Why do I think that Zoro is being set up to surpass Oden? Among all of the parallels that can be drawn between them the most important one has to be Enma, but more specifically the prospect of it becoming a black blade. However to understand this, we first have to look at our other kokuto wielders and determine what Oden was missing.
First, Ryuma. Throughout Wano, he is hailed as the sword god who protected Wano from outsiders and was responsible for Wano’s reputation as a land of formidable samurai.
Then there’s Mihawk who perfected his craft and became the Strongest Swordsman in the World.
So what’s the difference between these 2 and other swordsmen like Oden and even Roger?
I think its completion. While Ryuma and Mihawk were able to complete their journeys as swordsmen, Roger was unable to complete his own goal because he was too early. As for Oden he has 2 failures. His failure as a leader and his failure to free Wano and its in these areas that Zoro will surpass Oden in by the end of the arc.
During Oden’s flashback, one of his key characteristics was his refusal to be a leader. We see this with the Scabbards, in which he initially refused to lead them on multiple occasions and his reluctance to become a division commander on Whitebeard’s ship. However the instance that we see this most clearly is decision to leave Wano with Whitebeard. This ultimately lead to Wano’s downfall.
Zoro is going to take up that leadership role.
Currently Zoro is much like Oden when it comes to leadership, while he does take up the role from time to time, he is reluctant to recognise himself as a proper leader. We see this in Chapters 997 and 1010 where he rejects the possibility of him having Conqueror’s Haki and in Chapter 939 where he refuses to take action despite being aware of the issues the alliance is currently facing.
His statement here is a reference to a proverb: “Too many captains cause a ship to climb a mountain”. He thinks that leading here would be a hinderance.
Instead, Yasu sacrifices himself to change the meaning of the symbol. Whether Zoro would be as effective as Yasu in changing the symbol is one thing, however, had he been more active, maybe he could have prevented Yasu’s death. Just something to think about.
There are some indications that, moving forward, Zoro will become more of a leader. The most obvious being his Conqueror’s Haki.
Something that I don’t see people talking about is the fact that all of the major leaders are MIA. Luffy is drowning with no way to get back up, Momonosuke fell off and Kinemon has joined the dead Scabbards. While Momonosuke has restored hope, its still possible for morale to fall once again if Kaido were to appear again or if they were to learn of Momonosuke’s “death”. If this occurs, it’s up to Zoro to resolve the situation.
“Well what about Kid? Or Law or Sanji?” I think they are unfit to lead the Samurai. This is because outside of their affiliation with the Alliance, they don’t recognize them. Meanwhile Luffy was immediately recognized as the leader without explicitly stating it and Zoro already has his reputation as a criminal and as Luffy’s associate thanks to that Sumo incident.