Regarding the lack of time Yamato had spent with Luffy, attention should equally be given to the quality of time spent and how it impacted Luffy.
Your extensive work documenting panel appearances and whatnot is already illuminating, but this really is the crux of the matter for accurately gauging character exposure. Theres a big difference between merely being visible on a panel, and being the clear focus of said panel - whether its an obvious case like a close up of just the one characters face, or said character being in the foreground, or having all the dialogue or the unambiguously grandest statement as opposed to terse exposition, or is the centerpiece of an moment in terms of action or reaction.
Its the difference between a panel affirming that a character exists, and a panel going "Pay attention to THIS character! THIS characters emotions and statements above all else"
For the purposes of establishing a character and stoking the dramatic fires of a character joining the main cast with great fanfare, the latter type of panel is worth a whole lot more than the former.
On that note, theres no question that Carrot got a lot of said type of panels during Whole Cake. Less than Sanji, Pudding, the Vinsmokes, and probably Bege and Jinbe, but still.
But looking at Carrot post Whole Cake – that is to say, in the arc that will supposedly capitalize on her buildup from Whole Cake, and be the one where she actually joins, things seem different.
In the following, I made note of instances up until chapter 976 where Carrot were given top focus, or at least equal focus to everyone else within a panel -that is to say, not shoved way in the background compared to everyone else- or were explicitly highlighted with dialogue. This is what I came up with
910: 2 panels shared equally with Chopper
919: 1 group shot
920: 1 group shot, 1 solo panel of her crying, which every other non-Wano person present also get
921: 1 group shot
925: 1 solo panel of her admiring Ashura
928 and 938: in the relative background, but has expository dialogue directed at DogKing
955: 1 solo panel of her calmly looking at Pedros grave, which apparently more emotional Sicilian and Wanda also get
959: 1 panel of expository dialogue with Robin, 1 shared panel with Wanda and Nami
976: 1 group panel.
As I said there were other appearances I discounted due to her being way in the background, and I may have missed stuff as this was not a full-term project.
But to sum up, with these criteria, looking for instances that highlight Carrot specifically, Carrot was almost entirely featured in group shots, got three total panels to herself, of which one was not part of a set of matching reaction panels with other characters. And this one panel is of her hyping Ashura Doujis strength.
Just to be clear, I do not consider this to represent any sort of special attention being given, or even buildup being maintained -quite the opposite in fact. Now you can’t calculate your way to a crewmate, a crewmate is made by how the story frames said character…but what I’ve tried demonstrating here is that since Wano started, the framing of Carrot has drastically less involved, much less personal. Despite this being the arc she supposedly joins at the end at. Prior posts have compared Carrots panel exposure to other “candidates” such as Tama and Yamato, but if you look at Wano as a whole, theres any number of characters who’ve gotten more paneltime than her. Would Carrot even crack the top 20 in terms of paneltime relative to time present in the arc? Does she beat someone like Hyogoro? If not, is this befitting of someone about to become a main cast member, is it comparable to the treatment of prior crewmembers in the lead up to them joining, does it build the dramatic fires to facilitate the most emotional catharsis of the character joining at the end of this storyline?
I can practically see the arguments of “so what shes’ so much of a crewmember already that she doesn’t NEED more exposure post WCI at all! Her almost only being in group shots is a point in her favor, it means shes normalized already!” being typed out, but
- She hasn’t joined yet. This is the reason we’re having these debates, and people are persistently speculating the myriad things she will get to do in the future to formalize her joining. And said joining will happen at the end of Wano, not Whole Cake.
- Regardless, she’s still way behind the other, more established Straw Hats in terms of dedicated exposure in this arc – despite being the supposedly freshest recruit, the newest blood. Straw Hats get to be in group shots AND get panels highlighting them specifically -even characters as underserved as Brook and Usopp got Carrot beat in this regard, to say nothing of the others.
- Other prospective crewmembers had consistent, often escalating personal highlights up to the moment of their joining- well after their bonds with the crew were getting established. Franky didn’t need to coast on an early rapport with the crew during 100 chapters of decreased importance until he joined, because he spent those 100 chapters getting juicy dramatic moments.
Whereas Paulie on the other hand…still probably got more personal highlights in the Enies Lobby raid alone than Carrot has this entire arc.
Like, the specific reason I stopped counting for now at Jinbes return is that with that one scene ALONE Jinbe got more panels showcasing him and only him as a character, than Carrot had gotten in the whole of Wano. Jinbe then proceeds to get even more such panels after that scene, on a semi-regular basis. The contrast was just so stark that I called it a day; “oh right, this is what it looks like when Oda truly spotlights a character”