One Piece's Straw Hat Pirates may seem like a band of jollywags, but each member hides a deep and compelling background. While fans are knowledgeable about every Straw Hat's origin story, a lot about them remains unknown -- perhaps even to themselves. For instance, Nami was raised by the former Marine officer Belle-Mere, yet even she does not know who her real parents are -- and likely doesn't care. The same can be said about the pirate crew's second strongest, Roronoa Zoro. But unlike Nami, Zoro's character could have been further explored during the "Wano Country" arc.
The "Wano" arc is primarily focused on the devious Kaido's dethronement, while the Straw Hats have allied with other pirate crews, races and the oppressed locals known as the Samurai. However, given that Wano is home to One Piece's bravest swordsmen, it seemed logical that a certain sword maniac would receive certain developments during this arc. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case; it simply glossed over Zoro's possible connection to the land of Samurai without providing any definitive information.
What One Piece Fans Knew About Zoro Before Wano
Since Zoro was the first member Luffy recruited to join the Straw Hat Pirates, fans are fairly knowledgeable about his origin. In a flashback, Zoro is shown to have a knack for using the sword. He believes the more swords a wielder uses, the stronger they will be. So when he first challenges a dojo in Shimotsuki Village, he tries to fight with as many bamboo swords as he can hold. This antic may seem goofy at first, but it eventually became one of Zoro's defining characteristics. Of course, his backstory doesn't end on a happy note, which seems to be a trend in One Piece.
Being a naive child without actual sword training, Zoro suffers a humiliating defeat from Kuina and ends up joining the same dojo as her. Defeating Kuina becomes his goal and he continues to work hard to become the strongest. Unfortunately, Zoro fails to overcome her before the young girl's tragic death. Zoro then asks for Kuina's sword, Wado Ichimonji. It is one of the 21 Great Grade swords and is crafted by none other than Kuina's blacksmith grandfather, Shimotsuki Kozaburo. As it turns out, Zoro's connection with the Shimotsuki family didn't end there.
How the Wano Arc Could Have Explored Zoro's Character Further
The "Wano Country" arc has done a lot of good for Zoro. For one, he receives one of Kozuki Oden's cherished swords, Enma. This sword is renowned for being hard to control since it forcibly consumes its wielder's Haki. Zoro has undergone rigorous training to wield it properly, which has also increased his battle prowess. By this point, Zoro has proven himself to be among the strongest characters in One Piece's present timeline, having wounded Kaido while also taking down King.
Aside from featuring notable feats, the "Wano" arc also revealed Zoro's possible connection to Wano itself, especially the Shimotsuki family. In exchange for Enma, Zoro returns Shusui -- the sword wielded and given to him by Shimotsuki Ryuma in Thriller Bark -- to its proper home. Interestingly, Enma is also connected to the Shimotsuki. It was forged by one Shimotsuki Kozaburo -- Kuina's grandfather. In addition, both Kawamatsu and Hyogoro have noted his resemblance to other Shimotsuki members. According to them, Zoro is the spitting image of Shimotsuki Ushimaru during his youth. He also shares the image of a one-eyed swordsman with the legendary God of the Blade, Shimotsuki Ryuma.
Although the arc hinted that Zoro is connected to the Shimotsuki family of Wano, One Piece is yet to give official confirmation. While creator Eiichiro Oda has confirmed in an SBS that Ushimaru is not Zoro's father, that is not enough to eliminate the possibility of the Shimotsuki blood -- or any other Samurai family blood -- running through Zoro's veins. After all, other Samurai may have been able to escape Wano Country like Shimotsuki Kozaburo did.
Sanji Has Received Crucial Character Development, So Why Not Zoro?
Even after the "Wano Country" arc's conclusion, One Piece fans remain largely clueless about Zoro's origin. It is even more frustrating since Sanji, another main force of the Straw Hats, has an entire arc dedicated to him. Like Zoro, Sanji's initial backstory revolved around him and his foster parent. The crew's time at Whole Cake Island revealed that not only is Sanji's real family alive, but he is also of a royal bloodline.
Furthermore, the "Whole Cake Island" arc further expounded Sanji's character. He has proved his loyalty to his crew mates while also cementing his image as a gentleman cook. More importantly, that arc showcased Sanji getting in touch with his roots, even receiving an interesting power-up. So when will Zoro receive the same treatment?
It's not like Zoro has to turn out to be some sort of monster. The "Wano" arc could have simply had him reconnect with the Shimotsuki family, especially since they are hinted to be strongly tied together by more than a tragic past. And even if he isn't directly part of the family -- or any Samurai family in that regard -- he still has ample reason to at least visit them. His greatest rival -- and possibly first love -- was of Shimotsuki descent, while the creator of two of his swords is someone he has personally met. So while the "Wano Country" arc is nothing short of epic, One Piece could have done better by shedding more light on Zoro's character history.