Warning: Contains spoilers for One Piece Road to Laugh Tale vol. 4
One of the biggest mysteries of One Piece, the secret of the awakening of Diabolical fruits like Zoan, finally gets an official explanation in the last part of the special story “The Road to Laughter”. Featuring concept art and notes by Eyichiro Ode himself about Luffy’s powerful form in Gear Five, Road to Laugh Tale vol. 4, answers some questions that fans of the best-selling manga have been asking for a long time.
The Zoan types were introduced at the beginning of the series and are among the most common types of Devil Fruit. They allow users to gain the physical abilities of a specific animal, which can be accessed by turning into a full “Beast Form” or into a hybrid “Human-Beast Form”. More powerful versions of these devilish fruits were introduced later in the series: Ancient Zoans that empower extinct animals such as dinosaurs, and the strongest and rarest of all, Mythical Zoans such as the one that Kaido ate, associated with creatures from legends and folklore and giving the user a wide range of abilities. However, it has not been clarified what the “awakening” of the Zoan fetus entails. The awakening of the Devil Fruit means that the user’s mind and body can use their full potential, as Luffy did when he unlocked the powers of the “Sun God Nick” during the battle with Kaido.
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After the previous edition of the special introduced important new information about Luffy’s form in Gear Five, Road to Laugh Tale vol. 4 expands this further with a gallery of concepts. One of the biggest recent discoveries of the manga was that the Devil Fruit of Luffy is not a Paramecia of Gomu Gomu no Mi, as it was believed, but the Mythical Zoan Hito Hito no Mi, model: Nika. Notes by Eiichiro Ode, published in Road to Laugh Tale vol. 4 specifically mention “zoan awakening”, clarifying that they are different from paramecia because zoan awakening involves risks associated with the innate nature of the animals concerned. The only other awakened Zoans seen in the series besides Luffy, the guards of Impel Down Prison, demonstrated the disadvantages of this process by being absorbed by their animal nature and showing very few signs of human behavior.
These notes explain a lot not only in Zoans, but also in Luffy’s still unclear connection with Nika and his strange behavior in the form of the Fifth Gear. In the manga, it is implied that the fruits of Zoan “carry their will”, thanks to which the fruit of Nick was able to escape capture by the World Government for centuries. This “spirit” dwelling inside the zoans should also explain how the World Government’s leading scientist, Dr. Vegapank, was able to imbue inanimate objects with the power of some of these diabolical fruits, which was impossible. The awakening of the Zoan thus released the will or spirit of the animal associated with the Fruit, which could take over the user’s body (as happened with the Impel Down guards). This also explains why Luffy showed a completely different personality in the form of the Fifth Gear, and why the World Government is so afraid of this awakening, as it will release into the world the real “Nika”, a legendary warrior who was worshipped as a liberator by slaves in the past.
The risk associated with Zoan’s awakening may also finally explain why Kaido has never shown his awakened form. Perhaps the former President was afraid that the powerful dragon living inside his Devil Fetus might take over, or maybe his “drunk form” in which he displayed rapid personality changes was actually his awakened form all along. The Devil’s Fruit remains one of the biggest mysteries in One Piece, but at least thanks to Road to Laugh Tale vol. 4, manga fans now know a little more about Zoans and their awakening.