One Piece Chapter 1053 gave readers their first real look at Admiral Ryokugyū. His character design is a complex one, so there’s a lot to unpack.
After many years, Admiral Ryokugyū finally revealed his physical appearance in One Piece. Originally, the Admiral appeared in Chapter 905, “What a Beautiful World,” but he was silhouetted; this was all the way back in May 2018. Even further back in 2014, Eiichiro Oda confirmed through the SBS of Volume 73 that he’d already come up with the Admiral’s design (though he did appreciate some concept art a fan sent in). Now, in Chapter 1053, “New Emperors,” readers have been given their first clear view of his face, his wardrobe, and everything else about him.
As it turns out, Ryokugyū’s design is a rather complex one. Elements of it draw inspiration from multiple sources, many of which have deep roots in Japanese entertainment. Knowing and understanding all of these different sources of inspiration should give a deeper appreciation for everything that went into making this character.
Before getting too deep into things, it’s important to go over what’s been established about Ryokugyū so far, starting with his codename. The Admirals are all named after an animal from the Japanese folktale of Momotarō and a color. In onmyōdō cosmology, the ushitora (ox-tiger) represents the northeast, the cardinal direction Momotarō needed to travel to kill the oni where they live.
In terms of personality, not much was known about Ryokugyū. All that had been established was that he fasted for unnaturally long periods of time, and he loved beautiful women; both of these things were revealed in Chapter 905 all the way back in mid-2018. Other than this, everything was left up to speculation.
With Chapter 1053, much more can be understood about Ryokugyū, including which real-world person he’s based on. Again, like all of the Admirals, his face is inspired by a classic Japanese actor. In his case, he’s likely based on acclaimed actor and singer Harada Yoshio.
Ryokugyū’s name, Aramaki, is based on a character portrayed by Harada. This was the name of his character in the 1990 film Rōnin -Gai. In this film, Harada plays a drunk, lecherous rōnin; similarly, Ryokugyū has been shown to be a lech in Chapter 905; he might also have a thing for alcohol based on his dialogue in Chapter 1053. The climax of this movie notably involves Aramaki trying to save a prostitute from an execution involving bulls. On another note, this movie also stars Kunie Tanaka and Shintaro Katsu, the inspirations of Kizaru and Fujitora, respectively.
The kanji running down Ryokugyū’s torso could potentially have a few meanings. When put together, they read Shi kawa shinjū (死川心中), which can be roughly translated to “double suicide at death river.” The meaning behind all of this will require a broader understanding of Japanese culture.
On the surface, Shi kawa shinjū seems to be a reference to Harada’s 2004 song, “Shinjuku Shinjū ” (新宿心中). This song title can be translated to “Shinjuku on the Brain.” However, the shinjū (心中) is more commonly used to refer to a double suicide, which implies something much darker is going on in Shinjuku. In Ryokugyū’s case, it’s a simple matter of changing locations.
Ryokugyū’s kanji could also be a reference to Shinagawa Shinjū (品川心中), a classic rakugo story. In the story, an aging prostitute who is struggling financially enlists a client to die with her by jumping into a river. While Ryokugyū’s shikawa isn’t quite the same thing, it’s likely meant to invoke the same idea. On top of all this, Shinagawa City in Tokyo houses the old Suzugamori execution grounds, which gives it yet another connection to the concept of death.
As far as clothes are concerned, Ryokugyū’s design is fairly understandable. He wears the coat of an Admiral and pants with a floral pattern on them; the pattern is more than likely a reference to his plant-based powers. These sound like minor details, but they really help to inform the character’s identity purely through his looks.
It’s clear that Oda put a lot of time and thought into Ryokugyū’s design. The subtext behind it all and its connection to Japanese culture cannot be understated. As for how any of this will tie into the plot or his character arc, that remains to be seen.
Marc York is a writer for CBR. He possesses an understanding of comics, video games, and movies, and his true expertise comes forth when it comes to the topics of anime and manga. His knowledge spreads to the past, present, and future of both the anime and manga industry, especially when it pertains to titles under the Shonen Jump banner. Marc also likes to write about the movies he’s watched in theaters; these aren’t officially published articles, but they may be seen on his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/marc.york.7