On Zoro and Tashigi as a Pairing
Question: Why has ZoTash persisted despite setbacks (more popular ships/lack of continuous interactions?)
Well, Zoro and Tashigi is certainly not a generic ship, but it is a ship that’s overlooked. The source of ZoTash’s longevity is perhaps due to this very inexplicable link between Zoro and Tashigi that distinguishes it as a ship. I call it this weird and uncomfortable “emotional tension”.
When it comes to shipping, interactions are integral to determining the viability of a ship. Interactions are one of the main arguments brought forth by shippers in favour of their ships… Two characters who haven’t interacted even once are relegated to the status of “crackship” (basically my crackship Tashigi x Cavendish hahahahaha). As characters interact more and more, the shipping prospect increases, etc…
Zoro’s an interesting one, especially with regards to interactions. Three of his most popular ships (Nami and Robin, and Sanji) involve members of his crew, which implies constant interactions. Perona, another character frequently shipped with Zoro, spent two years with Zoro during the timeskip whilst he was training - so, obviously, interaction was probably frequent. Great! Now - onto Tashigi. Up until now, Zoro and Tashigi have come face-to-face with each other a total of three times. Two pre-timeskip, and once post-timeskip.
Three time?! Well…. Sorry, ZoTash, but get to the back of the line. You’re basically a crackship! *insert a gif of Tashigi pouting*
Interactions are indeed important to a ship, but let me say something. There is a variance within interactions that emphasize things like - the severity (or lack thereof) of a situation, the relationship between the characters in question, the state of mind of the characters involved, etc. Interactions are a crucial aspect in any show/book, etc. They can provide significant character development, can be the trigger for something later on, etc.
Comedic interactions hold a different weight than emotional ones. Luffy can interact 10,000 times with Bartolomeo or Caesar and only one time with Dragon, but most of us will probably nonetheless recognize that Luffy’s one interaction with Dragon is probably more significant to Luffy (and Dragon) and the plot progression than Luffy’s countless interactions with Caesar.
When Zoro and Tashigi first met at Loguetown, she was not merely introduced as another character. If she had been, she could’ve instead interacted with Sanji or Nami. Zoro and Tashigi’s interaction at Loguetown was for them only, was intended to introduce mystery (who is this chick?!), was intended to establish a link between them, and more importantly, was one that promised something more in the future. Zoro’s immediate shock at her appearance, the time they spent together, their subsequent fight in the rain as the rest of the SHs fled to the Merry - and Zoro’s refusal, or rather inability, to cut her down and finish it – all of these did two things:
- establish a link between Zoro and Tashigi based on Tashigi’s ties to Kuina, and based on their dreams, and based on the Wado Ichimonji, which Tashigi sought to reclaim
- establish their relationship as one of hostility and mystery that just HAS to be resolved and addressed (because we’re tired of the “Tashigi is Kuina with amnesia” theories). I doubt Oda would go to the trouble of introducing a character SO troubling to Zoro only to leave it in the dark. Mind you, this is all just Loguetown, when characters like Robin, Hancock, Perona had yet to be devised….
There’s also another thing to take into consideration: Smoker and Luffy’s relationship, which will also indirectly impact Zoro and Tashigi’s relationship. Oda assured us that Smoker and Luffy have something going on (is he a soon-to-be-ally? is he Luffy’s Garp?). Smoker declared that he’d chase Luffy under any circumstance. Luffy declared that he actually didn’t even hate Smoker and even has a cute nickname for him. They’ve saved each other now probably two, three times. And where Smoker goes, Tashigi goes, and where Tashigi goes, she’s going to interact with Zoro.
Besides this, what did we get out of Loguetown through their interaction? Character development. This was the first time we saw Stoic, beastly Zoro lose his composure so suddenly, because of a mere marine girl who he could cut down with his eyes closed. This obviously implied Zoro’s past has yet to be resolved, and that it’s something of pain for him. And Tashigi? Who would’ve known that this girl, who was introduced in the midst of defeating two thugs with higher grade swords, who was the infamous “White Chase” Smoker’s subordinate, be so insecure about herself, to the point where she longed to be a boy just to be taken seriously?
In one interaction, we received more substance than we did between something like…. Zoro and ______’s initial interaction. Because Zoro and Tashigi’s relationship is unique and non-replicable. You can’t tie Perona or Robin to Zoro’s past or emotional vulnerability, and you can’t replace Tashigi with another girl and hope for the same results, whereas you can for the others, to be honest.
Moving onto Alabasta - where he outright admitted that she was someone he simply could not fight, and proceeded to run away from her. What’s so significant about this interaction? Just that it once again showed us the power Tashigi has over Zoro’s emotions. It shows us that Zoro would rather run away from his past than face it. When has Zoro ever ran away from the prospect of a fight? Keep in mind Zoro’s past hasn’t been resolved. His past is a mystery to the rest of the crew. No one knows of Kuina. No one knows who inspired him to become the worlds greatest swordsman. He makes no mention of it. In a way, he’s grieving for Kuina privately. And when Zoro met Tashigi that first time in Loguetown and snapped in her presence, saying “I can’t stand the fact that you exist! Listen, that face of yours, it’s exactly like my friend’s who died a long time ago, and now you’re even saying the exact same stuff she did! Quit imitating her, you copy-cat woman" he unintentionally allowed Tashigi to view the most vulnerable part of himself – his past. And Tashigi is oblivious to all of this. To her, he’s a dirty pirate, a despicable man who looks down upon her because of her gender.
And finally, there’s Punk Hazard. Zoro no longer flees. Can look her in the eye. Mocks her. All is resolved, right? Tashigi’s now just another marine to him right? Wrong. Punk Hazard shows us a progression of their relationship. From the superficial "lets run away from each other”, to something deeper. If you dig deeper, you begin to see something - Zoro’s not mocking her for the hell of it, because his mocking affects her in a positive way. Zoro sat back and let her fight Monet only until the end. Zoro stuck by her side and tended to her, dressing her wound as the room filled with gas, and picking her up to safety. And Tashigi publicly admired his immense power - at how he could end a Harpy without killing her. She acknowledged that he’s not just a dirty pirate. That his swords are deserved. And another thing about ZoTash - the reciprocative nature of their relationship - they both get something out of it, whether it’s Tashigi gaining inspiration or Zoro being challenged in a way he can’t simply cut/kill away. Because nothing’s more boring an a strong ass character with no obstacles. In a way, they’re both an obstacle for one another, and that fact alone separates Zoro and Tashigi’s relationship.
Regarding the pairing….
ZoTash don’t argue that the reason Zoro and Tashigi should be a thing because they have “similar” personalities. ZoTash’s logic doesn’t rely merely on the aesthetic or power value of the ship (they’re so cute/powerful together!). ZoTash don’t reason that Zoro once wore glasses and Tashigi wore green and that’s Oda’s way of foreshadowing their relationship, etc.. ZoTash’s logic rest on the circumstances that connect them, their past interactions, and the future potential (how they’ll react the next time they come across each other).
Back to this “link” I mentioned at the beginning. The relationship itself is a source of mystery. Why did Oda create a character that elicits such discomfort within Zoro? Why was she immediately implicated in his past? Who is this character? What role is she meant to play? What’s her role as a marine embroiled in the Straw Hat crew dynamic through Smoker and through Zoro? As I’ve reiterated many times before; romantic or not, Tashigi was created and established as a connection to Zoro in some way. To deny it would be foolish. To claim Tashigi’s just some marine and Zoro’s just some pirate and there’s nothing deeper beyond these labels is incorrect. To interpret the extent of their relationship as ‘pirate vs. marine’ is reductive, as is claiming they ‘don’t like each other’. The most significant thing about Zoro and Tashigi’s relationship is the reaction their presence evokes in one another. Their relationship is a unique one. They aren’t nakamas. They aren’t really rivals. They aren’t exclusively enemies. And yet there’s something there: they’re connected to each other in some way, and it’s a connection that has them running into each other on different parts of the One Piece seas.
So, it’s obvious Oda meant to tie Tashigi and Zoro together in a weird relationship. Meant to implicate Tashigi into Zoro’s past. And did it in order to prepare us for something more significant involving Zoro, Tashigi and Kuina. Tashigi isn’t some background-character, she isn’t a comedic gag, she’s a dynamic character that Oda actively introduced early on in the plot and keeps reintroducing, in the process complexifying her and giving her depth which a LOT of other characters lack: i.e showing us her dreams, her struggles and weaknesses, her will, etc.
And honestly - ZoTash is a ship that doesn’t need continuous interaction and that doesn’t diminish significantly based on whether they’re with each other or not. The real beauty lies in their interactions- which are as much comedic as they are meaningful. As I said; they are neither friends nor lovers nor enemies, and yet there’s something there. Their interactions provide character development and insight - like, the first time they met she proclaimed her dream to him, they subsequently ended up fighting in the rain and Tashigi broke down in tears AND Zoro snapped and told her he hated her very existence. Basically, Tashigi’s introduction and continuous reintroduction provides us with significant insight into Zoro’s vulnerabilities and past, AS WELL as hers.
It’s obvious that these two have some serious internal issues brought together “coincidentally” by Kuina and her Wado Ichimonji. Tashigi is a character intended to interact MAINLY with Zoro (apart from Smoker he’s her other great connection). The hostility between them and their childish bickering shows us that they have some form of tension that keeps developing - but their relationship ALSO does have interesting elements: respect (letting her fight alone at Punk Hazard, her reaction after he defeated Monet), tenderness (when he saved her from Monet, letting her take the credit for defeating Monet), comedy (him carrying her, her obsession with Swords - I mean, he has nicknames for her), and depth. it Ain’t some insignificant relationship. The fact that she’s a marine and he’s part of one of the most infamous pirate group just makes their story all the more intricate/tragic.
Moreover, aside from Koshiro, the only other direct “connection” or link to Zoro’s past is Tashigi. Unlike the other crewmates, who’ve had their own arcs, Zoro’s past is still largely unexplored. so far, Tashigi has been the only trigger for his memories and his unresolved anguish. It was her who managed to break Zoro’s stoic shell and composure in Loguetown. It was her who showed us just how vulnerable Zoro is when it comes to his past. He broke down in front of her and told her he couldn’t stand her. He called her a copy-cat. He ran away from her. He saved her. Tashigi, by simply being, managed to shake Zoro so deeply. And the thing is - Tashigi doesn’t understand any of this. She’s just as confused by it as Zoro is. Why is this pirate calling her a copy-cat? Why can’t he cut her down? Why does he save her? She attributes it to her gender and concludes that Zoro looks down on her because she’s a girl, but it’s much deeper than that.
*takes a deep breath*
Anywho, to sum it up: Tashigi and Zoro’s relationship is one that transcends the marine/pirate dichotomy; it’s one that is connected on a deeper level due to their past, their interests and ultimately their dreams. They have a complex relationship that’s often marked by frustration and bickering and as such, their interactions always results in character development for both of them - stoic zoro losing his composure and revealing his vulnerability, and Tashigi trying to confront her frustration at not being taken seriously because of her gender - which she accuses Zoro of being complicit in. The fact that tashigi seems to be connected to Zoro’s childhood friend Kuina, complicates their relationship but also further develops it: both Kuina and Tashigi are named after flightless birds, and Oda stated that the message is that “just because a bird cannot fly doesn’t mean it never will.” This makes me suspect that both Kuina and Tashigi harbour similar wills; and what Kuina couldn’t accomplish because of her premature death, Tashigi will. Tashigi will fly in time. She’s getting there, through tears and frustration. Moreover, Zoro and Tashigi’s dreams coincide, and unlike Franky and Robin who are quite mature in their own right because of all they endured (my other OTP), both Zoro and Tashigi still resort to childish antics and arguing and must come to reconcile with their emotions and their apparent weaknesses.
TLDR; there’s beauty and depth and complexity in ZoTash.