Raftel was originally a happy place? This is my speculation on Oda’s original plan for Raftel.
When Crocus first mentioned the name Rafuteru, i didn’t see the name Raftel, instead, i would be reminded of the word “Laughter”.
We know the Japanese wouldn’t spell English words as how they should properly be, but more of how English words “sound”.
Raftel in Japanese is ラフテル pronounced Rafuteru which to me, for the very first time, before even seeing the name “Raftel”, would think it translates to “Laugh-ter”. Those familiar with Japanese translation would know the “R and L rule” e.g. this name: モンキー・D・ルフィ is pronounced Monki Di Rufi officially spelled as Luffy. So even though RAFTEL is the official spelling, i speculate during conceptualization of the island, maybe Oda was thinking of the word LAUGHTER.
To me, the main ideology of One Piece, being a shonen manga, is primarily fun exploration and adventure. So I believed when Oda started at that time, when he was at his creative pureness, Oda wanted Raftel to be the final island of the Straw Hat Pirates, the ultimate fun destination of the main character’s journey.
So how would Raftel the Island of Laughs be?
Possibly a still populated island (can be a sky island) that features the cultures and science of the Ancient Kingdom, which were constructed on the basis for the enjoyment of life as the last free spirited civilisation. Generally, a happy place.
I also believe Raftel is where One Piece is finally found. Roger’s words “That’s where I left it!” must still be applicable.
However, there’s still much work to be done after touching down at Raftel, after finding out what One Piece is, before the completion of the Straw Hats’ individual dreams. Many other speculations and theories have these dreams covered; for example Reverse Mountain needs to be blown away to connect the 4 seas to form All-Blue (Sanji’s Dream).
Over the years we have experienced more serious arcs and complex plot twists in the manga to signify the maturity of Oda as a storyteller as well as to cater to his longtime readers growing up from teenagers into thinking adults. So in reference to the current story development, Raftel could be massively different from his initial idea.
Thanks for reading this!
*Theory by Kurisu