Perhaps, a major milestone in Crocodile’s character arc is to laugh. And not at the expense of someone else’s pain as seen before. But to legitimately laugh, which might be something Joy Boy can accomplish. Now, that I would love to see.
However, with One Piece only having about 3 years left of publication, there’s no way Crocodile will receive that same Water 7/Enies Lobby level of attention for his own arc. But it could still be just as impactful to the overall series. Particularly, in the endgame against the World Government.
Let’s be real, it was Crocodile’s idea to slap bounties on the Marines. A way to stick it to Absolute Justice the hardest now that he’s Fleet Admiral.
Before veering off into that tangent, let’s refocus on where Crocodile is today. And where he has been these past two years.
If Crocodile has indeed been the bug in Buggy’s ear since he became a Warlord, the guy behind the clown’s sudden rise in prominence, then that would effectively make him the “true” Emperor.
Not to say Buggy is completely useless. As seen during Impel Down/Marineford, Buggy has way more natural charisma. He’s definitely more approachable. Inspires awe in others. Versus Crocodile, who is a lot more of a jerk. Ruthless as hell, which has a tendency to push people away. Look at what happened with Robin.
Plus, Buggy’s “feats” were broadcasted worldwide during the Summit War:
Crocodile, by comparison, prefers to maintain a low-profile. At least following his clash with Whitebeard. Hence, the relatively low bounty when compared to the other Warlords. Though, now recognized as a close-associate to an Emperor, I’m sure his bounty has shot up quite a bit.
Nevertheless, Luffy’s “Boss Battle” with the Cross Guild will be with Crocodile. Not Buggy.
While Buggy is arrogant, he’s at least self-aware of his shortcomings. He knows he didn’t earn his Warlord-position by his own merit. So, it would make sense for him to rely on a former-Warlord for guidance. One who doesn’t care all that much for the limelight and has no problem with taking the backseat. Though, I don’t imagine Crocodile will stay there for much longer.
Not with the Race for Pirate King being hotter than ever.
Unlike the others, Crocodile is rather ashamed of this being his dream. Like Bellamy, and a couple of others, he may see it as “kid shit”. Which leads me to believe he wants the crown for more than just power. Maybe a flashback or two could help shed some light into what really motivates him. His backstory is sure long overdue. Although, that could be because he will be a prominent character in the Final Saga of the series.
But even in Alabasta, Crocodile gave off some serious red-pill vibes. Like, someone has seriously hurt this dude before. And like any miserable fuck, he can’t stand to see others happier than him. He wanted Luffy to throw away his dream and accept that the world is a cold and lonely place. Despite all of his “words of wisdom”, Luffy proved to be the more emotionally mature one. During their third fight, Luffy was able to maintain his cool while Crocodile had completely lost his, leading to the infamous ‘L’.
Still, it did appear that Luffy took some words from Crocodile to heart, as evidenced during his much later fight with Katakuri:
If Crocodile really has been piggy-backing off of Buggy these past two years, then it goes to show that he’s still not beyond playing dirty to win.
In Chapter 1056, Luffy was already suspicious about Buggy becoming an Emperor. And he may be curious enough to see what’s really going on, which will lead to the Straw Hats and Cross Guild crossing paths. When that happens, we get the long-awaited Mihawk vs. Zoro rematch. And the surprise rematch between Luffy & Crocodile.
Though, I imagine this “clash” will playout in a Davy Back Fight rather than a raid or anything. If Buggy had to lie his way to the top, there’s no way he can take on an Emperor who truly earned their title without getting completely obliterated. Plus, he already has the carnival setup.
Besides, these rematches may be all that Crocodile and Mihawk really want. Well, in Crocodile’s case, he may also have his eye on getting Robin back. For poneglyphs and stuff…
As for the Straw Hats, they stand to gain a huge addition to the Grand Fleet. Not just Mihawk and Crocodile. But Buggy plus his massive cult following. Sounds like it should be hella fun.
My speculation is that an objective of Mihawk and Crocodile is to see how they stack up against the new generation of pirates. When it comes to Mihawk, this was explicitly stated way back in Chapter 51, where he challenged Zoro to surpass him. As for Crocodile, however, he’s been good at holding his cards very close to his chest. But we’ve seen how he’s been keeping tabs on Luffy ever since Marineford.
Croc has gone for the gold at least twice before. Perhaps seeing a kid like Luffy rise to the top in spite of the odds inspired him to try one more time. And now, he’s looking forward to challenging the younger pirate as an equal. Both of them having recently snagged an Emperor position, with Crocodile using Buggy as a proxy.
Nonetheless, Crocodile no longer has a reason to hold back in a fight. This next time around, he should give Luffy everything he’s got as an awakened logia user. This may be where Luffy learns how to handle this particular kind of fighter. Before facing off with Blackbeard or any of the Admirals. Mastery of haki is going to be more important now than ever before. Against an awakened logia, Luffy may have to push himself to damn near superhuman-levels of haki like the top brass of the Red Hair Pirates.
Crocodile served as Luffy’s first test on the Grand Line. Thematically, it fits that he’s one of Luffy’s last. First test was check Luffy’s resolve. Make sure his Will to become Pirate King was unshakable. Now, its time to see what he’s learned. It seems that Crocodile’s and Luffy’s destinies have been intertwined like Peter Pan and Captain Hook. But I don’t think it will forever remain antagonistic.
Though Crocodile is an early-series villain, I feel his character still has plenty of potential left.
*Theory by QueenFlowers91