Duval has captured Keimi’s friend Hatchan as part of his slave trade. While the Straw Hats are initially reluctant to save a former enemy, Nami gives her approval. After all, Hatchan was the only one of Arlong’s group who was kind of nice to Nami. However, there’s more going on than anyone realizes here. Apparently, Duval has a grudge against Sanji and no one understands why. The truth is so shocking, so horrifying even, that no could have been prepared for the truth…
Impact on the series
While at first Duval looking exactly like Sanji’s wanted poster came off like a dumb gag, it did serve as a bit of sly misdirection. After all, Oda was putting in so much work evolving the joke around Sanji’s weird drawing of a poster that it had to just be that; a joke. It seemed natural that he’d find new ways to mess with Sanji and his bounty. Having a character who looked exactly like Sanji’s poster solidified it in our minds that this was a “defining gag” for the character similar to Usopp’s cowardice or Zoro’s complete lack of a sense for direction.
This instead hid the truth behind Sanji’s origins. The way Germa 66 and the Vinsmoke family were set up, there was no way that a real photo could circulate of Sanji and not draw their attention. Their connection with Big Mom would have instantly forced the conflict with her earlier. And in that case, we’d have to have scenes with the crew constantly trying to avoid her. However, it was way too early in the story for Luffy and co. to even entertain meeting up with a Yonkou. Turning why Germa couldn’t track down Sanji into a joke left fans’ guard down. Of course, the actual reasoning was a bit contrived. But playing it off as a recurring gag kept people from wondering why Oda was avoiding showing his face to the world in the first place.
Impact on the fandom
There are plenty of recurring jokes in One Piece that people adore. But there aren’t as many individual gags that have had the same lasting power as Duval’s reveal. Maybe it’s because most of the time Oda uses humor more as an aside, used to keep reader’s engaged from panel to panel. This was the first time a major reveal in the series was treated as a joke. Duval appears with the same impact that the re-entry of a major character would have! With the slow build-up shots that refuse to show a face. Characters reacting from the side. And then exploding onto the frame with a giant spread! This allows the reader or viewer to absorb his face and really take it in, punctuating the scene with an exclamation point.
With Sanji’s origins revealed, there’s been no need to have the fake wanted poster anymore. Having acquired a new face, Duval is no longer hounded by the torment of being mistaken for Sanji. It seems we can finally say farewell to that gag.
However, within our hearts, the joke will live on.