One Piece is like a long-running RPG series. Each story arc is a new game. The party carries over between entries, growing more lovable and complex with each entry. And with each game, we get tons of new characters and even a new party member or two! By the time you reach the third or fourth game of the series, you’ll know and love all these characters like your own friends and family.
And just like a family: you’ll have your favorites. As well as your least favorites.
You can see where this is going.
Something about Chopper has always bothered me. Sure, he’s cute. Sure, he’s funny. Sure, he’s got his moments to shine. But he never quite clicked with me like all the other Straw Hats did. It’s a consistent struggle to decide who my favorite member of the crew is; but never once have I even considered this little reindeer boy.
There a few reasons for this. His objective is uninteresting. His combat abilities are neat, but underused. And his arc is basically non-existent. He feels more like the typical cute animal mascot rather than an actual character.
Everyone in the Straw Hat crew has a grand goal. Luffy wants to be King of the Pirates. Zoro wants to be the greatest swordsman. Sanji wants to find the All Blue. Robin wants to learn the true history of the world. So on and so forth. Each of their objectives drives the characters forward, both physically and emotionally. It’s an essential part of their character arcs.
Chopper… well, he just wants to be a good doctor. Which… he already is. Has been since the day we met him. Sure, he wasn’t a good one in his flashback. But by the time he joins the Straw Hats, he’s already a perfectly fine physician. Never once has he failed to get anyone on the crew out of a scrape.
His arc suffers because of this. Mostly because he doesn’t really have one. He never grows more mature as a person, nor do his medical skills grow in any obvious or meaningful ways. We know that he supposedly learned new medical techniques during the time skip, but that doesn’t amount to much as we never know the difference between what he was capable of before and what he can do now.
To illustrate my point: pre-time skip Zoro could cut a tower. Post-time skip Zoro can slice a mountain. Pre-time skip Chopper could cure a disease. Post-time skip Chopper can cure… a disease. See my point?
You may say that’s because it was his combat skills that grew, not his medicinal skills. And yes, that’s true. But firstly: his combat abilities are directly tied to his skills as a doctor, as they’re directly tied to the Rumble Ball. Secondly: all that really amounts to is that he can control his Monster form. Which inherently takes away what was interesting about that form in the first place.
See, each Rumble Ball form had different uses. Guard Point for defense, Speed Point for mobility, so on and so forth. Monster form was interesting because it was more powerful than all of the others, but he couldn’t control it. Now that he can, what’s to stop him from using it all the time instead of using any of his others? Aside from a time limit: nothing. That’s why he just goes straight to using it in whatever fight he might get.
Which, nowadays, isn’t many. Chopper very rarely gets extensive focus in the manga anymore, and even less of that time is spent fighting. Hell, the other two members of the coward trio, Nami and Usopp, both participate in far more battles than Chopper does! And those are the two objectively weakest members of the crew!
You might think from the tone and content of this article that I hate Chopper. While I certainly have my issues, I don’t hate the little reindeer. I can’t bring myself to hate anyone on the Straw Hat crew. But I just can’t bring myself to love Chopper like I do all the others.
No matter how many cute plushies get shoved my way.