Edit note: Post updated with developments from chapter 1,000.
3D2Y moment is definitely an intimate experience that establishes a powerful bond between the members of the Straw Hat Pirates and the readers feelings towards the main characters.
But if we do entertain the possibility that there will be another character added to the Straw Hat Pirates in the future, what would be the next best thing to bridge that gap for the
Having characters associated with the events surrounding the
3D2Y development would help. Such as if the character was one who fought alongside Luffy in the Battle of Marineford or played an integral part in assisting Luffy e.g. Law saving Luffy, Hancock having Luffy’s back before, during and after the battle, Koby’s seconds of courage, Buggy’s divine assistance, Ivankov’s “healing”, etc. Such acts did help build a camaraderie between Luffy and the character.
Beyond that there is a more intimate connection which could help a character fill [some of] the gap left by the
3D2Y moment and that is the connection to Ace. The character whose death led to the 3D2Y moment. Jinbe had both a connection to Ace and played an integral role in the Battle of Marineford (protecting Luffy) which made his inclusion in the crew feel so natural and…right. Hancock had helped Luffy in a similar manner to Jinbe but her set-up was completely different. Hancock is a very special case (Luffy and her did spend 4 and a half days in the same room on a ship, together). Hancock won’t be part of the Straw Hat Pirates but she will arrive at Laugh Tale alongside Luffy. Pirate King and Pirate Empress. Destiny is all.
Any character that had a [close] relationship with Ace would hold relevance to his death. To those characters that cared for Ace, they too would understand to an extent what Luffy was going through when Ace’s life was ultimately extinguished. And if those character knew of the relationship Ace and Luffy shared, they would have some idea of how painful the event would have been for Luffy. Such feelings along with historic focus on that moment (flashback) could help bridge the emotional gap readers/viewers would have with any new character joining the crew by aligning that characters pain with the emotions generated from the
3D2Y moment. It won’t completely make up for the lack of the 3D2Y experience but it would definitely assist any new character being a future Straw Hat Pirate to not be completely detached from that moment. An indirect bond the character has to the Straw Hat Pirates through their pain over Ace’s death. In a way, a shared experience.
We know several characters that were relevant during the Marineford Arc or are relevant in the Wano Kuni Arc that have interacted with and established some form of relationship with Ace – Smoker, Buggy, Little Oars Jr., [s]Hancock[/s], Tama, and Yamato. Ace through his adventures had encountered those relevant characters. Buggy isn’t going to be a future Straw Hat Pirate so we can ignore him.
Smoker is a curious case. His story has been closely connected to Luffy’s but I don’t see him being developed as a future Straw Hat Pirate by Oda. The problem I have with Smoker and his potential to be a Straw Hat Pirate is that he was in part responsible for Ace’s death. Regardless of Smoker’s intentions, through his actions he supported and contributed to Ace’s death. If Oda was looking at writing Smoker as a future Straw Hat Pirate, he would have scripted events differently to illustrate Smoker being more against what was going on and being indirectly helpful to Luffy. As was the case with Garp and Koby whose actions assisted Luffy during the Marineford Arc. None of Smoker’s actions helped Luffy…or Ace. It would be unnatural for Smoker to now go on to join the Straw Hat Pirates. Him assisting the Straw Hat Pirates as an ally to clear the corruption from the Marines, that is something Smoker (and Tashigi) can help with.
Tama established a close bond with Ace during the two weeks he was present on Wano Kuni. Tama even has the promise Ace (as the Captain of the Spade Pirates) made to her to express how deep the friendship ran. Where Tama loses momentum in regards to the connection to the
3D2Y moment is her not being aware of Ace’s death prior to Luffy bluntly informing her. There was no build up to the dramatic reveal. And her only finding out two years later distances the experience from the 3D2Y moment. Tama’s relation to Ace was used to establish her friendship with Luffy instead of highlighting an experience similar to the one the Straw Hat Pirates shared two years ago.
Finally there is Yamato who became friends with Ace after initially battling with him. It was Ace’s passionate words about Yamato’s heart that led Yamato to confronting their feelings and embracing what they really want – to go out to sea and adventure. To be free. Even though the time Yamato and Ace spent together was short, the two quickly became friends and shared bottles of sake together along with stories of the new generation of pirate rookies and Luffy. Yamato had also given Ace the vivre card which Ace later used to give Luffy a piece. That piece of vivre card was in turn relied on heavily by Luffy during the Summit War Saga when locating Ace. It could be argued that indirectly through the vivre card, Yamato played a part during the Paradise portion of the One Piece story.
Based on the content of chapter 1,000, we can say with certainty that Yamato did not start following the Straw Hat Pirates journey until they read the newspaper concerning Ace’s death. Only after Ace died when Yamato also read about Luffy’s involvement in the war did Yamato recall the conversation they had with Ace 1-2 years prior to that moment. From that moment forward, Yamato became interested in Luffy who reminded them of the King of the Pirates written about in Oden’s journal.
The next important part of Yamato’s story is how they would have reacted when news of Ace’s death reached them? How shattered would Yamato be when they found out a friend of there’s was killed without them able to directly help? Yamato would have been crushed. From Yamato’s conversations with Luffy and the fondness reflected in Yamato’s face when talking about Ace to Momonosuke, it is clear Ace was a person very dear to Yamato even if the time they spent together was short. Yamato mentioned they couldn’t stop crying after Oden was killed as the emotions were so powerful. I would imagine Yamato’s reaction to be the same when they found out Ace was killed.
And with all that, Yamato still continued to believe that Luffy would be able to pick himself up and continue his adventure to Wano Kuni. Yamato continued to challenge Kaido and continued to wait for Luffy. What made Yamato believe in Luffy and his arrival in Wano Kuni? With the narrative surrounding the Straw Hat Pirates disappearance after the events two years ago and the gap between their activity, why would someone continue to believe in the Straw Hat Pirates entering the New World? Why would Yamato? In line with Yamato’s interest in the Straw Hat Pirates journey, they would have seen the newspapers featuring the Straw Hat Pirates including the one containing the message Luffy left for his crew members two years ago. A crazy thought, but what if Yamato saw the meaning in Luffy’s message and knew his arrival at Wano Kuni to be inevitable after decoding the message? What if Yamato knew the Straw Hat Pirates would enter the New World two years after the Battle of Marineford? In conjunction with the information contained in Oden’s journal where a group of Pirates will appear in Wano twenty years after Oden’s death and knowledge of Luffy’s dream which echoed what Roger told Oden, if during the conversation Ace and Yamato shared on Onigashima extended to Ace’s tattoo and the crossed out “S” it could explain how Yamato was able to decode the message Luffy expressed to his crew. Unlike the Straw Hat Pirates who were aware what the crossed out “3D” meant allowing them to infer a meaning to “2Y”, Yamato would be aware what the “2Y” meant when read together with Oden’s journal allowing Yamato to infer what the crossed out “3D” meant. Would not such a development coupled with Yamato’s grief over Ace’s death and their continual struggles over the past 20 years connect that pain with the Straw Hat Pirates experience from two years ago during the
3D2Y moment? What happens if it is revealed that Yamato made a pledge with themselves as well upon understanding the 3D2Y message – ‘when you arrive in Wano Kuni, Luffy, I will be ready to help fight alongside you to stop Kaido and open Wano’s borders. And I will set sail with you to experience the world beyond Wano.’
Yamato is aware of Sabo’s name which Ace revealed when talking about Luffy’s dream. And through that conversation Yamato learned of Sabo’s relation to Ace and Luffy. It is unclear if Yamato is aware of the story surrounding Sabo but they at the very least know of Sabo’s existence. Additionally, I wonder if Yamato is aware of the Revolutionary Army employing a Sabo within their ranks. If so, does Yamato realise the connection to Luffy? Considering Sabo is currently seemingly in trouble, it would be exciting to see two characters connected to Ace who couldn’t save him now join together to assist Sabo, the brother who Ace thought dead, in whatever bind he is in. Sabo could even reunite with Luffy using the vivre card he got from Luffy to request assistance with whatever problem arose from the events of the Levely/Reverie. And through Yamato and Luffy reuniting with Sabo, the three could visit Ace’s grave to express the fulfillment of Ace’s promise from three years ago via pouring sake cups and sharing a drink – “The Sake I Brewed to Drink with You”. Yamato’s final comment to Ace (“Let’s meet up again one day, Ace!!”) and Ace’s response (“You bet”) may come to pass upon Yamato visiting Ace’s grave. The three could also pay their respects to Whitebeard who Ace thought of as a father. There is much relevance and emotional substance in aligning Yamato with the Straw Hat Pirates post Wano.
I still believe the Octopus in the start of the Wano Kuni Arc that helped Luffy and Co. enter Wano Kuni is connected to Yamato. No other character in Wano Kuni followed the Straw Hat Pirates as closely as Yamato did. Yamato had Oden’s journal to compare the Straw Hat Pirates journey with. They knew with Nico Robin in the Straw Hat Pirates and Luffy having the initial “D” in his name, it was inevitable that the Straw Hat Pirates would eventually come to Wano Kuni for the Road Poneglyph in Kaido’s possession. And based on Oden’s Journal and their conversation with Ace, Yamato also noted similarities between Luffy and Roger. If Yamato was aware the Straw Hat Pirates will enter the New World two years after the Battle of Marineford, it makes sense for Yamato to expect the arrival of Luffy in Wano Kuni. As such, Yamato may have taken measures to assist the Straw Hat Pirates in their entrance to Wano Kuni. Considering how secretive this method is, it would have taken someone with prior knowledge to arrange such an entry. Kaido was surprised Big Mom knew of the waterfall-climbing method which implies just how closely guarded this knowledge was. It would make sense for the Straw Hat Pirates to be assisted by someone who was closely connected to Kaido and who better than the one person on Onigashima Island that had been waiting years for Luffy’s arrival i.e. Kaido’s child. The Octopus itself was strangely interested in Luffy – summoning the Koi after Luffy mentions his name and grabbing ahold of Luffy as he tried to escape the Thousand Sunny when it reached the top of the Wano Kuni waterfall. Additionally, Yamato also knew Luffy and the Samurai were approaching Onigashima Island before any of the other Beast Pirates which is why Yamato disappeared earlier in the day before any of the Samurai and Pirates arrived. Yamato has been keeping their focus closely on the Straw Hat Pirates (Luffy) movements across Wano Kuni which could mean Yamato was receiving their information from somewhere – an Octopus or other animals perhaps?
If Yamato had decoded the
3D2Y message Luffy left for his crew and has been waiting for Luffy since that day, it would help to establish a connection between Yamato and that intimate moment Luffy and his crew shared. Through Ace, Yamato became involved in the Straw Hat Pirates story and now through the events in Wano Kuni, Yamato is becoming closely associated to the Straw Hat Pirates adventure. The foundation Oda is setting up with Yamato being aware of Luffy’s dream and his relevance to the “One Piece” is not just window dressing. There is a deeper meaning to Oda having Yamato being closely connected to the end goals of One Piece and the mysteries surrounding it. Very much looking forward to learning more about Yamato, their past and their involvement within the remainder of the Wano Kuni Arc.