The story of Wano Kuni is largely inspired by the Japanese folklore Momotarō. Within the story, Momotarō is born from a peach which an old couple find floating down a river. The couple named the child Momotarō (Momo being Peach). When the child matured, he left his parents to fight a band of Oni who marauded over the land. The Oni resided in the distant Island, Onigashima. Along the way, Momotarō met and befriended a talking dog, monkey and pheasant, who agreed to help him with his quest in exchange for a portion of his rations – kibi dango. When the group reached Onigashima, they penetrated the demons’ fort and defeated the band of demons. Momotarō and his friends returned home with the demons’ stolen treasure and the demon chief as captive.
While the Wano Kuni story is not stroke for stroke with the Momotarō folklore, Oda-sensei takes deep inspiration from major elements within the story. Momotarō is represented through Momonosuke. The Oni are represented by the Beast Pirates with the Oni chief being Kaido. Onigashima Island is the home base of Kaido. The plundered treasure is the home country of Momonosuke and his people’s freedom. Along the journey to Onigashima, Momonosuke befriends Luffy (who represents the Monkey) and Inuarashi (who represents the talking dog) and requests their aid in his quest to liberate Wano Kuni from Kaido and Orochi. Luffy answers Momonosuke’s request with a promise that he will defeat Kaido. Inuarashi protects Momonosuke and brings him to Wano Kuni. As at chapter 987, the Pheasant has yet to be revealed.
I don’t believe Kuzan represents this role as much as Aokiji could fit it. The three pre-time skip Admirals did have monikers that followed the theme of Momotarō (Akainu, Kizaru, Aokiji) but that seems to be more thematic outside of the Wano story rather than representative of the current roles relevant in the Wano Kuni Arc (I still believe Kuzan will show up in the Arc though). Instead, it appears Marco could serve the role of Pheasant given his Phoenix Devil Fruit abilities.
The main concern with Marco though is the lack of connection to Momonosuke. Sure Marco met Momonosuke as a child and was a friend of his father but nothing so far indicates a level of friendship that Momonosuke shares with the Mink and the Straw Hat Pirates. The one character that intriguingly has a strong bond with Momonsuke despite them never having met is Yamato. Miraculously, even though one-sided, Yamato is aware of Momonosuke’s relevance and has been fighting for the dream that Momonosuke now represents for the past twenty years. As Yamato has inherited the will of Kozuki Oden, it seems undoubtable and inevitable that Yamato as Kozuki Oden will want to assist Momonosuke.
As for how Yamato represents the Pheasant, it could be represented through a Devil Fruit power Yamato has or will eventually get. Or it could be through some connection with their mother. If Yamato’s mother belonged to the race Hitetsu and King belong to, Yamato may be part of the yet unrevealed ‘avian-race’. Given King’s presence in Kaido’s crew, Kaido could have been exposed to other members of King’s race and that may have been how Kaido met Yamato’s mother. It could be nothing but I also find it curious that Hitetsu, King and Yamato were all introduced concealing their faces with a mask. Furthermore, the connection of the Fenghuang (Hō-ō) being paired with the Chinese dragon (Azure Dragon) in East Asian mythology may have relevance within One Piece. And even beyond Yamato’s mother, Yamato could also share that connection through the father/child relationship Kaido and they share (with Yamato attaining a power that embodies the Fenghuang). The Fenghuang symbolizes the union of male and female where yin and yang are in balance which is fitting in Yamato’s case as they have decided to become Kozuki Oden, a man they greatly admires. In the earliest times, the Fenghunag referred to two birds – Feng representing the male bird with Huang embodying the female. The Feng and Huang were later combined into a single female bird. Fenghuang also symbolizes harmony which is comparable to the meaning of Yamato’s name – “Great Harmony”. Additionally, the Fenghuang has sometimes been depicted carrying scrolls or sacred books. Yamato was introduced carrying Oden’s journal which they consider a sacred book. With such a reflective Mythological Beast sharing similarities with Yamato, I find it hard to ignore the possibility that Yamato and the Fenghuang aren’t connected.
Is there a Fenghuang (Hō-ō) variant model of the Tori Tori no Mi? I doubt it given Oda-sensei’s incorporation of Fenghuang elements in the Tori Tori no Mi, Model: Phoenix appearance and abilities. In full Phoenix form, the user takes on a form more reminiscent of the Fenghuang (Hō-ō) than the Western Phoenix, especially when looking at the head and the tails of the form. Add to that the ability Marco used on the Queen Mama Chanter, Hōō-in (Fenghuang Seal), and it seems certain that the Tori Tori no Mi, Model: Phoenix is meant to embody both the Western Phoenix via its regenerative flames and the Fenghuang (Hō-ō) aka Chinese phoenix.
This now leads to the next question; could Yamato end up inheriting Marco’s Phoenix Devil Fruit abilities (permanently or temporarily)? With both Marco and Yamato being present on Onigashima, the possibility exist. A scenario that could see Yamato inheriting the Phoenix Devil Fruit abilities would likely involve Blackbeard. There are several reasons for the Blackbeard Pirates to show up in Wano Kuni now:
- the Road Poneglyph;
- Nico Robin;
- a Zoan Devil Fruit to complete the trinity for Teach which would help him fill the gap left by his ‘weak’ defense;
- Caribou who has knowledge on Poseidon;
- Wano Kuni weapons;
- taking out rivals that are weakened after battle
If Blackbeard does make an appearance in the Wano Kuni Arc, he may end up confronting Marco. In order to keep the Tori Tori no Mi, Model: Phoenix power away from the Blackbeard Pirates, Marco may use an unrevealed technique unique to the Devil Fruit to rebirth it in Yamato. Given its Phoenix nature the ability could allow the power to be reborn within a new person (Marco may or may not die but I personally don’t want to see Marco die). As for why Yamato, after some interaction between the two, Marco may come to recall them from the stories Ace told and recognise that Yamato does genuinely intend to carry Oden’s will into the future. Despite them not knowing each other, they are both bonded to one another through their connections with Ace and Oden. This association may be what allows Marco to decide to leave his Phoenix powers to Yamato so that they can use it to help save Wano Kuni, carry on Ace’s will and assist the Straw Hat Pirates going forward. And if Yamato does end up fighting the Blackbeard Pirates alongside the Straw Hat Pirates, there would be further relevance in Marco passing on his abilities to Yamato. Marco along with the Remnants of the Whitebeard Pirates fought with the Blackbeard Pirates during the timeskip but ultimately they were defeated. Knowing that he won’t be able to stop Blackbeard, Marco may feel compelled to pass his power onto the next generation so that they can combat Blackbeard and through the use of his power, eventually defeat the Blackbeard Pirates. And how fitting would it be for “Kozuki Oden” to be reborn through the flames of a Phoenix when Yamato inherits that power and the wills of characters connected to the overall story of One Piece (Oden’s, Marco’s, their mother’s, potentially Ace’s and potentially Kaido’s once Kaido liberates himself from his indifferent state).
An alternative possibility could be Marco temporarily bestowing the Phoenix powers onto Yamato during the Wano Kuni Arc (if that is possible). Once the Arc ends, the Phoenix powers would return back to Marco. Doing so wouldn’t ruin the Devil Fruit number theory for the Straw Hat Pirates which seem destined to total ‘325’ if Yamato does end up becoming a Straw Hat Pirate.
However the situation plays out during the Wano Kuni Arc, I believe there is relevance in Yamato, the Fenghuang, the Pheasant and Marco. Yamato will embody the Pheasant that chose to assist Momotarō in his quest to liberate the land from the Oni devastating it. Kaido will be defeated and Yamato will be integral in that end being reached.