Express your resolve and shout it out loud. For twenty long years, this moment has permeated in the depths of Yamato’s mind. Regret at her inability, frustration at her weakness and self-reproach for not being able to save Momonosuke whom she thought had died on that day twenty years ago. Now with his presence before her, Yamato gathers all those feelings alongside her conviction inspired by the spirit of Oden and declares her position to both Momonosuke and the Beast Pirates. She was not strong enough twenty years but in this moment, she will bear the weight of the Beast Pirates against her and challenge death itself if the need arises in order to protect Momonosuke and the dream the Kozuki family embody.
Yamato has strengthened herself over the past two decades and believing Momonosuke and Oden’s retainers had perished in the past, she had taken it upon herself to carry on Oden’s will to open the borders of Wano Kuni. Even when Kaido bound her to Onigashima Island, Yamato continued to believe in Oden’s dream which slowly began to actualize her own desire to want to see the borders of Wano Kuni open. Continuously, Yamato improved herself. After each defeat from challenging her father, she carried on and pursued forward driven by the will she had inherited that had now become her own. Yamato, more than wanting to fulfill Oden’s last request, also genuinely wants to help liberate Wano Kuni from her father and save its people.
As for Yamato’s obsession with Oden. I believe along with respecting him immensely, Yamato used the identity of “Oden” to hide her own insecurities behind. To Yamato, Oden was strength incarnate and embodying such a persona helps her continue forward without succumbing to the doubt echoing within her mind. Oden had made such an overwhelming impression on Yamato that the imagery of him became a source to derive strength from. Strength that could help silence the anxiety and tentative thoughts saturating her perspective. Any uncertainties and reservations Yamato held evaporated when using the persona of “Oden”. Such a mindset became a liberating light to the darkness of fear engulfing her. Yet slowly but noticeable, we have seen Yamato embrace her identity more since her introduction and in both the previous chapter and this chapter, she has acted and approached Momonosuke as not “Oden” but as Yamato. And as herself, she has declared her intention to side with the Kozuki family against her father and the Beast Pirates. Over time, Yamato’s reliance on “Oden” will reduce as she begins to believe in her “self” and abilities more. Unlike in the past, Yamato is now not alone. She has allies to fight alongside.
With the declaration Yamato has expressed to Momonosuke, there is now no doubt in my mind that Yamato represents the Pheasant of this story which had begun in the Punk Hazard Arc. Luffy embodies the Monkey of the Momotarō story and Inuarashi the Dog. Yamato may not aesthetically have many similarities with the Pheasant imagery (save for the hair and the eye-catching gradient colouring from root to tips) but as I mentioned in my previous theory – Yamato and the Pheasant, Yamato’s mother may have been part of the race King and Hitetsu belong to. However the connection arises, Yamato alongside Luffy and Inuarashi are the three main allies Momonosuke has befriended.
Turning to the Akazaya Nine VS Kaido, I am finally beginning to see how strong the Samurai of Wano Kuni in general can be. Having going so long without adequate focus on the Samurai and their capabilities, I was beginning to question how Wano Kuni maintained its independence for 800 years. Outside the Ryuma’s and Oden’s, I hadn’t seen what made the Samurai so fearsome that the World Government couldn’t have overcome. But now with the Akazaya Nine illustrating both their abilities and unwavering resolve, I am beginning to see why the Samurai are regarded as such fearsome fighters. Despite the situation they are now in. Despite the enemies they are challenging. And despite the opponent standing before them. The Akazaya Nine continue to hold their ground with their conviction unaffected by all that they are up against. Regardless of the outcome, they will not allow the fear of that reality to deter them from what they need to do. Their attacks didn’t work. Kiku lost an arm. And their stamina is rapidly depleting. But their blades, both in their hands and in their souls, are still directed firmly at Kaido. The dream they all carry from twenty years ago drive them forward.
As for Luffy, Jinbe and Sanji; they are quickly making their way to the top of Onigashima Castle where Kaido is located but they have still another five floors to climb before reaching the roof. Any opponent who stands against them during that time will stand no chance but it will serve to slow them down sufficiently that Luffy will only arrive at the point where the Akazaya Nine are at the precipice of defeat. Interestingly, I find the intentional focus on Sanji’s lack of infamy to be amusing. Oda-sensei is very cognizant of the crews set-up and now with Jinbe having joined the crew, he is definitely playing up Sanji’s feelings to his position as one of the Monster Trio being threatened. Jinbe is seemingly highlighted at the expense of Sanji but if you look at the situation from a different angle, it could very well be the experience Sanji needs to accept that he is no longer guaranteed the status as one of the three strongest fighters in the crew. If Sanji seeks to maintain his position within the Monster Trio, he will need to continue to improve himself. The rivalry he has with Zoro will also serve to spur Sanji forward so that he can avoid Zoro having something to brag about over him. The current situation for Sanji could be a very transformative experience i.e. he comes to accepts the technology from Germa and his Vinsmoke bloodline.
The Ice Oni plague has set-up such an interesting dynamic. While Queen believes he is silencing the Samurai, what in fact it is starting to do is create a division between those subject to his sadism and the Beast Pirates. If the Ice Oni plague had only affected the Samurai, it wouldn’t be much of an issue but Queen has dragged his subordinates and those who consider him an ally into it. The nameless Beast Pirate member trying to talk his Ice-Oni-infected brother down is an apt scene to illustrate the emotions of the Beast Pirates. The situation isn’t one they asked for and Queen has now forced them to face off against their own allies. The tempest of emotions they feel will not be forgotten. Any bitterness, anger or hatred they feel toward the cause of the situation will be directed at Queen and by extension the Beast Pirates. The divide Queen has created could very well be the start of the implosion within the Beast Pirates. In addition, Queen has given Apoo a reason to turn against the Beast Pirates. Apoo will inevitable lose the antibody and when that moment arrives, the reality of Queen blaming him for the Samurai’s revival will subsequently motivate Apoo to stand against the Beast Pirates. Apoo is an individual who concerns himself with his self-interest and if allying with the Beast Pirates is no longer an option but the source of the danger he is facing, he will without hesitation cut his loses and turn against them.
With Robin currently present on the Live Floor, I don’t see Apoo holding onto the antibody for long. Robin can easily bind him with her limbs and retrieve the antibody herself. As Robin has mentioned in the past (both during her encounter against Pell and Cavendish), speed is an irrelevant concept to her. As long as she can see her opponent, it doesn’t matter how fast they are. Robin can sprout any part of her body anywhere. Meaning, Apoo can’t run away from Robin. I know Chopper asked Zoro to steal the antibody from Apoo but I really don’t trust Zoro not getting lost even when following somebody. It’s terrifying really, the strongest person on that floor, wouldn’t be the most reliable person in this moment. While Robin binds Apoo and steals the antibody, Zoro can instead hold off the other enemies such as the Orochi Oniwabanshu, Mimawarigumi and nameless Beast Pirate members. Brook and him can also protect Robin and Chopper as they mass produce the vaccine to Queen’s Ice Oni plague. On the topic of Brook, I wonder if he is immune to the plague considering he has no flesh and blood to host the infection O.o.
As for Drake, I wonder if he will target Apoo or Queen. He was suspiciously absent from the panels in this chapter while the chaos was ensuing. What does Drake know about the Ice Oni plague and will he share any information he has with the Straw Hat Pirates? Whatever happens, I loved seeing Apoo placed in such a situation where his own hubris was used against him. However Apoo views the Beast Pirates, they don’t view him in the same light. Very much looking forward to the next chapter and seeing Yamato unleash.