I just want to say again how incredibly well written Big Mom is as a character. She’s a character as often in conflict with herself as she is with other characters in the story. Oda wasted no time here in subverting our expectations.
I was very much anticipating a one-on-one fight between Nami and Ulti. Operating with that assumption, I believed Law and Kid would arrive to distract Big Mom, leaving Nami to deal with Ulti alone and wow, was I wrong about the timing.
I think Oda intentionally hinted toward a Nami vs. Ulti fight, particularly when Nami expressed her need for greater power output to take Ulti down for good. With Hera replacing Zeus in Big Mom’s lineup of Homies, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for Nami and Zeus to reconcile, giving Nami the power she needed to prevail. I even considered, in keeping with Lola’s promise to Nami, that Big Mom would let Nami keep Zeus to protect Tama – that she would respect Nami’s shared ‘motherly’ instinct to protect Tama. Which, turned out not to be the case. And I was very happy to be wrong.
Big Mom’s attack on Ulti was brutal and certainly looks like it should have killed her, though I suspect, given the durability of ancient zoans, Ulti will be very much alive. The death of Zeus was even more brutal and unexpected. Oda plays on multiple tropes here to subvert our expectations several times before Hera finally consumes him.
Where I miscalculated was in underestimating the brutal / tyrannical side of Big Mom’s character. Yes, she has this motherly instinct, but it’s not a selfless parental love. Her desire to protect Tama does nothing to deter her anger toward the Straw Hats and despite Tama’s pleas, moves in for the kill. When Tama throws in her lot with Nami and Usopp, Olin’s rage extends to Tama herself – and this is perfectly in line with the Big Mom we came to know on Whole Cake Island. Her motivation may be pure, to create a nation where all the races of the One Piece world live in harmony, but it’s a manufactured dystopian candyland where people are forced to live under her tyrannical thumb.
We saw on Whole Cake Island the punishment received by children who disobey and so her maternal care for Otama turns to rage when Tama ‘rebels’. In many ways, Big Mom is the inversion of Whitebeard, exemplified by the conversation between Big Mom and Marco in chapter 993 (I believe). Whitebeard was the good father and treated his crew like his children. He attempted to pay the price for the sins of his son, Ace, who went rogue in pursuit of Blackbeard. He forgave Squard for his betrayal. Big Mom conversely treats her children like her crew – meant to serve her every whim. There’s perfect harmony only so long as everything and everyone behaves to Big Mom’s liking.
We saw that Linlin was victimized and manipulated as a child by Streussen and Mother Carmel, but she started as a child with pure intention. There is however a brutal, monstrous side to Big Mom which is as much in conflict with her sweet caring side as are other characters in the story. This makes her such an interesting and dynamic presence both within the Wano story arc an throughout the New World. She is most certainly the most interesting antagonist Luffy has encountered in quite some time, so I hope her story does not end here on Wano (I don’t believe that it will). I just have to say again how much I love what Oda is doing with her character. Despite the fact that Big Mom stole Nami’s thunder here, I think the tone reversal from the previous chapter was really effective.
This week Oda reminded us in more than one way that despite their growth, the Emperors are still an unrivaled force of Nature in the New World…
Here’s the video theory:
*Theory by StrawHatJedi