So building on what I wrote at the end of the last Mini Mendacious Moment, I wanted to show case just how the Designated Girl Fight works in action; and one of the clearest examples of this silly trope is found in One Piece. I love this manga to bits as it’s genuinely interesting with quirky characters and a really well developed world, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the author needs to constantly invoke this trope in each brawl. Robin, the other female crew members, fairs a bit better, but Nami has this constantly, almost religiously, applied to her and when there is no female opponent for her to face, expect her to need rescuing or do support work.

Early in the manga, Nami is portrayed as one of the weakest members (along with Usopp). As such, she rarely fights and when she does, it’s usually against no name mooks. When she is first introduced, Luffy ends up saving her twice. First against a group of mooks and then against Buggy.


Nami is saved from Buggy by Luffy in her earliest appearance

This would be perfectly fine, especially since the male Usopp is likewise painted as of “normal strength” and rarely engaging enemies early on and winning. It would have been a case of Nami just not being a fighter, except once the full crew brawls start up in the Alabrasta arc, everyone including Nami and Ussop join the fighting. Yet unlike Usopp, Nami is always stuck fighting female villains or mooks.

Nami engaging some mooks and being overpowered 
during the Captain Kuro arc, where Usopp is introduced.

Nami was the designated damsel in distress during the Arlong arc and did not engage in any battles.

This trend of Nami rarely fighting continued on until the first real full out brawl in Alabasta. Before Alabasta, Nami was either caught in an enemy trap with the other crew members (Little Garden), told Zoro to do the heavy lifting (Whisky Peak), or was dangerously sick and out cold (Drum Kingdom).

Nami’s first real fight comes in the form of another lady, Miss Doublefinger. A trend that continues for the rest of her major fights.

Other than Miss Doublefinger, there is one other female fighter in this brawl, but she’s an ugly old bat (Miss Merry Christmas) and we all know that means she doesn’t count because the only female characters that matter are the hot ones.

Nami takes out one of the lesser priests in the Skypiea arc.

The next major arc does not actually have a female villain, so instead Nami and another male character, Gan Fall, take on two lesser priests (not major villains but not quite mooks either). Gan Fall takes out one and Nami takes out the other with the help of the impact dial. Oddly enough, this is the only time she uses it. Perhaps because it hurts too much to use for someone not skilled in combat* (see above)? Funny enough, she plays the damsel in distress yet again this arc. When the others fall to Enel, she decides to go with him rather than be killed.** So the rest of the arc is dedicated to the gang trying to save her from Enel.

*Multiple other character seem to be able to use it fine though, so I’m guessing it must be because Nami isn’t a trained fighter. This is actually something that the manga brings up a lot. Most recently when Sanji was in Nami’s body (long story, will make sense when you get to the part), he was worried whether he should be using certain skills in her body. In particular, he was worried her muscle couldn’t take it.

**Funny enough, nobody was actually killed in that scene . They were just knocked unconscious.

Nami’s first opponent easily overpowers her.

The next major arc is Water 7. In this arc, the Straw Hat pirates take on CP9 in an attempt to save Robin (who is now the designated damsel in distress). Early on, it appears that Oda is going to avoid this trap as Nami gets paired off with Kumadori and Sanji with Kalifa, but Kumadori becomes too much for Nami and she manages to escape thanks to Chopper (who later comes back to fight Kumadori). Sanji, on the other hand, could have easily beaten Kalifa, but his refusal to harm any women (note that this is one of the major reasons Designated Girl Fights happen) gets him into trouble and Nami comes to take her on in his place.

Nami’s real fight in this arc is against yet another good looking woman.

Nami wins this fight thanks to her upgraded Clima Tact, but once again, she has been paired off with the only female villain of the group.

Usopp fights the female villain this time, but he doesn’t physically harm her.

The next arc, Thriller Bark, is a rather interesting specimen. In this arc, Usopp takes on and defeats the female villain. Now this would be a subversion if not for the fact that he beats her entirely using psychological means. He uses cockroach toys and a balloon hammer to scare her into submission. Why is this not a subversion? Because she’s still physically unharmed (and the rule of men do not hit girls hasn’t been broken). Furthermore, it plays into gender stereotypes like girls are easily scared and weaker (the latter is why men shouldn’t hit girls and why the designated girl fights happen) and undermines her as a warrior. A warrior being defeated by being scared into submission is not a real warrior.

Nami is once again the designated rescue item.

Meanwhile, Nami becomes the designated rescue item again. Absolum, one of the big bads, deems her weak and hot, so he decides to marry her. She spends a good portion of the arc running away from him until finally she is caught and Sanji comes in to rescue her. Now it is true that she delivers the finishing blow to him later on, but it’s made pretty apparent (by a zombie reaffirming it right after) that she only managed to land the blow because he was weakened by Sanji. If the author is going to such lengths to make sure we don’t think Nami won this fight herself, then I can’t consider it her fight at all. It was Sanji’s fight and Nami, having no other female opponents (because Usopp took on Perona), was not allowed the chance to fight. Likewise, Robin had no major fights either. She either took on mooks or helped out with the Oarz fight. When she took on Zoro’s zombie, alone, she was easily captured.

Nami and Robin fighting off mooks during the Duval mini-arc.

The next part of the manga is a small mini-arc. I like to call it the Duval mini arc after the main villain. While no one really fights any major fights here outside of Luffy and Sanji, it is worth pointing out that Oda has no problems showing Nami and Robin (on the same page no less) having no problem taking out no name (male) mooks. The problems start coming up when they are named and important male villains. Such a shame.

 

When confronted by Kuma, Nami calls out to Luffy to “save her”.

On Sabody, the Straw Hat crew faces their first ever total defeat. The interesting thing here is that out of all the crew members confronted by Kuma, Nami is the only one to actually call for help. This once again reinforces her as the designated rescue item. This is especially telling since Usopp, Chopper, and Brook are not above running away in fear or crying out in fear, yet none of them cry out for help during this part. It is only Nami.

Nami only takes on mooks again on Fishman Island

Post-time skip, the first major all crew brawl takes place on Fishman Island. The boys all get named opponents, but Nami and Robin are once again regulated to picking off mooks. Also note that there were no female villains this time as well.

Nami gets kidnapped…again.

In the current on-going arc on Punk Hazard, Nami, this time in Franky’s body thanks to Trafalgar’s devil fruit ability, gets kidnapped by two enemies. So even in the all powerful body of Frank, she’s still forced to play the damsel in distress. That is really disheartening. One would hope Oda would move past this really silly trope (designated girl fight) and forcing Nami to always play the rescue item, but it looks like it’s here to stay.

Oda fully parodies this trope in the Impel Down arc.

Especially given what happens during the Impel Down arc (see above). With no female on the hero’s side, but a female villainess, Oda has Ivankov turn into a women (via his devil fruit powers) to take on Saddi. Saddi even points it out and Ivankov only answers that he “happened” to be in a womanly mood. It’s a funny parody, to be sure, but I would have appreciated a subversion so much more from Oda than a parody, especially since he seems so reluctant on moving beyond this trend he has set for Nami. One can hope, but for the time being, Nami is stuck in two very traditional tropes that have been applied to the chick in an all male fighting group so many countless times before.

–SW

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