I Can Go Lower
YES!! I can’t believe I get to defend my favorite character in this wild ride of a manga!! This is why we do it, people...you always dream of this day, and then you just wanna make sure you do it justice and soak everything up. Even though Neutral deleted his profile, the mods asked me to go forward with the post I was writing, so thanks for sticking with me through this whole competition, and it is an honor to win regardless of how it happened
Part One - From SUPER Humble Beginnings
From the moment he released the third version of what would be the first chapter of One Piece, Eiichiro Oda knew he wanted the story to focus on the trials and triumphs of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew. While the various nakama his main character would acquire along the way were not fully fleshed out, and several of them bear little resemblance to the wacky warriors we would come to know and love, early designs show that the straw hat was always meant to have some intriguing followers.
In a particularly meta moment, Luffy himself drew a quick sketch of what he wanted his carpenter to look like. While the Straw Hats hadn’t filled this position prior to their arrival at Water 7, their ship, the Going Merry, had fallen into complete disrepair after an incredibly treacherous journey from East Blue through the first half of the world’s roughest sea. She would get her passengers to the perfect place to find someone who could fix her, but she would not leave with them. Still, before any of this became known to the crew, it was made clear that our protagonist had a specific vision for the kind of guy he wanted to keep their vessel in top shape.
At this point in the series, we had become accustomed to someone new joining the crew in roughly every major arc (save Skypiea, the one right before Water 7), so it was therefore little surprise when this crude drawing of Luffy’s came to quasi-life. Since his proper introduction, he went from an enemy for kicking the then-recently defected Usopp’s ass to an ally against the government assassins of CP-9, and eventually, the rock steady shipwright of the Thousand Sunny, a schooner he designed and built before boarding as a recruit of the Straw Hat Pirates. We’ve seen him destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, been mesmerized by his beverage-inspired hairstyles, and fallen in love with his cyborg enhancements as they help advance the rubber boy’s cause of finding true and lasting freedom. His inventions have made fodder and Yonko alike look like clowns, his robotic abilities have seen few effective counters from his enemies, and his architectural prowess is superior to virtually all but one, and that one has been lauded as the smartest man in the world. There’s no way around it...when it comes to which character adds the most value to the story of One Piece, there are not many who could stake a claim quite like Franky.
This will be a little different from my previous posts in this competition - with Garp, I opted to emphasize his influence in the OP world; with Bonney and Kuma, I chose to highlight how they could use their own to change the same. We don’t need to speculate on Franky’s importance to the story...he is a member of the future Pirate King’s crew. This fact is incontrovertible, and therefore, his place in One Piece is set in stone. Franky WILL reach Laugh Tale with his captain, and he WILL see his dream of the ship he built traveling around the whole world come true.
So, with that in mind, I felt it would be a better idea to examine certain things about Franky that have gone relatively unpraised among the OP community at large. There will still be plenty of conjectural points made here; this epic tale is a work of art by any definition, and art is eternally open to interpretation. My main goal is to demonstrate why Franky deserves more credit among the Straw Hats than he has received based on the value he adds to Luffy’s band of misfits.
Part Two - It's Never A Crime Just To Exist
Even among his crew mates, Franky is the definition of eccentric, an anomaly among anomalies. Born as a human and eventually reconstructed as a cyborg, he has a very jovial attitude and doesn’t take much seriously when the situation calls for anything less than pathos. Even as a man in his 40s, his zeal for life and the level of energy with which he meets any challenge has yet to wane. In some ways, he is more emotional or petulant than the volatile 20-somethings with whom he’s continuously shocked the world. After a thorough retelling of his past in the arc he was introduced, we know full well that Franky has reason to be significantly more jaded or subdued...he watched his mentor and father figure get railroaded by the World Government after creating the same thing for the same organization; he was obliterated by that same locomotive force he helped create; he was entrusted with the blueprints of a ship capable of subjugating the entire ocean; he had to live as a half-man/half-machine thug in Water 7's backstreets pretty much from beginning to end. Even with all that trauma, Franky is vivacious, exuberant, and empathetic to a fault. More importantly, it has instilled in him a feeling of purpose, that nobody should be denied their existence, a viewpoint that adheres as closely to the main theme of One Piece as possible.
For as much as he claimed to hate pirates in his first few appearances, Franky has been drawn to the sea ever since birth. The only thing we know about the parents who abandoned him with Tom’s workers at an extremely young age is that they were buccaneers themselves; we glossed over this fact with blinding speed in the canon, and while it’s not likely that they’re noteworthy in the Grand Line, it’s worth pointing out that Franky rejected this lifestyle right away, and yet, even he was not immune to the palpable affection the Straw Hats feel for one another.
There’s no shortage of examples where people change their minds about pirates upon seeing the construction of miracles by Luffy and his crew, and what he witnessed at Enies Lobby was enough to convince Franky to let that hatred go. Some of that stems from his overriding LOATHING of the World Government, as he certainly views them as the greatest of all possible evils. As if his involvement both with Tom’s Company and the battle against CP-9 weren’t enough to solidify him as a political dissenter, smashing Spandam with his elephant sword was the first defining moment for Franky, allowing him to not only exact revenge against the man who framed his late mentor, but also tacitly demonstrate his newfound respect for the SHP.
Part Three - A Threat Beyond Measure
It isn’t very deep into Franky’s first arc that we learn the truth about what he possesses that makes him so dangerous to the WG - Iceburg entrusted the blueprints for Pluton, one of the Ancient Weapons, to the person he trusted the most. While Franky would eventually incinerate the physical copy of said designs to keep them from falling into Spandam’s hands, we have little reason to believe that someone so crafty and competent with his hands wouldn’t have pored over and memorized every detail of those papers. Even with them burned to ash, Franky still poses a singular threat to the government’s supremacy, and being on the same crew as the only survivor from Ohara only makes him that much more dangerous.
Of the three Ancient Weapons, the Straw Hats have the capabilities to count at least two within their sphere of influence between Franky with Pluton and Luffy’s friendship with Shirahoshi, the most recent incarnation of Poseidon. Additionally, certain hints have been dropped along the way that imply our own Nefetari Vivi, the princess of Alabasta and officially an ex-SHP, could herself be the current keeper of Uranus. While the two living AWs can theoretically be manipulated and controlled by the WG, only Pluton will remain fully outside their clutches without the guy in the speedo working on their side. The tussle at Enies Lobby was likely their best and only chance at making that happen, so if Franky ever decides - or is given reason - to resurrect this mystifying battleship, there is nothing they can do to stop him.
Many have speculated on whether or not Franky is truly capable of building Pluton based on his current skills. I’m of the belief that not only is he capable of doing so, but it’s possible he constructed the Thousand Sunny with these designs in mind. After all, it would be significantly easier for a shipwright to enhance his source material than start all the way from scratch, right? There are multiple canon examples of Franky adding onto his greatest creation, and while most of these inventions mainly concern separate vehicles that are only tangentially related to Sunny’s design, they serve to demonstrate the wide swath of the cyborg carpenter’s impressive abilities and support the notion that he alone could be responsible for the resurrection of the WG’s greatest fear. Moreover, let's not forget General Franky, an ENTIRE FUCKING ROBOTIC SHIELD OF ARMOR that he constructed in his own image...if you need more proof that the man can build whatever he pleases, look no further:
The morals that Tom instilled in Franky are often on display in how the student emulates his teacher aboard the Thousand Sunny. His flamboyant antics were not so frequent in the flashback, indicating that the fishman kept his young ward in check while raising him and Iceburg. While the latter has always been a composed, thoughtful individual, Franky has only gotten wilder through the years. He tore through Vegapunk’s hometown of Barujimoa during the timeskip, rampaged through a gauntlet of enemies whose stories moved him in Dressrosa, and put the smack down on a Yonko to make his grand entrance at Onigashima. Franky’s emotions have rarely ever been in check, as he lives his life with a don to honor Tom, but it’s the motivation behind this intense and persistent feeling that really tells us who he is as a character.
At his cybernetic AND organic cores, what Franky desires more than anything is to see his ship, his masterpiece, achieve what was previously deemed impossible. He wants to visit every locale on the map not only for the sheer magnitude of new experiences, but to build the Thousand Sunny’s reputation as the greatest boat in the world. To that end, the man himself would need to be durable, bold, and reliable in the face of subpar conditions as the ship he built. Franky never backs down from a fight because he knows he’s always fought for his life, and it doesn’t matter whether his foe is the WG, one of the Four Emperors, or the Puffing Tom train - his spirit cannot be broken, so his body can always be repaired.
Because of this and his designation as a main character, I believe that Franky is meant to represent the main crux of One Piece more than most of his nakama. When it comes to chasing a dream, there are many roadblocks that arise and test your dedication. Franky is no stranger to adversity, from being hounded by the most powerful political body in the world for the majority of his life to being forcibly separated from the people with whom he'd bonded so quickly. Not only has he bounced back emotionally each time, he has become notoriously strong in his own right. From the timeskip on, he carries heavy baggage along with the experience of his life, but he hasn't let anything permanently prevent him from being on board and maintaining the Thousand Sunny as it carries his crew to a destination infinitesimally few others have reached. No matter what he's faced, he maintains his positivity and sense of dignity even throughout his goofy antics.
Part Four - An Iron Will In A Man Of Steel
In terms of strength, so much is made in this fandom about Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji, colloquially known as the original Monster Trio. Jinbe, the newest recruit, is rightfully spoken in the same breath as these guys, but the power scaling community does itself a disservice by not acknowledging what Franky has done in this series. Y’all wanna talk about tangible feats? How’s this for size:
- Defeated Fukuro, a member of the government’s secret squad of elite assassins
- Played an integral part in crippling the gigantic zombie Oars as it was possessed by his captain’s formidable shadow
- Survived in the personally and territorially hostile land of Karakuri Island for two years
- Traversed the Grand Line and made it back to Sabaody before any of his comrades
- BLEW A FUCKING MEGA LASER BEAM THROUGH IKAROS MUCH
- Whooped Baby 5 and Buffalo at Punk Hazard
- Defeated Machvise, Kyuin, AND Senor Pink in Dressrosa
- Clocked Big Mom in the face with the Kurosau FR-U IV
- Again utilized a GOD DAMN LASER to knock some Numbers out of contention
Some of these may not be as impressive to the Boys in the Battledome as victories earned by his more reputable nakama, but to ignore Franky in the crew’s hierarchy based on his ranking as the fifth strongest member is a fool’s errand. While circumstances and (what I believe are) significant misunderstandings in the fandom have long relegated him to the supposed "Mid Trio" of the protagonist crew, this should only serve to amplify just how powerful the people above him are, not diminish his own otherworldly strength by any means.
In the previous round, I made some truly wild assumptions about Vegapunk, as well as his work and research on the true nature of Devil Fruits. It was just after CP-9 was defeated that Koby told us (by way of Nami wiretapping his conversation with Luffy) that the Marine scientist had recently discovered how to make DFs merge with inanimate objects, lauding his understanding of these magical FRUITS as light years beyond his peers. While these accomplishments may be new, it’s highly doubtful that the path leading to them was a short one.
Kuma sent Franky to Vegapunk’s homeland for a good reason - the big bear knew that the good doctor’s notes and crude childhood contraptions would be of great interest to the cyborg carpenter. What’s questionable is if Kuma knew the full extent of what lurked in this primitive laboratory, but nonetheless; I posit that after fully appreciating where he had landed, Franky spent the following two years absorbing everything he could, analyzing what he’d learned, and applying these lessons both to reconstructing his own robotic body as well as the inventions we’ve seen him reveal since reuniting with his crew at Sabaody. How else could this manifest, you didn’t ask?? Well, there’s one major way he could emulate the brilliant scientist...
One of the reasons why Doflamingo and the other guy in this matchup are so beloved in this fandom is that they are the only two canon DF users who have fully awakened their powers, setting the stage for Luffy/Chopper/Robin/Brook to possibly do the same. However, the process through which DF abilities are awoken has not been explained past “You need to be unimaginably powerful and spend years honing those powers.” We’re definitely in the last phase of One Piece, and each indicated Straw Hat ate their respective fruits more than 10 years ago in the story. So, what’s the holdup?
A lot of fans have wondered just how things will shake out in Wano, as our alliance has been tasked with bringing down two Yonko at once. Although they’ve largely held their own so far, the real trouble has yet to begin. It would seem to be the perfect moment for Luffy at the very least to awaken his Devil Fruit, and luckily for him, his crewmate should be the key to doing so. Franky discovered Vegapunk's hidden laboratory in Barujimoa after blowing up the exposed on, and considering how copious the notes from his research were in the latter, there must have been some REALLY interesting shit in the former. Two years of reading the young genius's notes probably gave Franky great insight into the nature of how Devil Fruit powers can be manipulated and enhanced to their fullest extent.
How would such a process work, you ask? Well, I'm not a savant like Vegapunk, nor do I understand the mechanics of the story as well as Oda, so I don't profess to be right on the money here...but perhaps it has something to do with Franky's cybernetic parts themselves. After the timeskip, he mentions rebuilding himself for the umpteenth time, this time using a material known as Wapometal. Even casual OP fans will recognize the manufacturer of this alloy, but otherwise, we know nothing about the substance; considering who's now made of it, the possibility that it's more important than it sounds seems high. We first get an idea of the metal's durability when Franky faces Baby 5 and Buffalo near the end of Punk Hazard, but it hasn't really come up much since then.
This is my last post, so it's also my final bizarre, no-chance-in-Hell-that-this-is-right theory - through the combination of Wapometal and the research he studied during the timeskip, Franky may be able to awaken his nakama's Devil Fruit powers through nothing more than a very specific touch. It would be a stretch, but Franky could use the parts of him made from Wapometal as a conductor through which a certain electrical charge is transmitted from the cyborg to the core of a fruit user's physical body, thereby reaching and stimulating their latent potential. Before y'all start thinking lewd things, check my signature...Franky could accomplish this by placing his hand on Luffy's shoulder, Chopper's hoof, or Robin's arm, as the point of physical contact would be less crucial than getting the timing of the process correct. Maybe by the time we do this again, I'll have thought of some way he could do it to Brook
Part Five - VS Katakuri (Briefly)
Even though this matchup became moot, I figured I would still address the guy who was gonna be my chosen character's opponent. Now, I can’t objectively say whether Franky is a BETTER character than Katakuri. We’ve known one much longer and he's had a more in-depth portrayal, but the other has become a greater fan favorite since his comparably recent introduction. Certainly, there are respects in which Big Mom’s second son is superior to our favorite blue haired quasi-robot: he’s unquestionably stronger than Franky, and he might admire Luffy in a way that even his subordinate cannot. However, there are several visible differences that separate the two in my own mind, first and foremost being how they act towards Linlin.
The biggest is what they each mean in the context of Luffy’s journey. While Franky was initially antagonistic towards the Straw Hats, going so far as to steal their money and beat Usopp into the ground, he flipped and became an ally after a very short time to save Robin from the WG. Even though people point at Katakuri stabbing himself to even the playing field after his sister Flampe inadvertently helped him land a similar blow on Luffy, this does not redeem the man whatsoever...he may have wanted a noble clash, but his goal was nonetheless to crush our protagonist like a bug. Honor among scoundrels is admirable and all, but the Sweet Commander shouldn’t be deemed a saint as a result of this self-impaling.
I touched on this way back in the first round, but just like any other Yonko, Shichibukai, or Supernova, Katakuri represents a tremendous obstacle for Luffy in the regard that he does not want the straw hat to beat his mother to Laugh Tale. Every pirate is a threat to our protagonist’s journey even as they come to respect and defer to him, because as he’s said multiple times, being the king doesn’t mean ruling with an iron fist so much as having total and complete freedom. People like Katakuri would seek to shackle him, or at the very least deny him what he wants, and that precludes him from truly being an ally. Beating the everloving shit out of the straw hat is another reason to that end, but we don’t have to get into that now.
Franky, while initially standoffish to Luffy, has been perhaps one of the greatest stalwarts in his corner. He joined the guy's crew, and that was only after building him a ship made out of the most durable wood on the planet. He has fought tooth, nail, and wire for the Straw Hats on every occasion since he met them. No matter how you paint Katakuri - and again, something should be said that he seems to genuinely respect Luffy after their fight to the brink of death - he will never support our protagonist in his mission to an extent even halfway close to what Franky has done (and is poised to do). Although one is not being made, any argument against this point would have to ignore that Big Mom's son is just that, and in a canonical sense, this makes him an inherently less meaningful character than my guy.
Conclusion - You Can Fight Destiny, But You Will Lose
Anyway, I know this round was a bit anti-climactic (RIP Neutral's profile), but I appreciate y'all reading this last entry into the forum's first annual (?) Royal Rumble and following along with my madness. Those of you who loved Franky going into this post, I hope I've done you proud; those who may not have felt strongly about him either way, I hope I've made an acceptable case as to why he deserves more love and credit among One Piece fans than he gets. Either way, I hope y'all aren't too sick of the character, BECAUSE THE NEW THEME OF THIS SITE WILL BE SSSSUUUUPPPPEEEERRRR!!!!