Before you continue reading this theory make sure that you have read part one of my Bad End Musical breakdown as this is a continuation on that analysis and line of thought and reasonings presented there, hence you won't be able to gather much from this part two without having properly digested part one. https://orojackson.com/one-piece-th...-moms-amnesia-and-a-second-timeskip-p-1.3649/
Part one was about chapter 900 while this theory discusses chapter 902 where the song picks up and where there's a lot of new things going on. Hopefully this deconstructing of the song will make the upcoming episode 877th episode on Sunday be more enjoyable and will perhaps and hopefully serve and inspire you to connect any dots and see any connections that I might've missed.
There's a lot of things going on in this chapter that bears mentioning, yet to fully appreciate what it all meant it's important that we first take a look at the song and try to see what it all meant in order to make sense of what bearing and relationship it has to the surrounding context of the chapter itself. Much like in chapter 900 the events in this chapter are tied to the song as well in a way that is important to try to make sense of in order to fully understand what Oda wants to tell us with Bad End Musical.
(1) Soul pocus
Chapter 900 was elaborating on the 'taste' which, by now, we've established stands as a symbol for the will of D. The 'will of D' as we've learned is something internal, a complete expression of an unyielding passion and an indomitable will. As chapter 902 shifts focus towards 'soul pocus' this then also stands a s a symbol for the theme of the the song which is the 'taste', i.e. the Will of D. This term "soul pocus" further solidifies my thesis that the taste is a parable for a particular state of being or, should I rather say, the state of one's soul as the song literally says "the soul speaks this". Hence the state of being in a state of "soul pocus" is to fully and without hesitation embrace one's dreams and passions to the point where you're "drunk" and consumed by these. That is the the will of D, the quality and hallmark which characterise and distinguishes the D's.
The rest of the song in chronological order goes like this
Soul pocus, soul pocus
the soul speak this
although it's sure not to be sweet
The singing flowers and trees will be upbeat
as they lure you in ever so sweetly, soul pocus
set up by Mama so greedily
It'll be an almighty show
A fairy tale
Prince and princess letting go
Pulled away by strings in a puppet show
Even that sweet lurking nectar...
Like that of a heart that keeps getting heartier
There's nothing in this world more frightening than that mouthwatering sweetness
Like shadows passing by one another
Hanging onto life by a thread, it's a monkey show
Here is the "candy", but going back is the "guillotine"
Who won I wonder? It's all a as how of splendor
Soul pocus, soul pocus
The egotistical sing this
If you're lured in by the smell of the sweet cake that's within
Then first you'll have to pay what I'm due
But there's no benefit to us, no siree
Will you pass through this land of candy,
or will you be played with willingly?
There's nothing in this world more frightening than that mouthwatering sweetness
Soul pocus. A mama's wilfulness
Will you give me your life...
or will you choose to die in strife?
Life or... Death?
The Queen sing this
(2) An early reminder of deal struck
In chapter 900 we established that the 'taste' (will of D) brings with it not only the joyful rhapsody of the soul when pursuing one's dreams, but it also brings with it tremendous risk of harm and death if you're unfortunate enough.
(2.1) Although it's not always sure to be sweet, the taste will be sure to make you upbeat
The song starts off with the plants and trees dancing: "although it's sure not to be sweet the singing flowers and trees will be upbeat, as they lure you in ever so sweetly, soul pocus". This describes the fact that even though the outcome may not be that "sweet" and preferable, the rumblings and the yearning of the soul for a most heartily felt adventure by following your dreams and the passions of the D's are like the proverbial "singing flowers and trees" in your very own "pet cemetery" luring you in, making you drop your resistance and making you let go: to make you a "pet" to your dreams and to the D that you're following as in letting these take the rudder and guide your way as opposed to being led astray on your journey by resistance, by fear and hesitancy.
(2.1) "The D's always live a checkered life"
When looking at the verse "Set up by Mama so greedily It'll be an almighty show" I think that we need to look at it from the perspective that Big Mom referred to herself as "the queen" in chapter 900 which we established was her using herself as an analogy for the dreams and passions of the D's (that we are like followers and "pets" to the D's much in the same way that the citizens of Tottoland are to their queen, Big Mom). The same I think applies here when she refers to "greed" I think it is a parable for the unyielding dreams and passions of the D's being so intense and focused that often no thought are given to the consequences of the decisions that follow in their wake, such as like when Luffy punched Saint Charloss or as seen with Trafalgar D Law hinging so much of his plan on the strawhats (his entire plan hinging on him betting that the strawhats "do miracles", as he put it: a misplaced assumption which could have very well seen them all to an all to brief and untimely end, though fortunately it did turn out favourably in the end). Greed in that sense one could then say is sort of like an uncompromising yearning, much like that of the dreams and passions of the D's, though it makes for an "almighty show" as they're always the life of the party and their antics sure are fun and messy. It later on reiterates this very point in the song with the verse "the egotistical sing this".
(3) Meditations by Ghidorian Guy
I had a chat with @Ghidorah Guy about what he got from this chapter and how he related it to the song in question. In no uncertain terms will I say that Ghidorian Guy is a genius so here is what he wrote and I will quote it verbatim - as it was simply too brilliant to take it out of context - and then I'll give my commentary and elaborate on certain points he made.
"Chasing that soul-nourishing satisfaction that comes with walking the path of the D's carries with it not only the risk of injury and death but also the heavy burden of regret and the accompanying spiritual decay that follows in succumbing to it - an all too human sentiment that the followers of the D's cannot afford to linger upon. And so that gratifying taste -- as interpreted by Big Mom in the context of her most visceral sensory connection with overall feelings of happiness -- can often leave a bitter aftertaste for those obligated to plow ahead, lest they falter and lose their resolve; in of itself another form of spiritual death, the "guillotine" that awaits those who second guess their actions, look back, and try retracing their steps. High risk, high reward...high reward, high risk. Gotta embrace it all, lest you fail to cushion yourself upon plummeting down from on high.
Sanji and Carrot understood this much and followed through to the end, honoring Pedro's decision ( the true expression of living paradoxically achieved though his sacrificial act ).
Pudding unfortunately could not jump this hurdle, balking at the last minute by removing Sanji's memory of their kiss. Contrary to what she said, this marionette just couldn't sever that last string holding her back - her own insecurities. Two monkeys tethered by a thread, for one a lifeline symbolizing defiance, and for the other a self-imposed leash signifying submission to inner weakness; a monkey in pure Survival Mode vs a ridiculous monkey putting on an absurd act to escape from her innermost feelings. So close yet so far...the agony of half-measures.
We learn the same thing happened to Katakuri in his youth by disregarding his sister's wise words and reneging on his own desires. Yet his meeting with Luffy shows there's hope for both him and Pudding both, for the power of the D's is also a rejuvenating one that can lead previously thought wilted flowers to bloom once more, unlike the outwardly alluring yet ultimately hollow stage productions Big Mom operates in her sterile lil microcosmic set. Yet, one mustn't kid themselves either.
Even then, for some there're only two courses available once you get on this ride: soul-crushing metaphorical "Death" or a courageous "Life" which carries with it risk of real death. For those who delude themselves into thinking it'll be all fun and games without a heavy price to pay, they'll soon discover the bitter-tasting nature of the fleeting illusory fantasies they mistook for the glorious lifestyle of the D's. In a way, Big Mom's carefully crafted delusions ironically enough do represent the "truth," in so far as embodying the deceptive dangers the allies of the D's must contend with; Big Mom represents Reality absurdly enough, and pitting one's lofty dreams against the real world ( lol ) requires paying Queen Reality her dues one way or the other.
When Big Mom's fantasies blend with reality, that's unsurprisingly Big Mom at her most dangerous. The powerful get to dictate what's real or not, all others must either conform or suffer the consequences of not playing along with the game."
(4) A soul-crushing regret
Ghidorian Guy is quite the deep thinker and he strikes a lot of chords with this comment so I will try my best to break this down to make it a little more digestible. Basically one can say that this chapter 902 shifts focus more to what it means on an individual level to pursue one's inner 'taste': the "pocus" of one's soul. It's a high risk and high reward kind of game one plays when wanting to fully pursue one's inner dreams and passions to its fullest and so if you, as Ghidorian Guy so aptly put it, "falter and lose your resolve", if you don't have the guts and the balls to go all-out in pursuing your dreams and ambitions, then this will result in the sour and "bitter aftertaste" of regret which is the "death" or the spiritual decay in the song. Ghidorian Guy manages to relate and connect this very well to the chapter and the events that take place.
(4.1) Better die on your feet than live on your knees
First we have Sanji and Carrot reminiscing about Pedro and the type of man he was. They realise that he was the kind of man that was willing to bet everything and dedicate his life for the new ‘dawn’, hence though his final sacrificial act was a thing of necessity given the circumstances, it was really an utmost expression of his dream by exchanging his own life so that the strawhats could continue on his legacy and carry on his will. By saying "thank you" it mirrors exactly what Big Mom ends her song with in chapter 900 by saying “thank you for the meal”. As Ghidorian Guy again so eloquently puts it in this case it was "the true expression of living paradoxically achieved through this sacrificial act". They honour his decision by acknowledging his courage to follow his dream to the very end, even if it meant his death, by saying "thank you". Ghidorian continues: "even though Pedro died a literal death, by doing so without regrets and thus dying without suffering the spiritual death embodied by such, he remains "alive" in the memories of his friends", hence mirroring in a way what Luffy said in chapter 901: "even if you die, dont die!".
(4.2) The losing of heart in very much a real sense
As we Segway to Sanji and Pudding and the song continues: "A fairy tale. Prince and princess letting go, pulled away by strings in a puppet show even that sweet lurking nectar... like that of a heart that keeps getting heartier there's nothing in this world more frightening than that mouthwatering sweetness". We see a pudding letting go of her dream of finding someone that loves her truly for what and who she is even when it (he) is standing there right there in front of her. Big Mom makes fun of Pudding saying she's just "like a little puppet! My own personal little marionette" whereas Pudding denies that to herself proclaiming to herself not to be the puppet of her or anyone else. Unfortunately, though, she is very much a puppet one might say in the sense of being tied to the strings of her own insecurities; as Ghidorian so aptly puts it: "a self-imposed leash signifying submission to inner weakness"as she is "balking at the last minute", not being able to "jump the hurdle", instead hanging onto the "strings" of the lifeline that tie her securely back home to her safe roots instead of of severing those in favour of pursuing that soul- and heart-nourishing route (albeit dangerous one) of "that sweet luring nectar of a heart that keeps getting heartier".
(4.3) Thrill and fear all mixed into one
When the song continues with: "There'snothing more dangerous in this world than that mouthwatering sweetness", to understand what this means imagine someone who's so driven and who's so passionate that he or she is going to keep getting back up and keep fighting no matter what and no matter what curve ball life throws their way - thats the sweetness; the indestructible mindset that comes from that drunken passion, those drunken dreams of the D's. The same goes with pursuing that dream in the first place. There's nothing more dangerous than going all-in for your dream and hold onto that resolve all the way through: to not "second guess ones's actions, looking back and trying to retrace one's steps". Unfortunately for someone like Pudding she did and we have her sad cries witnessing of the "bitter aftertaste": the "heavy burden of regret".
(5) the almighty puppet show
To elaborate on this train of thought Ghidorian shared his amazing insights in our chat and so here's another one of his brilliant comments that so elegantly ties the meaning behind the "puppet show" to the Will of D.
"Luffy was hanging on to dear life to spite death, both out of choice and necessity; Pudding was teetering on the brink of what many find to be the ever-frightful prospect of change encompassed by the idea of freedom. Luffy's lack of doubts anchored him to life, yet ironically enough obligated him to put himself in danger to begin with; Pudding's weighed her down/pulled her back to her the relative safety of her comfort zone, but a large Sanji-sized void was left in the wake of her brief, incomplete tread into the realm of new possibilities.
Whether you're resolute or not, you're typically often hanging on by a thread one way or the other, pulled from various directions. It's a life of myriad risks, both physical and mental. Falter in any way and you're either left emotionally shattered or quite literally dead. Don't falter, you're still actively putting yourself in harm's way, constant risk and sacrifice.
In Pudding's case, there was no going back to the way things were before. The mere act of having a taste of such romantic pursuit , however brief or small, set this ride in motion. There's no looking back, even if your hair is being pulled backwards (as noted in Big Mom's Song). One must make the difficult decision of proceeding ever forward, even if failure looms because looking back damn well assures failure and spiritual decay, the impact of the proverbial fall only magnified by gravity and distance from lofty dreams.
As some would caution, sometimes it's better not to try at all. Many who would say this likely came to feel the pain of chasing foolhardy dreams and empty hopes. Better to have never loved than to have loved and lost, as these same might counter to the classic saying."
(5.1) To peer into future of path not taken and regret it's results
Pudding realised this much and chose to end, cutting all ties by stripping Sanji of that memory. She was moved by fear of change and so could not go the whole distance with Sanji. "Like shadows passing by one another, no one knows" Pudding came to realise the error of her decision: the mistake of letting her "inner death" guide her hands. As Ghidorian comments on this verse.
"It's a another reference to the star-crossed Prince and Princess of the tale, pulled away from each other by circumstances...though more to the point, it's Pudding's actions which rendered even their chance meeting hollow by diluting its very memory. What moral victory could have been gained by holding on to the memory of their encounter was spoiled, a shadow of what could have been.
Sanji lost out on a monumental milestone ( getting kissed by a girl lol ) and Pudding denied herself the satisfaction of knowing Sanji would cherish the memory of their kiss forever. More memory-equals-metaphorical-life action. Pudding cocked it all up."
Brilliantly put. She missed out on "life" in favour of continuing living out her inner death.
(5.2) What gave you the idea that it's all fun and games?
As the song continues: "hanging onto life by a thread, it's a monkey show" I think this tells of what it means to follow one's "taste": to live one the edge, pushing past the most frightening of situations in order to reap the rewards of fulfilling one's dreams: to feel "a heart getting heartier" by embracing the intrepid spirit of taking that path, regardless of the dangers and perils encountered upon road; no wonder then it's going to be crazy at times "like a monkey show", dangling from a fraying thread which forever threatens a plummeting and unforgiving fall. Yet, that is the only true path to get after your dream: to get a "taste of the taste". That is the the will of D: the drunken dreams and passion which makes you embrace such a treaterous path willingly and without hesitation.
As the song continues: "Coming here is the candy but going back is the guillotine" basically reiterates the point about not turning back and keep pacing forward as "looking back damn well assures failure and spiritual decay" and so is the proverbial "guillotine" in this context. Whether the D's take an L or win out in the end it's all a major show of splendour regardless.
(6) Katakuri's realisation of denying himself
To tie this with what we're later seeing with Katakuri and his backstory, the D's as we know undertake journeys and adventures fraught with danger, not budging an inch of their dreams and ambitions, their identity and personal qualities. Katakuri was just like that in his youth, a carefree guy who didn't care for the opinion of others about his appearance. However, that all changed one day when he realised that the scorn and hatred for him had turned on his younger sibling, Brulee. As Ghidorian so aptly puts it:
"It was intended to show that he wasn't capable of accepting some of the risks of the path he walked in a sense, in my opinion anyways. Young injured Brulee did try to impress upon Katakuri the importance of remaining true to himself despite her injuries and any potential future risk involved. Yet, we see how this incident led to Kata covering up his face to avoid drawing the kinda of negative attention that indirectly led to her scarring. In a way, he was forced to repress a vital part of himself. It was the price he paid for protecting his family. There's a cost either way."
And yet in Katakuri's case, one might say he arguably took things too far, allowing doubt and shame to gradually overtake him; much as it did Pudding just as it seemed she was close to breaking free of her own self-imposed restraints. It's one thing to hide his ugly mug from the public, but Kata apparently grew so insecure he even hid the truth from many of his own family. The young Kata of old had no issue openly showing his face in his siblings' presence after all. Unlike Luffy, he forgot himself along his journey....and part of that can also be tied to his failure in acknowledging Brulee's feelings and willing sacrifice. Contrast that with the Strawhats' begrudging acceptance of Pedro's will.
It was for his family's that sake he covered up his face, but by effectively denying such a large part of his true self his sacrifice was diminished in a way, so far as Flambe's resulting ignorance and ingratitude is concerned. Who knows, perhaps things would've turned out differently ( and more importantly for the better as far as young impressionable Flambe's development goes ) had he been more open with his family. By failing himself, one could say he failed his young sister by denying her the truth as to the true weight of his actions and character, denying her the opportunity to grow as a person."
As his appearance was associated with scorn and discrimination which resulted in his sibling(s) being attacked, Katakuri may have ended up internalising the shame and insecurities surrounding his appearance so that it wasn't just something he did just to avoid entanglements with brawlers that attacked his family. Katakuri chose to embrace a new path of that of the perfect and infallible brother, the protector of his siblings and family, yet at the end of the day after meeting Luffy he realised that he wasn't true to himself as he never really desired that identity of the impeccable big brother to begin with as that was foisted upon him by circumstance. He wasn't truly free to chart his own destiny as he never chose to fully embrace the the risks and the dangers involved, whether those included physical threats but may have also grown to include acts of discrimination, taunts and scorn as he over time came to internalise the many insults he'd received over the years.
(7) Life or death? A little reminder of the deal struck
The song continues "If you're lured in by the smell of the sweet cake that's within, then first you'll have to pay what I'm due". Again, what this means, as already stated, is that the path of the will of D, of pursuing one's "taste", is not just beer and skittles but involves a hell of a lot of failure and a lot of of setbacks on the way.
(7.1) a sacrifice on the altar of the will of the D's
As we've already established, the path of the D's is paved with risk and mortal peril for those who follow along on their adventure, on their "monkey show". This is true for all who follow their dreams wholeheartedly and with a passion but even more so for the D's who actively by their very strong charisma manage to rally people to join their cause. Here I think we see a perfect illustration of this fact as communicated by this verse.
Here we see what one could describe as common foot soldiers echoing the saying that "but there's no benefit to us, no siree" which given the context I think we can take it to mean represents one could say the broad-spectrum of followers of the D's. I think it represents one could say the "casualties of war" as in those who find themselves unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of the misfortune that the D's invariably bring about for their followers as a result of their many foolhardy and venturesome undertakings. Again, given the high-venture nature of their exploits, the victories of the D's are ever so sweet yet the risks and accompanying defeats and missteps are also always looming and not far from the horizon, threatening them at every turn. Sure we love the D's but at the end of the day, if you're reaping the misfortune born from their actions, maybe even you or your loved ones may be among the many casualties as a result of their doings, then in hindsight you may rightly point out that there is in fact "no benefit to us". That's the nature of the deal. Pray you're not among those falling victim to their many risky antics.
(7.2) There's a cost any way you slice that pie
With all this in mind, going back to the beginning of the song, "the ship is being pulled by the tides of the ocean and the wind in the air... as if being pulled by the back of your hair" seemed sort of a little oddly worded in a way because one could say it's kind of a juxtaposition almost: one thing occurs 'naturally' and without effort on the part of man (as in sort of "going with the flow") whereas "pulling the back of your hair" is something you do and exert upon yourself and so doesn't come 'naturally', if that makes any sense. Oda likens "going with the flow" in a way with resistance to the flow (being pulled by the back of your hair) saying they're two side of the same coin: I think it means even if you resist, hesitate and overthink, you're going to have your share of "strife", either one posing challenges in their own way as the way of resisting leads to the aforementioned "spiritual death and decay". Balance is what's called for. In this case they leave the strife back in WCI but ironically them going with the calm and easy flow will lead them to encountering their share of strife in Wano.
The song continues: "will you pass through this land of candy or will you stay to be played with willingly?". However you slice that pie there is either the risk of peril and mortal death or the risk of spiritual 'death' for not taking the path of "life". Even when abstaining from taking the path of the D's due to fear you invariably be "played with" by the whims of fate or even the whims your own mind, your "inner death", forever hammering you about taking hold of your dreams and seizing your destiny: to be the master of your own fate as that is what one truly wants at the end of the day. There is "nothing more frightening" than going all-out in pursuance of that freedom, of the Will of D, yet it's the only true path to gain freedom in the truest sense. Will you let yourself be "played with" by external circumstances and by your own "inner death" or will you embrace the path of life as exemplified by those who carry the middle initial "D" in their name. As Ghidorian puts it: "
"it boils down to the freedom of choice. Disaster looms either way in all its myriad forms, but forging a path of one's own choosing, regardless what life can throw at you, is a moral victory in of itself. Defiance in the face of seeming powerlessness is in its own way a form of strength."
Summary and conclusion
Bad End Musical continues in chapter 902 to shed light on the nature of the the "taste", the Will of D. This time we get an insight in the personal dilemmas in making that hard decision of fully embracing the "taste". The examples of Pedro, Pudding and Katakuri serve to illustrate the different approaches to life one can take in regards to ine's inner taste. Pudding chose to cast aside her dream whereas Katakuri chose to embrace a new role and alter-ego at the expense of his identity. As Ghidorian puts it: "Goes back to the whole precarious struggle with maintaining one's identity throughout one's journey. Some seek to surpass themselves, reach for some idealized higher conception of themselves ( Usopp-Sogeking ), change for the better...but it can come at the cost of forgetting who one truly is if they're not careful about staying true to themselves."
Pedro on the other hand chose to die an honoriable death by fully living out his taste, his will, his dream. Of the three Pedro was the only one that was truly free. This chapter is an emphasis on the point that though it may be risky and fraught with overwhelming danger, the path of the "taste", the will of D, is the only true path leading to freedom as going the other direction is a straight way leading to spiritual "death". The ball is in your court. Now given everything you now know the question is simple: whatbwill you choose: Life or Death?
Much thanks and shoutout to @Ghidorah Guy for his brilliant insights and intuition in helping me make this theory and helped connectimg all the dots, without him this theory wouldn't be nearly half as good as it is now. Thank you bro for this amazing collaboration!
Thank you all for reading!
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Theory Bad End Musical is about the will of D. Part 2: chapter 902. A collaboration with Ghidorian Guy.
An exploration of chapter 902 with insights gained from chapter 900: ghidorian guy chimes in