Warning: Contains spoilers for One Piece chapter #1049
Fans of One Piece have been waiting for years for one of the manga’s trademark flashbacks to be dedicated to Kaido, the strongest and most important villain in One Piece until now. However, when this flashback sequence was finally shown, it was quite disappointing in terms of length and content.
One Piece is famous, among other things, for its use of flashbacks. Usually, towards the end of each major narrative arc, a long flashback sequence takes place. This is used by the author Eiichiro Oda to expand the backstory of characters that are not the protagonists of the manga but played a major role in the current arc. Flashbacks also break up the action of the manga, creating a pause before a narrative arc reaches its climax. Fans always wait for these sequences with great expectations, because they reveal important details about the past of the One Piece world, usually shrouded in mystery. Since his introduction in the manga, Kaido has claimed the role of the most powerful villain in the series. Fans have been waiting patiently to learn more about this character’s past, his rise to power, Kaido’s time with One Piece’s mysterious Rocks Pirates, and how he became one of the Four Emperors.
In chapter #1049 Kaido finally reminisces about his past, but it’s not exactly what fans expected. It is revealed that he was born in the belligerent Kingdom of Vodka, where spoils of war are used to pay the tribute to the Celestial Dragons, the tyrannical rulers of the world. Kaido’s incredible strength as a soldier is the reason his king sells him to the Marines as a recruit, but Kaido escapes and becomes a pirate. His goal is to destroy the world order, where a person’s status is based on birth and wealth rather than strength, and this leads him to Wano where he can build a powerful army.
This flashback did not tell readers anything new about the character. The details on his birthplace and how he was sold to the Marine are interesting but don’t actually add much to his story. The sequence skims over what fans were expecting most, Kaido’s time in the Rocks Pirates and the God Valley incident. The character’s belief in the “survival of the fittest” and his desire to topple the World Government were already known, and because the flashback is so short (four pages) it cannot add any depth to his convictions (as a comparison, Kozuki Oden’s flashback with Gol D. Roger lasted for thirteen chapters and revealed a lot about the past of Wano and the whole world). Kaido comes out as an anarchist of sorts who believes strength should dictate social status but the reasons for this are not explored, besides the overused “hates the Celestial Dragons” clichè.
Most likely, the reason why this flashback was so short is that One Piece is moving towards a tight schedule. Oda announced that One Piece will end in a few years (which, for a comic that has been going on for 25 years, is a short amount of time), and the story has to proceed towards its conclusion, while at the same time tying up an impressive amount of narrative threads. Also, because Kaido has been such a prominent character over the past four years (that’s how long the Wano Arc has been), there was not a huge need to give him more “screen time”, as was the case for other villains. Regardless, fans of One Piece who were craving to know more about Kaido’s past are likely to be left disappointed by his much-awaited flashback.
Look for the latest chapter of One Piece when it is officially released in English on Viz’s Website.