WARNING: The following contains spoilers for One Piece Episode 961, "Tearfully Swearing Allegiance! Oden and Kin'emon!," now streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
The One Piece anime is taking a break from the Straw Hats' present-day adventures in order to recount the story of the hero of Wano, the legendary Kozuki Oden. Much like other great heroes of the series, Oden is carefree, adventurous and seen as a trouble-maker. But Episode 961 takes a look at a more important part of Oden's legend: how the Nine Red Scabbards came to join him.
The Red Scabbards are some of Wano's most powerful samurai who served under Oden as his retainers. Each one is worth 100 men in battle. They are fiercely loyal to their daimyo, willing to avenge his death even 20 years later. While the Scabbards' origins aren't quite as extravagant as Oden, they still make a great team.
Oden's Heroism Inspires His First Followers
When the threat of a massive mountain boar with the power of a buster call behind it threatens the country's capital, Oden wants a piece. When it's revealed to Kin'emon that his childhood friend, Tsuru, had fallen victim to the boar, he steps out to meet it head-on - and is utterly defeated. When all hope seems lost to Kin'emon, it's Oden who steps into the fray, brandishing the boar's missing child. As people begin to blame Oden for the destruction of the capital, he proceeds to make short work of the boar and rescues everyone that had fallen victim to it.
Kin'emon and an onlooking Denjiro are awestruck. Even as Kin'emon tries to rightfully take responsibility as the one that attracted the attention of the boar to the capital, Oden refuses to let him. After receiving his father's disavowal, Oden departs with hardly a care, and Kin'emon tearfully exclaims to Tsuru that he would die for Oden. In no time at all, Kin'emon and Denjiro have joined Oden claiming to be his retainers... though Oden himself is initially annoyed by these new companions.
Other Misfits Are Drawn To Oden
After Oden's expelled from the capital, he begins to travel across the country of Wano. As he does so, he gains followers just like Kin'emon and Denjiro. In Ringo, they encounter two starving children: Kikunojo, who would later go on to become a Red Scabbard, and his older brother Izo, who would later become one of Whitebeard's division commanders.
Other Scabbards start off with more negative, even monstrous reputations. In Kibi, stories of a ghoul removing people's hair in order to create brushes end up being about Kanjuro, who begins following Oden after being defeated by him. Raizo, an old familiar of Oden's, developed a reputation in Udon as a mountain bandit but comes to follow Oden once again.
As is common in One Piece, Oden is building a crew of his own. While they aren't exactly pirates, this ragtag team of misfits is incredibly similar to Luffy's Straw Hat crew. Like Luffy, there's something about Oden's charm that draws people to him, be it by saving their lives, defeating them in battle or just generally be an admirable person. With his crew behind him, it's becoming easier to see how both they rose to the level of notoriety that they now carry, even 20 years after Oden's death.