Well this is an awkward position to be in. I have been so strongly for Big Mom being defeated in this arc in my arguments but with this chapter, everything I was expecting has been twisted around completely. In particular, the comment Luffy made about Big Mom being his next target after Kaidou. Does Oda-sensei REALLY plan to deal with Kaidou’s defeat before Big Mom’s? I find myself at a loss for how exactly to structure my thinking now. Will Big Mom be defeated? Or as it now likely appears, will Big Mom be too strong for the Straw Hat Pirates, that they are forced to retreat to live to fight her another day (when the whole crew is gathered)?
What about all the time and effort Oda-sensei has put into focusing on the Big Mom Pirates, will it be put on hold for a future arc after Kaidou is dealt with? If that happens, wouldn’t it have the detrimental effect of dissipating all the momentum and excitement readers have built up towards the Big Mom Pirates? Once Kaidou is introduced and dealt with, the readers may not care about the Big Mom Pirates as much anymore having already seen them before. The main Big Mom Pirates and Charlotte family members have already been introduced and one of the three remaining Sweet Commanders has been defeated. Oda-sensei has committed a fair amount of focus and time towards the Big Mom Pirates for there not be a proper conclusion within this arc, one which resolves both Big Mom and her crew.
A major moment in Linlin’s past that founded the very dreams Linlin is now driven by has been revealed through a flashback recently and given the momentum her character has built up over the Totto Land Arc, it is hard to believe that all the focus on her would be shelved for a future arc. It wouldn’t be as bad if the arc following this one continued to feature the Big Mom Pirates but as the Wano Kuni Arc is set to begin sometime this year, there isn’t enough time to begin a new arc and conclude it. Kaidou’s story arc which involves Wano Kuni could run for several years given the importance of both Kaidou and Wano Kuni, so it would be a very long time before we get to see the Big Mom Pirates in focus again. The most logical choice that maximises the momentum built up for the Big Mom Pirates would be for the arc to properly conclude the Big Mom Pirates story as the current arc primary antagonist. Things may look bleak for the Straw Hat Pirates and allies but events will take place that turns the table completely on the Big Mom Pirates.
I honestly find it hard to believe given the time readers had to wait for Kaidou to be officially introduced that he would be the first Yonkou defeated, especially with the immense amount of mystery surrounding his character and existence. Kaidou has been labeled a “beast” and a “thing” and has been highlighted to be seemingly immortal. Kaidou fought with Shanks and finds amusement in igniting a war that will consume the world. Kaidou’s lieutenant, Jack, has been introduced as a heartless deranged monster boosting an incredible level of power and he is only one of three. Given how monstrous Kaidou has been set-up as, I do not believe he would be the first Yonkou defeated let alone before Big Mom. Blackbeard is obviously going to be saved for last and Shanks will not serve as an antagonist to the Straw Hat Pirates. To Shanks, Luffy represents the future, a future he was comfortable losing an arm for and gambling Roger’s hat on. Big Mom will be the first Yonkou defeated and I believe she will be defeated in the Totto Land Arc.
Neither Sanji nor Jinbe have had the opportunity to shine within this arc, an arc dedicated to both of them and their joining/rejoining of the Straw Hat Pirates. Fans have been crying out for a decent battle for Sanji to feature in for years now and with such relevant and powerful enemies standing against the Straw Hat Pirates, I do not think Oda-sensei would let this opportunity go to waste and delay that coverage for a future arc. The readers are hungry for it. The moment is right for it. And Katakuri serves as a perfect opponent for Sanji to be pushed against in regards to his Haki and general capabilities. Both specialise in Observational Haki with varying skill levels. Katakuri currently may be more adept at utilising Observational Haki but Sanji clearly has a deeper level of potential than Katakuri. Sanji effortlessly dodged an attack from Katakuri who was responding to a future he perceived. So even though Katakuri could see Sanji dodging the priest gunshot, he did not see Sanji dodging his own attack, yet Sanji sensed that attack and utilised it to disable the priest. Being matched up against Katakuri would also serve to even out the feats accomplished between Zoro and himself i.e. defeating a Logia Devil Fruit user.
Jinbe needs that platform to be highlighted as well given how there is nothing as of yet to indicate what Jinbe is fully capable of. We know Jinbe is strong but what we now need to know is how strong. Being matched up against one of the Sweet Commanders or main family members would go a long way in conveying exactly what Jinbe in capable of.
I am very excited about the effects the Tamatebako’s explosion will have on the Castle. We already see it collapsing but how will its collapse affect the Big Mom Pirates. Will it weaken Big Mom? Or will Big Mom be weakened once she learns the truth about Mother Caramel? The Straw Hat Pirates need to make a big statement to the rest of the New World and what better way to do that than defeating a Yonkou. The Straw Hat Pirates won’t just merely “runaway” at the end of this arc.
I was initially confused as to which route to direct my thinking towards but after re-evaluating all the elements that base why I feel so strongly about Big Mom’s defeat taking place within the Totto Land Arc, I still believe that her defeat will take place within this arc. Too much focus has gone into developing the Big Mom Pirates to shelve that now for a later time at which point the reader’s interest would have diminished. The aspect that I do see remaining relevant in future arcs will be the Charlotte family whose members will likely have their stories expanded in subsequent arcs e.g. Lola, Chiffon and Pudding. We may even get to see those members not introduced yet. Very much looking forward to the next chapter.