One Piece: Why Sanji vs Katakuri may shatter everybody's expectations
One Piece features many unforgettable antagonists. Among them is Charlotte Katakuri, Big Mom's eldest son and her strongest subordinate, who is also the most powerful among the Big Mom Pirates' three Sweet Commanders.
During the Whole Cake Island arc, Katakuri was a formidable enemy. He was even able to pummel Luffy, who had no chance against him. To compete with Katakuri, the Strawhat Pirates' captain needed an entirely new power-up, which involved him unlocking the same Advanced Observation Haki as Big Mom's son.
At the time, Sanji, the third strongest member of the Strawhat Pirates, was way weaker than Katakuri. However, the series has progressed a lot since then. With Sanji's latest power-up at the end of the Wano arc, the outcome of a battle between them may no longer be so obvious.
Disclaimer: This article contains major spoilers from the One Piece manga up to Chapter 1072 and reflects the opinions of the writer.
Katakuri and Current Sanji may give rise to one of the most interesting One Piece matchups
Can Sanji fight Yonko's Number Two on equal grounds now?
Commanders are the strongest subordinates within the crews of Yonkos, the four notorious pirates who rule One Piece's New World. All Yonko Commanders are considered to be strong pirates on their behalf. Even among them, there is a definite hierarchy.
A remarkable difference in strength separates the average Commanders from the most powerful ones, i.e., those who hold the rank of right-hand man and number two to the captain. The right-hand man supports his captain in battle, being his strongest and most loyal subordinate.
The right-hand man often holds the office of first mate, meaning he is the top officer on board the ship, only below the captain. They also help the captain in the direst moments more than anyone else could, even taking over his job if he is elsewhere or incapacitated.
Typical examples of those deeds are the actions performed by Roronoa Zoro in the Thriller Bark arc against Bartholomew Kuma, as well as in the Wano arc against Kaido and Big Mom. On these issues, Zoro was the only member of his crew who could protect Luffy.
The color spread of One Piece chapter 1031 highlighted the main number twos in the series. Mangaka Eiichiro Oda featured Rayleigh, Zoro, Benn Beckman, Marco, King, Katakuri, Sabo, and others, confirming them to be the second strongest members of their respective groups.
Even among number twos, there is a distinction. Some, such as Marco with Whitebeard, King with Kaido, and Katakuri with Big Mom, are significantly weaker than their captain. In these crews, the captain resembles a parent or a boss to their subordinates, who appear to be lowly sons or mere underlings.
The other number twos are close in strength to their captain. Such is the relationship between Benn Beckman/Shanks and Zoro/Luffy. These right-hand men have a different connection to their captains, akin to brotherhood.
Within his category, Katakuri's status is not the most renowned. He is Big Mom's number two but not her right-hand man. While Katakuri is clearly set apart from his comrades, his connection with Big Mom makes him look bad.
Moreover, Katakuri is fiercely loyal to Big Mom, trying to help her and support her ambitions, but she doesn't appear to reciprocate. Linlin doesn't even tolerate Katakuri trying to assist her, seeing him as nothing more than a lowly child.
As it happens, Katakuri appears to be on a lower level than the average second-in-command like Marco and King, despite his remarkable individual strength. Compared to Benn, Zoro, Shiryu, and Sabo, who are the best representatives of the category, Katakuri objectively pales.
Throughout One Piece's post-skip narration, Sanji's fighting abilities were hardly emphasized. However, at the end of the Wano arc, he won back some spotlight as a fighter. Admittedly, his accomplishments still pale in comparison to Luffy and Zoro's, who fought impressively against Kaido and Big Mom.
Zoro displayed an outstanding performance against the Emperors. He later went on to defeat King, Kaido's right-hand man. Meanwhile, the Strawhat Pirates' captain awakened his Devil Fruit and managed to edge over Kaido. Both Luffy and Zoro unlocked the Advanced Conqueror's Haki, which is the signature power of the strongest characters.
While Sanji's accomplishments and powers don't measure up to his Monster Trio colleagues, he has undoubtedly become much more powerful than before. After unlocking his genes, he obtained an esoskeleton, as well the Ifrit Jambe, an upgraded version of his previous Diable Jambe.
Those abilities made his body a lot tougher than before, greatly improving his peak speed and physical strength. Despite having been on the winning side up to that moment, Queen found himself quickly outmatched when Sanji revealed his new powers.
With the blond cook being objectively stronger than the number three of a Yonko crew like Queen of the Beasts Pirates, his might may be comparable to Katakuri's. The latter has a higher rank than Queen but is a part of a slightly weaker crew, the Big Mom Pirates.
Sanji's feats and abilities compared to Katakuri's
Once powered up, Sanji had crushed Queen. Still, he could not dominate him and needed to go all out to beat the scientist. Although having reached a level of strength objectively higher than Queen's, Sanji struggled to end the fight.
He needed several hits to defeat Queen and even got struck and damaged twice. Moreover, the fight didn't end with a final head-on clash, but with Queen getting distracted by a woman and losing focus on the fight. Taking advantage of that, Sanji pummeled him repeatedly.
Admittedly, once Sanji went all out using his maximum level of speed and the full power of his newfound Ifrit Jambe, there was very little Queen could do. However, before that, despite Sanji having already unleashed some of his genetic enhancements, the fight was not easy.
In fact, Queen could endure an esoskeleton-powered Sanji's Hell Memories, as well as landing two blows on him. Given that Queen could hit Sanji, it is rather obvious that Katakuri, who is several times faster than the former member of MADS, would be able to do that with even greater effect.
Moreover, Sanji felt the damage from Queen's attacks, despite the external defense granted by the esoskeleton's toughness. Sanji's new body easily blocked Queen's sword attack, but it has to be noted that the latter's is not a skilled swordsman. His blade wasn't even coated in Armament Haki.
However, Queen's subsequent attacks hurt Sanji despite the esoskeleton. As such, Katakuri's Armament Haki-enhanced techniques will likely hurt Sanji a lot. Being Big Mom's strongest subordinate, Katakuri should have superior attacking power and Armament Haki than Queen.
In fact, Katakuri's Armament Haki was impressive, being able to clash with Luffy's own Haki and even overpower it during their battle. This is an even better feat, considering that Luffy was a rather skilled user of Armament Haki in his own right prior to the Wano arc.
Katakuri also possesses the very rare Conqueror's Haki, meaning that his will is exceedingly strong. Admittedly, Katakuri wasn't powerful enough to use the advanced level of this ability, but that's not a detrimental factor in this matchup, given that Sanji doesn't even possess the basic Conqueror's Haki.
While Luffy tanked many hits from Katakuri, including the latter's Haki-enhanced attacks, it's not a given that Sanji could accomplish the same achievement. Throughout the One Piece series, it has been emphasized that Luffy's endurance and pain tolerance are far higher than Sanji's.
While the latter's esoskeleton could help him to some point, it certainly wouldn't suffice anymore against Katakuri's high-end moves. Sanji could attempt a battle of speed and power, but that would be a more complex challenge, given Katakuri's outstanding Observation Haki.
Katakuri is one of the greatest experts of Observation Haki in One Piece. He can perfectly foresee everything around him. In fact, his ability is called "Future Sight." Combined with his Mochi-Mochi Fruit, Katakuri uses it to manipulate his body, becoming swift and versatile.
With this combination, Katakuri would dodge most of Sanji's attacks and land blows on him, hurting him noticeably. To fight Katakuri on equal grounds, Sanji would need to go all out from the start, using his maximum speed as well as the Ifrit Jambe.
Not being able to maintain these powers for more than a few moments before quickly tiring himself, Sanji would likely end up overpowered. Admittedly, until he can rely on those enhancements, he will likely be able to clash on par with Katakuri, possibly even hitting him and damaging him.
However, he is bound to quickly exhaust himself, while Katakuri can maintain his Future Sight for a much longer period of time. Sanji would be left with only his Diable Jambe, a level of power that wasn't enough to defeat even Queen, a fighter far weaker than Katakuri.
Despite having already unlocked his genetic esoskeleton, Sanji couldn't dodge Queen's winch and ended up captured and slammed into the ground. This highlights that Sanji's Observation Haki still has a long way to go before reaching the level of Katakuri's.
If the cook couldn't dodge Queen's technique, there's no way that he would evade Katakuri's Mochi, which is faster. Unlike Queen's attack, however, Katakuri's subsequent Buzz Cut Mochi would knock Sanji out.
With his Ifrit Jambe, Sanji could pose a real challenge for Katakuri, becoming able to keep up with the latter's speed and power. At the moment, however, Sanji isn't able to fight at his full power for a more extended period of time.
Until Sanji gains full mastery of his newfound power, he won't be able to clash on par with Katakuri, let alone beat him. The latter was able to keep up with Luffy's Gear 4 Snakeman form, even outspeeding him on some issues. Katakuri can also make use of his Devil Fruit Awakening to ensure his supremacy.
Sanji's new abilities allowed him to defeat Queen, the third strongest member of the Beasts Pirates. However, that wouldn't be enough to match a fighter of Katakuri's caliber. Sanji needed to use his peak power to beat Queen, while Katakuri would make short work of such an opponent.
This emphasizes the difference in strength between Sanji and Katakuri. The cook of the Strawhat Pirates now possesses remarkable fighting power, but he still has a way to go before reaching Katakuri's level.
Using his Future Sight in combo with his Devil Fruit abilities, Katakuri can dodge most of Sanji's attacks. Using moves such as the Power Mochi, he can also overwhelm the cook. The fact that Katakuri's Armament Haki is far superior to Sanji's is also a key factor.
However, Katakuri will need to focus on this battle, as Sanji is now much stronger than before. With his Ifrit Jambe, Sanji could potentially inflict severe injuries on Katakuri, whose durability and endurance aren't as great as his other parameters.
Unfortunately, Sanji can't maintain his full power for more than a few moments before quickly tiring himself. Outside that short peak, Sanji's other attacks would pose no trouble for Katakuri's Future Sight ability, Mochi-Mochi powers and Armament Haki.
While at the moment, Sanji doesn't seem entirely ready to defeat an opponent of Katakuri's caliber, in One Piece's next arcs, he will likely be able to. With the series having entered its endgame, every Strawhat needs to step up his game. Moreover, as a member of the crew's Monster Trio, Sanji will certainly prove his might.