We Are in the Endgame Now
I previously mention that post time-skip arcs mirror pre time-skip arcs to a certain degree. After Thriller Bark came the “Paramount War Saga” which acted as the culmination of the entire pre time-skip era. As such, the ending of the Elbaf Arc will jumpstart the final push towards the Final Arc which conclusion will mirror the conclusion of Marineford War and which will act as the culmination of not just post time-skip but entire series. That conclusion is what will “make Marineford look cute in comparison”. So, it will go like this.
The conclusion of Elbaf Arc would set the next Arc which will be “Nami’s Arc” and that is finding Laugh Tale and One Piece. She will be the last of the East Blue to get “her arc”. Nami being a navigator naturally fits into this picture. I know the big focus of finding “Laugh Tale” are the 4 Road Poneglyphs, and Poneglyphs are Robin’s thing but there is no way it’s that simple to find Laugh Tale. Robin will translate them, yes, but Nami will eventually be responsible for navigating there. As we have been told, finding One Piece will start the “Greatest War the World has ever seen”, the final arc of One Piece. This will happen after the “5 years” that Oda mentioned and I can see it going for 120 chapters if Oda plans to finish One Piece for its 30th anniversary but I wouldn’t be shocked if he goes for a lot longer.
In this Arc the final loose ends will be tied, The Revolutionary Army (Dragon, Sabo, Kuma), Blackbeard Pirates and The World Government (Admirals, Im, Gorosei, SSG). It’s going to be a massive war between these 3 Organizations and the Straw Hat Pirates. It’s basically going to be Marineford 2.0 but this time, instead of Whitebeard it’s going to be Luffy that will lead the charge and we will have a massive free-for-all.
Blackbeard has been set up to be the endgame villain. We followed his journey paralleling Luffy’s. We first heard him mentioned in Drum Island and later in Alabasta. We saw him for the first time in Jaya and saw his crew introduced 1 by 1. Later we see him pursuit Luffy but ending up fighting Ace and capturing for which he was rewarded with the Warlord title. Then he infiltrates Impel Down, faces off Luffy, get more addition to his crew and storms Marineford.
He kills Whitebeard and is first person that we see eat 2 Devil Fruits, both of which are regarded as “Strongest” of their kind (Yami Yami no Mi – “Strongest” Logia and Gura Gura no Mi – Strongest Paramecia). Then over the 2 years time-skip he becomes a Yonko after defeating Whitebeard remnants and is the one person Don Chinjao mentions as being the one with the most chance of becoming The Pirate King. There is no way he is dealt with before the Final Arc, especially if he gets that 3rd Devil Fruit. He is the only villain whose story we actively followed, just like we did with Luffy.
I also don’t think Imu is going to be another “Kaguya situation” from Naruto. I know we got a hint of Im at Reverie but compared to the focus that Blackbeard, or even Akainu, got it’s nothing. It’s exactly what happened with Obito/Madara and Kaguya. People don’t like when previously well established, developed and hyped villains get replaced out of the blue with another, barely known villain just for the shock value of it. Why not deal with Marines and World Government before Blackbeard? Well there is simply no time in the timeframe given to us by Oda and it was mentioned that the Final War will happen once the One Piece is found. Only the World Government and the Marines (SSG as well) have the strength to present a realistic threat to our Protagonist and his crew.
Also, there are simply too many allies. Dragon, Sabo, Koala, Ivankov, Rayleigh, Kidd and Killer, Law and Hearth Pirates, Hancock and the Kujas, Buggy, Alabasta Kingdome, Drum Kingdome, Minks, Wano Samurai and Yamato, Water 7 Shipwrights, Franky Family, Skypieans, Whitebeard Pirates Remnants, Crocodile and Mr 1, Newkamas, The Strawhat Grand Fleet, Dresrossa Kingdome, Fishman Island Army, Sun Pirates, Firetank Pirates, Marine deserters like Smoker, Coby, Helmeppo and Garp, maybe even Fujitora, and I’m sure I forgot even more people.
The protagonist has to feel like an underdog and that is becoming increasingly harder to do as Luffy gets stronger, gets more strong allies and defeats stronger people. If he defeats 2 Yonko and one of their crew in this arc with a little bit of Law and Kid help and the Samurai/Minks Alliance then imagine what they could do with the rest of the allies. That Straw Hat Grand Fleet has been a Chekov’s Gun ever since Dressrosa and you bet Oda is just waiting for that final war to fire it off.
*Theory by The_Biggest_Wheel