| || Okay, so I keep seeing posts popping up every once in a while, asking a variation of one of these questions: why in the world would anyone like Yamato, what’s so appealing about her that they don’t get, and why there’s so many people who like her a lot.|
First off, I’m not here to tell you that you are wrong in not liking a certain character as much as others, or that you are not allowed to dislike her (or anyone else) for whatever reason that you choose. That’s fine, everyone has different opinions for very different reasons, and everyone should be able to voice theirs if they feel like it, especially, if they do so in a civil manner. I’m not here to convince anyone to change their opinions. I simply wanted to make a personal response to those questions, because after seeing the numerous replies those posts usually get, I rarely feel identified with the responses, and I feel like some mischaracterizations and broad generalizations are being made about all the people who like her and the reasons why all (or at least I) do; while the questions themselves just keep getting asked over and over in both posts and comments alike.
Second, I’m not here to speak on behalf of others. I’m here to speak for myself, and if people agree or disagree with me, that’s fine. If you don’t want to read the reasons (it’s a very long post), that’s cool too.
So, with all of that out of the way, on to why I like her as a character:
- Design: Yes, I admit it, I think she really does have a very cool looking design, sue me. But here’s also one of the points of contention I have with the responses those questions usually get. While I don’t deny that her design alone is one of the many reasons I like her, I can assure you that it is absolutely not the only reason, like many people like to pretend. I keep seeing people, both pro and anti Yamato, claiming that all of her fans only like her because “haha sideboob” or “duh, it’s because she is a girl” (as if no handsome male characters were ever popular; just look at the top 20 in any of the popularity polls); when, to me, and probably many others (I don’t know), her boobs are not even a reason at all in why her design is cool, let alone her character. Her color scheme is a banger, her outfit really suits her (not because, “haha I can see her boobs”; sorry, I’m so sick of those joke responses, Jesus); but because her purple/white nio-daisuki that evokes Oden is cool, her red hakama pants combine really well with her white garment and white hair that fades into shades of blue, her golden earrings look good, the fact that she is really tall compared to Luffy, her Oni motif with her red horns that fade into white, and the fact that she fights using a kanabo. And yes, she is ridiculously pretty in some panels. I think other characters, both male and female, have appealing designs in great part because Oda makes them attractive: Mihawk, Hancock, Crocodile, Corazon, Nami, Zoro, Ace, Law (the latter 2, characters which were extremely popular from the very moment they showed up, way before they got complex character arcs), among many. Without pretending that the only thing those characters have going for them is their design, or that liking a character’s design is done exclusively with female characters. Liking a character’s design is neither wrong, nor unusual.
And while I’m not really against people liking boobs, and I really am not a prude either, so it’s not something that bothers me. I just want to make it extremely clear: no, that’s definitely not the reason why I like her, like, at all, and no, that’s not even the reason why I think her design is cool. Okay? Alright, moving on.
- Personality: Not only do I think she has many character traits beyond her Oden persona, but I feel like many of them have already been fully displayed throughout her short-lived existence, despite the fact that she was thrown into a very chaotic scenario (right before a big war broke out) that has been focusing on many other different characters every other chapter; making her personal development a bit slower than usual. And I feel like some people just like to gloss over her defined traits for reasons I don’t fully understand myself. Here are my perceptions:
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- A) She is emotional and wears her heart on her sleeve: One of the reasons I like characters like Yamato, is because of how easily emotional they can get, how easily, honestly and openly they display their emotions. When she cried of joy after hearing how awesome Luffy’s dream is, despite some people considering the dream to be childish or shocking. She instead cried of happiness. When she cried after learning her shackles would actually explode and her father really did intend to kill her at some point if she ever attempted to leave her prison (that was an awfully big explosion for an 8 year old, no matter how strong she currently is). The way she was deeply moved about Oden’s death. Also when she was moved by the acts of kindness the samurai displayed for her sake in the cave. But she is not only emotional, she also takes action into her own hands and fights for herself, for the people she wants to protect, and for what she believes is right. I like when Franky humorously cries over many different things for similar reasons.
- B) Her cheerful attitude under the right circumstances: What can I say, all those little moments of Yamato happily smiling warm my heart. When she bonded with Ace and she was eager to hear about the outside world with a huge smile on her face. When she happily passed down Oden’s journal to his rightful owner, Momo, with a proud smile. When she promised to meet again with Ace before he departed. When she was reading with a big smile on her face, amazed at Oden’s exploits, alongside the samurai in the cave. When she was happy to see Luffy return to the roof to fight Kaido. When she perfectly understood Luffy’s intentions in boosting Momo’s morale by teaching him to be braver. The nostalgic smile she had when recalling her time with Ace to Momo and Shinobu. She can be a cheerful character, and I like those little moments of joy. They just get me, Luffy regularly smiling is one of the many, many, many reasons of why I like him.
I seriously do not understand why some people insist that Yamato has absolutely no personality of her own. How some of you simply brush it all off and say things like “she is only a walking pair of tits” or “she said she wants to be Oden, so the traits don’t count”, Maybe some of you just didn’t pay attention or don’t remember? I don’t know. Like what? All the numerous ways in which she reacts and behaves are all hers, that’s who Yamato is, no matter who she aspires to be. She has even broken out of character a couple of times while she was roleplaying due to her short temper and emotional nature. And we’ve seen multiple facets of her character already. I could understand if you don’t like her personality and traits, but to outright say that they don’t exist is just weird to me.
- C) She has a short temper: She is not only sweet and emotional, she also has her volatile side. She got humorously angry when Luffy didn’t understand what she meant when she said he was more “Oden” (freer) than her. She got angry at Kaido unilaterally deciding that she will be the next Shogun without her consent. On a sightly more serious note, she got mad when Ace called her out for allowing her heart to be chained. Also, when adult dragon Momo suggested that they should stop Luffy and she beat some sense into him. Regardless of whether or not you like this trait, this is, in fact, a part of her personality nonetheless, separate from her desire to become Oden.
- D) She is a cautious character: She has displayed that she is a deeply careful person a number of times, that she doesn’t like leaving things solely to chance, so she makes preparations and goes out of her way to make sure the worst things don’t happen, just in the off-chance things don’t go perfectly as planned. E.g. when Luffy took her shackles off, she told him to throw the shackles away, “just in case” they did end up exploding, even if she herself didn’t want to believe her own father would actually blow her up. Now that she reunited with Momo again, she went on a solitary mission to get rid of the explosives that are in Onigashima, once again, “just in case” the island falls, so they don’t end up killing everyone as a result, even if she herself wants to believe in Momo being able to stop the island. When Luffy was fighting Kaido, she kept nervously asking for updates on the situation with Momo, and once she realized the fight had become a 1v1, she quickly made her way into the roof “just in case” Luffy would lose. She went out of her way to create a decoy of Momo just to fool the enemies she could encounter, after telling Shinobu to stay alert and watch out for the Marys looking for them (and her decoy was actually fooling the enemies she encountered, since they reported that Momo was with her). Yamato taking into consideration multiple outcomes, and making preparations for them, really clicks with me. One of the reasons I like many of the “Mr. Prince” moments, for example.
- E) She can be oblivious, and a little bit shy I think: She doesn’t seem to fully understand social norms, whether if that is the result of being forced to stay alone almost her entire life without being able to form proper human relationships with other people, or if I’m simply reading way too much into this, she is definitely an oblivious character as to why calling herself Oden confuses absolutely everyone. She is unintentionally socially awkward, lacks self-awareness, and she even had no qualms about unbuttoning her garment to allow Momo to hide without even considering it might have been inappropriate. She seems to be a very oblivious person in general, to me at least. And a little bit shy: she seemed really taken aback when Luffy ordered her to protect Momo, she seemed unsure about what she should do, or even if she could even go with him, to the point of blushing while she chased after Momo and Shinobu (I thought this little scene was cute, but I know many people didn’t, and they had big problems with it. I get it, even if Momo himself didn’t care much after the initial comedic shock. I get it). She misunderstood Luffy when he asked her what did she mean by “can I”, and interpreted it as Luffy indulging in her roleplaying. She also didn’t want to talk with Luffy in public because other people could hear them. Again, maybe I’m reading too much into this, and she is not really shy at all. But at least that’s my personal perception so far.
- F) She is hopeful, as she has been waiting for the day Luffy finally arrived. She has been believing in Luffy even before he actually set out to become a pirate. She was hopeful that she could meet Ace again, despite her circumstances. She was hopeful that her father wouldn’t actually blow her up despite being who he is. Despite Kaido executing people who were nice to her for even just one moment, she still wanted to believe in her father. She was hopeful despite the fact that the very idea of the shackles exploding fuelled her own insecurity of even attempting to leave the island. She is also resilient in a way, having endured an entire life of being an outcast.
- G) She is brave, she is tough, she has some sense of duty, of honor, and she is willing to put her own life on the line in order to protect others. She has been fighting not only to regain her own freedom, but to regain the freedom of Wano, to unleash the samurai into the world, and to uphold her part of the implicit deal with Ushimaru and his samurai companions, who sacrificed their lives by betting on her, allowing her to fight on their side when the time came. She knows they believed in her, and she seems to also be fighting for them. She refused to abandon Shinobu even if it meant she would get harmed, she has resolve.
- H) She is a bit impatient, a bit reckless, adventurous, naive and freedom seeking. She couldn’t wait to go and fight against Kaido since the very beginning of the raid, itching to go to help more and more as time progressed. She has been putting herself in the path of danger without much regard for her life if it means that she does things her own way. She really wanted to go out with Ace and go on adventures. And she has been understandably fighting in the name of freedom for a very long time.
Plus all the possible real life lore inspirations behind her character, like Kaidu and his daughter; like Yamato Takeru, a legendary Japanese prince who once grieved that his father wanted him dead, who at one point cross-dressed as a way to deceive and defeat some of his enemies, whom, in a time of need, a white wolf god (Yamato’s fruit is based on this, the Oguchi no Makami) once appeared in front of him to show him and his army the right path in the face of a shapeshifting demon. The Digimon characters Matt (Yamato in the original Japanese), his little brother T.K. (short of Takeru) and his companion Garurumon (a wolf) were very likely inspired by the same legend, for example (all characters who I also happen to be nostalgic for).
- I find her intriguing. The concept of her character alone is something that really raises my interest. I know that female characters who are raised to behave as men by their own fathers, like Lady Oscar (Oda seems to have partially gotten the inspiration to create Yamato from her), or who temporarily take the role of men in order to achieve their objectives, like Mulan, or who simply take on more traditionally boyish attitudes like brawling; like Khutulun, the warrior daughter of the Mongol warlord Kaidu (both of which also seem to be real life inspirations for Yamato and Kaido respectively), aren’t a new concept, it is still interesting to me. I also happen to have really liked Onimaru as character a lot, and his little backstory with Kawamatsu, his connection with Ushimaru (a character that I had been waiting to learn more about since Oda talked about the Shimotsuki clan in an SBS), plus the fact that I have also been waiting for Zoro’s backstory with the Samurai to be expanded upon ever since his encounter with Ryuma in Thriller Bark, a character who appeared in Oda’s one-shot manga “Monsters” in which Ryuma looked almost identical to Zoro, with a rival very similar to Mihawk. And that Oda confirmed to be the same character. So, when I learned that Yamato interacted with Ushimaru, it grabbed my attention, and I’m interested to see how this will develop, even if it’s just slightly brushed on. I’d like to see Yamato interacting with Zoro at least one time, that’s all.
A) Identity, deception and appearances not being the full picture of things. Who characters really are beyond the surface. Many of them have assumed different identities throughout the arc: Yasuie originally presented himself as Tonoyasu, Denjiro as Kyoshiro and as Ushimitsu Kozo, Hiyori as Komurasaki, Doji as Shutenmaru, Onimaru as Gyukimaru, a role originally played by Kawamatsu, all the Scabbards as literal Ghosts haunting Orochi, Kanjuro (a character based on a literal Kabuki actor) pretending to be a Scabbard, X Drake as a pirate and a Tobiroppo, Killer as Kamazo, or even the Straw Hats themselves, who assumed different names and makeshift jobs at the very beginning of the arc in order to blend in, with the clearest example of Sanji momentarily taking the role of Osoba Mask in order to hide who he is, ultimately resulting in his current identity crisis in his fight against Queen; and obviously, Yamato, presenting herself as both Kaido’s “son” and as “Oden”. Gender identity can even come into play, with a clear example in Kiku, who clearly identifies herself as a woman at heart despite being born a biological male. She is a woman. Things just aren’t what they originally seem to be at first glance, or who they present themselves as, in Wano.
- Her role in the story and how she already ties into many of the central themes in the arc. Right off the bat, she instantly ties into the very core structure of Wano: a literal Kabuki play divided into acts, with intermissions. She is literally an actor playing a role in a theatrical scene. She was even first introduced wearing a Hannya Mask, a traditional Japanese mask heavily featured in theater plays, representative of female demons. A variety of different masks have already been heavily featured in the arc, from Hitetsu, to Kiku, to Hiyori to even Sanji, Killer and Ulti or Page One. But beyond the superficial ties into the core meta structure (a Kabuki play), several of the themes in Wano have been:
Many of the characters have undergone a change of ideals during their change of identities, with the clear example of Doji. And Yamato may undergo an identity character arc by the end of it. Regardless, she already fits into these themes.
B) Lineage and its burden on who people are and what others expect from them. Deeply tied to identity, the concept of lineage has been at the center of Wano, even before it started. With Momo struggling to become the great man everyone expects him to be because of his lineage (a concept touched upon, since, at the very least, Zou), with Germa coming back to haunt Sanji and who he is as a person (a plot developed in WCI and now continued), and, with Yamato and what Kaido wants of her thanks to her heritage. Zoro’s lineage seems to be starting to get touched upon as well. Yamato, again, already fits into this theme.
The themes of freedom, of rebellion; the theme of inherited will, what it means and the burden it brings on people, etc. are also central to both the arc and Yamato.
As for her role in the story, she serves as a foil to Momo. She is almost an exact opposite parallel to him, down to the detail that both of them were born in the same year. Yamato as the daughter of Kaido trying to imitate Oden, who has been getting the role of Shogun imposed on her, while her dream is to sail the seas, vs Momo as the son of Oden, who has the ability to take the appearance of Kaido, who has been forced to sail the seas with Luffy while his dream is to become the Shogun. They mirror each other in a lot of different ways. And it seems very intentional.
I’m really not saying that it is definitive, because it really isn’t, specially if we isolate the moments in a vacuum by themselves, but all of them together, combined with the developments in the manga, is just… all I am saying is that it is hard to ignore, alright. And that if you are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of fanart and topics of discussion she is getting, it is not without reason. She is currently being heavily featured in the manga, in the anime, and in external material. So while I understand why it can be tiring to some, specially for the people who dislike her, I also understand where it all comes from. Oda himself is fuelling the hype.
- She is a strong female character, that gets involved in physical fights. Wano in general has been a breath of fresh air when it comes to female brawlers, with Black Maria (love her Brass knuckles, her Wanyudo, and her very varied set of powers in general), Ulti (her headbutt approach is awesome) and Yamato (her Kanabo fighting style, implementing Kaido’s techniques) being great examples of a type of character we had been missing. Physically strong female characters who involve themselves in physical fights, instead of just Big Mom and little else. And I’m all for it.
- I can empathize to her struggles and motivations. From her search of freedom, to her struggle against living a lonely isolated life, to her rebellious attitude towards what her father wants to impose on her. She resonates with things I usually like in various characters.
- All the hype surrounding her, and her potential as a character in general. Now, while I don’t personally like to take this into consideration all that much, because I don’t really like setting myself up for disappointment, and I don’t think that I can predict what Oda will do. Fact remains, that not only is the arc not over yet so Oda can definitely develop her a lot more if he wants to (during Kaido’s presumed flashback, during whatever happens in the next chapters, etc.), it is an undeniable fact that there’s a lot of hype surrounding her from the very moment she showed up, specially, from the “will she join the Straw Hats?” angle. I personally think that seems to be the case, considering both how clear the manga is being about it (with Yamato stating her desire to leave numerous times, for various different reasons that complement each other. A desire that specifically involves Luffy, a person she has been waiting for a very long time after hearing his dream), and how much importance and focus Oda has been giving her (like 10 chapters named after her, a volume named after her, 2-3 volumes ending with her, 2 volume covers, Yamato showing up in the vol. 100 special cover alongside the Straw Hats, above characters like Momo, Oden or the Scabbards), but also, due to how much external hype she is getting. I see people mentioning “the towels” as a way to be dismissive about it, but it’s seriously not just that. The towels themselves are a part of a much larger set of merchandise that features figures of every single Straw Hat, doing the reunion poses they did in chapter 989 of the manga, plus Yamato, just her and the Straw Hats. Among many other things. But there’s also the Jump cover in which she showed up alongside Luffy, her voice actress getting a debut video for herself in the official One Piece YouTube channel, and a personal interview about voicing Yamato, the fact that she appeared in promotional material before she was even shown in the anime, like the females of One Piece celebration video; all the hype they created around her unit in the OPTC gacha game, which coincided with her anime debut, the release of her vivre card, the vol. 100 SBS in which she appeared, the part of the special popularity poll color spread featuring her, all in the same week in which we saw a glimpse of her backstory with Ushimaru in the manga. Her appearances in the “heroines of One Piece” color spread, the One Piece High School color spread for chapter 1000 (a landmark chapter in which she was heavily featured), and an appearance in the One Piece High School chapter. Or the numerous various figures she is already getting (like 4), often, commercializing her in pictures alongside Luffy or the Straw Hats. Yamato featuring alongside the Straw Hats in various pieces of art showcased in the last couple of Usopp’s Gallery. The art Oda made for the anniversary of the Mugiwara Store with her and Luffy. The official YouTube channel recently uploaded a, rather unremarkable video if I’m being honest, featuring the topic of Yamato for nakama in the thumbnail and title. She is the only character to be referenced by name in the final WE ARE ONE celebration video for volume 100, other than the Straw Hats, an episode completely focused solely on the Straw Hat crew and their joining moments. I mean, they certainly know that they are teasing the idea. And this is just off the top of my head. I know I’m missing a LOT of stuff.
Would I be disappointed if she didn’t join in the end? Eh, I would be a little bummed out, but I like her enough as is, that my views on her wouldn’t change at all. And I’m enjoying the manga regardless, since I don’t read One Piece for a single character, and never have. So whatever happens in the end, I will be fine with it. I'm not here to debate whether or not she will join in the end, I can see it going either way.
- Various other minor things. The fact that she is voiced by Saori Hayami in the anime, and therefore, shares a voice with Fubuki from One Punch Man and Himawari from Boruto. I have enjoyed her short interactions with both Luffy and Momo. The fact that she can be in unintentionally funny situations (the Momo decoy, she being all serious facing Kaido while Momo and Luffy were doing their dragon shenanigans in the background, how her voice actress in the anime screamed about Kaido wanting to kill her in the middle of an enormous explosion, with her voice slowly fading away into the background and out of frame).
But, I get I, if other people have these problems, I understand, I really do get it. I just don’t personally have them. Specially not when contrasted with all the other things that I like about her. And it’s not even me pretending that she is a perfect character or that there’s some things that I don’t get thrilled about, (like her hybrid design, which is just okay in my eyes, or how much time Oda spent with Yamato running around the castle with Momo and Shinobu without doing much of anything). It’s fine.
- Many of the issues people have with her (she wasn’t foreshadowed 600 chapters ago! this is the final battle!) aren’t particularly important to me personally, as I understand that maybe Oda wanted to surprise the readers, and I personally think that’s valid, specially in the week to week format in which One Piece is written. How I see it, knowing Yamato’s name 200 chapters in advance really wouldn’t change the story itself at all, not even a single bit, and all the characters and plot-lines in the story would be the exact same they currently are. We would still be in the exact same place, doing the exact same thing, with the only difference being that we wouldn’t have been surprised by hearing that Kaido has a son like 6 chapters before she showed up (having an on-panel appearance 13 chapters before), an event that itself occurred like 50 chapters ago already. Characters like Jinbe are absolutely not the norm, I’m sorry, but they just aren’t. Specially considering her very peculiar circumstances: she was a prisoner for almost her entire life, hiding herself, in an island that we hadn't really seen almost at all prior to the raid, in an already secretive and isolated country to begin with, that Kaido had been occupying for decades and in which his actual residence is located, a residence we are currently raiding. The fact that many characters do in fact have had important sons and daughters before (Roger, Garp, Whitebeard, Dragon, Big Mom, Yasopp), many of which have actually helped the Straw Hats in the past (Lola, Chiffon, Praline, Pudding. Even in the “final battle”). Or that characters that Oda originally didn’t plan to include, like the Supernova, have taken extremely important roles in the story, without much foreshadowing at all before they showed up, if at all (actually 0), and it hasn’t been the end of the world. Or even Vivi, she wasn’t planned to have been the princess of Alabasta originally, she was just a regular Baroque Works agent that Oda had the honestly very brilliant idea of turning into who she currently is, an actual Straw Hat from a family of former original rulers of the world, with ties to Pluton, and who Im is apparently very interested in. And look how that turned out to be, Vivi’s struggle in Alabasta is one of the best aspects of the arc, and it wasn't planned. The fact that many characters have been far more convenient than Yamato is, like Ivankov, who also appeared in the middle of Impel Down to immediately solve every single problem that presented itself; and they are a character that I love. And I honestly don’t think that he didn’t plan her at all to begin with, considering her possible real life inspiration of Kaidu and his warrior daughter, or how she actually fits into many different themes of the arc to a tee, or her very intentional mirroring of Momo. Just her DF doesn’t seem like it wasn’t planned in advance. To me. And while I really do get that some of her dialogue can get repetitive due to the very nature of the arc (a war), that doesn’t allow a lot of time for characters to breathe, it probably also helps that, to me, personally, I was never really super bothered by her Oden shtick like I’m bothered by other gags (Sanji being a pervert, for example), and instead, I found the interactions it brought in to be interesting, her definition of freedom to be interesting, and her desire to become her hero a bit endearing even if in a childish or naive way that can probably change (like how the Iron Giant wanted to be Superman, or how that one kid in the “Daddy Day Care” movie wanted to be Flash). And again, I do concede that she has mentioned Oden a lot of times, but the fact is, if you reread her story arc, she has mentioned him in like 7% of her dialogue? Which is admittedly a lot, but there’s also a lot more of her dialogue in which she doesn’t mention him at all, believe it or not. Seriously. I also don’t punish her for the manga not advancing as fast as it could due to external factors (the pandemic, the Olympics) forcing us to live through break after break after break often after a cliffhanger or a chapter that doesn’t provide all that much new information regarding Yamato by itself, with very little of her story being advanced, drop by drop; but, when read in a chunk all at once, the problem fixes itself in many cases.
And just as a full disclosure, Yamato is not even among my very top favorite characters (Nami, Corazon, Garp, Saul, Hiriluk, Kureha, Crocodile, Kin’emon, Whitebeard and Zoro are) even if I do really like her a lot.
Tl;dr. I like her design, I liker her personality, I like how she ties into the themes of the arc, I like the lore behind her character, I like her voice actress, and I find her interesting and intriguing as a concept.
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