It's over! Oh god, it's finally over! I'm plugging my fingers in my ears and refusing to hear any speculation to the contrary. Kaido's down. The battle is over. The conflict resolved. Act three has had some tremendous highs and muddled itself into some equally rough lows, but it's done now, and we get to move onto the history and the lore and the next arc. Ugh, I'm not going to rest properly until the narration confirms it after the break, am I?
The cover story gets more and more curious. This can't be related to the figures at Cacao, especially if they really are Reiju and Ichiji. For them, it would have to be Judge in the research facility at Whole Cake, and it feels like a stretch for him to get there so far ahead of them. So either it's a different group, or there's a third party freeing the siblings.
Kaido, for all his meatheaded battle lust in the present, turns out to have a pretty interesting past and some coherent and relevant personal philosophies to think over. "Why does everyone have obey those Celestial Dragons anyway?" "Why should I be a Government lapdog?" "Don't use me as some political pawn!" "(paraphrased)The pampered noble-born rulers take the safety of their ivory thrones for granted!" Excellent points, and all the more terrifying for the authorities coming from someone too strong to be restrained. We even learn more about the World Government's awful powers and beliefs as it happens - they can forcibly constrict individuals from member states into their own navy and don't give citizens non-member states their full human rights. Both of those things could have been intuited previously, but it's good to see them set in stone. Kaido sees the injustices of the world more clearly than I'd given him credit for, but he's learned the wrong lesson from them. Instead of empathising with others who were oppressed and fighting for their equality, he takes the world's unfairness as an unchangable natural law and treats it as a competition to be won - where the prize is to be the oppressor instead of the oppressed.
I'm very interested in Higurashi recruiting Kaido to Wano the same way she sucked in Orochi. The old lady seems to have a lot of knowledge and Devil Fruit access she really shouldn't. Who was her backer? What was her endgame? I hope we get to see how she died at some point. What did she think of Kaido ordering her death after making this deal so long before? Has she got anything to do with Wano's Lode Poneglyph not being in either of the obvious locations of Kaido's basement or the Shogun's palace? This is the kind of thing I'm eager to dig into now that the fghting is wrapped up.
I love the sudden two panel sequence of the last CP0 agent just peacing out of this whole mess. Pretty fair response after everything that's happened. I look forward to seeing who his report reaches.
I love the spread of the water bursting out of the castle wall all at once and crashing down over the Performance Floor. The castle, from looming over the start of the battle, to going all the way up in flames, to spilling out the life-saving water has been an commanding presence in the Onigashima battle. I think it would have been cool if it had been allowed to totally collapse, but I'm glad everyone inside gets out alive. And a clever convergence of plot threads to have the water extinguish the flame clouds as it drains, forcing Momo to finally act.
I'm a tad surprised that the lanterns didn't end up serving a practical purpose in this sequence. It's neat symbolism having them embody the wishes of the locals right as they're fulfilled, but all the build up had the expecting more. I guess I overthought it.
The final blow on Kaido was spectacularly drawn. And I love seeing how the beginning mirrors the end, the first blow matches the last. It's like poetry. It rhymes.
I need more clarity on where exactly Momo set the island down. Did he plug the holes that either Kaido or Big Mom fell into? And where's Luffy going to land, given how high up he was and how badly he seems to have been burned in the final clash?
While I'm sure debates and opinions will rage about tension and awakenings and no one using the skyscraper-sized sword, I really do feel like this is the right place to wrap this battle up. There's been a lot to love in its duration, but it's also been an absolute marathon. An obvious emotional peak has been reached - the wishes, the threat of the falling island, the threat of the fire and Momo's emotional arc converging alongside the final blow - and whether or not it worked for every reader it doesn't make sense to draw things out beyond this point. There's nothing substantial left to run in parallel with any conceivable last hurrah for Kaido, so it would only feel like an anticlimax by comparison. So this is it. Personally, I'm excited to see the transition into Wano's postgame, and look forward to rereading the arc in full in a couple of months (at least) after it properly ends and the crew departs.