Back in Chapter 1038, we saw a Grim Reaper-looking character standing over Zoro.
Since then, there have been all kinds of theories as to who this specter-like character could be: Brook, Death itself, the spirit of Enma, or Zoro hallucinating from the after effects of the Magic Mink Medicine. I want to suggest another option:
It’s the third CP0 agent.
Now, we know the other two were in pursuit of Nico Robin, fought X-Drake and Apoo, and are currently facing Izo. But what about the third guy?
Well, back in Chapter 1036, Bushido is the Way of Death (huh, oddly predictive title, now that I look back at it), Zoro defeats King, uses his swords to double jump himself back to Onigashima, and seems to collapse. All of this is witnessed by a Mary and then reported to the 3rd CP0 agent, who’s been standing by all this time and comments on this grave state of affairs.
Now, why do I think this Grim Reaper is a genuine, tangible threat to Zoro and not just a hallucination or the spirit of Enma or something along those lines? There are a few things that point to the Grim Reaper being more than just a phantom:
- Chopper seems to think Zoro specifically is in danger. While this makes sense for Chopper to worry about with the side effects of the Magic Mink Medicine, Oda went out of his way to reaffirm it to us the audience.
- Franky is on his way to Zoro and we’re even shown a map, suggesting that Zoro is Franky’s mission goal.
- In Chapter 1040, we see Zoro’s blood spread in a line near his neck, suggesting he’s possibly been slashed by something. Furthermore, his head is facing the opposite way it was when we saw him unconscious in Chapter 1036 before the Grim Reaper showed up.
- We’ve seen images of the personification of Zoro’s swords in SBS’s before. They always look rather goofy, not menacingly violent. (Wado Ichiminji even looks like its and Enma’s creator, Shimotsuki Kozaburo.) It seems odd that Enma alone would look so different.
- Nearly every supernatural element that Oda has introduced in One Piece has had an explanation, usually a Devil Fruit. Zombies? Gecko Moria’s Shadow Shadow Fruit. Man with God-like powers? Mix of Observation Haki and the Rumble Rumble Devil Fruit. Walking talking skeleton? Revive Revive Fruit. The closest we’ve ever come was Merry having a spirit. It seems odd that Oda would suddenly introduce a spiritual manifestation of Death this late in the game.
So, if it’s the third CP0 agent, why does he look like the Grim Reaper? Let’s revisit that last point: nearly every time we’ve seen something supernatural in One Piece, there’s been a Devil Fruit behind it. I would suggest that the third CP0 agent either had a Human Human Devil Fruit: Model Grim Reaper or some kind of illusion Devil Fruit. It’s also possible that Zoro saw the man in his masked get up and, in extreme pain from the mink medicine, hallucinated the Grim Reaper appearance.
And finally, one last point: during their conversation with Izo, the other two CP0 agents remark that they’re after all of the Straw Hats. They’re no longer simply after Nico Robin.
When did this change? After they finished off X-Drake, they converse with someone by Den Den Mushi (likely the 3rd agent) who informs them that all the Topi Roppo and All Stars have been defeated.
So, in short, the Grim Reaper is the 3rd CP0 agent, CP0’s goal is now to finish off the Straw Hats, and Zoro is in real danger (well, as real as danger usually gets for a main character in One Piece).
*Theory by Mirai_no_Beederu