One Piece And The Importance Of Finding Family Among Your Friends

The Straw Hat Crew is a celebration of unconventional "families"

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Growing up, I heard a number of t-shirt-ready catchphrases about family, like "NOTHING IS THICKER THAN BLOOD!" and "YOUR FRIENDS WILL COME AND GO, BUT YOU'LL ALWAYS HAVE YOUR FAMILY!" Usually, these came from people that weren't actually in my family, and to a child, they all sounded like inescapable warnings: "YOUR FRIENDS WILL LEAVE YOU, BUT YOUR FAMILY IS AN UNDERGROUND TOMB FROM WHICH THERE IS NO EXIT." Even as an adult they seem ominous, as if your family isn't something that you find love and comfort in, but rather just something you suffer through. And to a few of my friends, they are. 

 

So when someone tells me "My friends have become my family," I totally understand. Heck, my favorite series is One Piece. I HAVE to understand.

 

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If you watch One Piece, you've definitely heard the term "nakama." To put it simply, it means "friend," but when filtered through the world of One Piece, it's come to represent the people that you're so close to that they've become family or even more than that. It's mostly used to describe Luffy's crew, people and cyborgs and skeletons and creatures that have always had an unconventional definition of family but have now settled in with a bunch of weirdos that love them. And even though life aboard the Thousand Sunny is a non-stop barrage of sitcom hijinks, there's a deeper message there about how the family that you pick can be healthier for you than the family that you're born into.

 

Of course, you have Luffy, who barely knows his Dad but doesn't seem to mind that much. But you also have Sanji, who was born into a family of tyrannical super solider psychopaths and fled to find companionship among a boat full of unruly cooks. And sure, neither Zeff or the Straw Hats are perfect, but they actually care for Sanji's well-being. They want the best for the dude. Vinsmoke Judge is just embarrasssed of him, forcing the looming spectre of family upon Sanji in order to make him feel nothing but guilt.

 

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And then there's Nami, whose adoptive mother was cruelly murdered by Arlong. She was then "adopted" by Arlong's pirate crew, who blackmailed her into doing work for them. After spending most of her life doing that, she finally met Luffy, a pirate that also knew her gifts. But unlike Arlong, Luffy brought no demands. He didn't want to "use" her. Even when he beat down Arlong, he didn't do it for the promise that Nami would join the Straw Hats. He just did it because, crew member or otherwise, Nami was his "nakama" now. And when you have someone like that in your life, you can't help but kinda want to jump on a sheep-themed boat with them. 

 

Chopper was a part of a herd of reindeer until he ate the Devil Fruit that turned him into the adorable half reindeer/half man that he is now. He was kicked out of his family simply for being different and after a string of parental figures like Dr. Hiriluk, he finally found his "forever home" among the Straw Hats. And that's the point of the Straw Hats in the end. Luffy becoming King of the Pirates is almost secondary when you consider how important it is that all of these crew members have found their place in the world, a place that loves them. 

 

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I think this theme is important to remember on Father's Day because I know a lot of people that aren't close with their families, and some that don't even speak to their families anymore. This kind of thing can happen for a number of reasons, but a common one is that their parents just didn't accept them anymore. Their parents were toxic and cruel when they should've been understanding and respectful.

 

There's a big difference between not wanting to visit your parents because they're making a ham for Christmas dinner when everyone else wanted turkey, and not wanting to visit your parents because they maintain a sense of vileness that goes against everything you believe in. The first is something you can manage (because Christmas hams are DELICIOUS), the second is something that hurts you over time. I've watched my friends go through it. It eats at them in ways that they can barely describe. It can make you feel worse than just about anything else in the world. 

 

So to all of those people who have found family among friends, I hope you have a great day, even if you're not celebrating anything on it. As One Piece shows us, to find people that are willing to care for us in a way that families should is truly a gift. Anyone that hurts you and then tries to pass it off with "BUT I AM YOUR FAMILY, AND YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH ME, BECAUSE I AM, UMM, YOUR FAMILY!" is full of it. Be like the Straw Hat Crew. Embrace those that embrace you. Find joy among the people that make you feel happiest. Give love to those that make you feel worthy of it. 

 

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(And watch One Piece on Crunchyroll! It's great, and the Wano arc is almost here! I love it! You'll love it!)

 

Do you have friends that you consider family? Would you join the Straw Hat Crew? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. You can follow him on Twitter. 


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