I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Today so happens that today is the birthday of my favorite One Piece character, Sanji. and it falls on International Women's Month.This is the oddest tribute I would give considering how conflicting this character would be to the very ideas and core values espoused in feminism but here I go.Sanji is the most misunderstood and also most terribly used Straw Hat in One Piece. Yet somehow, he remains my favorite character because he has some of the best writing in the series, in spite of how many times Oda undermines his character with his perverted tendencies.
Separating the Simp from the Champ
Separating his questionable tendencies from his core character would be difficult for some people but he is, first and foremost, not a "full-time" pervert. If anything, he is more of a full-time simp. But what is this core character, you may ask. It was highlighted in Whole Cake Island but sprinkled strongly throughout the series and it is his kindness. Sanji is known as a chivalrous person who refuses to bring harm to women directly. He has a clear set of rules as a chef and as a man, specifically that he only uses his legs to attack in order to keep his hands safe and free for cooking and that he refuses to see a woman hurt nor to hurt them. But the core trait that these rules center around is Sanji's kindness, embodied in his rule regarding food: that food should not be wasted and those who starve, whoever they may be, deserve to be fed.
But what does Sanji, a simp chef, have to do with women's month? The story of Sanji is about the power of women in people's lives.
The Kindest Straw Hat
Sanji's father, Vinsmoke Judge, was a cruel king who made all of his sons and one daughter into superhuman weapons. However, when Sanji was born, his mother, Sora, took medicine that would reverse this process and make Sanji fully human. Yet this act would shorten her life until she died when Sanji was quite young. In other words, Sanji was born because a woman decided that her son deserves a better life than to be a weapon.
When she was still alive, Sanji would try to cook for her, even though cooking was a skill "reserved for the lower class". Even when his dishes were terrible due to his lack of proper training, Sanji's mother ate them with a smile on her face, all so that Sanji would not be discouraged to pursue his dream of being a cook. His father would catch him and imprison him to teach him a lesson. However, when their family was invading a kingdom, Sanji would see this as a chance to escape his life.
His older sister, Reiju, helps him escape the confines of his family's moving castle. Reiju tells her little brother to never return and urges him to go as there are going to be kind people there. This legacy of kindness, from his mother to his sister, would be carried in the young man who would grow up to be a chef of Baratie, who was taught to respect women by his foster father, Zeff.
The height of this kindness was shown in its fullest when he decided to rescue his terrible family from being assassinated during his own wedding. He chose to endanger himself to save not only the sister that cared for him but the father and brothers that did not even mind he died long ago.
I wish Oda did not make him perverted. I was fine with him being a simp. But I hope anime fans can consider the key lesson of Sanji's life story in relation to women. The latest chapter was incredibly important to his development because it did not reveal his weakness but highlighted a strength Sanji himself never knew.
Confronting His Insecurity
During the Whole Cake Island arc, Sanji was forced into a marriage for his family's power and to ensure his new chef family's safety. When Luffy came to rescue him, he refused him and fought him back. He did not want their help not only because it would make him feel even more helpless than he already was but because he did not want to put his beloved friends in danger.
In the Wano Country arc, we see a captured Sanji forced by female enemies to call for his female crewmate, Nico Robin, in order for them to capture her. Given what we know of Sanji, he would have refused this and also not fight back against the women at the same time. Even the female foes were enamored by his commitment to keep his friend from harm's way and his chivalry. What he did was unexpected for everyone, including readers.
He asked for Robin to help him.
He called a woman and a friend at that to help him.
Yet he did it with absolute trust in her power to fight and survive.
That was a culmination of his arc in Whole Cake Island, where he once spurned his friends who tried to rescue him and had constantly sought to keep his female friends, whom he simped over, safe. Now, he chose to take that risk yet with the confidence that his friends, this time around, would not dare let themselves die for him.
More Than Chivalry
Regardless of what you would think of his rule about not hurting women, the bottom line is that he was a kind person who had to go through difficult experiences to realize that he can also have his female friends help him and to even entrust his life to them. He can also be kind, gentle, and protective while trusting his friends to help him when he is in danger or alone. This is the Sanji that learned that kindness could be more than to just be good to others but in allowing others to have their goodness flow into him. To think that this was the very reason why Sanji was born into this world to begin with. His mother's love for her son's humanity and his sister's longing to see him find a loving environment...these women and the friends he made along the way gave him the real courage to face his insecurities and confront the greater threats his crew would face.
That is why this odd tribute is fitting, because we, men, have to learn to be kinder and to allow women to be strong and stand for themselves too.