The time skip is one the most effective tools in the shonen manga arsenal. Used well, a time skip can completely revamp a series’ world and characters, while also quickly introducing new antagonists and plotlines without requiring much setup. While many shonen titles have tried the time skip, arguably few have done so as seamlessly as perennial juggernaut One Piece.
Between Chapters 597 and 598 of the manga (Episodes 516-517 in the anime.) Luffy and his Straw Hat pirates took a two-year break and went their separate ways. Before their split, the Straw Hats had only just arrived at Sabaody Archipelago in order to coat their ship, in preparation for the journey to the underwater Fishman Island. From there, they would enter the New World, the brutal second half of the Grand Line. However, the Straw Hats never made it that far. Instead, they faced off against Admiral Borsalino, the marine Sentomaru and Pacafista cyborgs, developed by the World Government. The Straw Hats do their best against Borsalino, but after just narrowly defeating the first Pacafista, they’re exhausted.
How Did the Straw Hats Become Separated?
However, with Borsalino being a Devil Fruit user, normal attacks simply passed through his body, made of “light.” All seemed hopeless until the Dark King, Rayleigh, appeared and bailed them out by fending off Borsalino. However, the Straw Hats still had the second Pacafista to deal with. Realizing that it was useless to try and defeat Sentomaru and the Pacafista as they were, Luffy calls for his crew to scatter and flee — an out-of-character moment for the rubber man, but one that shows how dire the circumstances really are. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse for the Straw Hats, as Bartholomew Kuma — the warlord the Pacafistas are modeled after– arrives on the scene, his intentions unclear.
Running is futile for the crew as, with a single touch, Kuma’s Paw Paw powers causes Roronoa Zoro, one of the crew’s strongest and most loyal members, to vanish from sight, horrifying the rest of the Straw Hats. One by one, the Straw Hats all seem to “pop” from existence with until all that’s left is the rubber captain, mourning the crew that he was unable to save. Finally, Kuma vanishes Luffy the same way he did the Straw Hats, leaving him only with the words “we will not meet again…farewell.” It’s without a doubt of one the hardest moments to watch in One Piece, as the crew we’ve come to love all disappear one by one, uncertain of where they’ve gone. In a way, it’s scarier than if they had simply died.
Separating from His Crew Affected Luffy In Unbelievable Ways
This scene signifies that it’s only going get tougher from here on out for the Straw Hats. In fact, not counting his arena battle with the Gorgon Sisters, Luffy doesn’t actually win a single fight after separating from his crew. His head-on confrontation with Magellan results in him nearly dying from the warden’s poison. If not for his brother, Ace, Luffy would have most certainly died at the hands of Admiral Akainu.
Determination and luck aren’t enough anymore for Luffy and The Straw Hats if they’re going to find the One Piece. They’re walking into the territory of pirates and marines who have decades more experience and skill than any of them. So, as much as all of them wanted to reunite, they all came to the realization that they needed to get stronger on their own.
The Straw Hats Each Trained During Their Separation
With that in mind, Luffy discreetly messaged his crew, signaling them to spend the next two years apart in order to train and grow stronger for their reunion on Soabody. However, simply becoming better fighters wasn’t the only thing on each of the Straw Hats minds. They were all developing skills pertaining to their roles on the ship as well. After landing in Torino Kingdom, Chopper, the Straw Hats’ doctor, took advantage of the island’s vast library of books on medicine and science in order to increase his scope of medical knowledge.
The cat burglar and navigator, Nami, spent the two years on the artificial sky island, Weatheria, learning to use the sky wizards’ advanced weather manipulating technology and studying the strange and unpredictable weather patterns of the New World. Even the exhibitionist cyborg, Franky, managed to find the infamous Dr.Vegapunk’s research lab, where he studied the doctor’s technology to give himself the perfect cyborg upgrade. It takes more than might to survive the New World and the resolve that Luffy and his crew showed by having the restraint to stay apart in order to grow stronger is what makes their eventual reunion feel so rewarding.