Ever since Luffy made the invitation to Jinbe to join the crew until Jinbe announcing his willingness to die for Luffy and now to the actual joining of the crew, people have been dismissive of Jinbe as Nakama.
With all the talk of Jinbe willing to die and actually dying, I think how crucial Jinbe is to the story of One Piece is being ignored. In this post I want to go over why Jinbe is such a pivotal character to Luffy’s journey to become Pirate King.
There are multiple reasons as to why Jinbe is important to Luffy/Straw Hat Pirates and why he cannot die. First off, he is important for his mere presence on the ship of the future Pirate King. It is important that he exists on Luffy’s ship all the way to journey’s end not only for his unique Fishman perspective but also for the stories he will pass on to others as a Fishman when everything is said and done. I think it is important for a Fishman to tell stories of Luffy who is a human to ensure that the well of hatred between human/fishman never resurfaces. Humans like Koala and others will help humanity remember fishman/merman as equals while fishman like Jinbe will do the same on the other side as a member of the Pirate King’s crew.
What really confused me was the wish that many had for Jinbe to die and especially in the Whole Cake Island Arc. I could not understand how anyone cannot realize that it would turn Jinbe into Ace 2.0 by protecting Luffy.
If Jinbe were to die, Luffy would have an immediate character crisis as to the purpose of the training he did for two years. He trained so hard for the purpose of preventing “Ace” from happening again. The amount of effort that Oda would have made to rationalize his weakness into the strength to continue his journey immediately with Nakama that he cannot protect is something I do not think even Oda can manage. With the upcoming events of Wano and the Reverie, how could Oda possibly fit such a huge plot point with the nuance, subtlety, substance, and recuperation that it deserves. The rehash of Ace dying to protect Luffy is something that I think Oda will avoid.
Besides the narrative mess Jinbe’s death would make, I think Jinbe has a few things he needs to accomplish before any possibility of kicking the bucket. First he has to meet Koala in person to know what she is now. He has to see for himself and for Fisher Tiger, for both of them what that little girl they saved has become. I think it is important that Jinbe understands she is thankful and she turned out alright. In fact she turned out great to the point that she is fighting the very system that oppressed Tiger, Jinbe and their fellow fishman/merman. Tiger’s death did not end up being nothing and Jinbe deserves to know that for himself and for Tiger.
Now with regards to Jinbe’s wish to witness freedom for all fishman/merman, this piece of plot armor basically renders him invincible. As a fishman he is unique in the fact that he is connected to both Fisher Tiger and Otohime.
He has responsibility to witness the freedom of fishman/merman and the equality with humans for both of those pivotal figures of Fishman Island. He is the only one that connects both of them to the struggles they still fight right now. No other person can be the eyes for both of them who wanted the same goals with different approaches. He has to stay alive to witness all of it. He has to see how Luffy sticks it to the current system and pass that onto future generations. Eventually, all of the members of the Strawhat crew will be a unit of collective historians for the Pirate King crew and Jinbe will end up as a unique piece of that.
Now, his willingness to die for Luffy is most certainly going to come up. He might even attempt it somewhere down the line, however Luffy will most certainly not allow it because he promised that it will not happen again. I think Luffy and Jinbe protecting each other to both stay alive will be much more profound character development rather than one dying for the other.
*Theory by Azurefeatherfly