The True Origins of Zoro


Originally, Roronoa Zoro was going to be a member of Buggy’s crew, his bodyguard to be exact. But Oda scrapped those intentions and made Zoro the 3 blade wielding pirate we all know and love today. But the question is… why?


Why did Oda take this would be forgettable character and turn him into such an iconic one? What did Oda see in Zoro that was worth characterization, a dream, and a backstory- one that we have yet to fully unravel? We’ll probably never know. But we will know the complete past of Roronoa Zoro in the Wano Kuni arc. And that’s what I will be talking about. I have a completely original theory that I believe to be the true origin of Zoro, and one that truly answers the question:

Who is Zoro?

Sanji Parallel


To begin, it goes without question that Wano will be the arc where we will see a major focus on Zoro’s character, just as Sanji with Whole Cake Island. I believe looking at Sanji’s backstory revealed in the Whole Cake Island arc we can have an idea of what Zoro’s backstory will be like.


Many, many theorists have done this and believe that Zoro will have a similar past to Sanji. Many say that Zoro will be descended from a powerful, royal line, or maybe even the shogun. Well let me tell you, this is completely wrong. Ever since the beginning of One Piece, Zoro and Sanji have never gotten along, and fight and insult each other constantly. They simply do not, and can not understand each other. So it baffles me that so many theorists would like Zoro to have a similar backstory, nearly identical past to Sanji.

Just think, if Zoro was secretly part of a powerful/royal bloodline, it would be similar to Sanji and the Vinsmokes. Similar enough to the point where they would ultimately relate with each other. Can you imagine Zoro and Sanji actually sitting down and relating to each other? It would just be too jarring for me, Oda wrote them out to be barely friends who don’t understand each other. And that’s what I’m trying to get at, Oda wrote Zoro and Sanji to be parallels- they may go the same direction but never cross and find common ground.

But, this does not disprove that Sanji’s past has a connection to Zoro’s. I believe that Oda will reveal Zoro’s past to be opposite, a complete parallel to Sanji’s. So we can use what we learned from Sanji’s past, reverse it, and come up with an idea of what background Zoro is from.

Sanji is from the powerful royal family of assassins in the North Blue. Powerful. Royal.

Going from that, Zoro came from people who aren’t feared or strong, and he is bottom class.

Historical Background

Contrasting Sanji’s past only gives us a vague idea though. But fear not, there is another fact that Oda gave us that can be inferred from details he’s revealed to us. The fact is- Wano Kuni will be the most historical based arc in the series thus far.

We already know of the closed border policy in Wano, which happened in Japan hundreds of years ago. We know there are samurai, ninja, daimyo, and shogun. Women are expected to act modest, according to Kinemon. These facts give this island an Edo Period feel.

Since we established that Zoro will come from a poor, disrespected background, is there anything from Edo Period Japan that resembles that? The answer is yes.

In Japan, there is an ethnic group that was discriminated and oppressed called the Burakumin- hamlet people. They were at the bottom of the social order, and were not allowed to change caste, unlike other castes who could on special circumstances. They were expected to show signs of subservience, and touching them was taboo. They were originally called Eta, which means “abundance of filth” but it was considered too derogatory and changed to burakumin.

The reason as to why they were ostracised is theorized, but one guess is that when Buddhism- the religion where Zoro gets many names of his attacks- was introduced to Japan, cutting meat, executing criminals, and other jobs dealing with death, were despised. And the Burakumin did all those jobs. They were called hinen- not human- Zoro on numerous occasions was noted to be not human. Mostly due to people being surprised of his unhuman strength, but most notably:

Burakumin could be killed by samurai for practically no reason, if the samurai wished to do so. Burakumin were also the only clan who could not become samurai.

And this is extremely interesting to me, cause if we go back to Sanji’s past, he used a sword as a child. Judge said himself that he trained Sanji in the way of the sword himself.

If we apply this to my Zoro-Sanji parallel rule, if Sanji stayed with Germa, he would’ve been a swordsman. But if Zoro stayed wherever he came from, he wouldn’t even know how to pick the thing up. Exactly like a member of Japan’s outcasts.

802 Color Spread

Now, I hope what I’ve been saying makes sense, but I’m sure this isn’t enough for some people. And that’s a fair point, just because it connects historically doesn’t mean for sure Oda looked to it for inspiration. But, I believe in the color spread of chapter 802, Oda purposefully hinted at Zoro’s past and connections to Wano.

Well first off, it is a Japan influenced setting, so there’s a slight connection already. Second, in the newspaper that Zoro is reading, there is kanji that can be read if you look closely. According to Sandman from Arlong Park, the words come out to be “Hippo family escaped.”

You might think that is only referring to the hippos in the color spread, but I beg to differ. I think it’s referring to Zoro’s family.

These hippos are not just regular hippos. If you look at the sign, it doesn’t say Dango Shop. It translates to “Robbery” or “Highwayman”. Which is a common path for the bottom class to go down to make a living.

Plus, the adult hippo has scars, just like Zoro.

And the baby hippo is the only other person to wield a sword besides Zoro, which makes me connect the two.

Oda hid these things for a reason. I believe the hippos represent Zoro’s family, and the story in the newspaper is revealing how they escaped Wano, hence why Zoro is so interested.

But why choose hippos? Well, hippos are generally thought of as disgusting “filthy” creatures. Let me remind you that the Burakumin were treated as an “abundance of filth” as well. I think this makes my theory of Zoro’s origin being inspired by the discriminated Burakumin clan much more plausible. I do not know what Oda will call them in Wano, but for now, let’s refer to them as the Hippo Clan.


I constructed a timeline that explains the Hippo Clan’s history in Wano, how Zoro’s family escaped to East Blue (Zoro was born in East Blue, remember), and how Zoro and Law’s team will interact with his clan in the upcoming arc.

  • So, in Wano’s early stages, the Hippo Clan was largely responsible for the creation of the country. With their brute strength, driven nature, and ability to use Asura, they could defend the land from other kingdoms, specifically ones that later became the World Government. It was due to the clan that Wano formed.
  • But to the other samurai and noble clans, they were eventually seen as a threat, that must be extinguished.
  • Using their political power, the rulers of Wano convinced the common people that the Hippo Clan were demons, and created laws that prohibited the clan from basic rights.
  • The Hippo Clan didnt rebel, as it would only destroy the kingdom they worked so hard to create.
  • They took the abuse honorably, but after hundreds of years of systematic oppression, the clan lost its intimidating nature and became weak subservient peasants.
  • Over the years, some are still brave enough to try to escape discrimination by fleeing the island, although almost all attempts are failures and lead to immediate execution.
  • Among those were Zoro’s mother and his father. On one night they just barely made it over the border with their lives, including the life of their unborn son.
  • They went to the weakest of all seas, East Blue, to live a safe and happy life as a family. They settled in Shimotsuki Village, where most of the refugees of Wano already called home.
  • Their son was born and everything seemed perfect, that is until a vengeful samurai caught up to them, and punished them accordingly.
  • Before he could kill the newborn, he was defeated by Koshiro, the leader of Shimotsuki and strongest person to leave Wano. He took the infant and convinced a family of farmers to raise this child.
  • There the child was raised as Roronoa Zoro, who had an insatiable hunger for swords, and returned to Shimotsuki to learn the art. Something he would never be able to do had his parents stayed in Wano Country.

  • Flashforward many years into the future, Zoro and his team have just landed in Wano.
  • Zoro, remembering his promise to Luffy, will try to round up the samurai and convince them to join their side in their fight against Kaido.
  • However, the samurai would not take kindly to foreigners. Not to mention that Zoro, who displays the features of the Hippo Clan, is lumbering around disrespectfully. With a sword, which the clan are not allowed to wield. Shusui, in fact, the legendary treasure of Wano, that was desecrated from Ryuma’s grave along with his body.
  • It’s pretty clear that the Straw Hats would be considered great enemies to Wano, competing with Kaido and the Shogun even. They would be forced to flee or get killed on sight.
  • It would seem that they would have nowhere to run too, no friends in this isolated nation, except… the Hippo Clan.
  • The clan would provide shelter and support for the team, because they know first hand what it’s like to be hated. Not to mention that they would recognize Zoro as one of their own. It would be at this moment Zoro learns his ancestry for the first time.
  • But after hearing it, he would be disgusted with how weak they’ve acted. He would tell them he’s ashamed to be related to people to cowardly to fight for their pride.
  • And with those words the clan would be inspired to fight back for first time in hundreds of years, and become full fledged allies to the Straw Hats. In Wano they will be the first group of people to side with them, followed by the ninja.
  • And finally, after Zoro proves his worth, the samurai will reluctantly join the Straw Hats side in the final battle against Kaido.

But…. Why?

Although this is my honest opinion, no one can think like Oda, so we can never be 100% sure. But I also believe Oda would do something like this. Why? The Burakumin, the outcastes that I said were the inspiration of Zoro’s clan? Well, they’re still oppressed.

Even in Japan’s modern age, the Burakumin are still being mistreated, of course not as badly as in Edo Period. But they still face poor housing, marriage and employment discrimination, and 60% of the Yakuza, Japan’s crime syndicate, are Burakumin. The subject is actually so tense in Japan, that the Burakumin aren’t brought up at all, in any sort of media. There isn’t a single manga that discusses them as well.

There are manga about other ethnic minorities in Japan that were also discriminated against, such as Golden Kamuy for the Ainu. In Samurai Champloo, Mugen, who ironically is a swordsman just like Zoro, is Ryukyuan. But to my knowledge, there is no Burakumin representation.

Golden Kamui


Essentially, the Burakumin are just as taboo now as they were back then. But, I believe if any mangaka were to give them a voice, it would be Oda. Just as the Straw Hats have dreams, Oda has a dream too- world peace. He told us this more than once, so I wonder if Oda, being a citizen of Japan, would feel about the treatment of the Burakumin.

(Oda draws himself with a fish head, kanji says world peace, check out sbs 59)

If his dream truly is world peace, he should be the one to include them in a form of media. Think about it- it would be perfect. One Piece is the best-selling manga of all time- huge audience. Zoro is one of the most popular characters, always ranking high in the polls. If Oda based Zoro off the Burakumin, they’d have a voice, a loud one. And maybe things would change for the better. But it’s just a thought. Not saying Oda has to do this, though I think it would be a very thoughtful and meaningful act, and it fits with his personality very much.


So that’s my theory guys. I believe that:

  • Zoro parents originate from an outcast clan in Wano (who were largely responsible for the foundation of it). They escaped to East Blue but lost their lives shortly after arriving. Zoro will meet his clan in Wano and convince them to fight for him.

And I believe this because:

  • It parallels Sanji’s origin
  • Has historical inspirations
  • Was hinted in a color spread
  • And has modern significance as well

Sorry if you wanted me to say Zoro is the son of Oden or the shogun. But everyone has been saying that for years now, and I hope you liked this original theory of mine. And I straight up do not believe that Zoro would, could, or should be some form of royalty. People try to connect Zoro to these powerful individuals, thinking that it’ll hype Zoro up and stuff. But that’s just wrong to me. Zoro doesn’t need to be descended from some powerful family like the Vinsmokes. He doesn’t need to hide behind some big name like the shogun. He’ll make a name for himself. A name that will be heard throughout the all the seas. Through his actions, not his history, he will become the world’s greatest. And that folks, truly answers the question: “Who is Zoro?”

*Theory by Rob Gucci

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