King’s Haki and Romanticization:
Among the 3 different types of Haki, King’s Haki serves a very special role, but perhaps not the one we all think it is.
Within the narrative King’s Haki is HEAVILY romanticized. King’s Haki is the only one with a given mythology to it. We all know the supposed “facts” about King’s Haki. Disposition of the King, Uber rare group of chosen one’s, etc. Let’s get into it.
What we Practically know about King’s Haki and the patterns.
King’s Haki is supposedly the select power of the chosen ones, that are designated at birth to have the disposition of Kings. But when we actually look at many of these characters, we can see a different set of 3 common traits.
For one, charisma, which is, funnily enough, a trait very similar to King’s Haki, given the vague mythologizing it receives in real life. But far more importantly there’s protectiveness. Each and every King’s Haki User is shown to be quite protective of…. something. This is of interest, as the introduction of villains using Kings Haki coincides with the introduction of Major Villain’s with flashbacks and psychology which we delve into. This includes what they work to protect.
Crocodile, Enel, Lucci, Moriah and Hody were shown to not really care about much (at least in their introductory arcs). In contrast Doffy, Katakuri and Kaido are all quite caring of their crewmates, while Big Mom protects her memories.
And then of course our protagonist characters and their allies. Ace, Luffy, Roger, Whitebeard, Shanks… All quite protective. In fact, many of the scenes of characters first or 2nd time their King’s Haki involve them protecting someone (Luffy, Ace, Shanks).
In fact, with all of this I would honestly believe that King’s Haki is a primarily defensive ability which is why I take issue with the Conquerors translation. It’s not incorrect, but it does give off a connotation that really distracts from what ideal kings would be: Equal part shield as sword.
Finally, we have the dream and the will to actualize. We’ve had a few occurrences in the series of the idea of Kingly ambitions. However, it should be noted that this is very loose. Very rarely do these dreams have to do with being a king in the political sense.
– Zoro wishes to be the greatest swordsman.
– Luffy wants to be the freest in the sea.
– Whitebeard wanted a family.
I think these few examples show the wide range in scale that a King’s Haki user can have. Some are extreme, some are humble, and most are in between.
I think with these 3 in mind I think a different criterion emerges. To me they come through as charismatic people actualizing their dreams through will, while simultaneously fighting tooth and nail to protect something outside themselves.
Now this leads to a point I’d like to make. Because One Piece is a series where willpower correlates to power, Kings Haki correlates to power. But neither of the two cause each other.
A clear example would be Ace, who had Kings haki as a child. Are we then to say that Ace as a Child could beat let’s say Smoothie or Cracker? No. But we would say he has the potential to become very dangerous.
The biggest thing I’d like to note is that these are not traits you train into. They are traits that come from a certain set of life experiences, trials and tribulations. But these experiences and this development could happen to anyone.
My Conjecture About Kings Haki, it’s history and applications:
I don’t think King’s Haki is all that special. That is to say that all the aforementioned mythology that surrounds King’s Haki is propaganda meant to serve the world government, while also serving as a tool Oda uses to teach the audience about the dangers of romanticizing leadership.
To get into this, let’s get into real world history. Throughout human history in our world those in power have often made claims to power by appealing to some divine authority. There’s the Divine Right to Rule, Manifest Destiny and the Mandate of Heaven to name a few.
Essentially these claims romanticize leadership and conquest, dictating that certain people are more capable or deserving of leadership because of the presence of an intangible, “mysterious” trait. Does that remind you of anything?
I think it’s quite possible that at one point in the history of the One Piece World, the celestial Dragons (and maybe one other clan) had access to King’s Haki while no one else did and used that fact to claim that they were stronger and generally better than others. This propaganda spread across to the point where the world at large believes so.
It should be noted that King’s Haki has a weird name among the names of types of haki. King’s Haki is the only one seemingly named for someone’s identity as opposed to an action they take. Armament haki, arms. Observation haki, observes…
Kings don’t really “King.” Now Rulers do rule, and Conquerors do Conquer (although I have beef with this translation that I’ll get to later). But does intimidation (the default King’s Haki ability) have much to do with being a King? Nope. Being a king facilitates intimidation, as people would fear the consequence of a king’s anger, but intimidation isn’t even a required action of a king, barring a Machiavellian interpretation of leadership. So now I ask, is it possible that the Ancestors of the existing world leaders renamed this intimidation haki to kings haki to serve a certain purpose…
Now assuming this is true, it has clearly worked in One Piece. Now has it worked outside?
Yep. Most definitely. Every discussion about King’s Haki comes down to a discussion about whether a character “deserves” it or has proven themselves. Or whether someone’s favorite character has it. Or if x character is strong enough to have it. Or if they are strong, when will they be “proven” to have it. Or about how badass a character is.
Now I would claim that this is a problem simply because we in the audience as well as people in the series are showing a bias to associate leadership ability with frankly loosely traits (A king is more than just a badass). More problematic is the belief that only certain people are destined to be leaders, and that this ability may be genetic. This type of thinking fuels monarchies in the One Piece World and the real world.
The fueling of monarchies is a point of special interest. As that is what explains the actual power of Kings Haki. The Political Power.
If you are a monarchy in power it pays to explain to your subjects that only some people are capable of ruling. What breaks that illusion however is the existence of people outside of the system with the same traits. The reason why the Marines panicked when Luffy used his King’s Haki in Marineford is spelled right out for us in Vice Admiral Doberman’s reaction. It’s not the ability itself but rather what it tells the characters about Luffy. He has the potential to propose an alternative worldview than the world government’s, which is why they must kill him before he becomes a problem (too late now).
For a real world example this is why The U.S. government assassinated Fred Hampton and other non-capitalists for having an alternative world view. That fact along with the fact that he had an insane dream, almost unending willpower and something to fight for made him dangerous. In One Piece, those same traits make Luffy, to quote Zeff, a bad enemy. And as a captain, Luffy proposes an alternative way of leadership, in which every one follows their dream while equally helping each other.
Would King’s Haki Being natal conflict with the themes of One Piece?
Now again this proposal contrasts with some ideas we were told about the ability. I believe this to be the truth particularly because the alternative doesn’t really work with the themes of One Piece. To me, making King’s Haki special would be in fact telling the audience that it’s best to wait until someone born special comes to fix your problems, which… nah. Oda clearly fights against this mantra with the moment of Bello Betty freeing the island against Pink beard.
In a proper revolution, individual people need to be aware of their own capacity to be the masters of their own destiny and it’s quite clear that Oda is aware of this. I don’t think I need to explain how One Piece is a series about personal freedom and revolution in the face of tyranny (after pirates of course)
Now to be fair, there are a few characters in One Piece who have tied the idea to bloodlines and my theory is somewhat convenient as I can claim that because it’s propaganda of world history, every character is just believing a lie. I will admit to the convenience.
However, what makes it weird is that our Haki Obi-Wan/ mentor, Haki mouthpiece Rayleigh, someone who knows the True History, didn’t. Instead, he just said that it was rare to develop and couldn’t be trained which many fans took to believe means that you’re born with it. Which is funny cause there are traits in real life that have the same Je ne sais quoi aspect to them. For example: charisma.
I am especially leaning into the fact that Rayleigh didn’t say it because Rayleigh explained haki after these war moments. If what Ivankov, Garp and Doberman said was true and we already knew it, then why didn’t Rayleigh repeat it…
So now, I don’t think you’re born with it. I think that certain life paths and experiences lend to its development, making it rare. I’d imagine getting through trials and tribulations would make someone capable of such an ability. But if your descendants don’t experience this, then why would they develop it?
One Last Conjecture.
So given everything I have said, is it to be believed that King’s Haki is nothing special? I honestly doubt this as well. It should be noted that it’s most basic ability is incredibly useful, especially against a race whose most powerful asset is their numbers.
Now, I am wondering if humans/Celestial Dragon Ancestors developed devil fruits as a way to combat the stronger races, especially when they realized King’s Haki wasn’t their birthright.
But also, my brain does feel like it may be connected to Uranus, for the simple fact that it looks like lightning, which completes the chariot image that the other 2 ancient weapons make… but that’s about it. This is of course IF Pluton turns out to be a big boat like Noah.
I really doubt King’s Haki is all it’s cracked up to be. The romanticization of Kings Haki’s is probably a form of propaganda from the world government who, at one point believed they had a monopoly on the ability. The Dragons, and perhaps one other notable clan, were the first to develop this ability, and took to different perspectives when they discovered that it wasn’t exclusive. I’m assuming one laughed and the other…did not. Another possibility is that the ability has a connection to Uranus. Probably not, but possibly. We’ll just have to wait and see.
(Also note I did exclude 2 characters from this so as to not to spoil the anime only crowd. If you’re about to ask why they aren’t here, this is why)
But also remember. Don’t deify leaders/leadership. I repeat a great leader could come from anywhere so long as they have the guts to both live their dream and fight for something bigger than themselves.
Theory by nDoozy (https://www.reddit.com/user/nDoozy)