I think one of the biggest and most overlooked developments in Wano thus far has been Luffy’s gradual evolution from a boy to man.
While Luffy still retains his boyishness, happy-go-lucky attitude, and some of his recklessness, his evolution from boy to man has been unraveling before our eyes. To be fair, Luffy has always had machismo. In serious situations, Luffy has often proven himself to be a man’s man, especially when dealing with his crew members. However in previous arcs, these moments were few and far between. In Wano in particular, it feels as if Oda has made it a point to showcase Luffy’s physical and mental growth, perhaps setting the stage for our hero to transition from a boy to a King.
Here are a few examples of how I think Oda has been evolving Luffy in Wano:
Oda made Luffy’s appearance more manlier in Wano. One of the most defining characteristics of a man is his overall physical appearance. While Luffy has always shown his manliness through actions and words, he never quite looked the part physically.
Through his unique interaction with Tama, Luffy was the older brother or father figure, instead of the younger brother or clueless idiot captain. I honestly can’t imagine pre timeskip Luffy bonding with, and taking care of a little Tama to the extent that Wano Luffy had. I think this is Oda’s way of showing the more responsible, or even paternal side of Luffy.
For the first time Luffy had the patience to sit through someone else’s emotional backstory. When was the last time Luffy sat through anyone’s complicated backstory? Pre timeskip Luffy never cared about people’s motivations, only their actions, which isn’t a bad thing. But Wano Luffy took a different approach with Oden’s story. In addition to sitting through the backstory, Luffy was able to referenced Oden’s story in his pitch to the prisoners at Udon, showing that he wasn’t simply occupying space, but he was paying attention as well.
Luffy has always inspired others with words and actions. But at Udon, his words were not being directed at his crew members or any one individual, but rather at a group of strangers with whom he had no prior relations. Wano is testing Luffy as a leader of men on a different scale, putting him in direct contrast with Kaido, who doesn’t inspire people to take up arms but submits them to his will instead.
In conclusion, while I don’t think Oda will completely strip Luffy of his boyishness (that is his charm after all), he has been using Wano to gradually transform Luffy physically and temperamentally, bringing him closer to kingship. My prediction is that Wano will be remembered as the arc that gave birth to a King.