Monkey D Luffy Joyboy Transformation

Usopp and Zoro latch onto Luffy's rubber cheeks, exposing his impossible mouth, as they leap into the air.

Image: Eiichiro Oda / SHUEISHA Inc.

Eiichiro Oda has been playing the long game. That’s not news to anyone reading. One piecehis globally popular manga, which has been dropping Easter eggs and seeding revelations for two and a half decades. The biggest, and certainly the most divisive among its many fans, was revealed last weekend and has irrevocably changed one of the oldest manga forever.

Image for article titled After 25 years, One Piece finally became One Piece Z

If you are not familiar with One piece, here is the short version of what happened: Luffy got the hair transformation. His normally black, tousled hair has turned into a half-smoky, half-sticky mess, and here’s why this is an extremely important turning point in the series.

Luffy in his new Joyboy form, also known as his Gear Five power level, as seen in Chapter 1044.

Luffy in his new Joyboy form, also known as his Gear Five power level, as seen in Chapter 1044.
Image: Eiichiro Oda / SHUEISHA Inc.

It’s a time-honored trope in shonen manga, aka Japanese comics aimed primarily at tweens and early teens (although many of the readers who were tweens when One piece started in 1997 are still reading it at 40). The most famous, of course, is when Dragon BallGoku’s hair changed from black to spiky yellow when he evolved into his most powerful Super Saiyan form, but many of the more popular shonen manga, such as naruto, Bleach, Yuyu Hakushoand Murderer of demonshave put their protagonists through a similar physical development, usually with their hair altered in some way to physically represent the power-up.

What One pieceMonkey D. Luffy, the straw hat-wearing main character whose dream is to become the King of Pirates in the fantasy world of manga, undergoing this major transformation a quarter of a century after the first chapter is noteworthy in itself, as well as the fact that Oda had this moment planned in less as far back as 2011, when a character named Joyboy was first mentioned (and probably much longer than that). But what makes this amazing, and what has left some melodramatic fans crying that One piece has been ruined forever is this: although Luffy has become more powerful, he has also become a lot, a lot dumber

could write about One piece Lore forever, but here’s the short version: In the manga, there are things called devil fruits and if someone eats one, they receive unique powers in exchange for not being able to swim. For example, Smoke-Smoke Fruit allows them to control and transform into smoke, while Cat-Cat: Leopard Fruit allows them to become were-leopards. Luffy, in Chapter 1, ate the Gum-Gum no Mi, which turned him into a rubber man with the ability to stretch his arms to ridiculous lengths, inflate parts of his body, and more. The many battles he has fought throughout the series have been exciting and cool enough that it’s hard to remember that Luffy’s powers are, and seem, fundamentally dumb.

Luffy drinks an impossible amount of water to fight an enemy with Sand-Sand Fruit in Chapter 122. Note: This is very silly.

Luffy drinks an impossible amount of water to fight an enemy with Sand-Sand Fruit in Chapter 122. Note: This is very silly.
Image: Eiichiro Oda / SHUEISHA Inc.

What was revealed last weekend, and again, I feel like I have to remind you that this is number 1044—is that Luffy didn’t eat the Gum-Gum fruit at all. Instead, it was a mythical fruit that has been transforming him into a new incarnation of a legendary figure named joy boy (who was inspired by a real and eerily prophetic 12th-century Javanese king called Joyoboyo). You really don’t need to know anything more than that ORnew partJoyboy is supposed to bring laughter, joy and freedom to people through the use of a power described as “ridiculous”.

What Luffy and millions of readers thought were rubber powers were, in fact, Cartoon powers. Perhaps a better way to describe this is that it’s Bugs Bunny’s powers; Like Bugs Bunny, Luffy can do anything with his imagination and sense of desire for fun. When he strangles Kaido, the series’ current mega-powerful half-Chinese dragon villain, and spins him around like a shot put, Kaido’s suddenly wide eyes are visible like classic comic strips, Luffy laughing happily the entire time. When Kaido fires a Godzilla-style blast of energy from his mouth, Luffy bends reality to his will, lifting the ground like a sheet to block him, much like Wile E. Coyote can run in mid-air until he notices. who has fallen off a cliff. And surely there is much more to come.

This incredible reveal, 25 years in the making, has left fans stunned and upset many fans. Some feel that Luffy went from being a random kid with silly power who set sail to become the Pirate King into the secretly prophesied savior of the world. One piece The world makes it, ironically, less unique in a genre full of heroes who happen to be some kind of Promised One, which has long been a trope of shonen manga (and a lot of fantasy fiction, frankly). I think some One piece readers forget this, because the series has always been so creative and unique, it’s still a shonen manga, right down to the increasingly powerful villains that Luffy had to overcome over the course of his journey. Luffy was always going to be the one to save the world, he just revealed new powers, something he does regularly during his fights, another tried and true shonen trope.

Luffy enters Gear Three, where he blows on his thumb to fill his rubbery body with air, enlarging his fist, in Chapter 200.

luffy enters Gear Three, where he blows on his thumb to fill his rubbery body with air, enlarging his fist, in Chapter 200.
Image: Eiichiro Oda / SHUEISHA Inc.

But what seems to infuriate most fans is how silly this is, both figuratively and literally. while the world of One piece It’s already a wildly imaginative fantasy world, filled with giants and superpowers and sky islands and cyborgs, turning the badass hero into the anime equivalent of Roger Rabbit seems like a betrayal of the epic story they’ve been so invested in for so long. I suspect that since these powers are undoubtedly inspired by American cartoons, rather than Japanese manga, they also annoy die-hard fans.

What these fans miss is that this is not a betrayal of One piece not at all, for many reasons. First of all, Oda has always been inspired by American comics and animation, especially classic Disney movies, and has always been candid about it. (Compare the nightmare before christmas and The little Mermaid for One piece‘s “Thriller Bark” and “Fishman Island” arcs and you will see exactly what I mean.) Also, Oda has forever used these visual conventions in One piece right from the start, whether the characters’ mouths open to impossible levels to indicate fear, their teeth momentarily turn into fangs to represent anger, and they get exaggerated bumps on their heads when hit for comedic effect. Luffy’s new Joyboy powers are just a more overtly textual use of these cartoon visual tropes.

The other thing that fans miss is that Luffy’s new powers are perfect for both the character and the series. Luffy’s goal has always been to be the King of the Pirates, whom he considers to be the freest person in the world. He is always delighted and laughing at life, even when he was seconds away from being executed. Throughout the series, his battles have been against villains who have trapped, oppressed, and/or enslaved people, and when those people have been freed, they celebrate their newfound freedom with parties filled with food, drink, and laughter. Freedom, happiness and laughter: these are the basic principles of Luffy, and Oda’s goal for Luffy is to bring joy to the world by freeing its inhabitants from the tyranny of the oppressive and divisive World Government.

All those classic Mickey Mouse and Looney Tunes cartoons may seem old in 2022, but their goofiness was bound to make their audiences laugh. Bugs Bunny is a beloved character not because he is a realistic bunny, but because he is a mischievous being who can bend reality to his will, whether for a cheap prank or to give an ill-intentioned antagonist his due and/or or unbearably smug. And who is freer than someone whose power is limited by nothing but the limits of his imagination?

Luffy, in Joyboy mode, reacts in comic surprise to Kaido's breath and raises the ground to block him in Chapter 1044.

Luffy, in Joyboy mode, reacts in comic surprise to Kaido’s breath and raises the ground to block him in Chapter 1044.
Image: Eiichiro Oda / SHUEISHA Inc.

Those fans who think this marks the end of a “serious” One piece You are wrong. This is still a series that can be so heartbreaking that it can make children and adults cry (I’m yet not about the end of Luffy’s first ship, the goes happy, and that was in 2006). Sillyness, action and melodrama have always gone hand in hand in One piece, and just because Luffy has gotten more “ridiculous” doesn’t mean the rest of the manga has. There is oppression all over the world. The villainous Blackbeard has yet to make the move on him, and other sinister forces are at work. Hell, Luffy still hasn’t beaten Kaido, and Kaido has already beaten Luffy three times so far.

Instead, the manga has just added an extra dimension to its goofiness, which has been a part of the series since it debuted in 1997. If that ends up bringing smiles to the characters in One pieceit should also make your readers smile.

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