One Piece is notorious for its large ensemble of characters, and few have fans scratching their heads as much as the infamous Joy Boy. Not much is known about the pirate, and his very existence is only acknowledged by a few characters in the series. Nonetheless, he is starting to become a key figure as Luffy and Co. edge closer to discovering the One Piece as his origin may hold many world-building secrets.
Naturally, there are more theories about Joy Boy than they are facts; some of which seem plausible, and some that are only just coming to the surface. There also seems to be a deep connection between the mythic character and Monkey D. Luffy, and how the two have and could continue to influence the world of One Piece.
Who is Joy Boy?
Joy Boy was an explorer that lived during the era of the 100 Year Void. It isn’t verified if he was the first pirate or the ruler of the Great Kingdom, but he is mentioned at various points in the manga. The lack of information on Joy Boy correlates with the disappearance of information about the world itself in the 100 Year Void. As all the historical information after the 100 Year Void starts with the establishment of the World Government and the 20 celestial Dragons, the truth about how those two bodies of power were established has been erased from the world.
The first mention of Joy Boy is when Nico Robin reads his apology letter from the Ryugu Poneglyph located at the Forest of the Sea. The Straw Hats defeat the oppressive force at Fishman Island, and in the midst of celebrating, Robin ask King Neptune about Joy Boy. He is immediately shocked but tells her the story of the promise that was made by Joy Boy 900 years ago to the future mermaid princess to fulfill the Royal Legend. It’s unclear what the task is that must be fulfilled, but the use of the power of the ancient weapon, Poseidon -- which is currently Princess Shirahoshi and Noah’s Ark -- is needed. He makes it clear that in the future, someone will come along to complete his promise.
The other notable mention of Joy Boy is in the past, when Gol D. Roger arrives at the final island of his exploration to uncover Joy Boy’s Treasure, the One Piece. Upon the discovery of the One Piece, the Roger Pirates set their sights on the bounty and immediately start laughing, which has become an iconic scene: “Oh Joy Boy," Roger says. "I wish I’d been born in your time!!” That encounter leads to Roger naming the island 'Laugh Tale.'
The characteristics of the treasure are not clarified but it was said by Silvers Rayleigh that the discovery of the treasure was not appropriate for its time. This means that there must be other events that need to take place for the discovery of the treasure to have the impact on the world that it's supposed to. Gol D. Roger must have known that they discovered the treasure too soon, but he must have also been aware that others that would surpass them and fulfill the task would be born soon.
How Is Joy Boy's Related to Luffy?
The physical connection to Joy Boy and Luffy is their straw hat. The treasure locked away in Sacred Marijoa is a giant stone straw hat, and it’s believed to resemble Joy Boy’s hat. So far, it's the only representation of Joy Boy’s hat and it’s unclear what is underneath the massive stone. It’s believed to be the resting place of Joy Boy’s body, and since the location of the vault is in a very cold and isolated area. The Celestial Dragons could be preserving the body to unlock some hidden secrets.
As previously mentioned, Joy Boy has been linked to the 100 Year Void, and therefore the truth of the world. He's also been linked to what the people of the "D" are, and the Ancient Weapons. These are the truths the Roger Pirates uncover after finding the One Piece. Joy Boy could be the original person of the D, and the others are descendants of his bloodline. It could also be that the people of the D are the original inhabitants of the Great Kingdom that no longer exists, with Joy Boy being its leader at the time.
Joy Boy could also be a traveler meant to join the other races of the world together and make them allies, as Luffy has done on his travels. The Reverie meeting at Sacred Marijoa is a great example of Luffy’s impact in the world, seeing so many idolize him and getting along with one another. Joy Boy could have originally been a great traveler that united different races and kingdoms, which some saw it as a threat and decided to eliminate him -- labeling him and his followers as the first “pirates.”
It could have been that Joy Boy was the original seeker of “true freedom,” thus leading to how he might have gotten his name. Luffy is also is a strong follower of doing what makes one feel free, and going on great adventures. Luffy’s goal is not to conquer or rule, and maybe Joy Boy started off as a ruler, but decided that exploration was the outlet to living a truly free life.
The Most Plausible Joy Boy Theories
One of the most commonly-held theories is that Joy Boy was the ruler of the Great Kingdom and was uniting the Ancient Weapons, but was betrayed by those who wanted the weapons for world conquest. This betrayal led to the rise of the 20 Celestial Dragons and the World Government concealing secrets within the 100 Year Void. This theory holds water. When Professor Clover called out the World Government, he mentioned that “the ‘Ancient Weapon’ is surely a threat to the world!!! But… more importantly, this history will surely reveal the existence and idea of this kingdom, and that presents a threat to your ‘World Government,’ doesn’t it!!?” He was unfortunately killed before he could give the name of the actual kingdom, which would have been a big clue. The World Government is defiantly keeping their own history a secret, which strengthens the idea that they must have done something atrocious to ensure their rise to power.
Another theory is that Joy Boy’s body holds the key to finding or using the Ancient Weapon, Uranus. Like Shirahoshi, the next weapon might be another person, and Joy Boy’s body has a direct link to them. Whether it's blood-related, or that Joy Boy possesses an item that uncovers the latent powers within an individual, his memorial in Sacred Marijoa is going to play a part in the discovery of the truth. The time seems appropriate now, given that Poseidon awake and the other Ancient Weapons could be right below the Straw Hats' noses. For all we know, Luffy could potentially be an Ancient Weapon himself, but only time will tell.
It’s safe to assume that the secrets of Joy Boy will soon be exposed as we reach the end of the One Piece series. There are many other theories about his significance, some even stretching to the idea that Luffy could be a Joy Boy clone. Whatever the truth is, hopefully, when we finally get to uncover what awaits the Straw Hats -- and us -- on Laugh Tale, maybe we too can laugh like Gol D. Roger.