First, I want to start by adressing a point I’ve read several times: Are Luffy and the Alliance going to fail?
Honestly, I can confidently say that no, they won’t. I see no scenario in which at the end of the arc, Wano isn’t freed from Kaido and the Beasts Pirates, and let me tell you why. I’ve seen comments saying that Luffy isn’t ready to take on Yonko, on Kaido, that he needs to grow in the strength, that Luffy needs another failure like Marineford or something. And you know what? I understand and somewhat agree with a few of those points. However, I think there is something some people don’t understand.
Wano is not Luffy’s story. And I can hear some of you saying, “But One Piece is Luffy’s story, this is his battle, his war.” And you are correct. However, Luffy has no real stake with Kaido, no emotional weight for his actions. Yes, he wants to kick his ass because of everything that he has done to Momonosuke and his family, he wants to beat him because the Thunder Bagura to the face, and well, because Kaido is a Yonko, and Luffy needs to face them to reach the top.
However, Wano is not Enies Lobby or Marineford. Luffy isn’t facing Kaido because he kidnapped Sabo or he is going to execute Vivi. He’s here to support Momonosuke and Kinemon, because they are his treasured nakama, and he wants to help them achieve their dream(and get closer to his along the way). This is not the new Marineford or Enies Lobby, this arc is the new Alabasta.
Now, why does that mean that Wano will be free at the end of the arc? After all, some would argue that the fact that Luffy has no direct emotional investment with Wano and Kaido makes it the perfect arc for failure. But, this is Momonosuke’s and Kinemon’s and Oden’s story. Their story of opening Wano’s borders, of defeating Kaido, of vengeance. And they already failed once.
Oden tried to defeat Kaido, and got executed for his troubles. This is the second half of Momonosuke’s story. The first half was 20 years ago. With what happened with his family and his country, Momonosuke already lived his A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The current arc of Wano is his return of the Jedi, his triumph after the darkest point in his story. It’s just that the way Oda set up the story, he gave us the first half of Return of the Jedi, then he showed us A New Hope and The Empire Strike Back, and now we are about to witness the final battle against Vader and the Emperor.
It wouldn’t make narrative sense for Momonosuke’s story to end in yet another failure, especially one that has been set up for so long. Even the bleakest story don’t overdo the failures of their characters, because people stop caring. And One Piece is everything but bleak.
Now, there is still the issue of how is that going to happen? If Wano is most certainly going to be free at the end of Wano, how is it going to happen without cheapening Kaido and Big Mom and the power and threat that they represent?
Well, I have 3 paths I can see the story taking, all 3 depending on the path Oda wants to take after Wano. I think all 3 are possible, but I do have a favorite among those 3. Now, they aren’t mutually exclusive, some elements from one of the paths can bleed into the others, but the difference lies in the coup de grace.
1) Luffy and company simply defeat Kaido(and maybe Big Mom)
This is the most straightforward path. After a long and grueling war, Luffy, with the help of the Alliance, defeat Kaido. I think this path would signal Oda’s intent to show us that this is really the endgame of One Piece. This is the path that would show the most that Luffy is ready to sit at the big kid’s table and throw down with anyone. Yes, he would have had a lot of help from others, but you can bet anything he would have the final hit in, and from now on, his strength and might would quickly grow into someone that can take on a Yonko by himself.
For a while I thought this path was the most likely, but after a lot of thought, I think the story is not quite yet there.