So the recent reveal in the SBS section of Volume 102 that Zoro is not yet the First Mate/Vice Captain of the crew has the fandom in splits, with some arguing that the Straw Hats will never have a First Mate/Vice Captain role since that indirectly implies that he has authority over Sanji, the other Wing of the Pirate King, and with some even arguing that the role is for Usopp as seen in Oda’s early drafts.
This thread is to provide some context behind the terms that are being thrown around (Right Hand Man, Vice Captain, First Mate) and to demonstrate using the manga that Zoro will indeed be recognized as the First Mate of the Strawh Hat Pirates.
Context and clearing the mess with the translations:
副船長 = Fuku Senchō = Vice Captain. However the official translation choses to refer to this term as “First Mate” as shown in the case of Silvers Rayleigh, even though it’s a term primarily used to refer to the Vice Captain.
Very clearly, Oda thinks that the First Mate/Vice Captain and Right Hand Man are two different terms. This was proven beyond doubt when Oda introduced Rayleigh as “海賊王の右腕” (Kaizoku-Ō no Migiude / Right Hand Man of the Pirate King) and then once again refers to him as the “副船長” (Fuku Senchō / Vice Captain/First Mate) of the Roger Pirates.
Hence, Vice Captain/First Mate/副船長 (fuku senchō), Right Hand Man and the Second Strongest are three different titles and who has them depends completely on the crew and it’s dynamics.
– In some crews, the same person shares all the three titles (Rayleigh in the Roger Pirates / Beckman in the Red Hair Pirates).
– In some crews, there exists RHMs who are the second strongest but they aren’t recognized as the official First Mate/Vice Captain even though they carry out those duties (Marco in the Whitebeard Pirates / King in the Beasts Pirates).
– In some crews, the second strongest aren’t even given the title of RHMs, let alone recognized as the First Mate/Vice Captain (Katakuri in the Big Mom Pirates).
Now let’s discuss Silvers Rayleigh’s case.
Silvers Rayleigh, the “Fuku-Senchō” of the Roger Pirates:
Oda clearly establishes that Rayleigh is the First Mate of the Roger Pirates during his introduction itself.
He even goes on to reiterate that with making Rayleigh himself describe his position/role on the crew.