The Meaning Behind Ace’s Tattoos In One Piece

“I bear the mark of Whitebeard. I could never lose.”

– Portgas D. Ace

Even though the Japanese anime (and manga) One Piece focuses on aspiring pirate, Monkey D. Luffy, who, to put it quite simply, is on a quest to find treasure to become the ultimate King of the Pirates, it is his adopted older brother, Portgas D. Ace, who is introduced later on to become a key character in the story. 

Okay, so he was never a key character in the sense of being important enough to survive, but he helped in the direction of the plot so the story could develop, and that’s good enough, right? 

The Meaning Behind Ace’s Tattoos In One Piece

As we are made aware in the show, Ace is very special to Luffy, despite them not being blood related. Let’s not get confused by the fact they look very alike. The moppy black hair and mischievous facial expressions are just coincidences. 

Ace was adopted before he was born to a man named Monkey D. Garp, but was said to (according to some) take after his birth mother by having freckles on his face.

Apart from a muscular frame, this was also a noticeable difference between him and Luffy, with his tattoos becoming the biggest difference of them all.

Both Luffy and Ace, along with Sabo (we’ll get to him later), became sworn together after sharing sake. They believed that drinking Japanese rice wine would give them a brotherly bond.

This was observed all the way until Ace’s horrible death, but carried on between the remaining two – though, a lot happened between them both in the next twelve years.  

The Reason Ace Stopped Wearing A Shirt

Ace’s standard look was an open shirt, something to show off his muscular strength – and we are not talking a floral shirt like the man Roger was wearing, who injured and killed him. Luckily for Ace, his shirt wasn’t a trademark style unlike his hat, but, the less said about that the better. 

Along then came a brand-new tattoo and he dropped his shirt to never wear it again. Well, weather permitting of course. The new ink was of the Whitebeard Pirates symbol, the jolly roger, proudly etched upon his back for all to see.

Ace often referred to it as his pride and joy, probably because it showed how highly-ranked he was as a crew member.

It was also a defining symbol of his character. Most of his life was spent dedicated towards the Whitebeard Pirates. It was really only a matter of time until he had the deep purple bones and white moustache inked across his skin. So, why bother wearing a shirt? 

So, Who Are The Whitebeard Pirates?

The Whitebeard pirates were once the strongest of them all, but since the death of both Ace and Whitebeard (the captain of the Whitebeard Pirates), they lost that title due to being defeated by the Blackbeard Pirates (who aren’t that nice) during the Payback War.

Ultimately, this led to the disbandment of the Whitebeard Pirates, after all, they lost all their power.

Whitebeard, otherwise known as Edward Newgate, was once referred to as the strongest man in the world, but you can believe that with all the muscle he had.

Originally an orphan, he became a member of Rocks Pirates, a legendary group before moving onto being a part of the Four Emperors. So, you could say he had quite the colourful life.

Some people refer to Ace’s arm tattoo as having a reference to Newgate, while others refute it, but it has not been stated by the writer whether it is true or not, but we’ll get onto that next.

Fan Theories

Portgas D Ace.

As with a lot of tattoos generally, Ace’s are seen to be cryptic and with that, most fans have their own theories on what they mean – and why wouldn’t you when one is literally written cryptically on the arm?

You do not need to do online puzzles all day when you have Ace’s arm to decode.

The one in question is the tattoo that spells ASCE which has had many people curious. At first glance, it looks like a mistake with his name written as ‘ASCE’ and a crossed out ‘S’, seemingly an accident to show his carefree attitude.

Since the theories started circulating, we now know that it does indeed stand for ‘ACE’ with the crossed out ‘S’ referring to Sabo. 

Eagle-eyed fans have spotted that the crossed out ‘S’ has been featured on various items such as a letter written with Sabo’s name, confirming – or at least assuming –  the tattoo is a reference to the character.

It has not been officially confirmed, but at this point, it probably isn’t necessary. 

Fans have also formed theories on the rest of the letters, stating that each individual letter refers to a character. The ‘A’ stands for his own name Ace, which most, if not all, fans agree on.

The crossed out ‘S’ was because Sabo was presumed dead. Not a totally wild guess. The ‘C’ is for ‘Cry-baby’, a nickname given to Luffy, and E stands for Edward Newgate, a Whitebeard Pirate.

The theory on the tattoo hasn’t been officially proven, but the connections made by fans has only cemented the idea that the brotherly bond within the story is one of importance.

As fans, you already know that Luffy, Sabo and Ace – along with Whitebeard – are important allies with one another. Did Ace have this on his arm as an important piece of the story?

Tell Us More About Sabo…

As stated previously, blonde haired Sabo is a sworn brother of both Ace and Luffy, and later down the line, a few years after Ace’s death, he becomes a much needed ally to Luffy. 

Having run away at the young age of 10, not to become a Pokémon trainer, but instead with the intention of becoming a pirate, he met Ace and Luffy during his time at Grey Terminal. 

As a vagabond he was hoping to write a book about his journey, but soon tried to set sail to leave his family behind, only to have his ship destroyed and in the process losing his memory.

Because of this, he spent the next ten years serving the Revolution Army, only to regain his memories once he heard about the death of Ace. 

That was for the best though, as now he could carry out Ace’s legacy.

Final Thoughts – The Tattoos Define A Character’s Story 

Despite being over 20 years old, the manga is still in high demand today due to its fun nature and quirky characters.

With more than 400 million volumes in circulation across the world, it is said to be the most popular manga currently read. It is no wonder then, that so many people are curious about the connections between the characters and Ace’s tattoos.

They have become a pivotal point within the storyline – or so we think.

The mystery surrounding the ink is what makes them even more interesting. Writer, Eiichiro Oda, has kept quiet on the matter, leaving fans to debate over forums and at events such as comic-con whether their theories are true.

As a character who helped the main story to develop, pushing Luffy to become stronger so he could protect those closest to him and himself without the likes of strong Ace by his side, his tattoos have become well-known symbols across the globe to all One Piece fans. 

The tattoos themselves have been associated with the people he holds close, such as friends and his sworn brothers. Whether or not that is true, only adds to his character.

They define who he is throughout the story, and have left a legacy behind, for the fans and characters alike. What do you think they represent?