With the release of Chapter 1082 I have found a new appreciation of our clown prince of pirates, Buggy.
Let us start with the flashback, which recontextualizes Buggy´s entire character. It reveals that Buggy had given up on his dreams due to Shanks outshining him on every turn. This crushed his self-esteem, but it also gave him a potential lifeline: If Shanks could become the next pirate king, his own dream would be validated and so he put his faith in him. And I have absolutely no doubt that Buggy would have joined Shanks´ crew had he immediately gone for the One Piece, especially as he knows that Shanks stayed behind for him and the promise that they would reach Laugh Tale with their own ships one day.
But reality was different. On the day of Roger´s execution his entire world collapsed. First he lost his father figure in Roger, the rest of the crew had already gone their seperate ways, but atleast had the comfort of his friend and brother Shanks. Now this next moment becomes even more bitter if we assume that they spent the time between the disbanding of the crew and the execution together: Shanks goes back on his words. To quote Buggy in chapter 1082: “You said your crew would reach Laugh Tale one day too!”. He saw himself in his crew already, he believed they could follow their idols, their role models, their “fathers” footsteps.
But Shanks hesitates. He backpedals. And this breaks Buggy. His friend, the man he bet his dream on, had betrayed his trust. If Shanks cannot be pirate king, what right does Buggy have to even dream about it. And with this one might be able to retroactively explain why Buggy is so hung up about his devil fruit and treasure map. Shanks took his ability to be an independant pirate (devil fruit: ability to swim) and his dreams/goals (the treasure map). Thus Buggy disappears into the east blue for the next two decades.
If Buggy were to have an SBS where they show a good timeline and a bad timeline the Buggy we meet in the East Blue would have the appeareance of the bad timeline. We see a man who once sailed with the legendary pirate king reduced to bullying random townsfolk and blowing up town blocks. All of his flaws as a child have been amplified manyfold: he is petty, he is cowardly, he is greedy.
Then Luffy appears wearing a certain someones straw hat. Buggy´s feelings towards Shanks boil up again once he realizes whose hat Luffy is wearing. And he attacks the hat instead of Luffy, scarring the hat with three knives (coincidentally Shanks also has three scars across his eye) and spits on it. For both characters the strawhat represents their respective promise with Shanks. While Luffy sees his promise with Shanks in a positive light, all Buggy is reminded off is the worst day off his life, so he hurts the hat to try to get back at Shanks.
This encounter reinvigorates Buggy (funilly enough out of spite) and he begins on his journey of failling upwards from convict to Yonkou we are all familiar with. On paper and in the eyes of the world he is now a renowned and fearsome pirate. But this “rise” has been only in name so far.
The reality is that we are currently seeing Buggy at his lowest point. His close crew has basically abadoned him in favour of survival, his fanboys love a version of him that is only the truth by technicality and he is surrounded by predatory animals (Hawk and Crocodile) ready to tear his throat out at their earliest convenience. Currently he might as well be a walking, talking corpse strung on a totem pole with a massive dartboard fixed around his head.
In the torture chamber masquerading as a meeting room Buggy is stripped of all pretense. He is brought down and demeaned, physically tortured and beheaded. He has no control of the situation. But when Buggy has nothing left he finally lets go of his inhibitions. All his life he thought he was incapable of following his own will, either subordinating himself to others or stagnating in a sea that should realistically be no problem for him to grow out of. He has surrounded himself with people that did not challenge his ambition up until now.
But now he finally realizes the lot that fate has cast for him. Fate had guided him through some of the biggest events in world history and created scenarios for his limited skillset to shine. Somehow he had managed to get into a position where his dream was reachable. For all intends and purposes Buggy had drifted through life sailing to whereever his cosmic destiny led him. He had not really tried, but he became a Yonkou regardless. If this was his floor, what would his ceilling be?
For the first time in his life he truly takes his destiny in his own hands. He admonishes Mihawk and Crocodile for being comformists and proclaims a dream he thought was long lost: the desire to be pirate king. He defies his captors and gives a speech encapsulating his deepest desires:
What dream drove you all to sea?! Every moment you cling to life might be your last, so why ignore that screaming urge inside you?! If you gave up because the reality of it was too daunting, now´s your chance! It´s time for us to set sail, reach out and grasp what we all desire most! It´s time for us to finally go and claim the One Piece!!!
Buggy has finally decided to follow his own dream. He is now a true pirate.