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Explaining how Oda writes Haki and Devil Fruit Powers in One Piece

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We all know that the quintessential part of any successful Shonen Manga is its Power System. For Naruto its Ninjutsu, for Bleach its Zanpakutos and for One Piece its Devil Fruits. These Power Systems allow the authors to create a vast array of characters, each gifted with powers unique to themselves. But what happens when you introduce another power system that is same for everyone and is invisible? Well you run into some issues…I’m of course talking about Haki.

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The “Problem” With Haki as a Power System

The first issue that Oda runs into with Haki is its invisibility. How are the readers supposed to know when it’s being used when they cannot see it? Well you can always have characters mention that the character is using it but that just seems backwards. It’s “Show, don’t tell” not “Tell, don’t show”. More importantly, an invisible Power System is not that visually interesting (duh). So Oda makes a decision to show when someone is using it by blackening their body parts.

Imagine if every single time Luffy, or anyone, used Armament Haki we had a character mention it instead of Oda coloring his limbs black and showing it to us

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This is where we get to our 2nd and the main issue with Haki. Now everyone’s Powers and Abilities are same-ish and look alike, they are no longer unique. Now the design of a sword is lost when you color it completely black, and in some cases the entire character design is lost. Now a clash between 2 characters turn into a black void.

Notice how the background is white to contrast the Black Void

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Haki in Relation to the Straw Hats

So how does Oda differentiate Haki usage between the characters, how does he make it unique? Let’s first examine the Straw Hats. Right of the bat he makes it exclusive to Monster Trio. Zoro and Sanji get the two regular forms and Luffy gets all 3 of them. Additionally, Oda specifies in which “color” the 3 of them specialize, Luffy in ConquerorsZoro in Armament and Sanji in Observation.

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  1. Luffy is the character that benefited the most from introduction of Haki. Now, in addition to his Gomu Gomu no Mi, Gear 2nd and 3rd Luffy gets all 3 types of Haki. First he is seen using Observation and Armament (invisible) immediately after the time-skip on Sabaody, then later on Oda switches to exclusively Black Armament. We get to see his Conqueror’s Haki in action on Fishman Island and he continues to further improves his Haki. It seems as if Oda introduced it specifically as a power progression for Luffy as he is the only one seen to progress and improve it with the acquisition of Future Sight, Advanced Ryuo and Advanced Conqueror’s.

Stages of Observation Haki: Sense the Attacks vs See the Attacks

Stages of Armament Haki: Hardening, Emission and Internal Destruction

Stages of Conqueror’s Haki: Regular Conqueror’s and Conqueror’s Coating

2. Zoro initially got the short end of the stick. Immediately after the time-skip we don’t get to see much of Zoro’s Haki. We know he has Armament, which he specializes in, and Observation but we don’t get to see it until sometime after. We get to see Black Armament in Dresrossa and couple of times in Wano but that’s about it. Not only that but he doesn’t seem to get any new moves or techniques from his training with Mihawk outside of the upgraded version of his old ones.

He gets no advanced Haki forms until he unlocks both regular and advanced use of Conqueror’s Haki and it seems like he is now steadily progressing in Haki, following 2 steps behind Luffy.

Notice the difference between the image of Zoro above and this? In this image the hilts of the swords are not colored black to preserve the design (except Enma whose color of the hilt is always black).

3. Sanji, much like Zoro, got the regular 2 forms of haki, Observation which he specializes in and Armament. But unlike Zoro we never saw him use black Armament. Instead, it seems as if Oda is using Sanji’s Diable Jambe as a substitute for it. This is the most evident in Chapter 1022 when we see him side-by-side with Zoro, kicking Queen and cutting King and while Zoro uses black armament Sanji is seen using Diable Jambe.

As of Chapter 1034 it seems Sanji has started to focus more on his Haki as we have seen his new technique “Ifrit Jambe” being a result of his Armament Haki (among other things). Other than this, it seems Sanji’s Observation is really strong. Seemingly, he can detect people at much wider distance than Luffy and he was able to dodge Katakuri’s attack (this is probably due to his speed).

4. Usopp is a late bloomer. He didn’t start of knowing any Haki post time-skip but instead he achieved it during Dressrosa. Oda immediately differentiate him by giving him just 1 Form of Haki, Observation, unlike the 2 forms Sanji and Zoro had or all 3 that Luffy has. He further differentiate it by making Usopp’s Observation work by letting him “see” his targets, or their auras, at a great distance while he snipes.

5. Jinbe is the latest Straw Hat addition and he really has nothing unique going for him regarding Haki. He got the 2 standard forms but it seems like he is specializing in Armament. He is shown to use Black Armament which was shown to be strong but in contrast to it we never get to see him using Observation.

Conlcusion: Only 5 of the Straw Hats can use Haki (3 at the start of the time-skip) and it seems like Luffy is the only Straw Hat to be consistently shown usage of all 3 forms of Haki. For Zoro he is only shown using Armament Hardening (and later Conqueror’s) while Sanji is only shown using Observation. We are told they can use both but shown only to use one. It’s almost like Oda split these 2 forms between Luffy’s two wings. The same can be said about Jinbe and Usopp. While Jinbe can use both forms, he is only explicitly shown to use Armament Hardening, and as for Usopp he can only use Observation and is only shown using it.

That covers Straw Hats. But how is it used for enemies and allies alike?

Devil Fruit Awakening vs Advanced Conqueror’s Haki

Oda’s amazing attention to details in latest chapter!