I want to fully examine everything we so far know about Luffy’s devil fruit:
- The Origin of the Fruit’s Name
- Symbolic Meaning behind Its Power
- Gear 5 and the Gear System
- Luffy’s Awakening and What It Means
There is a common misconception floating around about the name of Luffy’s devil fruit being “Sun God Nika”. This is wrong. The name of his fruit is simply “Nika” or “Hito Hito no Mi, Model: Nika”. The “Sun God” is not part of the fruit’s name.
I believe this is simply an epithet the previous user of the fruit had, that user being Joy Boy. He used its power to free slaves, bringing them out of captivity outside of dark dungeons into the “light” where they could witness the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise once again, spreading joy and laughter across the faces of newly freed slaves and earning himself the epithet of “Sun God”. After all, the user of the fruit was also known as Warrior of Liberation.
Deification of something “natural” is not anything new, neither for the real World or for the World of One Piece. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone with incredibly Devil Fruit powers would be worshiped as a God in One Piece World, we saw the same happen with Enel and Kaido.
Inspired by the story of Sun God Nika, Fisher Tiger decided to do the same when he freed the slaves from Mary Geoise and in honor of this mythical person he formed the “Sun Pirates”.
There has been a big debate of what exactly Luffy’s powers are now that he has awakened his fruit and I can see why. Luffy can seemingly do number of very cartoonish things to the point of people actually dubbing his new powers as “Toon Force”. One very cool thing that Oda loves doing is writing character’s powers to have a certain symbolic or thematic significance. In layman’s terms, he writes powers to match the personality of the user.
The best examples of this are the original 3 Admirals as well as the villains Luffy faced:
- Akainu is prone to eruption of anger and has explosive personality so he has the Magma Fruit.
- Aokiji is lazy, laid back and “chill”. He doesn’t lose his cool so he ate the Ice Fruit.
- Kizaru is slow to react and slow when he talks but he has a fruit that’s an antithesis to it, the Light Fruit which makes him extremely fast.
- Lucci is a bloodthirsty killer, a predator who kills for fun so he has the Cat Fruit model Leopard.
- Enel has a god complex so he is given a godlike power of Electric Logia that makes him untouchable and grants him omniscience.
And the same is the case for Luffy.
From an attack or a defeat he just keeps coming back so it’s fitting he has the rubber fruit… but… Now that we know the real name of his fruit and the power shown by it we know that it’s no longer a simple rubber fruit. Luffy has the Nika fruit making him the Warrior of Liberation. So does that means his new powers are “Toon Force”? No. His powers are still rubber powers (as mentioned by Gorosei) except now Luffy has greater freedom with them – He is unrestrained by the laws of Nature. He can now freely manipulate his body without any restrictions and I think this perfectly suits his character. Luffy wants to be the Pirate King. In his mind the Pirate King is the freest man in the World, unopposed by anyone or anything, and that’s literally what his powers make him.
He is free both in mind and body.
This brings up the question about origin of Luffy’s Gears. Now that we know he is a Zoan and not Paramecia does that also mean his Gears are Zoan transformations? No, I don’t think anything about his Gears changes. To me, the Gears seem like a prototypes of Luffy’s Awakening – Luffy attempting to utilize the power of his fruit to its fullest but being unable to do so because he still isn’t awakened. Each one of Luffy’s Gears exhibits ability that’s also shown in his Gear 5 but to a much more limiting degree. What do I mean by this?
We know Gear 2 works by Luffy pumping his rubber body and increasing the flow of blood to allow him to fight on another level. It increases his speed, strength and I assume durability. It’s akin to doping. In Gear 5 we see Luffy do something pretty much the same with the sound of his heartbeat. Luffy is capable of changing the rhythm of his heart to pump himself with more energy and restart Gear 5.
The Stances are identical and the smoke is there.
Interestingly enough, not only is this very similar to what he did in his fight with Lucci and the stance he takes while doing so is very reminiscent of his original Gear 2 stance, but Lucci and Kaido’s comments about Luffy killing himself by doing so are early similar.
If it isn’t obvious I’m trying to say is that Luffy’s Gear 2 is his attempt to replicate this ability but being limited by his elasticity.
I think this is pretty obvious. In Gear 3 Luffy can blow air in his body to make it bigger. Originally, this ability had a drawback of making him chibi but after training during time-skip this drawback was no more. Post time-skip Luffy can freely manipulate his body by blowing air into it.
In Gear 5 Luffy no longer requires air to enlarge his body parts. Not only can he freely manipulate the size of his limbs (no blowing air needed) but he can also enlarge himself completely and turning himself into a giant. Best thing is that so far, there are no drawbacks to this ability (at least no chibi Luffy for some time).
Introduced to us in Chapter 783 (784 to be exact) Gear 4, Bound (Bounce) Man immediately stuck out as a sore thumb. It was so different in appearance from everything we have seen before. I believe this is the earliest that we can say for sure that Oda had the plan to make Luffy’s fruit something else. Interestingly enough, the reveal of Luffy’s Gear 4 is when I first started seeing theories about Luffy’s fruit not being Gomu Gomu no Mi. The uniqueness of Gear 4 didn’t stop here as not too long after we were introduced to two other forms of it with Tankman and Snakeman.
Not only did Luffy’s Gear 4 transformation look like a Zoan transformation but he also had different forms of it akin to Chopper and his Points. Also funnily enough, each of his Gear 4 forms had “-Man” in their name which is funny in hindsight because we now know his fruit is actually “Human Human Fruit”.
The biggest addition Bound Man brought to Luffy’s arsenal are his inflated muscles. By covering his body in Armament Haki and blowing air into his muscles Luffy was able to inflate the size of them so he can deal bigger damage to his enemies (according to Luffy he did so to fight giant animals).
If Hyogoro thought Luffy looked like a Wisdom King in his Gear 4th form he should see him now! He is the spitting image of a Wisdom King.
In Gear 5 Luffy is capable of inflating his muscles on will, without having to blow air into them, and now not only is he covering his body in armament but according to Kaido he is also adding Conqueror’s Haki on top of it.
It seems like Luffy fully utilized everything he has learned up until now to create his Gear 5. It’s not just his Fruit’s Awakening that makes the Gear 5 but also every Gear that came before it and everything Haki related he learned after his fight with Katakuri.
Luffy’s Gear 5 is him using his previous gears but dialed up to 11.
Since we already established that Gear 5 is combination of multiple things Luffy learned before, then what is just his Awakening? As I previously said the actual power granted by his Awakening is the greater freedom and strength which comes in the form of a new transformation he gets, hence what makes him a Zoan.
With it comes another ability that seems to cause the most confusion. Luffy’s ability to turn his surroundings into rubber and freely manipulate it.
This is the typical ability of awakened Paramecia that can create a substance, see Doflamingo and Katakuri as an example and Luffy turning the ground into rubber is not weird in itself. Where the confusion arises is specifically from this panel, where Luffy seemingly punches through Kaido.
Well, he didn’t literally punch through him. Kaido’s face simply stretched from the punch. Luffy’s Awakening seemingly lets him turn other living beings into rubber when he interacts with them. This is further supported by Kaido’s words in Chapter 1044 when Luffy inflates inside of him and Kaido wonders how his body is getting inflated when he isn’t rubber, as well as the scene from Chapter 1046 where we see Kaido’s body stretching more clearly under Luffy’s punches.
What is the point of Luffy turning the people he punches into rubber? Wouldn’t that negate the damage he deals to them? Well, First, Haki is a thing so no matter what he still deals damage as Armament bypasses the rubberiness. Second, the point I believe is for Oda to have more freedom at showing more exaggerated expressions as well to exaggerate the impact of a hit. Akin to how old cartoon did it back in the day.
Where before it was only Luffy who was impacted by this “cartoon logic” it’s now everyone he fights. It ironically, but fittingly, gives Oda the freedom to exaggerate everyone now. After all, it’s what Oda always wanted to do but was unable to, until now.
*Theory by The_Biggest_Wheel