Through pain, exhaustion and fighting on the edge constantly throughout the battle against Katakuri, Luffy has managed to develop his Kenbunshoku Haki to a level where he can counter one who can glimpse several seconds into that current future. Hours spent exhausting himself taking beatings from Katakuri and attempting to perfectly counter him has established a base onto which Luffy has designed his new Gear Fourth variant form. A form that presumably will allow Luffy’s body to utilise his heightened Kenbunshoku Haki to its fullest extent and close the gap currently left between Katakuri and himself.
Throughout the course of the two hours that elapsed during this chapter, Luffy was both able to defend against Katakuri’s attacks and land a counter attack. While it may not have affected Katakuri a great deal as he is still overwhelming Luffy, it does signal Luffy having grasped Kenbunshoku Haki and beginning to utilise it at a higher level to predict Katakuri’s next moves. With each attack, Katakuri is finding it harder to land a hit on Luffy.
Just as Luffy has to evolve his fighting style to overcome Katakuri, Katakuri himself is also finding that he too needs to evolve his style to combat Luffy’s growing capabilities. An opponent which Katakuri was effortlessly handling not too long ago is now forcing Katakuri to also fight on the edge of his capabilities. Katakuri may have been fighting Luffy to protect the family before but now with his pride as the “perfect brother” being discarded, he is fighting for the sheer joy of battle and having himself pushed to the very boundaries of his limits. And by pushing himself to his limits and focusing on attacking an evolving Luffy, Katakuri is finding that he has less energy to focus on his defenses thus leaving openings for Luffy to strike.
In his Snake Man form, Luffy will likely implement the coiling feature of snakes to speed up both his movements and attacks. In addition, similar to how the Boa sisters utilised their Hebi variant Devil Fruits with their Haki to dodge Luffy’s attacks, in Snake Man form, Luffy will have more freedom over his movements that can react instantaneously when he senses the need to dodge with his Kenbunshoku Haki. Katakuri has shown Luffy what possibilities Haki unlocks in how Devil Fruits can be used through how he has altered the properties of his Mochi with Haki to harden, expand and mold it. Through this battle, Luffy has observed Katakuri closely and has most likely at the back of his mind constructed this new form through what he seen Katakuri do.
With Big Mom, will she really not encounter the Straw Hat Pirates again in this arc? Bege is leading Big Mom away from Cocao Island and now with Chiffon’s request, Big Mom will be lured further than Liqeur Island. Unless something unexpected happens to Bege to force them toward Cocao Island, Big Mom may not meet the Straw Hat Pirates again in this arc. This begs the question though, will Big Mom’s story within this arc really be wrapped up so anti-climatically by characters who aren’t the Straw Hat Pirates? All other plot points will be concluding on Cocao Island, so surely Big Mom should also have relevance there. What else does Oda-sensei have planned for Big Mom in this current arc? Will a third-party be introduced that “handles” Big Mom. If so, now is the perfect time for a third-party to show up with the Big Mom Pirates Sea Slug network out of commission.
Smoothie has finally shown some of her fighting capabilities but with it arriving so late in the arc, will she receive a proper battle against the Straw Hat Pirates and allies to be featured in? Whether through activation, genetics, emotion or the consequence of drinking the juices she squeezes from her victims, Smoothie has the ability to enlarge herself. With her Giant form, she uses her sword slashes to attempt to sink the Thousand Sunny but thanks to Jinbe steering the ship with navigational assistance from Nami, the Straw Hat Pirates manage to avoid each of Smoothie’s attacks. Once the Germa show up, I’m certain Smoothie will have more prominence in battle.
With a large portion of the Charlotte family children gathering on Cocao Island and Sanji on his way there with Pudding, it definitely does seem like Sanji too will have a moment to shine in battle. Thanks to the focus Oda-sensei has given Katakuri in the recent chapters building up his inhuman ability to glimpse several seconds into the future, it in turn highlights that one moment Sanji was able to see-through Katakuri’s attack and effortlessly dodge it. Katakuri is one of the strongest characters we have seen in the story especially in regards to Kenbunshoku Haki and Sanji managed negate Katakuri’s Kenbunshoku Haki with his own Kenbunshoku Haki. For Sanji to achieve such a feat, he too will need to have an inhuman grasp over Kenbunshoku Haki. Given that, it is only a matter of time before Oda-sensei gives Sanji the setting he truly deserves to shine. Sanji most likely won’t be fighting the Charlotte family all alone on Cocao Island, his brothers Ichiji, Niji and Yonji will join him. Judge may possibly be involved unless Oda-sensei has set him aside to encounter Caesar. Looking forward to the next chapter.