So I may have spent the day at work getting a little emotional over a picnic basket.
For an individual such as Sanji, who is generous and nurturing, wearing his heart of his sleeve, the picnic basket is a great metaphor.
It’s important to remember that, for Sanji, food isn’t just about feeding people. It’s a tangible extension of his love, and he presents a little bit of his heart when he cooks for others.
It makes me think about how Sanji, as a child, laid his heart out to his ailing mother without fully understanding the gift of humanity that she left for him, at the eventual cost of her own life. His picnic basket was well-meaning, but incongruous, inarticulate and clumsy:
… and it makes me think about how 9-year-old Sanji finally realizesd when (on the rock) Zeff gave him the parcel of food and left none for himself, that he deserved to be loved – and specifically because of who he fundamentally was, his passion, dreams and all, and not necessarily because he was the strongest and most ruthless:
… and as many had noticed back in chapter 850, we get confirmation in this chapter that Sanji’s bento for Pudding was in fact filled with the favorite foods of the Strawhat crew:
He may have accepted his future with Pudding, but the truth is, his heart (and by proxy, his cooking) was communicating his true wishes and desires all along.
The Jaji crying scene was supposed to parallel Sanji’s flashback of crying as he asked Jaji for help while being bullied by his ‘brothers’. Look at how the tables have turned. Now it’s Jaji bawling his eyes out as the bullies, the BM pirates, are about to kill him, while his sons are as apathetic as he was back then.
But Sanji makes a choice which once again shows the stark difference between him and the Vinsmoke patriarch; despite all he’s done to Sanji, he doesn’t ignore Jaji’s cries for help. He wants to save the Vinsmokes, but not to get any sort of affirmation from Jaji. He chose his true father a long time ago. Even in this, he will not emulate Jaji. Instead, he looks to a man who decided to ‘help’ a young boy who tried to kill him. It’s more than just a savior complex. By saving the Vinsmokes, he is both honoring his mother’s memory and growing up into the kind of adult that would make Zeff proud.
I’d loooove to know exactly what happened behind the scene and led to this sweet moment.
I doubt Sanji told Zeff that he hurt his hand and asked for treatment. So if Sanji was hiding his injury, was Zeff keen enough to notice it first? He must’ve been keeping a close eye on his little eggplant amid all the chaos in the kitchen. After all he did notice something’s wrong with the boy pretty fast, since Sanji obviously didn’t have enough time to patch himself up. Did he bring the bandages to where Sanji is, or did he take him to the infirmary? In which part of the day did this occur? Did he treat him while being terribly busy during the day, or during the night when all is quiet and he is left alone with the child?
Whatever the scenario is, what doesn’t change is that in this moment Zeff showed immense attention and affection for his little eggplant. It’s no wonder Sanji would give up everything for him.
When I started this blog, one of my goals was to stay away from arguing against others’ analyses, deductions, opinions, etc. and just focus on what I see, how I perceive characters, and so on, but … this is a special case, because what I see directly clashes with a lot of fandom perception. The topic is Sanji’s self-sacrificial nature and his apparent readiness to die.
A lot of people talk about Sanji having self-esteem and guilt issues. I don’t doubt or deny that he has (probably more than) his fair share of those. However, I disagree that those are at the core of his self-sacrificial nature. As we will soon see, Sanji has an enormous will to live. And, like many characters in One Piece, and certainly allof the Straw Hats, he has things he wants to protect at any cost. To get to the above cap, the things in question here are Baratie itself, and Zeff.
In recent chapters, we’ve learned that Sanji literally regards Zeff as one of his saviours, a revelation that was probably not at all surprising to anyone considering everything we will see in the Baratie arc. We’ve also gotten confirmation that Sanji sees Zeff as a father-figure, which is already clear as day in the Baratie arc, but wasn’t actually voiced. What this amounts to is love. Sanji loves Zeff, and therefore wants to protect him. I find that people often put too much emphasis on Sanji feeling he’s indebted to Zeff for saving his life, which in my opinion only works to minimize the importance of the years the two have spent together and the familial bond that was created. I’m not saying that the idea of paying Zeff back for saving him isn’t part of Sanji’s readiness to die, I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s the only reason, and I definitely don’t think it’s the strongest. Maybe if this had happened in the beginning of the Baratie’s existence, I would have bought that, but not now. I’m sure Sanji didn’t go into the relationship thinking “Zeff is my dad”, but he sure as hell left Baratie that way. Baratie itself is essentially an extension of Zeff. It was his idea, his newer dream, and so Sanji wants to protect it, as well.
There are two things I will always argue on behalf of when it comes to Sanji’s personality. First, he’s selfless. That is, he’s concerned with others’ wants and needs before his own. To quote Luffy in today’s chapter, it’s just how he is. Second, he cares about people in general. A lot. I’ll definitely be coming back to these in more detail later, but they’re also relevant here. Selflessness, in my opinion, is inextricably linked with love. People don’t do selfless things because they feel badly about themselves – they do them because they love the ones for whom they’re doing the things. It’s the difference between I’m useless, I can’t do anything better, so I might as well die and I want you to live, and for that, I am willing to do everything in my power up to and including dying.
Back to the arc at hand. Sanji has been fighting Pearl to protect the Baratie, but now Gin has risen and effectively taken Zeff hostage, threatening to kill him if Sanji (and the others) continue the fight. Sanji immediately stops and tells Gin to point the gun at him instead. Why? Simply put, dying is all he can do at that point. If he keeps fighting, which he’s certainly physically still capable of, Zeff is dead. Yet he’s not willing to simply hand over Baratie to Krieg. So he’s essentially saying kill me instead. It’s not really logical, especially considering Krieg’s reputation for sinking to whatever lows he needs to in order to get what he wants – does Sanji think they’d stop killing with him dead? – but I think the feeling behind his words was that selfless love and determination to protect.
And that’s the main thing I believe is always behind Sanji’s self-sacrificial actions.