“Red-Haired” Shanks and Dracule “Hawk Eyes” Mihawk are one of the earliest characters to be introduced in One Piece. They are also one of the most anticipated characters in the One Piece fandom, as they’ve been shrouded in a cloud of mystery for over 20 years.
Fans like us are dying to know more about these two juggernauts that stand undisputed at the top of the Grand Line.
This excessive curiosity is also not helped by the fact that they are considered to be one of the most powerful individuals in the world. Power scaling debates often pop up all over social media platforms and forums, discussing who amongst them is stronger.
Coming to Shanks vs Mihawk, we do not have any concrete base on which to compare these two, because we simply do not know the full extent of their powers yet. Nevertheless, this article aims to speculate on this match-up based on what little we know of them, trying to come up with a logical conclusion to this prolonged debate.
Is Mihawk stronger than Shanks? Or does the red-haired Emperor prevail? Let’s find out. But before we get into the final verdict of Shanks vs Mihawk, let us take a look at their backgrounds, powers and achievements.
FAIR WARNING: THIS ARTICLE WILL CONTAIN MANGA SPOILERS
Shanks vs Mihawk: Comparing Background and Status
Born in the West Blue, a large part of his past is unknown to the readers. At some point in his life, he joined the infamous Roger Pirates and was an apprentice on their ship alongside Buggy at the age of 9. From what is revealed in One Piece Film: Red, Roger discovers Shanks on his ship when he was a baby.
He spent a large part of his time being trained by Silvers Rayleigh, the Vice-Captain of the Roger Pirates.
From his time with the Pirate King’s crew, it can be inferred that he was kind of a genius, as he’s seen clashing with the Whitebeard Pirates at the age of 13 alongside his fellow crew members.
After his former Captain’s death, Shanks recruited Yasopp (Usopp’s father) from Syrup Village, kickstarting the Red-hair Pirates at the age of 17. Over the years, he rose in fame and status, recruiting powerful individuals for his crew, which ultimately lead him to be considered among the Four Emperors of the Sea.
Currently, aged 39, Shanks’ bounty sits at 4,048,900,000 Berries. He is considered to be one of the strongest individuals in the world and commands the respect of many important figures with his unparalleled status.
Even less is known about Dracule Mihawk’s past than we know of Shanks. He started becoming famous even before The Great Age of Pirates at the age of 19 and was seen at Loguetown during the execution of Gol D. Roger.
Sometime after the Pirate King’s execution, he joined the Seven Warlords of the Sea after fighting and defeating increasingly powerful opponents until he was called the “World’s Strongest Swordsman”, as there was no swordsman left who could challenge him.
There have been some wild theories popping up about Mihawk being Rayleigh and Shakky’s son due to some vague hints left here and there and Shakky’s facial structure resembling Mihawk. While this is certainly a possibility, let us not look deep into this for now.
Now aged 43, his bounty stands at 3,590,000,000. While Mihawk is still on the lookout for a worthy opponent to fight against, he has joined hands with Crocodile to form the Cross Guild.
Shanks vs Mihawk: Comparing Haki, Weapons and Other Abilities:
Neither Shanks nor Mihawk has eaten a devil fruit so a battle between them would inevitably come down to a clash of Haki combined with their respective skills with the blade.
Let’s compare them in these aspects.
Shanks is one of the few people in the One Piece world who can skillfully use all three forms of Haki i.e., Conqueror’s, Armament and Observation.
Shanks displayed the use of Conqueror’s Haki way back in chapter 1 (or episode 4) when he scared off a Sea King to save Luffy. We later learn how powerful and rare this ability is along with how overwhelmingly skilled Shanks is in its use.
According to Eiichiro Oda, Shanks could’ve easily knocked out all 100,00 fishmen under Hody Jones on Fishman Island, whereas Luffy could only manage 50,000.
Furthermore, his Conqueror’s Haki is potent enough to damage physical objects, as seen during his meeting with Whitebeard where Shanks’ Haki knocked out several members of the Whitebeard Pirates and caused cracks to appear along the Moby Dick’s ship deck, which was me by praise from the ship’s captain himself.
What’s more, Kaido, “The King of Beasts” – currently the strongest creature in the world – considers Shanks one of the few people capable of seriously damaging him among the likes of Whitebeard, Roger, Oden, and Rocks.
Since Kaido cannot be damaged by any attack unless it’s imbued with an advanced application of Haki, it proves that Shanks is capable of using one or all forms of Advanced Hakis.
In chapter 1055, Shanks advanced conqueror Haki is shown to intimidate Rokugyu, an admiral. In One Piece Film: Red, it is confirmed that Shanks is able to use advanced observation haki.
Simply put, Shanks has been established as a Haki monster in the story.
Being a swordsman by nature, Shanks has been seen wielding four different swords throughout the story. The most recent one though is known as “Gryphon”, which was seen with him when he stopped the Paramount War. It is an ungraded sword as of now.
Being the strongest swordsman in the world, it’s only natural that Mihawk would also be in the possession of one of the strongest swords in the world. He wields the “Yoru”, one of the 12 Supreme Grade Swords, effortlessly using it cut down galleons and massive icebergs with a single stroke.
So far, Mihawk is a confirmed user of Observation and Armament Haki. We do know that he’s extremely skilled with Armament as he taught Zoro how to use it and destroyed Don Krieg’s entire fleet with one slash.
Plotwise, Mihawk, along with having the title of “World’s Strongest Swordsman”, is also the endgame opponent for Zoro.
I will use the following two points in the support of my argument.
First, having the title he has, Mihawk has to be able to compete on an equal footing with the likes of Shanks, who is a master at conqueror’s Haki. It seems very unlikely that someone as strong as Mihawk got to his position without having this particular power.
Second, it is inevitable that he’s going to fight Zoro, who has just recently unlocked Conqueror’s Haki in its advanced form. To prove an equal or greater match for Zoro, Mihawk most likely will have access to advanced Conqueror’s Haki.
Another assumption we can make is that Mihawk also knows advanced Armament Haki.
This theory comes from the fact that Shimotsuki Ryuma, the only other character known to have turned a blade black, was a master of “Ryou”, an advanced application of Armament. From this, we can conclude that Mihawk also has similar abilities since he’s the other swordsman to have turned his blade black.
Mihawk is also known to have superhuman eyesight, which led to him being called “Hawk Eyes”.
Moving forward, I will assume that Mihawk has all three forms of Haki since this article is all about theorizing and speculating.
Comparing Feats and Achievements of Mihawk & Shanks
As mentioned before, Shanks and Mihawk are considered to be among the very best in the world in terms of battle prowess. I consider both of them to be in the top five strongest characters in One Piece (see rankings and more discussion in *Link the top 20 article*). Therefore, we’ll have to compare their feats and achievements to discuss a direct match-up between them.
Shanks has some impressive achievements to boast about, and we have hardly scratched the surface with him.
From a young age, he was fighting powerful pirate crews due to being a part of the infamous Roger Pirates. It is an achievement in and of itself that he came out unscathed after fighting crews like the Whitebeard Pirates at the age of 13.
Starting his own crew at the age of 17 just like Luffy, Shanks now has command over one of the most powerful and notorious groups of Pirates in the Grand Line. His crew has the highest average bounty among all the Emperors.
From this point, his skills quickly saw him rise in status until people finally started calling him an Emperor of the Sea. He became the youngest pirate to be recognized as an Emperor at the age of 33.
Shanks’ first major display of power comes against Whitebeard when he clashed swords with the then “Strongest Man in the World”. The skirmish resulted in the skies above being split open due to a clash between two tremendously powerful Conqueror’s Haki users.
Next, we saw Shanks stop a direct magma fist from Sakazuki “Akainu” right before he was about to obliterate Koby in Marineford. The Magu Magu no Mi is known to have the highest offensive capabilities among all devil fruits, so stopping it was no mean feat.
Shortly after, powerful figures like Sengoku and Blackbeard refused to fight him because they understood the threat Shanks possessed. Blackbeard’s retreat further reinforced that fact considering that he had obtained two of the most powerful devil fruits in the world and had previously given Shanks a permanent scar.
Shanks also allegedly “stopped” Kaido from interfering in the Paramount War. Making the “Strongest Creature in the World” back down is a testament to his strength. He’s also responsible for robbing Eustass Kid of his left arm.
Mihawk’s skills with the sword know no match. From a young age, he battled extremely powerful opponents, ultimately becoming the world’s strongest swordsman.
He was first seen displaying his skills during the Baratie arc where he single-handedly decimated Don Krieg’s entire pirate fleet. Then he proceeded to completely humiliate Zoro with a tiny knife.
The next time we see Mihawk in action is during the Marineford arc. He’s daring enough to try to take Whitebeard one-on-one just to gauge the difference in power between them.
Soon he went on to face Daz Bones, whom he completely annihilated. Crocodile followed suit to rescue his subordinate and Mihawk briefly engaged in combat with the former warlord.
Mihawk then cut an entire iceberg created by former Admiral Kuzan “Aokiji”. He then faced off against Vista “of the Flower Swords” – 5th division commander of the Whitebeard Pirates – as he looked to cover Luffy’s escape away from Mihawk.
Well, that is the extent of Mihawk’s major on-screen battles. We have yet to see much serious action from him in the story, and understandably so as Oda might be saving him up for Zoro.
Shanks vs Mihawk: Who is Stronger?
Now onto the million-dollar question. In a straight 1v1 between these juggernauts, who will ultimately come out on top?
Starting with Shanks; people are very quick to declare him a winner since he’s an “Emperor”. The truth is, that things are never so simple.
The emperor conundrum:
The title of an “Emperor” does not merely entail physical strength. While strength is crucial, the title is given to those who command a formidable crew/fleet, have control over significant territory, and have unparalleled influence across the Grand Line.
Both Shanks and Mihawk are feared across the Grand Line, but for different reasons.
Shanks is feared as a ‘pirate’, while Mihawk is mostly feared as a formidable ‘swordsman’. That’s where the subtle difference comes in.
Luffy was declared the “Fifth Emperor” not because he was as strong as the other four, but because of the other three factors that I mentioned above. Simply being an Emperor does not give Shanks the upper hand here.
The strongest swordsman?:
Now we’ve heard about the skirmishes Shanks and Mihawk used to have in their younger days. Shanks was skilled enough for Mihawk to consider him a rival. Their clashes were so epic that they were said to resonate through the Grand Line, splitting the skies above wherever they fought.
This indicates that they were two of the most skilled swordsmen in the world and were somewhat on an equal footing.
This dynamic completely changed once Shanks came back from East Blue without an arm.
Mihawk completely lost interest in duelling Shanks as. Since they were presumed to be on an equal level, the loss of an arm shifted the power balance.
We have to understand Mihawk’s character for supporting this argument. He’s a man who’s always searching for a worthy opponent to fight. So if he decides that someone as strong as Shanks is not even worthy of a duel anymore, then there must be some weight behind his reasoning.
From this, we can infer that the loss of an arm did affect Shanks’ battle prowess, albeit not drastically, but enough to make Mihawk think Shanks is more vulnerable than before.
Nevertheless, Shanks is still feared and respected by the world’s strongest despite missing an arm. This is a testament to the raw strength he possesses, arms or not.
Putting the Emperors on an unbeatable pedestal just goes against what Oda has been trying to tell throughout his story, and this is very much relevant in the context of the current Wano chapters.
If they were to fight now, it would still be a battle of gigantic proportions. Shanks’ Haki, from what we’ve seen so far, will probably come out on top. The red haired emperor seems to have a upper hand when it comes to overall battle.
But there are doubts, because the only times we have seen Shanks fight, he has relied upon his sword. So if boils down to just swordsmanship, then Mihawk will undoubtedly come out a winner at the end. But his lack of an arm has never stopped Shanks from running away from any battle, and there seems to be an ace up his sleeve.
As a final verdict, Shanks edges out Mihawk when it comes to a battle between the two, with Shank’s haki playing a major role in his victory.
From a narrative POV too, Shanks is seen as a ceiling that Luffy has to scale, just like how Mihawk is for Zoro. And if were to choose a winner out of these two, we know who comes out on top.
And those are my two cents on this seemingly endless debate. At the end of the day, this is all just opinionated speculation. What I or anyone else thinks hardly matters because Oda has the habit of always pulling the rug out from under the whole fandom.
Let us know your opinions about this match-up in the comments. Do share this article with your fellow One Piece fans if you liked what you read.
© Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, Toei Animation