So I’ve been thinking and comparing Whole Cake Island to Dressrosa because it fundamentally split the Straw Hats crew into their own two sagas after Fishman Island/Punk Hazard. And upon rereading all 164 chapters I would like to point out one amazing overarching story narrative that Oda has beautifully woven between each arc.
So Dressrosa was very much a war story much like Marineford pre-timeskip and surmounted to almost entirely of fighting with the exception of the subterfuge at the start: Issho, the revelation of the Celestial Dragons, and the dark history of the island. But as the main plot progressed, Luffy, Zoro, Usopp, Robin and Franky primarily relied purely on their primary skills to carry themselves and others through the story. The only exception being Franky thinking more with his heart than his head and deciding to manfight his victory as opposed to using his construction skills.
- Luffy relied entirely on his brute force fighting skills with Armament Haki-based G4 Bounceman to defeat Doflamingo.
- Zoro, as usual, used swordplay (and revealed hardened Armament Haki) to beat Pika.
- Usopp with the godly snipe on Sugar, ‘nuff said.
- Robin back in action with her primary skills as spy to help beat Sugar and later assassination skills to stop Hukaba and support the gladiators.
- Franky fighting with his heart first, to be honest most of the time this is the only way he fights at his peak.
Overall Oda showing off what every can do in the dire situation with peak focus on their primary skills.
Now let’s look at Whole Cake Island…
This is completely opposite to the events that transpire throughout the Big Mom saga. Why is the the opposite you may ask? Well for once, I think in the entirety of One Piece, the Strawhats have fundamentally been unable to use their primary skills to defeat their foe and have had to rely on their secondary talents. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Sanji’s primary “ship role” is cook, but bar the one weird fight with CP9 Wanze, he has never had to literally beaten a foe into submission using his skills as a chef before (presuming Bege’s reaction to the cake was real). And the same goes for the other half of the Straw Hats…
- Luffy for once can’t muscle his way through his opponent using his brute force head-fist fighting prowess. Although he is skilled in all forms of Haki I would argue Observation Haki has always been on the backburner for the majority of his big fights throughout post-time skip; relying on armament haki to overpower his foes. Now he is forced to remain calm, focus on his movements and think before fighting.
- Nami is fighting a foe who has better manipulation of the weather than she has and very little of her tricks have thus far worked on any of the Big Mom’s pirates at all (bar filler fodder). Although we have some interesting dialogue between her and Zeus, she has made more use of her skills as an emotional manipulator and navigator than her raw talent for weather control.
- Sanji for once he can’t kick himself out of his problems, and it’s nice to see his cooking be used for something more than just post mortem celebration/filler. Woohoo!
- Chopper is finally starting use his forms more innovatively as opposed to just going full monster whenever possible; relying more on it’s utility rather than raw strength (like being captured in heavy point, brilliant!). Though I am sure we’re gonna some excellent doctoring later on.
- Brook was pretty handy versus the homies but his MVP status this arc doesn’t come from his music but his original introduction into One Piece: doing the impossible. Just like him providing the salt to defeating the zombies on Thriller Bark, Brook has been able to do the one thing that no other person in One Piece has been able to do: steal THREE Poneglyphs. Watchout Catburgler Nami, you’re being replaced!
Overall it’s a refreshing change to see that the Straw Hats for once rely on other skills to overcome the challenge Whole Cake Island has introduced and it’s a complete contrast to what the first half of the crew did in Dressrosa. Oda at his finest right here!
tl;dr Dressrosa was all about primary skills being used, Whole Cake Island is all about secondary skills.
*Theory by thelunararmy