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Ever since Dressrosa, there has always been one question about the Zou Arc: will it be a short regrouping arc before Wano? Or will it have its own story arc? Many people were hoping for the former due to the mammoth that was Dressrosa, and I myself had no real opinion.
Then we finally got to Zou, and it seemed to me like there would indeed be a story. You got a living island rich in history, with political intrigue, two missing people, and a fearsome villain with a strong connection. However, the events of the most recent chapter showed that perhaps not everything is coming to a head like I thought. Let's take a look and see:
Reasons supporting a full arc
Zou's Lore - In the span of 6 chapters, the Zou Arc did what Dressrosa took 40 chapters to do: establish a rich and interesting history of this island. They are on a thousand year old elephant. There are so many opportunities here, and Oda has provided us with a lot of geography and natural occurrences to boot, even if most of them are destroyed. The Minks are a thousand times more interesting than the Dressrosa citizens/gladiators, and the political intrigue between Inuarashi and Nekomamushi feels like a major plot point. Oda's not really the type of person to let a relationship like this go unresolved. If this arc pans out, I'm really hoping for them to team up and execute the best combo attack in the series.
Jack and the Path to Kaido - If this arc has a fleshed out story, then there's really only one person qualified to serve as its main antagonist. Jack may be listed as dead, but even the characters in the story know how things really work in these parts. With all the destruction Jack created on Zou, it would make a lot of sense for him to meet justice there (I'm still hoping for Luffy to use Elephant Gun on him). Jack's defeat would also give Luffy an even bigger edge in the battle against Kaido; the Yonko would have no choice but to take him seriously if his right hand man was defeated. However, this plot point is one side of a coin. The other side suggests otherwise, and I'll return to that in a minute.
Raizo - Yeah, so the Minks legitimately have never seen Raizo before in their lives. Then again, he is a ninja, so that is the point. Ultimately, it's too early to tell what the plot would gain from him being there or not. On one hand, if Raizo isn't on Zou and is back at Wano or something like that, it would kind of negate the purpose of going to Zou in the first place for reasons yet unknown. There is still a lot we don't know about Zou, especially outside Kurau City, and I suspect Nekomamushi has a few secrets we don't know about yet.
Sanji - All we know know is that Sanji is gone, most likely of his own volition (though he may have turned himself in to an enemy for some reason). We don't know yet if he is off the island or still on it, though Luffy and Zoro's lack of concern doesn't really suggest that he's too far away. On one hand, the mission to get Sanji could extend well out of Zou and tie into a larger part of the story, or it could be directly related to Zou itself. Like Raizo, it's still too early to tell.
Reasons supporting a transition arc
Jack's Position - Last chapter we found out that Jack has a bounty of 1 billion berries, double that of Luffy's. While this by no means means that he is twice as strong as Luffy, I am incredibly hesitant to predict Jack as a defeatable enemy right now for several reasons. One, Jack has a HUGE chip on his shoulder after being embarrassed by the two Zou rulers and getting taken out by the Marines. What kind of precedent would he set for the other Beasts Pirates if he was never able to prove his strength by winning a fight fair and square? Yes, Oda has built some people's power up a lot before making them massive letdowns (Donquixote executives), but to treat Jack in this manner would not get the Beasts Pirates off on a good foot.
Another issue posed is the hierarchy in relation to the Straw Hats; we saw that Sanji was able to easily defeat the leader of the middle tier, which unless Kaido has another tier up his sleeve means that there are only three, possibly four if Drake isn't one of them, people besides Kaido who can give the Monster Trio a good fight. Will Sheepshead return and fight again? Probably. But if the Beasts Pirates are to be taken seriously as a threat, they can't be treated like fodder all the time. Luffy defeating Jack on Zou would not help things in the slightest.
Instead, the destruction on Zou would eventually be joined by many other atrocities the Beast Pirates commit to make Luffy more and more angry at Kaido. It's been established that Luffy only fights people who hurt his friends, and Kaido has not really done anything to do that, so it would kind of be out of character for Luffy to fight him with no cause other than becoming king of the seas.
So given what we know so far, do you think Zou will be a full arc with Jack as the main villain, or a transition arc building up to Wano and Kaido? Share in the comments!