I know, y'all are stunned - "But Jew," you're saying, "you've got the SECOND post in this tourney! Explain yourself!" Well, random WG user, Shishio was supposed to go first, but it's been nearly 24 hours since the competition began and he appears to be busy, so we decided to flip. Also, judges/audience, you may notice I decided to format this post a little bit more than in previous rounds...it ain't much, but it's something. Hope y'all enjoy this debate!
Bearing It Alone: The Incredible Journey of Bartholomew Kuma
Pirates. Marines. Revolutionaries. Royalty. These four factions draw the most focus in One Piece, albeit to varying degrees - we’ve seen a considerable amount of buccaneers and the naval soldiers tasked with combatting them, but the global insurgents and the autocratic ruling class they seek to overthrow, while equally (and possibly more) important in their clashes, take a back seat to the action between the former duo. Regardless, each one of these groups represent something crucial to understanding both OP in its own world and in ours. The pirates and Revolutionaries share an unquenchable thirst for personal freedom and view the idea of living one’s live how they desire as an inherent human right; the Marines and royalty believe in absolute and punishing justice, as well as imposing their will on an unwitting populace who is all too happy to accept their blatant lies. Each duo occupies one side of a coin, but every organization has a vital role to play in the story we love so well.
With few exceptions - namely the Shichibukai and potentially SWORD - there isn’t much overlap between these four pillars of our favorite series. We’ve seen Marines pose as pirates, pirates infiltrating the Marines, and at least one noteworthy Supernova (who may or may not be discussed at some point in this debate) passing themselves off as a member of the royalty. It’s really only the Revolutionaries who have not bled over into the others or vice versa, although they seem to have a similar goal to open-minded pirates and usually have little reason to engage the Marines. When it comes down to brass tacks, they alone work hardest towards the common interest of bringing down the Celestial Dragons and their centuries-long tyrannical rule.
There’s a reason that of all the pirates, Marines, Revolutionaries, and royals we’ve been shown over the course of this sprawling epic, only a single character has been a member of every group. To oppose the people who control the entire world, you have to possess a hyperspecific set of skills - all at once, you must be incredibly strong, incomparably cunning, and indisputably dedicated to your cause. You have to be willing to do things that go against your moral compass, including submitting yourself to an enemy’s will so you may eventually betray them. You have to both trust in your comrades and find a way to protect them even as you appear to become their adversary. You have to keep up different facades depending on who’s around, never letting your true intentions slip.
In short...to bring the sociopathic members of the OP world’s biggest cult of personality to their knees, you have to be Bartholomew Kuma.
There are few characters to come from the nontraditionally beautiful mind of Eiichiro Oda as complex, even in their relative obscurity, as Kuma. As I said above, he is the only person we know of who has been identified at different points as a pirate, a Marine (at least by affiliation), a royal, and a Revolutionary. In each appearance, he either speaks very little or not at all. He handed the Straw Hats their first complete defeat (and, thus far, the only one) and in so doing kicked off what is by consensus the greatest stretch of this entire series. He seemed to be a stoic, ruthless monster at first glance, then slowly became one of the most endearing AND tragic people in all of One Piece. In the course of this post and the next one, we’ll explore how the little we know about Kuma’s past colors a lot of what we see in the present storyline, as well as how his future could alter the course of his world’s power structure.
Part 1 – History In The Making
When we first meet Kuma, he remains completely silent, clutching his token Bible as he arrives in Mariejois with another man we would come to know even better - Donquixote Doflamingo. There was obviously no way to know this at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, introducing these two in the same panel is more symbolic than you might think.
Doflamingo, we would learn much later, was born as a Celestial Dragon and lived their horrifically hedonistic lifestyle until his father forced them into a life among the commoners, who were none too happy about existing alongside them. He watched his mother die sick and poor, and would end up murdering his father and brother after this traumatic experience. He brokered a deal with the World Government and was allowed to roam free as a pirate under their control. It is only on this last point where he finds any common ground with Kuma; in every other respect, they are diametrically opposed.
Kuma, in contrast, did not display an ebullient demeanor like Doffy’s as they discussed the defeat of their Shichibukai comrade, Crocodile. He did not chide Mihawk as the WSS himself joined the party and mentioned he was not there because he was told to attend. He did not challenge the orders of the WG even as it was explained to us that Kuma once hated his current employer perhaps more than anyone else. He didn’t even raise an unseen eyebrow when Laffitte crashed the party to nominate his captain Teach as the new member of Kuma’s group, remaining aloof and unconcerned even as the others were highly surprised. This would be the first time, but by no means the last, when we were forced to question why a man who raged against the powers that be would willingly give himself over to them mind, body, and soul.
We wouldn’t meet Kuma again until our protagonists found themselves in what was then a potentially deadly pickle. Luffy and friends had just beaten Gecko Moria, another Shichibukai, and his massive Frankenstein monster, Oars. Kuma explained prior to their final battle that he was sent by the WG to ensure that Moria did not fail to squash the upstart swashbucklers, and watched from the sidelines as it came to pass anyway.
At this point, the audience knows that Dragon, the leader of the Revolutionaries and the most wanted man in the world, is Luffy’s father. In the story, however, this is still privileged information. As far as we know, the only people aware of this tidbit are the straw hat himself, the crew that follows him, the grandfather who’s uniquely positioned to reveal his impressive family tree, and...Kuma??
We would learn later that other rebels in the organization weren’t aware of the nature of Luffy and Dragon’s relationship, meaning that the latter withheld this knowledge even from those closest to him. In Impel Down, Ivankov - another high ranking Revolutionary - isn’t hip to this factoid despite being one of Dragon’s top commanders. When the okama queen contacts his friends after the war at Marineford, the man himself even jokes that others in the group saw Luffy as the first piece of hard evidence that their leader is in fact biologically human. So, either Kuma gleaned this information through heretofore unmentioned psychic abilities, or he and Dragon share an even deeper connection and trust than they do with their fellow freedom fighters. Either way, these interconnected panels set us up for something huge with the big bear.
After the SHP set sail from Thriller Bark, they reached the Sabaody Archipelago. When they arrived, they had no way of knowing that this would be their final journey together for the ensuing two years...
Tragic and emotional as it was, Luffy and his friends would end up growing in wholly unpredictable ways during their separation. If not for this one act, there’s a good chance they would have been decimated going into the New World as they were at that point. Even before the true nature of his actions were revealed, it was clear that Kuma spared all of them for a reason, as we know he could have stomped them himself if that was what he wanted to do. In this way, Kuma is directly and largely responsible for the absurd improvements our protagonists made during their seclusion from one another, as well as their triumphs since the timeskip. Still, before we found out why he did this, watching Luffy fail to save a single one of his nakama was the greatest emotional gut punch in the series to that point.
Did Kuma know he was sending Luffy to a place where he would find the perfect ally to help him infiltrate Impel Down in Boa Hancock? Did he think the son of his true leader would make his way to the conflict he himself was forced to join? Did he foresee the message that kid would send to his crew, who Kuma also happened to push in the direction of places specifically tailored for each one to receive the most appropriate fine-tuning of their skills, telling them to train as hard as they could for the obstacles ahead of them? Doubtful. Still, there is little reason to be skeptical of Kuma’s true intentions in making travel plans for each of the Straw Hats, especially after we finally learned what he told Rayleigh just before he sent them soaring.
Part 2 – Less Than Cruel Intentions
So far, we’ve seen Kuma - a man noteworthy for his alternating dedication/opposition to the dubious WG, a soldier of few words who speaks volumes through his actions - fail to live up to the crummy reputation we’re told he has. If he was so monstrous and cared for nothing other than upholding the crooked status quo, why doesn’t he do anything to that end?
Think about this - the Marines (and the WG by extension) have the smartest scientist in the entire world at their disposal, as well as thousands of powerful soldiers with a variety of rare and useful Devil Fruit powers...but it was Kuma alone who was chosen not only as the model for their Pacifista project, but to submit to their will and give up his sentience so he could also become a quasi-cybernetic beast. Neither side was the other’s only option, and the deal skews pretty heavily in one’s favor. While still conscious, Kuma does speak of highly of Dr. Vegapunk, the man at the helm of his scientific slide into oblivion. He would be under no obligation to compliment the guy while mentioning his work, but many have wondered over the years (myself being among them) what the true nature of their relationship is for Kuma to boast about Vegapunk's considerable knowledge. Could it be that the understanding they worked out for the auto-man-ton to protect the Thousand Sunny during the crew's separation isn't the only one between them?
Consider this as well - ever since his introduction, we have heard Kuma described as a madman, to the point where his epithet from the WG is “Tyrant.” Does this gel with ANYTHING we’ve seen from him? The propaganda paints him as a ruthless monster, but in the series, he spares the exhausted Straw Hats from being captured (although he fucks Zoro up with all of his captain’s accumulated pain), separates them before Kizaru could round them up, sends them to places best suited to honing their abilities, and then protects their ship for two years before losing his mind. Where in these actions does his tyranny shine through? If anything, he has been one of Luffy’s greatest benefactors in this entire series! What a jerk, huh?
With that established, the audience can easily tell that there’s more to Kuma than the WG would have us believe. If you read my posts in the previous round (or the manga itself), you know what happens to him after he meets Franky in front of the Thousand Sunny after a two year absence...his final conscious mission completed, he undergoes the last round of modifications to become a soulless killing machine fully controlled by the whims of evil politicians. We don’t get a glimpse of him again until the Reverie, where he is being ridden like a mule by the detestable Saint Roswald.
It’s at this point when Kuma’s fall from grace ends in hard contact with rock bottom - you can’t get much lower in the OP world than working as a slave to the Celestial Dragons, and perhaps no other character could elicit an emotional response in this scenario more than the gentle giant who’s only ever gotten a raw deal. When Roswald rides out into a courtyard in Mariejois where Queen “Conney” is trying to gain entrance to some forbidden place, we’re met with the sight of Kuma as a broken, mindless robot. The frown permanently etched across his face was present in every other appearance, but this time, it carried a much heavier weight than ever. He had clearly been abused past reason, a symbol of the sheer cruelty of the true tyrants. When Bonney swears they’ll pay, we hope it costs them everything for what they’ve done to a man we’re told is much worse than we’ve seen.
Part 3 – Playing To His Strengths
It may not yet be known WHY the big bear allowed himself to be tamed to this degree, but even as his personality has been cut and beaten out of him, his overall strength likely hasn’t been affected. Kuma’s DF powers are possibly the most underrated ones in this entire series. Much is made of the Logia and Zoan classes, so not only does he suffer from the ignominious distinction of owning a Paramecia, he is given little credit even among others in his class. This is all despite the fact that he can LITERALLY TURN FEELINGS INTO TANGIBLE AIR BUBBLES and SEND PEOPLE FLYING AROUND THE WORLD TO DISTANT LOCATIONS WITHOUT INJURY. He can transfer someone’s pain to another person! He can repel the most powerful attacks with the swipe of his paw! He can control the flow of any encounter how he sees fit! WHAT ELSE DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM HIM?!
What gets lost in the mix when describing Kuma’s abilities is how well suited they are for his personality and affiliations. How many Revolutionaries were sent to islands by his powers so they may inspire the rebellions and coups that have garnered the organization so many real and symbolic victories? We know he sent Robin to Tequila Wolf before the timeskip, a place that employed thousands of slaves over hundreds of years...and yet, she arrives in time to be rescued by the Revolutionaries there. I find it hard to believe that Kuma spirited her away to such a location without knowing she would be quickly liberated by his true companions. In a similar vein, he would be equally capable of sending himself to war-torn nations to turn the tide in favor of the proletariat. I’m sure there are more than a few regular citizens living in destitute countries who saw Kuma appear before their eyes, smash the hierarchies that left them downtrodden, and told them of the benefits of revolution.
Moreover, despite the unearned reputation, we watch Kuma literally extract all of Luffy’s pain and physical trauma after the battle with Moria, indicating that he can heal battered and broken souls with ease; this is further confirmed after Luffy expresses shock at how good he feels when he returns to consciousness. Had Zoro not stood before the then-Shichibukai and accepted his captain’s giant bubble of misery, that attack might have decimated the landscape of Thriller Bark, but not its inhabitants/intruders, showing that while the intangible needs a place to go, Kuma alone can control where and when it has the intended effect. Hell, as it stood, Kuma managed to literally knock the wind out of everyone...by knocking them out with the wind moved by his signature move, Ursus Shock. Much is said about the medicinal properties of Law’s Ope Ope no Mi, but they are only properly utilized because the man himself is a capable physician; in theory, Kuma has already reached this level of proficiency simply by mastering the extraction of what ails a person.
Possessing the powers of the Nikyu Nikyu no Mi would be enough to make Kuma nigh unbeatable, but just for good measure (and serious overkill), Vegapunk not only used him as the template for the Pacifista, but he bestowed upon the original carbon copy the same gift of imitating Kizaru’s Pika Pika no Mi abilities. That’s right…not only is Kuma now capable of pushing organic AND inorganic material wherever he wants them to go, he can shoot fuckin’ laser beams out of his mouth like an overpowered Dragon Ball villain. So what if Blackbeard ate two Devil Fruits?? If those powers are capable of being replicated by the smartest man in the world, there’s no telling how many unique abilities could be surgically implanted into Kuma's body.
Conclusion – Our Job Is Not Yet Done
Let's review what we've got so far - Kuma is loyal to whomever he needs to show fealty to in any given moment; he is guided by his own desires above all else, even as he navigates different groups with various aims; he has powers that serve him well in all the endeavors indicated above, both in terms of strength as well as intimidation. As thanks for all his efforts, he has undergone a series of surgeries that have left him, for all intents and purposes, dead to the world. The Kuma that we know does not currently exist, and the Kuma we didn't really know before then remains mostly mysterious.
To learn more about the man behind the myth, I'll need to fall back on the theory of an extremely wise and handsome writer - myself. In the last round of this very competition, I defended Jewelry Bonney, a member of the Worst Generation and (in my estimation) Kuma's mother, Queen Conney of the Sorbet Kingdom herself. I explained that Kuma likely held the throne after his father - Bonney's presumptive husband - died in some manner, and abdicated the position after becoming disenchanted with the lies fed to his citizens by the Gorosei above him. If this is true, there's a big chunk of time (as well as potential motivation) missing between this and when he's introduced as their puppet. All we know for sure is that he left Sorbet, became a pirate, then a Revolutionary, then a member of the Shichibukai, then...this:
If Oda is going to leave us to fill these holes, let's cram them full to bursting. Here's what I believe could have gone down:
Kuma left Sorbet in the interest of bringing down the World Government, likely after they gave him some mandate that would have hurt the citizens of his country
He became a pirate while searching for the means to guarantee his own freedom on the seas
Somehow, he teamed up with Dragon and decided the Revolutionaries had a better course of action to the end he also wanted to reach (it's equally possible, and a good deal more thrilling, if he was actually a founding member of the cause)
With his new leader, they hatched a plan to bring the WG down from the inside
Kuma then purposefully caught the attention of his sworn enemy and brokered a deal under false pretenses to become subservient under them
Knowing he was likely to defect or rebel, the WG sought to control him and coerced him into the Pacifista project
Unbeknownst to them, Kuma was made certain assurances by Vegapunk that his personality would not be irrevocably lost if the time came to reverse the mindlessness, and he went under the knife only to emerge as one of the Marines' greatest weapon.
Now, it's possible to likely that some or all of these events will not be depicted in the canon as described here. Oda loves subverting our expectations, which is seen in the long-running disparity between Kuma's in-story reputation and his actual behavior. Maybe Dragon toppled the Sorbet Kingdom as one of his first successful coups, and the defeated Kuma was impressed enough to join him. Perhaps in a real heel turn, we'll learn that his deference to the World Government was an intentional betrayal on his part, as he had become disillusioned with revolution - or Dragon specifically - as he did with ruling a country. This last bit seems the least likely or acceptable explanation for some of Kuma's unknown past, but in One Piece, we cannot discount any feasible outcome until Oda has his say in the matter. For a character introduced earlier in the series than a lot of other major players, the possibilities with Kuma still feel somewhat endless. In my next post, we'll explore one or two of them that make the most sense, and try to ascertain what part this man will play as all the groups he's patronized finally come to a head.
Sorry my man @Jew D. Boy been hella busy with some real life shit in last few days..But lets get this bitch started!!
Silvers Rayleigh, one of the greatest characters that Oda has ever created but before talking about Rayleigh's greatness and why he is one of the best creations of Eiichiro Oda, lets talk about who Silver's Motherphuckin Rayleigh really is.
One Piece world has a lot of beta males, it has Vinsmoke Sanji, it has Charlotte Katakuri, the ultimate beta male living in his mother's basement in his prime years and is allegedly sexually attracted to his siblings. But one man who is the polar opposite of a beta male, and hte ultimate alpha male, is Silvers the Dark King Rayleigh, who gets more action as a 78 year old man than many One Piece characters (and their fans) have gotten in their entire lives.
Silvers Motherphuckin Rayleigh is an uber poon slayer, and an extremely notorious and powerful pirates who lives in Sabaody Archipelago with a MILF named Shakky who can either be his main bitch, side bitch, bottom bitch, or his wife..One of theose..idk. He is first mate of Roger Pirates and is known and feared throughout the World as "Right Hand of the King" but that's not it, this ultimate Alpha is also known as "The Dark King" despite working under Roger.
After death of Gol D Roger, Rayleigh only gives a shit about three things, one is getting all the pussy available in Sabaody (and beyond) and the second is gambling, and third is stealing all the money from Celestial Dragons so he can spend on Gambling. That is until he made a Pirate with consistency of a condom, named Monkey D Luffy and he truly found a purpose in life a reason to live to see Monkey D Condom become the next King of Pirates.
MASTER OF THE MAIN CHARACTER
One of the coolest set of characters in Shounen Anime is Master of the protagonist and One Piece is no exception, just like Naruto have Jiraiya, Dragon Ball Z has Roshi, One Piece has Silver's Rayleigh. Being the master alone is not necessarily a quality worth talking about but what it represents is extremely important.
As I have described in Red Hair Shanks' wank fest, while Shanks got Luffy motivated to start his journey, he made him realize what it means to be a pirate, Rayleigh got him ready for the hardest part of his journey, the journey in the New World, the most dangerous part of Grand Line.
PARTNER OF THE PIRATE KING
Although Roger seemingly had a bond with all the crew members and it looked like Rayleigh had as well, Roger and Rayleigh's relationship has been highlighted more than others in the Roger pirates.
Rayleigh calls Roger his partner, and Rayleigh is the only Roger Pirate that refers to Roger by his named rather than calling him "Captain Roger". There is also an obvious symbolism with Pirate King and Dark King further signifying their partnership. Rayleigh is the King in Roger's shadow.
To further expand upon my previous point, I believe due to recent events in manga that Rayleigh teaching Luffy is part of a bigger picture which is Roger's vision that next Joy Boy will come to save the world. Rayleigh played his role in that vision by training Monkey D Luffy who is reincarnation of Joy Boy to be ready in toughest part of his journey.
THE MOST NOTORIOUS AND FAMOUS PIRATE ALIVE When Garp introduced Yonkou to straw hats, they had no idea who they are. Many of the straw hats didn't even know who Admirals were.
But when it comes to Rayleigh, every single straw hat has heard his name, his name is known in all the books of history
EXCEPTIONALLY STRONG EVEN IN HIS OLD AGE This one should come off as no surprise to any one. As of the most notorious pirate in the history of One Piece world, he must have extremely large bounty, but this man is such an alpha that Marines get their panties wet thinking about the prospect of capturing Rayleigh.
Silvers the Chad King Rayleigh is so uber that he made Kizaru question his entire existence and this is same Kizaru who was trolling even WB not to mention he made Benn Bekcman literally look like a complete joke
But against Rayleigh, Kizaru had to be as serious as he possibly could be, he pulled out his light sword named after one of the 3 national treasures of Japan, Oma no Murakomo, and never laid his focus off Rayleigh because the time he tried doing so, this happened
Rayleigh is master of all forms of Haki, as a matter of fact he knows the most advanced form of Armament Haki we know of yet
People talk about his stamina against Rayleigh when reality is this man has tremendous stamina. He swam across the entire Ocean while killing some of the most dangerous Sea Kings out there
A VERY KIND MAN
Despite being one of the most notorious pirates and ultimate slayer of poon, Rayleigh is a very kind man. His kindness was shown at the very moment he was introduced when he used his conquerors Haki to protect that goofy mermaid (forgot her name) from the Slaver Shop owner because he was roughing her up.
He then later saved her when straw hats had attacked the Celestial Dragon while goffy mermaid chick was in the little aquarium, while simultaneously getting her wet
Again Rayleigh did not need to do this for her, she owes him nothing but its just cuz Silvers Rayleigh is a swell guy with a heart of gold that he saved her.
Oh and he also saved Roronoa Zoro, the first mate of future pirate king from Admiral Kizaru, risking conflict with Navy.
A VERY INTELLIGENT MAN
Rayleigh displayed great deal of intelligence when he came out in the main auction hall and saw all the chaos. He was able to quickly figure out the entire situation without anyone telling him a word about what happened.
A few unknown facts about Silvers Rayleigh -When Silvers Rayleigh turned 18, his parents left the house
-During his child hood, Silver Rayleigh's parents would also come to sleep with him when they are scared
-Silvers Rayleigh once destroyed a mountain just by sneezing
-Silvers Rayleigh lost his virginity before his dad -Silvers Rayleigh once killed John Wick's dog. John Wick ended up getting another dog -Once a gold fish was trained by Silvers Rayleigh..Now its a shark
In all seriousness Silvers Rayleigh is one of the most underrated characters in the series. This post is not able to do justice to the absolute masterpiece that Rayleigh is because of limited amount of time I could spend on this. But I hope I was able to convince some of you about greatness of Rayleigh
Now that we've established that Bartholomew Kuma is a vital cog in the machine that seeks to right every wrong perpetuated by the OP world's powerful elite, we need to understand how exactly he fits into the machinations of the Revolutionaries. Although the timeline is a bit murky since we have no idea when Kuma abdicated the Sorbet Kingdom throne, we saw in Luffy's flashback that he was already one of Dragon's confidants almost a decade and a half before the present storyline. Additionally, it's been confirmed that Kuma was still working in the capacity of freedom fighter as recently as when he spirited the Straw Hats away from Sabaody Archipelago before the timeskip. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt in his first couple of appearances, it's clear that Kuma has been a double agent for the entirety of his tenure under the World Government's thumb.
Knowing what little we do about the man himself, we have to figure out the nature of Kuma's agreement to undergo the Pacifista operations that sapped him of his sentience. What could possibly drive a person to willingly allow themselves to be altered in that manner? Who would submit to their sworn enemy in such a drastic way? You could call it desperation, and perhaps that's what Dragon was feeling at the time that he asked Kuma to submit to the WG. From the time we see these two rescuing Sabo in the Goa Kingdom to when Thalassa Lucas tells us about the threat Luffy's dad poses at the Reverie eight years ago, the Revolutionaries are implied to have gained serious notoriety for their insurgency. They've clearly become a concern of the lower royals who have likely suffered great embarrassment at their actions, so perhaps at this time, the Revolutionaries were targeted and cornered by the Marines. Since Dragon was referred to as the Most Wanted Man in the World, there's little reason to think the naval chase wouldn't include at least one Admiral; seeing as Akainu made vague allusions to already knowing about his connection with Luffy before Sengoku announced it to the world, we'll say he was involved for the sake of speculation (I won't be expanding on this part, being that while it opens up another can of worms, they are not the kind of crawling insects we're worried about here).
Let's say that Dragon, Kuma, and everyone else in the organization were set for detainment by the Marines when the co-conspirators put their plan into action. It could be that they intentionally lured Akainu into a trap and had previously determined that Kuma would offer himself up as a sacrifice; give the WG a Pyrrhic victory by claiming they neutralized a major figure in the resistance against them without putting him or his comrades in real danger. Why was Kuma picked for this particular mission? Simple - he and Dragon understand that saving face is the most important thing to the Gorosei, and handing them a former royal who defected so publicly would allow them to feel as though they've accomplished something monumental by turning a wild bear into a rented mule. It's a true testament to the man's humility and integrity that he recognizes the optics even in the midst of putting on an act for the world, and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect the Revolutionaries from utter dissolution.
Now, it would be extremely reckless to assume that the WG would be totally satisfied just by owning Kuma; they were always going to find some way to turn him into the subservient robot we currently know him to be. Dragon would not be so ignorant that he could fail to factor this into his designs, nor would he be so careless that he would allow serious harm to befall someone who appears to be one of his closest friends and most valuable soldiers. This tells me there must be more than a minor Revolutionary presence lurking within the ranks of the Marines already, sleeper agents ready to work on their true leader's word at a moment's notice. As I mentioned in the beginning of my first post, there is plenty of precedent for the main organizations in One Piece infiltrating each other - Doflamingo has Vergo and multiple other unnamed spies in the Marines, we're presuming that Bonney is a royal in disguise who only turned to piracy as a means to an end, and maybe most notably, X Drake is a member of SWORD and posing as a pirate while still working for the largely unknown resistance force directly in the Marines.
Up until roughly this time last year, the fandom had never heard the term SWORD despite being familiar with Drake and another apparent member, Koby. We know that the latter is Luffy's parallel in One Piece - the first character the straw hat met, the first person who he inspired to follow their dreams - and with the recent revelations, we're now seeing the former opting to fight Kaido and his forces alongside our main protagonist. Marines teaming up with pirates to bring down a common enemy is nothing new; Smoker has assisted Luffy against two major villains on either side of the timeskip, and the Pirate King, Gol D. Roger himself, allied with the vice admiral Monkey D. Garp to destroy the Rocks Pirates decades before the main storyline. All indications point to SWORD continuing this long running tradition, as evidenced by Drake's recent move. Considering all this, it's safe to assume at the moment that members of this faction are not believers in the Absolute Justice espoused by the Marines at large, and therefore can be swayed to betray their benefactors.
You probably know where I'm going with this by now - it all comes back to Dr. Vegapunk. We first learn what little we know about this genius scientist from Kuma himself, as I touched upon last time. Even while working on the explicit orders of the WG with the Pacifista project, Vegapunk felt enough affection for the Shichibukai that he allowed him to spend an entire two years sitting like a rock in front of the Thousand Sunny while the Straw Hats were separated. If Vegapunk's deepest loyalties were really with the Marines, why allow Kuma to so blatantly disregard their orders? Why let a man whose consciousness you're about to demolish dictate his final wishes, especially where they go against your own orders? There's truly no explanation that makes sense other than the most obvious one...Kuma and Vegapunk are both interested in the same end (the destruction of the Celestial Dragons) and are working together to ensure the means to reach them are not only justified, but not irreversible for one of the men involved. The only time Vegapunk (in silhouette) speaks on panel is during Caesar Clown's flashback, when he is shown chiding his mad coworker for heinous crimes against nature with the gigantification process; this demonstrates that Vegapunk, like many others in One Piece, is primarily guided by his moral compass more than the blind pursuit of beneficial but highly dangerous speculative science.
At this point, there's really only one major issue left to address in this theory, and that's the matter of what happened to Kuma's consciousness. There would be little use in having Kuma totally give up his awareness of the world so that he could save it if he wouldn't be able to someday enjoy the fruits of his sizable labors. Still, even for all the wild scientific advances we've seen in this series, it's difficult to imagine a method through which a human soul can be uploaded to the One Piece world's largely primitive technology. While the mental image of a Den Den Mushi snail containing Kuma's entire brain and memories is hilarious, the specifics behind it get murky. We know Kuma is uniquely capable of "pushing" feelings out of organic material, so while it's reasonable to assume he could repel someone's liveliness from their body, doing it to himself might be too risky for what's involved in this particular scenario. So, how could Vegapunk then extract these intangible concepts and plant them into an inanimate object?
Very easily, it turns out.
It turns out that this concept, infusing everyday items with Devil Fruit powers that allow them to come to life, is a Dr. Vegapunk original. We see his handiwork at play with Mr. 4's gun Lassoo (which was given an essence by the Inu Inu no Mi, Model: Dachsund) and Spandam's sword Funkfreed (made vigorous by the Zou Zou no Mi), providing perfect examples of how random objects can be used as receptacles for human life in its most fragile form. When Kuma was robbed of his mind, it would have evidently been child's play for Vegapunk to place it into something for safe keeping. I doubt they would be so foolish to hide his conscience in another Pacifista, as that would still keep the Revolutionary under government control, possibly for good. No, the object that holds all that Kuma is would need to be something rare, protected, and easily tracked.
Okay...I have asked a lot of y'all while concocting this extremely conjectural scenario for Kuma. Now, I'm gonna kick things into overdrive, so strap in. In Dressrosa, it is revealed that Doflamingo has gained possession of the Mera Mera no Mi, the fiery Devil Fruit that Ace once consumed and controlled. The fruit would have generated after the events of Marineford, where Doflamingo was present, but as we saw many years ago, he was preoccupied with assassinating Moria after the war and likely didn't go searching for the tree where these powers had regenerated.
Kuma had been fully transformed into PX-0 days prior to the tilt with Whitebeard and allies, so I'm not saying that his will could have been transferred to its eventual vessel right away. Perhaps it was stored in some other place between when Vegapunk extracted it and when (here's where we get wild) it was implated into the Mera Mera no Mi; we first learned of artificial Devil Fruits from Caesar, who we've already established as Vegapunk's cohort, and that coupled with the existence of DF-blessed weapons tells us that it is possible to alter consciousness by messing with the properties of these magical plants.
Either way, here's what I believe the sequence of events to be - Kuma was turned into a killer robot between separating the Straw Hats and the war in Marineford; his memories were placed into a temporary hold by Vegapunk, who was operating as both an undercover Revolutionary as well as an operative of SWORD, whereupon they were imprinted onto the Mera Mera no Mi after the war; the fruit was either kept in the WG's possession up until it was obtained by Doffy or sold through the black market with each buyer and seller unaware of what it truly holds; Sabo and the Revolutionaries, already planning to bring Dressrosa's weapons trade down, came to the Corrida Colosseum to obtain the Devil Fruit that Vegapunk had informed them carried the crucial components of their comrade's awareness; Luffy's sworn kinsfolk ate the fruit that once belonged to their other brother to not only gain the power of fire (as well as Ace's will which he comments on in the battle with Burgess), but keep Kuma's soul safer than it had been for years prior. We know that Sabo's primary motivation in eating the Mera Mera no Mi was to honor Ace's memory; perhaps Vegapunk only intimated the addition of Kuma's personality to Dragon (who gave his second in command the go ahead in pursuing the fruit) so that the others wouldn't feel even more obligated to obtain the Devil Fruit. If all of this ends up being true - and before you bombard my profile/inbox, I'm aware of how big a swing this is - it stands to reason that once they're all reunited after the raid on Mariejois, Vegapunk will be able to extricate the abstract ideas of personality and psyche from Sabo as he has with many other things in the past and restore Kuma to his former glory. It's worth noting that Karasu mentions while the Revolutionary commanders plot to save Kuma that the simple act of rescuing him won't be the end of their tribulations, but Sabo's lack of a response could imply that he knows what he'll have to go through to fully save his friend.
Whew...all right, everyone, take a deep breath. We got through this together, and we're all stronger for it. If Kuma is going to have his memories returned to him, and if Oda is going to spend another few years dragging his feet while we wait to learn how this will happen, this feels as plausible an explanation as any. Regardless, there's no denying that the journey of Bartholomew Kuma will prove to be one of the most consequential characters in pulling the rug out from underneath the World Government. More than any other pirate, Marine, Revolutionary, or royal, he remains the crux of all matters related to smashing the oppressive autonomy and bringing a new dawn to the One Piece world. It's only a matter of time before all of these parties come to a head, and I expect Kuma to be right in the middle of it all. Thanks for bearing with me, folks! :sabogood: