Since reaching the rank of vice admiral in the 2 year time skip, many would have thought that Smoker – as he was before the time skip – would be a troublesome character for the Strawhats. He famously once said that he would “definitely crush” the Strawhats in the New World, after learning of their Enies Lobby success. He even went as far as to “swear on his pride”; a theme of great importance in this manga, just take the example of Ace.
With such confidence in his abilities, and now having a rank to match his ‘arrogance’, I felt, as many others had, very disappointed by his performance thus far. Post-time-skip, he has fought Law, Vergo and Doflamingo. In each case, without exception, he was destroyed, as perhaps was his strong sense of pre-time-skip pride. We have to acknowledge that he did come up against very strong and superior characters but isn’t this what One Piece is often about? Overcoming overwhelming challenges which seem futile at first but through strong determination and self-belief, the underdog comes out on top. The dream lives on.
However, in the case of Smoker, he can no longer dream of beating fighters stronger than him and on balance he has lost much of the fear factor that he once had. I can’t see Luffy running away from Smoker as he once did in Alabasta, instead Luffy could quite convincingly beat Smoker. The Strawhats are just too much for the G-5 entourage. Such pitiful defeats at Punk Hazard have wrecked his reputation as a menacing character in One Piece and his character development appears to be ominously heading in the same direction as Yamcha of Dragon Ball.