One Piece – Chapter 652
One of the most promising things about a timeskip is that it gives the characters time to change and grow. We’ve already seen this with the Strawhats, who all gained new designs and abilities, but we haven’t seen that many of the minor characters in the story yet. Of course we’ve seen some, but considering just how many characters this series has, there’s still a lot of ground to explore. That’s why I was happy to see the return of Smoker and Tashigi this chapter and why I’m looking forward to the possible meeting with the main characters they’re implying.
The interesting thing about Smoker is that the series has been going out of its way to avoid a direct confrontation between him and Luffy. Off the top of my head, I can remember at least three occasions where they met and tried to fight, but something got in the way. Of course the reason for this is because Luffy had yet to master his Haki, so there wasn’t a whole lot he could do against a Logia fruit user. Now that he’s learned how to damage them, the odds of the two actually getting into a real fight are all the more likely. Actually, now that I think about it, Caribou getting beaten by the two Big Mam Pirates may have been setting up for this encounter. It clearly illustrates that having a Logia fruit at this point of the series is no longer the advantage it used to be.
Tashigi is different in that her role is mainly to support Smoker. It’s similar to how most main enemies have their own group of other characters, but usually they come in larger groups, whereas Smoker only has Tashigi and the rowdy G-5 pirates. She’s clearly grown stronger since the last time we’ve seen her, although I highly doubt she’s on the same level as Zoro. Her skills seem based around deflecting attacks, which may require Zoro to get a bit more creative in his fight with her, but it’s unlikely that she poses a threat at this point.
Over the course of the manga’s run, the Strawhats have built up an impressive number of recurring opponents, and it looks like it’s about time some of them were dealt with. Smoker and his crew being right outside the entrance to the New World seems to indicate they’ll be meeting with the crew again soon. I can’t say for sure if this is when they’ll actually fight, but this chapter has done a good job showing that they’re still around and still want our protagonists in chains.