One Piece is a very successful manga series that is filled with a plethora of characters, all of whom are interesting and unique. One of the most popular characters in the series is Portgas D. Ace. Commander of the 1st Division of the Whitebeard Pirates, also known as “Fire Fist”. One of the most intriguing aspects of his character design is a large tattoo placed on the upper bicep of his left arm. The tattoo is composed of four letters, ASCE, but what do they mean?
The tattoo is actually a tribute to the people that Ace considers family, his most important treasure. As we experience the story, it becomes clear that the tattoo is more than just a weird spelling of the character’s name. Each letter represents one individual, and when combined, they result in the character of Ace.
Of course, you should be warned that the explanation for his tattoo comes with a bunch of spoilers attached to it, so read this explanation at your own risk. Spoilers incoming!
The Letter A:
The letter A in Ace’s tattoo is the simplest one to explain. It is, of course, a reference to his own name. Portgas D. Ace. The term “ace” also refers to the “Ace of Spades,” one of the most well-known cards in poker. Ace’s name actually has a very interesting origin.
It is revealed midway through the series that Ace is actually Gol D. Roger’s son. Yes, Ace is actually the son of a pirate king. This fact makes him a very significant character in the world of One Piece. Roger chose the name Ace in case his future child would be a boy. It is unknown what the name could have been if the baby was a girl, but it says a lot about Roger when later it is revealed that the name of his sword was also Ace.
Roger’s sword, Ace, is one of the 12 Supreme Grade Meito. This means the weapon is part of the 12 most powerful blades in the world of One Piece. The blade was wielded by Roger in some of the most important events of the story. The current location of the sword is unknown, but the will of the weapon continued to live through the life of Portgas D. Ace.
The Letter S:
The meaning behind this letter of the tattoo might be the saddest of hidden meanings. You see, because Ace is the son of the Pirate King, Gold Roger, his existence alone was considered a crime. Luffy’s grandfather, Monkey D. Garp, took Ace under his protection (at Roger’s request) and raised him up like his own grandson.
For many years, Ace was alone, but, of course, everything that has a beginning also has an end, and his loneliness ended when he met Luffy and Sabo. These two characters would become his brothers, his chosen family.
Sabo was a boy raised in the nobility who saw the behavior of the nobles as inexcusable and ended up leaving his family behind to live as a vagabond on the Gray Terminal in the Goa Kingdom. Sabo quickly became friends with Ace and Luffy, and they shared many adventures and dreams with each other. Sabo also dreamed of becoming a pirate, but sadly, through some very sad and awful happenings, he ends up getting caught in an explosion. His body was never found.
Ace and Luffy, believing Sabo to be dead, suffer their first important loss of a loved one, changing their perspective on life forever. The S is a tribute to his fallen body. That’s why the tattoo is crossed out. All of this is revealed many, many years after Ace’s introduction. Eiichiro Oda is a master of foreshadowing. He plays the long game very well.
The Letter C:
This letter also has a very critical meaning behind it, but it is way more heartwarming than the S letter. You see, when Ace was all alone as a child, his self-worth was very much on the ground. Being the son of the Pirate King meant living hidden from everyone. The young Ace suffered a lot by not being able to live a normal life.
And then came Luffy, who would become his brother later in life. Which is funny because the moment Ace met Luffy, well, he did not like Luffy one bit. The young Luffy, looking to have a friend, remained insistent and followed Ace everywhere.
Because Ace was older than Luffy, and he ended up messing with the young kid a lot, Ace nicknamed Luffy “Crybaby.” Luffy would take this moniker to heart and would always try to prove his bravery to others. Putting him into very dangerous situations.
At the end of the day, Ace put his guard down and let Luffy enter his life, and the most wonderful relationship of trust started. And so, Ace remembers his little crying baby brother by putting a C in his tattoo.
The Letter E:
The last letter in Ace’s tattoo also comes from something that would occur later in Ace’s life. After Sabo’s death, Ace decided to become stronger and sail the seas, becoming a famous pirate. He eventually abandoned the Goa Kingdom and started a life of adventure, and he was even able to put together his own crew, The Ace Pirates.
Sadly, while Ace was able to become really strong and overcome a lot of the dangers in the sea, there’s always someone stronger around. Ace tried and failed to take the head of Whitebeard, one of the Emperors of the Sea, the most powerful pirates around.
Whitebeard, whose real name is Edward Newgate, was, in fact, one of the biggest rivals of Gold Roger. Ace assumed that if he was able to take down his father’s famous rival, he would raise his own infamy by tenfold. However, Ace wasn’t prepared, and he was easily defeated by Whitebeard.
To Ace’s surprise, the Emperor of the Sea was not angry at Ace’s attempt on his life, he was actually amused and offered Ace a place in his crew. Ace accepted, and with the passing of time, he learned to love Whitebeard as if he was his real father.
Ace’s love for Whitebeard became so strong that he also tattooed Whitebeard’s Jolly Roger on his back, becoming another one of Ace’s most famous characteristics. Ace would later decide to include the E in his arm tattoo in honor of the man who became his father figure.