WARNING: The following contains spoilers for One Piece Vol. 96, by Eiichiro Oda, Stephen Paul and Vanessa Satone, now available in English from Viz Media.
Those who have scoured the One Piece chapters as they were published might already know that Volume 96 lays the foundation for One Piece's potential endgame: the final location of the One Piece itself. As it turns out, the secret might very well lie with Kozuki Oden, the legendary daimyo of Kuri, former crewmate of the Whitebeard Pirates and an all-around legendary figure in Wano.
This volume collects Chapters #965-974 and contains a plot thread that reshapes the foundations of One Piece's epic narrative that has been sprawling for decades -- highlighted through flashbacks here. Beyond simply the battle in Wano, the entire manga's end game seems closer than ever before.
Oden's Journey With Gol D. Roger
Oden starts the manga joining up with Whitebeard's legendary crew, only for his journey to intersect with Gol D. Roger. The two pirate crews fight for about three days straight, with Gol D. Roger half suspecting this might be the last time he ever encounters Whitebeard. After three days, the fight ends up dissolving into friendly banter and discussion.
This discussion leads to Gol D. Roger inquiring about Oden, as he and Whitebeard realize that Oden can read the Poneglyphs. Roger believes the Poneglyphs direct to a final island, upon which a vast treasure awaits. Roger asks if Oden can embark with him on a hunt to find this island. While Whitebeard is upset to see Oden go -- seeing him as family -- Oden rationalizes that the journey will only take a year and will be worth it.
So Oden, along with Dogstorm and Cat Viper, travel with Gol D. Roger in search of the final island -- where, presumably, Gol D. Roger left the legendary treasure One Piece. To this end, they travel across the world, meeting with King Neptune and several others to read the Road Poneglyphs at their source. The Final Road Poneglyph was emblazoned with the Kozuki seal over it, indicating that Oden's family is tied into the history of the Poneglypths and their cipher.
Roger's Reaction to the Truth
Ultimately, all of this leads to Roger finally uncovering the final island, circumnavigating the whole world. On this secret island, Roger and his crew discover what the 100-Year Void was, what the people of D are, how Wano used to be open to the world and "the entire truth of the world." Indeed, there turns out to be a treasure on this final island.
However, upon seeing their discovery, all Gol D. Roger and his crew laughed until they cried, partially out of sheer joy for the island. The island, which had been untouched for 800 years, is renamed by Roger as "Laugh Tale," -- the final island in the most obscure part of the world.
The navy and world at large started referring to Gol D. Roger as the King of the Pirates and the treasure on Laugh Tale as One Piece. While it's no secret that tons of pirates would go on to try and steal Gol D. Roger's treasure, none have succeeded. Gol D. Roger ultimately disbands his pirate crew, declaring that the one person who will find One Piece next is inevitably his son.
Oden Returns to Wano
At the same time, Oden remains far from Wano, only returning home for mere hours over four years. During this time, we see Kurozumi Orochi begin his gradual rise to power. He ultimately poisoned Oden's father and assumed control with Kurozumi Higurashi's help, who could disguise herself as other people. She disguised herself as the old Shogun after poisoning him, declaring Orochi as his successor before "passing on."
When Oden returns home, he finds Wano in a very different place. His wife has helped out the people of Wano, resulting in Oden's reputation increasing in his absence. He's also left confused after learning that Orochi is the new Shogun -- and even more so when he discovers it happened thanks to Kaido's support. To make matters more infuriating for Oden, he finds out his wife Toki ended up taking an arrow through the thigh to protect her son when a labor revolt turned ugly, and Kaido's forces counter-attacked.
Upon hearing Orochi hurt his wife, Oden rushes into the Flower Capital, storming into Orochi's chambers. Orochi reveals he has no intention of ruling but instead wants to ruin Wano to enact a great vengeance upon the country. Afterward, rather than kill Orochi, Oden spent the next several years dancing around naked, making a fool of himself. His reasoning? For every day he danced, Kaido wouldn't kill 100 people in Wano.
However, all of it was a ploy by Oden and his men to put Orochi in the position they wanted. Unfortunately, the rebellion proved a failure, as Kaido intercepted Oden's forces. Oden left a permanent scar on Kaido, but he was captured and sentenced to death by boiling. However, Oden offers a deal: if he and his retainers can withstand staying in the boiling pot for one hour, they can be let free.
Oden finds a loophole by holding up his retainers on a saucer while he boils for an hour. As the truth behind his dancing comes out, Oden's dying wish is for the country to be opened up. While his retainers live, Oden ultimately dies when Kaido shoots him in the head.
Who Raised Kozuki Hiyori and Who Betrayed the Rebellion?
The fate of Oden's retainers, after Kaido's invasion, is explored, revealing their plan to travel 20 years into the future. Still, the most fascinating aspect remains what happed to Kozuki Hiyori -- Oden's daughter. As we know in One Piece's modern story, Hiyori disguised herself as Komurasaki, a woman in Orochi's court who the mob boss Kyoshiro happened to "kill."
However, we now see that Kyoshiro is Denjiro -- one of the many retainers loyal to Oden. He plotted to keep Hiyori safe, staging her murder entirely. That also indicates that one of the men closest to Orochi this entire time is actively plotting against him.
The volume ends back in the modern era during the planned attack on Kaido -- but we see that something has gone completely wrong. There was a mole leaking information out: Kanjuro. While that betrayal is certainly unwanted, it may not amount to much in the grand scheme, thanks to some last-minute arrivals. Just as Kanjuro's trap against Oden's final retainers is about to be sprung, Luffy, Trafalgar D. Law and Eustass Kid show up with their entire crew in one last epic spread in the volume, setting up what will be the final act of the Wano Arc.