We’ve seen Luffy produce a new gear through the introduction of haki. I believe he will do the same by implementing awakening. Side note, I am merely offering this as a possibility for a new gear. I’m not saying this is going to happen soon, in the fight against Katakuri, or anything like that.
I’m aware that haki is not exclusive to Gear 4th, as it has been clearly used in his base state, Gear 2nd, + Gear 3rd. However, I would argue that Gear 4th is only possible b/c of its incorporation of armament haki. He must harden his body in order to make his rubber more elastic. For this reason, I believe a new gear for Luffy may involve the same concept, except with the use of awakening (Luffy will likely be able to incorporate awakening into his other modes as well).
I think it’s helpful to lay out the current thoughts in One Piece community for what awakening might actually be. Essentially, there are three main camps of thought.
The ideas are:
1) Awakening is simply a devil fruit user gaining complete control/fluency over the quality of their abilities
2) Devil fruit powers extending beyond themselves + affecting the surrounding environment
3) Something new + different entirely
Let’s skip #3 since it’s kind of a cop-out/catch-all. And I promise, I’ll get to how this relates to gears. Honestly, I’m inclined to go with the first option. This is made clearer when looking at the awakened devil fruit users we’ve seen so far.
Let’s start w/ Doflamingo. Doffy has the Ito Ito no Mi. The fruit grants the user the ability to create + manipulate string. Normally, w/out awakening, he is able to do this. However, he can only generate string from his body. When utilizing his awakening, however, he was able to generate string not only from himself, but from the surrounding environment as well.
This leads a lot of people to adopt idea #2. However, this doesn’t match up when we examine the only other awakened users we’ve been exposed to, Zoans.
Awakened Zoans experience enhanced healing, endurance, + strength/speed. They are not able to turn surrounding objects/organisms into their Zoan type. So in my mind, that scratches the 2nd one off the list.
So then, what seems consistent? What trait is shared in awaking among both paramecias + zoans?
I still consider this devil fruit manifestation to fall under the first criteria. The Zoans are simply able to fully control their Zoan abilities, taking advantage of their must useful attributes. Again, this is best understood when looking at an example. Let’s look at Chopper.
We’ve seen Tony use multiple manifestations of Zoan form, inducing the transformation w/ + w/out the use of Rumble Balls. The parallels become shockingly clear when looking at both the awakened Zoans + Chopper’s Monster Point. They both express the same unmoved + blank expression. They both also exhibit extreme endurance + strength. I am of the belief that Chopper has stumbled upon a way to artificially induce awakening w/ the help of his Rumble Balls.
I do not think awakening is something you just get. Rather, it is something you continue to improve until you fully realize your devil fruit abilities + are at last “awakened.” This plays to the fact that Chopper has learned to use all of his transformations save Monster Point w/out the aid of Rumble Balls. He’s learned to better control his powers, + I believe he is also on track to becoming awakened.
This is the same case for Luffy. We have all seen him suffer the repercussions of his gears in the past. Gear 2nd use to make him considerably exhausted, + Gear 3rd use to make him tiny after using the technique. However, post timeskip, Luffy no longer suffers from these. He is learning to better control the quality of his rubber.
If this is indeed what awakening is, I believe a possible gear 5th could arise from Luffy manipulating the rubber of his nervous system. For those who are not aware, many of the body’s nerves are coated in a substance called myelin. For the sake of concept, just know it’s functions the same way rubber around a copper wire does. It insulates the conduit, allowing the signal to both travel faster as well as retain it’s potential (voltage). By allocating his rubber to his NS + coating his nerve axons w/ additional rubber, Luffy could establish faster action potentials, and as a result, give himself faster thought processing + reaction time.
Wait, what’s the catch? This sounds too good to be true…
While I imagine Luffy will be able to use gears w/ no side-effects once fully awakened, much like the other gears, I suspect he will suffer initially upon developing this technique. In allocating myelin (in his case rubber) to certain motor neurons, he may have to take away some from others initially. Motor neurons in general are heavily myelinated already, while pain and other neurons are often unmyelinated. While it doesn’t make complete sense from a physiology/destination standpoint, I could see a unique + interesting consequence of using this new gear.
By taking the myelin + incorporating it around the already myelinated neurons of his motor units, Luffy may inadvertently establish more unmyelinated neurons. These neurons that normally sense touch and other sensations may be temporarily transformed into neurons carrying messages for pain. Much like Blackbeard, who experiences increased pain from his devil fruit, this gear may come w/ a toll (at least until Luffy is fully awakened).
Luffy may have to endure elevated levels of pain in order to attain greater strength. While I don’t consider this to be a crucial part of the theory, I could see Oda playing to Luffy’s determination + want to win in a future battle using this delemma (much like Luffy’s battle against Rob Lucci).
If this technique does come to pass, I imagine Luffy might take on a more epic appearance.
*Theory by TwinKidd_B