The following recap contains spoilers for Chapter 1037 of the One Piece manga. You can check out the latest chapters in English via Viz Media.
It’s been a whopping 37 chapters since “Straw Hat Luffy,” when the true battle between Luffy and Kaidou kicked off, with of course a few other supernovas and one other emperor hanging around as well. Now that King and Queen have been toppled in this glorious chess match of a raid (or Go match?), we’re finally seeing the third round of this momentous, series-defining showdown happening in earnest. No more cutting away after maybe a page of Conqueror’s Haki colored clashes without much to-do. We’re in the endgame, now. Hopefully.
I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around this battle actually coming to a close in 2022, and the Wano Arc ending soon as well. Before reading this chapter, titled “Shuron Hakke” (or “Drunken Dragon Bagua”), I had a hard time picturing how this fight could reasonably end in a satisfying way. Kaidou is the strongest “creature” in the entire world (according to the world), so Luffy actually defeating him has massive implications for the entire series. So big, it has to feel far more earned than Zoro taking down King in about two chapters, and vice versa for Sanji and Queen.
That’s not to say their fights were underwhelming, to be clear, or that there hasn’t been a clear, established difference in how those bouts were written compared to Luffy and Kaidou’s repeated engagements. In fact, Oda was particularly clever and efficient in using their fights to telegraph how much of a mountain Luffy still has to climb in order to overcome Kaidou, even still. And it’s this chapter that solidifies, for me, how Oda can weave a decent story out of Luffy finally besting Kaidou in a way that makes sense, has been built up, and will add to his canonical legend without harming his underdog status among fans.
And that’s because of the Joyboy thing.
Yet again, Kaidou invokes what is clearly his defining motivation for wanting to be the Pirate King. It seems to be less and less about finding the One Piece, a goal he’s hardly brought up except when declaring his intentions to the Beast Pirates alongside Big Mom. To Kaidou, the One Piece is basically a hassle, or a means to an end he’d rather not have to deal with. What he cares most about is fulfilling the role of Joyboy, or at least finding Joyboy and adding such a figure to his crew. It’s probably why he hasn’t been killing the worst generation pirates, just capturing and subjugating them. And why he’s shown serious lament over Luffy not proving himself to be Joyboy. No wonder he drinks so much.
For those who were still wondering if Kaidou is really fighting seriously, this chapter makes it clearer than ever. He points out to Luffy (and the readers) that he’s finally going toe-to-toe and is having a ton of fun doing it. So much so, he’s…getting drunk. It’s a nice callback to their first bout at the end of Wano’s first act, but it also adds in that extra layer of goofy fun these high-level fights have been dabbling in, down to how each of the Tobiroppo 1v1s were handled.
We’re moving into the part of the fight where we can now see some groundwork being laid for how Luffy will defeat Kaidou not just physically, but mentally. Similar to Katakuri, the battle won’t really come down to a last-minute power up, though that’s still certainly on the table, especially if the final pages of this chapter are alluding to Luffy having the Devil Fruit that is about to awaken, which is not certain.
But even if that does happen, Luffy simply overpowering Kaidou wouldn’t be enough in a series like One Piece. There has to be a philosophical component, likely sprinkled in with a few more Kaidou flashbacks, that explain why the world’s strongest “creature” is about to become the world’s second strongest “creature.” Blackbeard, notwithstanding.
Again, it’s apparently going to come down to Kaidou realizing and accepting that Luffy is Joyboy. It’s sort of a necessary revelation that I think we might see within the next few chapters. The most obvious way to do this would be for Oda to tie the identity of Joyboy to Luffy’s Devil Fruit being something “more” than making him a rubber man. For example, if Luffy awakens this fruit, it could not only defeat Kaidou in terms of power, but defeat his “will.” Because he’s one of the few people in the manga who would probably know enough about Joyboy to recognize what this means, aside from the World Government.
We already know that Luffy’s fruit is special in some way.
Yes, a lot of people will speculate that the Five Elders are referring to Nico Robin’s fruit at the end, or maybe Zunesha’s—though I maintain that Zunesha is the result of a Devil Fruit, not a Devil Fruit user themselves, or at least related to the Ancient Weapons. But Oda has spent far more time setting up a revelation like this for Luffy, first with us finding out that Who’s-Who was after the Gomu Gomu no Mi during his fight with Jinbe.
There are plenty of routes for Oda to take, here, but this particular one currently makes the most sense to me based on everything we’ve seen up until this chapter. At this point in the raid, I’ve grown increasingly disinterested in the mini-mysteries still lurking around Onigashima, like who healed up the Scabbards before Kanjuro made his reappearance (Hiyori?) and what Hiyori is about to do now that she’s suckered Orochi. We still have CP0 pursuing Robin, which amps up the tension a good bit, but I have a feeling Oda plans to hand-wave that overwhelming obstacle the same way he might with Big Mom.
Because I’m more convinced than ever that Big Mom just isn’t going down in a fight against Law and Kid. I do think they’ll hold their own and I don’t even think they’ll lose. The island is about to plummet within minutes, so if they were actually going to take down an Emperor of the Sea, Oda probably would’ve done more of that fight before Luffy’s. If he planned on them winning, anyway. I get the sense from this chapter, however, that the outcome of Luffy’s fight will cause some sort of stalemate with Big Mom.
And after Kaidou is defeated, I could see him being part of Big Mom’s downfall in some surprise way. Whether they both go down with Onigashima in a blaze of glory, symbolizing the fall of the former world powers, or Kaidou does something a bit more direct to stop Big Mom and help Luffy, who he would possibly acknowledge as Joyboy. In fact, Kaidou even addresses how he feels shame for not being able to keep one castle intact, so I also wonder if him finding out that Luffy’s crew has defeated his own so thoroughly might be even more fuel to the Joyboy fire in his breath.
I’m sure I’ll be eating my words soon enough.
Overall, this chapter really gets a lot of work done in clearing the way for an impressive climax. It’s still anyone’s guess as to what Oda has in mind for the grand finale, but the addition of Zunesha to the chaos is only a positive, as far as I’m concerned. I adore the idea of Zunesha being called there by Luffy and Momo’s “voice of all things,” if that’s what’s happening, which would seriously establish the Straw Hat alliance as the real “Beast” pirates. And look, there’s another angle for Luffy earning the emperor’s begrudging respect.
In all seriousness, we’ve long seen notable connections between Conqueror’s Haki and controlling powerful creatures, but where Luffy has the edge on Kaidou in that respect is in relation to having the Minks on his side. It’s a great time to be a fan of the theory where Zunesha is the “eye” of the Skypeia skull and that Zou itself is tied directly to the One Piece.
In fact, this chapter raised an idea in my head about Zunesha’s curse to walk for an eternity. Based on the wording, it makes me wonder if that’s why Gol D. Roger was too “early.” Because Zunesha wasn’t there yet. If that’s where Zunesha’s been headed all this time, and that there’s nothing his crew could’ve done about this, him laughing it off would make some sense to me.
Back to the fight.
Kaidou confirms something extremely important in this chapter regarding the central battle. And that’s how he is apparently more powerful when he’s drunk. And that’s certainly another signifier for how seriously he’s taking the fight, now. His “Drunken” fighting style is definitely a nice, One Piece-world approved quirk, as I already mentioned, but I was particularly taken by how Luffy adapts to it so quickly.
In addition to the various Haki power ups Luffy has acquired during the course of this fight (another nod to Katakuri, of course), we’ve seen him use an incredibly savvy fighting style against Kaidou. Rather than burst into Gear Fourth too early, he’s balancing his gears using strategy and cunning, plus he no longer has to blow into his arm to achieve Gear Third. He’ll use one gear to launch himself into the air, then seamlessly switch to another one in order to bring the pain. It shows a subtler evolution of his strength as a top-tier combatant without making a big fuss about it, which I’m sure the anime will overemphasize, anyway.
It’s also remarkable to see Luffy take a direct hit from Kaidou’s Bagua without fainting, unlike their first battle. I suppose we’re meant to fill in the blanks ourselves, assuming that his Conqueror’s Haki “coated armor” is what’s protecting him this time around. Still, it’s a bit difficult for me to track his progress being that exponential, not that I think it takes away from this fight in any huge way. Luffy taking heavy hits from Kaidou is certainly to be expected as the battle rages, as he can’t just dodge everything.
After all, we do need to see Kaidou’s various “drunk” forms (Sad, Angry, etc.) go into full effect if we’re really going to believe that Kaidou is going all out. Watching the two mix up their fighting styles and forms on the go is just excellent material from Oda, who’s clearly as excited as we are to move into this final stage of the manga’s biggest battle yet.
The last part of Chapter 1037 covers the Five Elders pontificating about the disastrous Reverie (which was weeks ago in this timeline?) and shifting their concerns to Wano and Nico Robin. I originally thought that Luffy and the gang would have more than enough time to rest on Wano before the rest of the World Government would even show up, since they’re currently trying to apprehend all the Warlords. Aren’t they spread pretty thin, right now?
But I suppose Oda wants to bring in a least a small force to block their exit and support CP0, while we have Zunesha possibly messing up their plans, which would open up the time we need for a “recovery” arc after this one, or epilogue of some sort. I just can’t imagine Luffy and the alliance not having a massive banquet after this, but I’ve been wrong before, certainly.
I already mentioned this mysterious Devil Fruit bombshell, which the World Government apparently renamed in order to hide its identity for centuries. The plot certainly thickens. Oda constructs the sequence of this revelation in a way to perhaps mislead us into thinking the fruit has something to do with Zunesha. But if I had a list of candidates, I’d put Luffy at the top and maybe Blackbeard second, with Robin a distant third.
Blackbeard is an interesting case because his Devil Fruit has always been profoundly suspect, and sprinkling in this unsolved mystery would do wonders to build up the anticipation for him as the next saga’s villain. Is it fair to say that the Blackbeard saga will take another decade of One Piece to unfold? It really is impossible to say, no matter what Oda insists otherwise these days.
Grand Fleeting Thoughts
- One last note about Zunesha, I thought it was interesting how the cover not only confirms that the Vinsmokes survived that Whole Cake Island ordeal (which most of us figured, granted), but that it foreshadows Zunesha showing up at the last minute to potentially help our allies in similar fashion to Germa 66’s role in the last arc.
- The Fire Festival is about to end. Oh, if only they knew how. I have a feeling this quick check-in is set up for them releasing the sky boats with all these wishes and then finally looking up to notice Onigashima hovering above them.
- Sadly, we’re getting ANOTHER two-week break before the next chapter. I don’t think we’ve gotten two consecutive releases since early December.
- Also, hi! This is actually my first manga recap for One Piece on The Young Folks. Actually, this is my first manga recap ever. But I’m coming into it with a big, eager heart for this series, which I’ve been reading weekly for well over a decade. Like many people in the west, I started out with the anime during its 4Kids run, then caught up fully right before the time skip. I’m excited to start doing these recaps consistently, so hit me up on twitter (@JonNegroni) if you want to let me know about anything I might’ve missed! I’m sure there’s plenty.
- If you’re curious about my impression of the Wano arc thus far, you can check out the blurb I did for the anime, titled “The 11 Best Anime of 2021 So Far.”