Character Discussion Why do People Think Zoro is Stupid?

(Poll questions are in the OP)

  • Q1: Yes

  • Q1: No

  • Q2: Yes

  • Q2: No

  • Q3: Yes

  • Q3: No

  • Q4: Yes

  • Q4: No

  • Q5: Yes

  • Q5: No

Results are only viewable after voting.


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@spawn and @Rivaille have my gratitude for informing me of some of the events on which I based my arguments.

This essay would not be possible without their enthusiastic support.

I tag a lot of people for my posts. If you want to be removed from my tag lists, let me know. Likewise if you want to be added.

There seems to be a persuasive myth that Zoro is one of the Strawhats' idiots, or is somehow stupid or otherwise deficient in intelligence. Outside of some gag scenes (Zoro's love of sake being paralleled with Luffy's love of meat), I don't think Zoro has been reliably depicted as dumb.

Zoro isn't a domain expert in a particular niche like Robin, Nami or Franky, but a lack of specific knowledge isn't a deficit of intelligence. Zoro has also demonstrated incredible applications of intelligence to particular situations.

The Idiot Trio
If there is any group of Strawhats that have been depicted as "idiots" (even jokingly), it's the idiot trio. Our beloved idiot in chief is a member, while Zoro isn't.

Nami referred to Luffy, Usopp and Sanji as the "idiot" trio:

Given that Zoro wasn't included in the idiot trio, I think this undermines the belief that he's stupid.

Exceptional Displays of Intelligence
There are many instances where Zoro has displayed average to above average intelligence (especially in his role as Vice Captain of the Strawhat Pirates), but I would like to single out the occasions where he displayed levels of intelligence that are rare enough among the other Strawhats to be noteworthy.

Zoro independently invented two factor authentication in Alabasta and applied to the Strawhats verifying the identity of their crewmates.

After the Strawhats encountered an enemy that could perfectly clone the physical characteristics of the Strawhat members, physical appearance, voice and mannerisms were no longer reliable to verify the identity of a crewmate. There was a need to add at least one other additional step to verify that the Nami they saw before them was indeed Nami.

Zoro realised that encountering Bon Clay's powers early on gave them the opportunity to plan an appropriate strategy in response:

Zoro came up with the plan of tying a ribbon on their left arm:

However, this additional characteristic was something that an imposter could pick up and may attempt to replicate. So Zoro went a step further and added an additional authentication parameter (the "X" under the ribbon):

An imposter would never know about the "X", so the presence of the "X" would be a strong indicator of genuine identity.

This plan is actually pretty impressive, because it involves two factor authentication. The first factor is the physical appearance of the Strawhats and the ribbon they wore on their wrists. The second factor was a knowledge component, the "X" under the ribbon; only the Strawhats would know that they should mark under their wrists with an "X".

Independently inventing two-factor authentication is very impressive, because multi factor authentication is the gold standard in information security:
From Wikipedia:
Authentication takes place when someone tries to log into a computer resource (such as a network, device, or application). The resource requires the user to supply the identity by which the user is known to the resource, along with evidence of the authenticity of the user's claim to that identity. Simple authentication requires only one such piece of evidence (factor), typically a password. For additional security, the resource may require more than one factorβ€”multi-factor authentication, or two-factor authentication in cases where exactly two pieces of evidence are to be supplied.[1]

The use of multiple authentication factors to prove one's identity is based on the premise that an unauthorized actor is unlikely to be able to supply the factors required for access. If, in an authentication attempt, at least one of the components is missing or supplied incorrectly, the user's identity is not established with sufficient certainty and access to the asset (e.g., a building, or data) being protected by multi-factor authentication then remains blocked. The authentication factors of a multi-factor authentication scheme may include:[2]

  • Something the user has: Some physical object in the possession of the user, such as a security token (USB stick), a bank card, a key, etc.
  • Something the user knows: Certain knowledge only known to the user, such as a password, PIN, TAN, etc.
  • Something the user is: Some physical characteristic of the user (biometrics), such as a fingerprint, eye iris, voice, typing speed, pattern in key press intervals, etc.
  • Somewhere the user is: Some connection to a specific computing network or using a GPS signal to identify the location.[3]
A good example of two-factor authentication is the withdrawing of money from an ATM; only the correct combination of a bank card (something the user possesses) and a PIN (something the user knows) allows the transaction to be carried out. Two other examples are to supplement a user-controlled password with a one-time password (OTP) or code generated or received by an authenticator (e.g. a security token or smartphone) that only the user possesses.[citation needed]

A third-party authenticator app enables two-factor authentication in a different way, usually by showing a randomly generated and constantly refreshing code which the user can use, rather than sending an SMS or using another method. A big benefit of these apps is that they usually continue to work even without an internet connection. Examples of third-party authenticator apps include Google Authenticator, Authy and Microsoft Authenticator; some password managers such as LastPass offer the service as well.[4]

An example of a second step in two-step verification or authentication is the user repeating back something that was sent to them through an out-of-band mechanism (such as a code sent over SMS), or a number generated by an app that is common to the user and the authentication system.[5]

Considering how sophisticated information security is in our world (and how relatively primitive it is in One Piece), this is pretty impressive; Zoro independently discovered the authentication principle that is the best 21st Century earth has developed.

Tactics No. 5
After Zoro deduced how Pica's powers work, he needed to identify a means of isolating his real body and taking him out (merely destroying his golem would do know good as Pica could instantly move anywhere within the stone of Dressrosa, allowing him to escape and reform the golem). Zoro told King Elizabello as much:

He also advised him to hold on to his King Punch for two more minutes (so that he could clear up the debris from Pica's Golem after Zoro had defeated him):

Zoro came up with the only viable strategy to take Pica out: isolate his body in mid air (thus cutting off all escape routes) and then strike him down.

Interlude: A Short Exercise
Now, before we get to the exceptional display of intelligence that Zoro brought to bear here, I'd like to give you a little assignment.

Suppose we were playing a game:
  • I pick a number between 1 and 1,000, and you need to guess the number I chose.
  • You can guess any number you want, and I would tell you if that number is higher or lower than the number I picked.
  • Your aim is to guess the number I chose using as few guesses as possible.

I'd like you to take a couple minutes to think on the strategy you would use to play the game. The next section contains the answer, but don't check it until you've given the exercise the two minutes I requested.

It's actually possible to figure out the number I chose within 10 guesses. The strategy is pretty simple, you just need to follow the below algorithm:
  1. Start
  2. Set guess = 500; upper = 1,000; lower = 0;
  3. Do:
    1. Submit guess
    2. If guess is higher
      1. Set upper = guess;
      2. Set guess = (guess + lower) / 2;
    3. Else if guess is lower
      1. Set lower = guess;
      2. Set guess = (guess + higher) / 2;
    4. Else
      1. Return number found: guess
  4. while guess is wrong
  5. Stop

(BTW, I follow a convention of rounding numbers ending in .5 to the nearest even, so 4.5 rounds to 4 and 5.5 rounds to 6).

The above algorithim is called binary search.

To illustrate how this works, I'm going to generate a random number between 1 and 1,000: 639

Then I follow the algorithm:
  1. Start
  2. guess = 500; upper = 1,000; lower = 0;
  3. Do:
    1. Loop 1
      1. Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is lower
      2. lower = 500;
      3. guess = (500 + 1000) / 2 = 750;
    2. Loop 2
      • Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is higher
      • higher = 750;
      • guess = (500 + 750) / 2 = 625;
    3. Loop 3
      1. Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is lower
      2. lower = 625;
      3. guess = (625+ 750) / 2 = 687.5 = 688;
    4. Loop 4
      • Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is higher
      • higher = 688;
      • guess = (625+ 688) / 2 = 656.5 = 656;
    5. Loop 5
      • Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is higher
      • higher = 656;
      • guess = (625+ 656) / 2 = 640.5 = 640;
    6. Loop 6
      • Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is higher
      • higher = 640;
      • guess = (625+ 640) / 2 = 632.5 = 632;
    7. Loop 7
      1. Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is lower
      2. lower = 632;
      3. guess = (632+ 640) / 2 = 636;
    8. Loop 8
      1. Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is lower
      2. lower = 636;
      3. guess = (636+ 640) / 2 = 638;
    9. Loop 9
      1. Submit guess;
        • Response: guess is lower
      2. lower = 638;
      3. guess = (638+ 640) / 2 = 639;
  4. Stop

So we could figure out the answer within 9 guesses as promised.

Zoro applied binary search to locate Pica's body within the stone, and he came up with it nearly immediately after he decided on Tactics No.5 (so less than the two minutes I gave you guys).

Zoro makes the first cut by bisecting the golem in two horizontally:

Zoro identifies which half of the golem Pica escaped to:

Zoro then makes the second cut to split the top half of the golem in two vertically:

Zoro again narrows down which half of the golem Pica escaped to:

Zoro makes a third cut to split the right half of the golem in two (seperated at the shoulder):

Zoro once again narrows down which half of the golem Pica escaped to:

After narrowing the location of the Pica's real body to the golem's right arm, Zoro splits the arm into several pieces:

Pica acknowledged that Zoro had successfully trapped Pica in mid air:

Independently discovering binary search within a few seconds of thinking and applying it to isolate Pica's true body is an uncommon display of intelligence. At the very least, several of my 2nd year computer science classmates were unable to discover the algorithm when presented with the game I showed you guys above. And these were people that were studying computer science in a formal capacity. Zoro had no such training or exposure to the field of computer science and yet he independently discovered an optimal algorithm for searching a sorted list within seconds of thinking about the problem, and then successfully applied it under a very high pressure situation (Pica was about to destroy the King's Plateau, killing several (tens of?) thousands of people).

Other Displays of Intelligence
Aside from the two examples I posted above in which Zoro displayed exceptional intelligence, there are several other examples in which Zoro's intelligence shone through. Below is a non exhaustive list:
  • Zoro was able to deduce the reality of Nami’s situation in Arlong Park.
  • Zoro (along with Nami) was smart enough to know that the crew was walking into a trap at Whiskey Peak and completely fooled the BW Agents.
  • When the group first arrives at Skypiea, Zoro thinks about how they should anchor the ship while Luffy says it doesn’t matter. He proceeds to then anchor the ship.
  • After it’s revealed that Nola the giant snake can instantly kill someone with its poison, Zoro suggests a strategic retreat.
  • Zoro advised the crew to be calm about Robin situation and came up with the idea to infiltrated the Galley-la compagny headquarters.
  • After first finding out about the Robin issue in Water 7, Zoro takes over and tells the group how they should handle it (although he leaves the final decisions to Luffy).
  • Despite not speaking to Robin yet, Zoro was able to deduce that the reason Robin had given Sanji and Chopper was a lie.
  • After Luffy decided to attack the Marines on his own in Enies Lobby, Zoro modified their initial plan on the spot.
  • Zoro explained why Usopp cannot be let back into the crew unless he gave a proper apology.
  • Zoro explained to the rest of the crew that Luffy can not deal with tricky opponents and that they would need to deal with Oars themselves.
  • In Sabaody Archipelago, he quickly figured out that Camie’s friend was actually former Arlong Pirates member Hacchin, and together with Nami tricked him into outing himself.
  • Zoro released Neptune after realising that Hody was a bigger threat.
  • Zoro pointed out that the torso Brook had engaged in a sword fight with was actually Kin’emon’s.
  • Zoro figured out that Kin’emon’s torso was in a nearby lake.
    • Subverting his usual gag, he even remembers what direction it’s in.
  • While him, Brook, Sanji-Nami, and Kin’emon are fleeing from Shinokuni, when Zoro spots the green dragon, he suggests to the others that they use the green dragon to try and fly away from the gas monster.
  • When he, Luffy, Kin’emon, and Viola sneak into Doflamingo’s palace, Zoro explained how Luffy could use his powers to reach the top of the castle with Viola.
  • When Chinjao and Elizabello destroy Stone Golem Form Pica’s left arm, Zoro tells them that the arm would just grow back and that until they figured out how his ability works attacking him was just a waste of strength.
  • Zoro came up with the idea to slow down the Birdcage instead of just standing around and panicking about it.
  • On Zou, he explained why they could not carelessly go to Whole Cake Island to retrieve Sanji when they were already embroiled in conflict with a Yonkou.

Depictions of Stupidity
As far as I'm aware, excluding gag scenes (e.g. Zoro's nonexistent sense of direction), the only occasion in which Zoro has been unironically depicted as foolish was at the start of the timeskip.

Rayleigh states that one of the male Strawhats didn't seem "very sharp" and suggests that they may have difficulty figuring out the true meaning of Luffy's 3D2Y message:

Unlike the other Strawhats, Zoro takes some time to actually deduce the message Luffy intended to convey in that scene:

I consider this a credible argument that Zoro is not that bright among the Strawhats, but:
  • There may have been an issue with domain knowledge.
    • Zoro may simply not have been aware of a lot of the symbolism behind Luffy's actions.
    • As I said earlier, a lack of specific knowledge isn't a deficit of intelligence.
  • Even while he wasn't able to instantly figure out Luffy's message, he still demonstrated adequate intelligence when trying to solve the puzzle:
    • He realised that Rayleigh must have orchestrated the events.
    • He figured out that there must have been a hidden message that Luffy was trying to pass across.
  • Zoro failing to figure out one message doesn't overshadow Zoro's other exceptional displays of intelligence.
    • Tactics 5, in particular, comes several hundred chapters after 3D2Y.

Nevertheless, this was an intellectual task in which Zoro out of all the other Strawhats was singled out and depicted as facing some difficulty, so the accusation that Zoro is one of the more stupid Strawhats isn't completely without merit.

Interlude: P0ll
Here are the questions for the p0ll:
  1. Were you able to figure out the optimal strategy for the guessing numbers game?
  2. Do you agree that Zoro has displayed impressive intelligence on more than one occasion?
  3. Do you think that Zoro was unable to figure out the meaning of 3D2Y on his own is because he's stupid?
  4. Do you think that Zoro is generally stupid?
  5. Do you think that Zoro is generally intelligent?

Beyond domain specific knowledge, Zoro is actually pretty smart.

This essay is still very incomplete. Assistance with panels, other occasions in which Zoro demonstrated exceptional or above average intelligence, and non gag scenes in which Zoro was depicted as stupid would be appreciated.

To summarise my arguments earlier:
  • Zoro is not part of the idiot trio.
  • Zoro has demonstrated exceptional applications of intelligence:
    • He independently discovered and applied two factor authentication to verifying the Strawhats' identity in Alabasta.
    • He indepenedntly discovered and applied binary search to locating Pica's real body in Dressrosa.
  • Zoro has many other occasions in which his intelligence shone through.
  • The only example of Zoro unironically being depicted as stupid was the 3D2Y plan, but this may have been due to Zoro simply lacking knowledge on the symbolism of Luffy's actions.
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I don't think he's stupid, Zoro has a quick mind when it comes to combat and problem solving.
Pica, for example, was a problem-solving task more than a power task, Zoro had to find the way to stop him for good and analyzed 5 possible scenario to deal with the problem. Out of the 5, he chosed the most effective approach.
Another example is how he thought about the consequences of resquing Sanji as soon as the topic started.
Or during the raid when he decided to take a temporarily KOed Luffy and run away instead of fighting Apoo and the army, which is a sign of smart thinking, not of cowardice.

However, even if he has a good mind when it comes to combat and tactical matters, in the rest of the fields people like Robin, Usopp, Nami, Franky, Sanji, Chopper are years ahead of him in terms of 'conventional intelligence'.

It's not even right to say that they're more intelligent than him, is more like a different kind of intelligence:
Chopper, who is a doctor, has deep scientific and medical intelligence, empathetic intelligence too
Franky has mechanical and engineering intelligence in general, being him an engineer/mechanic
Zoro has kinestethetic intelligence and great discipline. It's just that what he's good at is less seen as something that requires 'intelligence' when compared to more convetional types (Chopper, Franky, Robin) but he has his own kind of intelligence too.

And the fact that him being the stoic of the crew makes for good gags
Zoro is not a complete idiot, but there are different kinds of intelligence. Your examples of computer science with the 2Factor authentification and the binary search thing are vastly exaggerated.
Zoro is good at staying calm and thinking clearly in dangerous situations, he's a battle genius similarly to Luffy, he can sense when there is danger ahead etc
Rayleigh literally stated that Zoro might be "too stupid" to figure 3D2Y and he really ended up struggling with it.

Zoro is far from being a "book intellectual", he is better in the 'street smarts' department.
All in all , it wouldn't even make any sense if all of the strawhat members were good at the same kind of intelligence.


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Your examples of computer science with the 2Factor authentification and the binary search thing are vastly exaggerated.
How were they "vastly" exaggerated?

Rayleigh literally stated that Zoro might be "too stupid" to figure 3D2Y and he really ended up struggling with it.
Yeah, I addressed this:
I consider this a credible argument that Zoro is not that bright among the Strawhats, but:
  • There may have been an issue with domain knowledge.
    • Zoro may simply not have been aware of a lot of the symbolism behind Luffy's actions.
    • As I said earlier, a lack of specific knowledge isn't a deficit of intelligence.
  • Zoro failing to figure out one message doesn't overshadow Zoro's other exceptional displays of intelligence.
    • Tactics 5 in particular comes several hundred chapters after 3D2Y.
Zoro not being aware of the lore behind Luffy's actions ringing the bell and such, doesn't make him stupid.


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Zoro defeated Pica in O(logn) runtime.
Yes. Most people don't understand how impressive independently discovering binary search within seconds and applying it under a high pressure combat situation is.

@solis: I have a Bachelor's in computer science. In my second year, we were presented an exercise similar to the game I presented in my post. Several of my classmates did not discover the correct strategy. These are people who were studying computer science in an official capacity. Yet they could not independently discover binary search.

That is one of the most amazing applications of intelligence in the manga, especially as Zoro has no traditional academic education.

he's stupid, but not luffy kind of stupid
How is he stupid?
The fact that the man can go in a straight line doesn't help ahaha but yeah he isn't dumb even though he does dumb thighs when with the crew or with luffy and sanji ahah. All of them act dumb but aren't really
Take it with a pitch of salt lads enjoy a lough or two this is a also a comedy series