To start, we need to address the most recent revelation in Chapter 1043, and what exactly it means. I’m here to argue that Joy Boy is possessing Luffy, that the possession is NOT a good thing, and that Joy Boy is the final antagonist of Wano. That’s a lot of claims I just made there, but let’s dive into why I believe this.
Joy Boy possessing Luffy is backed up by several statements within Chapter 1043, where Zunisha refers to Joy Boy as a name, and not as a title. This is an incredibly important distinction, because Joy Boy is stated to have RETURNED after 800 years by Zunisha, juxtaposed with Luffy’s heart beating again.
The sfx on the left says “ba-dum”, indicating a heartbeat
This segways perfectly into the reveal that yes, Luffy died. This is showcased through Kaido’s statement and the “silence” sfx indicating lifelessness, Law and Momonosuke’s statements about Luffy’s voice being gone (this alone doesn’t necessarily mean he’s dead), and when he’s presumably revived, they NEVER make note about his voice returning.
Whenever a voice is said to disappear in One Piece, it is implied the person died, as evident by Skypiea with Aisa, and Marineford with Koby.
So if Luffy has straight up DIED, then how is he still alive in the final panel? That’s easy.
It isn’t Luffy.
The combination of Momonosuke never recognizing Luffy’s voice returning despite Zunisha acknowledging Joy Boy’s return, as well as the completely different SFX used for Luffy grinning.
The sound effect, being “Nika”.
The font is also notably different, now donning a black outline, with nothing colored in. As well as his eyes obscured ever since he died, generally meaning mystique or mystery.
Keep in mind as well, Luffy has OFFICIALLY been stated as the loser of the fight, and that Kaido has won. Oda has never done this for any other loss for Luffy, because he intends for the fight to continue after said losses. So keeping that in mind, it means Luffy vs Kaido is done, and there’s no going back, or bouncing back. Luffy has also completely run out of Haki, for at LEAST 10 minutes, due to Gear 4 running out on him, and him pushing it past its limit. Meaning he’s unable to block or do internal damage with Armament, dodge or use Future Sight with Observation, and isn’t able to increase the power of his attacks with Conqueror’s coating. So he reasonable cannot do any severe damage on Kaido at this point, no matter how impressive his potential Awakening is.
But Joy Boy vs Kaido on the other hand…
(Also remember that Haki reserves and ability is tied to the soul. This is made evident in Punk Hazard when Sanji uses Observation Haki in Nami’s body)
This actually does align and parallel with what we see in Thriller Bark, and there are quite a few connections to make here with Wano. Zoro taking on the blade of Ryuma, just as he does Oden’s in Wano after losing his sword. The idea of a larger than life figure battling it out with the remaining Straw Hats, while Luffy has some sort of power awakened through the shadows, or souls of other people, to take on said figure.
All of these are things a lot of people are starting to realize though, and most are taking these as a terrible narrative decision, comparable to generic shonen tropes started by Naruto and Bleach. Going as far as to say it ruins the entire narrative and point of One Piece. And I absolutely felt the exact same, before I thought about the implications of possession. To be specific, how LUFFY would feel about being possessed.
Luffy’s entire goal and dream surrounds this idea of FREEDOM, and being the freest man in the world. He doesn’t want easy ways out or to be easily guided to his destination, as that to him makes the journey unfun. So for him to be possessed by the person who knows everything he could ever need to find the One Piece in an instant, to end his journey right there and then. Most importantly, Luffy’s freedom is directly challenged by being possessed or controlled by someone else. Would that not be something he’d be upset about? Would he not REJECT this entire idea?
How can you be the freest man, if someone is forcing you down a path that you don’t get to decide on?
This contradiction is so blatant that there’s no way Oda didn’t intend for this to be a conflict of interests.
With that in mind, the reason this recent turn of events isn’t supposed to be a power-up of some sorts, is both due to this, and narrative build up. Generally when shows like Naruto and Bleach set up some sort of Kurama-esc hidden power, they intend for that to eventually make the host stronger. Whether it be by overcoming it, or uniting with its power. And the way they effectively pace this, is by introducing these concepts incredibly early into their respective stories. That way the main character can grow naturally and tap into that power in a believable way.