There’s a lot of things to talk about in this chapter, including the finally long-awaited details on the SSG Project, so let’s break it all down as usual!
Video version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYUPeniiWBY
Before we begin the chapter, I’d quickly like to address the chapter cover. As we see, Caesar has helped the Vinsmokes escape and there isn’t anything particularly novel about this particular cover, but I wanted to remind you not to forget the fact that two figures appeared at Cacao Island and we still don’t know who they are. Brûlée thought they were Ichiji and Reiju and sent Cracker after them, but we know it’s not them since Ichiji and Reiju showed up at Whole Cake Island to save their brothers, and the two islands are very far apart. So who are these two figures who Oda is keeping from us?
Anyway, the chapter begins with Marco parting ways with Shanks, telling him that he’s tired of babysitting “Great Pirates”. This is an important remark because the term “Great Pirate” has only been used for really important pirates such as Roger, Whitebeard, or Shanks. But in this case, while Marco could be referring about his time helping Whiteboard, it could also mean that Marco sees Luffy as a Great Pirate as well, since he came to assist him in the war, which is no short praise.
We get a brief flashback where Luffy finally thanks Marco, something he mentioned he’s wanted to do ever since Chapter 820, and in fact we even see the exact same panel from Marineford we saw in Chapter 820 being used here once again.
Marco does mention to Jinbe how peculiar it is that back then everyone would move to protect Luffy, which is once again subtly hinting at Luffy’s power to be able to draw people to him that has been alluded to so many times, and was made particular emphasis of during the Marineford War. He bids goodbye to Luffy by saying “from now on, this is you guys’ era!!”, a reference to the upcoming New Era that has been teased so much these past few chapters, as Marco heads to Sphinx Island, Whitebeard’s hometown we first saw in Chapter 909.
THE INVASION OF AMAZON LILY
We then shift to Amazon Lily, where a great incident took place. Hancock mentions how her presence on the island will endanger her people, and mentions how she wants to elope with Luffy. Now, this might be played as a gag, but could it actually be setting up future events? Perhaps it is hinting at the idea that Hancock is going to reunite with Luffy and help assist him during whatever final conflict will arise in the series.
We however get a better look at what exactly happened, which was right after the abolishment of the Shichibukai during the Reverie as we first saw in Chapter 956. Leading the charge seems to be Vice Admiral Yamakaji, who was one of the Admirals who led the Buster Call on Envies Lobby. His name literally means “Mountain Wildfire”. The Marine invasion is however cut short by the Blackbeard Pirates, with Teach arriving with 6th and 8th ship Titanic Captains Catarina Devon and Vasco Shot respectively, the latter being the first time we’ve seen him post-timeskip. Oddly enough, Vasco Shot is still wearing his prison uniform, as he doesn’t seem to want to part with it.
Devon mentions how she wants to take Hancock’s head as a trophy, which is a reference to something that was mentioned in her vivre card, as Devon is someone who likes hunting beautiful women to take their heads as trophies in the name of beauty. Teach meanwhile reveals that he was after the Mero Mero no Mi fruit, which is the thing he mentioned not wanting to let the Marines have during Chapter 956.
As we were told at Fishman Island by Jinbe, the Blackbeard Pirates have been hunting for powerful devil fruit users to steal their fruits.
As it was stated, Teach found a way to attain someone’s devil fruit when killing them, which the Ace manga also implied is how he stole the fruit from Thatch, as it implied Thatch had eaten the fruit already and the only way for Blackbeard to get it was to kill his crewmate.
Similarly, he seems to have done the same with Whitebeard, but how he managed to eat a second fruit is a separate mystery entirely. It’s unknown if Teach can eat more than two fruits, but he has been searching for powerful fruits to give to his subordinates. We saw this with how Burgess tried to get the Mera Mera no Mi and later the Gomu Gomu no Mi in Dressrosa, or how they killed Absalom to give his fruit to Shilliew.
During this time, we see Blackbeard clashing against what seems to be a young Lunaria. Blackbeard instantly recognizes the white hair, dark skin, and black wings, which isn’t surprising given his knowledge of a lot of mysteries in the One Piece world. As he clashes with the kid, we also see him briefly using Armament haki to protect himself. It’s also worth noting that the kid carries a sword similar to Mihawk’s Yoru, though it’s a lot simpler in build and with less ornate details than the original blade.
Meanwhile, Koby charges into the main plaza of Amazon Lily and asks Hancock to surrender herself. In this shot, we can actually see the picture of Luffy that Hancock hanged on the palace during a cover story, which is interesting since Koby should no doubt have seen it from this angle.
THE ROCKY PORT INCIDENT
T<hough Kyros briefly hinted at this by calling Koby a hero in Chapter 903, it was revealed in Film RED that this is actually an epithet by which Koby is currently known as, as he is called “Koby the Hero”, which is now being shown in the manga. Film RED also elaborated on the fact that this is an epithet that Koby earned through saving the people of Rocky Port during the Rocky Port Incident, which was apparently such a big deal that Koby became famous across the entire world for his bravery and new title. This is kind of a big deal because it mirrors the God Valley incident where Garp also became the “Hero of the Marines”, which further drives the potential parallel that Koby could be to Luffy what Garp was to Roger.
This however builds up further intrigue about what exactly happened at Rocky Port. The Rocky Port incident was a big incident that took place during the timeskip that was orchestrated by Trafalgar Law and led to a conflict where the port’s people were saved by Koby. In this chapter Blackbeard further mentions that Koby’s actions at Rocky Port allowed him to oust O-Choku to take over Hachinosu. So for a little bit of context, Hachinosu, Blackbeard’s current base, is the pirate island where the Rocks Pirates first got their start. O-Choku was one of the most prominent members of the Rocks Pirates, whom Sengoku cited among the top members in Chapter 957. His name is based on a real life pirate who was also known as O-Choku, or by his other name Wang Zhi (which is why you might hear that being used in some translations), who terrorized China in the 16th century. It would seem this chapter implies that after Xebec’s supposed death, O-Choku took over Pirate Island as its new ruler, until Blackbeard arrived and stole the position from him to follow in Xebec’s footsteps. How exactly the Rocky Port Incident factors into this though is a whole other story.
Blackbeard manages to stop Hancock from using her powers by negating it through his devil fruit, which as you might recall can block the abilities of devil fruit users. Koby also seems to have not been effected, though it’s not clear if this is due to having a pure heart, or if he simply was fast enough to dodge Hancock’s attacks, since Koby boasts impressive agility at the moment. Also, in the panel in the corner we can spot a few familiar faces, including Blue Fan, Cosmos, Rindo, Ran, Aphelandra, and Daisy. Daisy in particular is overlaid over Blackbeard’s “Zehahahaha” bubble, which might be an intentional reference since her laughter is “Zahahahaha”, which fans have often pointed out is really similar to Blackbeard’s.
We also get the new bounties of Hancock and Blackbeard, being 1,659,000,000 belly and 3,996,000,000 belly respectively. Blackbeard’s current bounty feels far more fitting of his status as a Yonko, though it makes me wonder just what exactly prompted what is almost double his bounty in the past few chapters. Similarly, Hancock’s bounty is nothing to scoff at, and while part of it surely ties into her military power with the Kuja Pirates, it also speaks leagues of her strength, as well as her broken devil fruit, as she comments how stone statues can only be undone by the original user of the fruit. Blackbeard comments on how dangerous this ability is, which is why he’s interested in it, claiming that he doesn’t think there’s a man alive who could resist her fruit, a funny reference to our lovable protagonist. By the way, the last two digits of Hancock’s bounty can be read similarly to the two last kana of her name, like “Han-go-ku”, while the last two digits of Blackbeard’s bounty can be read as “ku-ro”, or “black”.
FORMER EMPRESS SHAKKY
The two are however stopped by Rayleigh however, who pulls up on the island to rescue Hancock. As you might recall, Rayleigh and Shakky, alongside Gloriosa, helped save the Boa Sisters after they fled Mary Geoise during Fisher Tiger’s raid, so the bond between them goes way back. Speaking of the latter, we get the reveal that Shakky was actually the former empress of Amazon Lily and by extension Captain of the Kuja Pirates at the time, which actually explains a lot of things. So for a bit of context, while Hancock is the current empress and Gloriosa was the empress from three generations ago, there was an empress from a generation ago who died of Love Sickness. Gloriosa mentioned how the empress before that one also was afflicted with the burdens of love, and this is where Shakky comes in, as the empress from two generations ago.
As it was alluded to in the story and later confirmed by Oda, Shakky and Rayleigh are partners in love, so it seems that Shakky also had to deal with her romantic burdens as she ended up abandoning the island for her love. Both her and Gloriosa sailed back during their days, but while Gloriosa eventually made it back, her successor Shakky never did and retired as a pirate to open up her bar on Sabaody 40 years ago, which as a reminder, Shakky is currently 64. Let us also not forget that Oda practically implied in an SBS that Shakky was also part of the Rocks Pirates, which is likely the time in which she sailed overseas and likely how she eventually met Rayleigh and ended up falling for him, so she’s certainly had quite the eventful life. It also lends even more reputation to the Rocks Pirates, as they basically had the equivalent of what was the Hancock of the time among their ranks.
Also, Shakky mentions how Vegapunk’s seastone paddleships have made Amazon Lily not impregnable anymore, which was something that Gloriosa already mentioned to Hancock during the Amazon Lily arc and warned her that a Marine invasion could become a reality someday in the future, something that did end up happening.
THE SSG SERAPHIM PROJECT
Speaking of Vegapunk, we get into what is potentially the biggest deal of the chapter, being the new Pacifista weapons, the Seraphim. Rayleigh basically confirms that this is the project that the SSG was working on to replace the Shichibukai that has been teased for so long.
Now, for a little clarification, this is something that a lot of people in the fandom get confused about, but the SSG is actually not a project, but a group of people, which refers to Vegapunk’s research unit, but this detail was lost in some translations so some people were confused by it. What the Super Science Group is working on however, is a top-secret project to replace the Shichibukai, and that’s where the Seraphim come in, as essentially, the replacement of the Shichibukai is very literal, with them being replaced with clones of them, just like Kuma was with the first Pacifista.
Now, if you recall, I actually already elaborated on this exact idea my Return to the Reverie fan manga, so let me break it down: during Whole Cake Island, Yonji mentioned that Vegapunk and Judge made the revolutionary discovery of the “bloodline elements”. The “bloodline elements” are basically the One Piece equivalent of DNA, the genetic code that forms all living beings.
Vegapunk not only discovered this DNA, but even figured out how to copy and replicate it at will. Judge used this technology for his Germa kingdom to create an army of clones, but Vegapunk applied it differently to copy devil fruits. And he clearly succeeded, as he was able to create a practically perfect copy of the Uo Uo no Mi, Model: Seiryuu, Kaido’s fruit.
This is kind of a big deal, because it could hint that either A) devil fruits contain bloodline element code within them, which could explain how they are able to let people have incredible superpowers, by essentially modifying their genetic code, or B) devil fruits are actually living creatures that can be cloned, as we have been told they have a will of their own after all. This is also in part how Caesar was able to create SMILE fruits as Oda elaborated on in an SBS, as they took the bloodline elements from animals and infused them into a substance called S.A.D., which later irrigated trees to produce SMILE fruits, showing how those Zoan powers originated from the bloodline elements of real animals. Even Law at the end of Punk Hazard mentioned how Vegapunk discovering the truth about devil fruits has to do with the bloodline elements.
And this is where the Pacifista factor in, because it’s been pointed out how the Pacifista posses a laser beam that is identical to that of Kizaru’s Pika Pika no Mi. So the implication all this time has been that Vegapunk managed to clone the Pika Pika no Mi, or at least an aspect of it, since the Pacifista only possessed part of Kizaru’s powers. In this case, he was able to create perfect clones of Kuma, who were also enhanced robots like him, and even gave them some resemblance of devil fruit powers through the laser beams.
Now the Pacifista project has taken its next step: rather than cloning only Kuma, Vegapunk has now managed to clone other Shichibukai, as in this chapter we see clones of both Hancock and Mihawk. The latter’s power is particularly terrifying, as it managed to not only defeat many of Blackbeard’s elite soldiers without even suffering a single scratch, not only clash against a Yonko, but even sliced the entirety of Amazon Lily in half, an entire island mind you, a feat that basically rivals those of the real Mihawk. If this is meant to be a clone of the original, just how much weaker is it really from the actual Mihawk? Even further, it seems that Vegapunk has mixed in Lunaria bloodline elements, likely stolen from King during his captivity as seen in his flashbacks, to make these Pacifista even more powerful. After all, the Lunaria were considered to be some of the strongest creatures alive, with really tough skins, wings to fly, and the ability to manipulate fire, which is why some people called them the “gods” of the God Country. And we see through the Hancock and Mihawk clones that they still have the Pika Pika no Mi laser beams from previous Pacifista models, so they are literally an amalgamation of all of Vegapunk’s scientific successes so far.
These incredibly powerful new units have been befittingly named “Seraphim”, which refers to the most powerful angels of Christian belief (also appearing in Judaist and Islamic belief), which is no doubt in reference to the wings and angelic appearance of these units. This follows the tradition of these units being named after terms that are supposed to bring peace to the world, despite their destructive potential. And this makes you wonder if the Government would stop at just cloning the Shichibukai, or if they could even clone others they’ve captured before such as Kaido. Since they have already cloned his fruit, who is to say they can’t clone the entire beast?
This does make me wonder however if this cloning is limited to those they have been able to extract bloodline elements from in the past. After all, Hancock was captured as a kid by the World Nobles, so they could’ve gotten her bloodline elements during that time, which might explain why this Seraphim Hancock is a little kid. That does beg the question of if they somehow had captured Mihawk as a kid as well, or if they potentially could even make clones of people who they don’t have their bloodline elements for, though I’m not sure how that would work. And who is to say that they can just limit themselves to just one clone or two? We saw with the Pacifista how they were able to create several Kuma, although the numbers were limited due to the sheer cost of creating one of these Pacifista, with Sentomaru mentioning how a single one of them costs as much as a Marine Battleship, but still… imagine an army of Mihawks, that is one terrifying thought.
Regardless of how it evolves, there is no doubt the Serafim Pacifista will play a big role in the story to come!