t to cut Diamonds but to cut human flesh.
“What a load of bullshit!” you might say but we literally see this in action few chapters later. Mihawk goes to cut Luffy (rubber man) and he is stopped by Mr. 1 (Steel). Mihawk is seemingly unable to cut him the first time but the very next attack he uses cuts Mr. 1 and Mihawk one shots him because this time he was aiming to cut steel.
- “Shanks got weaker after losing his arm”
Apparently this isn’t the case. Shanks’ strength did not diminish since he lost a hand but it still does seem like he lost his dominant arm.
As someone noted, the One Piece Red: Grand Characters Databook states “Shanks Was Once as powerful as the world best swordsmen”.
- “Shanks is confirmed to not have a Devil Fruit”
This is something I myself thought until recently when a fellow user showed me that that notion of Shanks having no Devil Fruit came from a One Piece magazine which had some unreliable info that turned out to be false. Namely Shanks having the highest bounty of the Yonko. So it is possible, no matter how unlikely, that Shanks has some kind of a Devil Fruit.
- “Mihawk was fighting Vista who is only a Division Captain”
This is true but their fight was mostly off-screened and we saw nothing from it. We haven’t seen Mihawk use any named attack and we don’t even know how serious he was in their fight. And the fight itself ended abruptly. Not to mention that Marineford is pretty inconsistent when it comes to power scaling in hindsight as you have Marco and Jozu fighting Admirals.
- “Mihawk ran away from a fight with Shanks, twice.”
He didn’t run. First time he refused to fight Shanks like he always has for the past 10 years since he is a one armed cripple now. The second time he refused to fight Shanks at Marineford because the two of them are friends. Dueling someone and fighting someone are very different especially considering that in this situation Mihawk would be fighting for Navy to capture or kill Shanks, which I doubt he would do considering how reluctant he even was to fight Whitebeard.
We most likely will never get a definitive answer. Oda loves the ambiguity behind character’s strength because it allows him to get away with more stuff. That being said, there is nothing in the story that necessitates for Shanks to be stronger and the facts seem to point towards him being weaker. He was never going to be Luffy’s end-goal but rather just another benchmark for Luffy to surpass. Luffy’s goal is to be The Pirate King and to do so he needs to be like Roger not like Shanks.
Mihawk on the other hand is Zoro’s end-goal. He is Zoro’s One Piece. Beating Mihawk will make Zoro the WSS and that’s it for him. That’s his ceiling. Shanks being stronger than Mihawk will take away from this very notion but Mihawk being stronger than Shanks will do absolutely nothing to Luffy. Luffy will soar pass Shanks and reach that Pirate King status. The only way for Shanks to be stronger is if he reveals an entire new power which is unlikely to happen.