Image via Toei Animation

Now That ‘One Piece’ Episode 1035 Is Out, Raise a Glass for Kikunojo

Goddammit.

In a series known for its mind-numbingly gigantic encyclopedia of incredible characters, the Wano Kuni arc stands out for introducing some especially memorable ones. Most notably, it introduces Yamato and Kikunojo: the series’ first two trans characters. Fans around the world have fallen in love with both, but Kiku—a badass samurai known as “Kikunojo of the Fallen Snow”—has been having a rough time at the Onigashima Raid. Now that Episode 1035 shows the crux of Kiku’s struggle, it’s as good a time as ever to raise a glass in her honor.

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Spoilers ahead for the One Piece anime up to episode 1035.

Except for Ashura, Kiku has definitely had the worst time at Onigashima. Towards the beginning of the raid, her arm was sliced clear off by Kaido. But she was undeterred, even telling Izo a few episodes ago that the formidable wound was merely an “itch.” It was a small scene, surrounded by flashy fights with Big Mom and very intimate bandagings, but it served to show just how much of a badass Kiku is. However, if Kiku has one weakness, it’s that she has the audacity to care deeply for her comrades. And that’s the kind of “weakness” someone like Kanjuro will take advantage of.

Indeed, Episode 1035 saw Kanjuro thrust his sword right through Kiku as he took advantage of her indebtedness to the late Kouzuki Oden to make her hesitate. In the narrative of the anime, especially, this scene was tough. We’d already seen Kiku fight Kanjuro, her former comrade turned traitor, and how difficult it was for her to find murderous resolve towards someone who was her lifelong friend until mere hours before. (Fascinatingly, that whole fight is not in the manga.) Though Kiku thought she had killed Kanjuro, in the words of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, he was merely “not dead yet.”

There’s a part of me that’s a little annoyed Kiku’s “emotions” are what got in her way in both fights, in a way that Kin’emon’s and company’s have not. Then again, none of the other Akazaya Samurai had the guts and/or heart to check if Kanjuro was actually dead, either. The series is at least quite explicit that Kanjuro is actively dying from Kiku’s wound. Kiku, on the other hand, appears very dead by the end of the episode.

It’s a rare day in shounen—or really most action series—to have a badass woman who commands the respect of all her male peers. It’s even rarer for that woman to be a samurai. And it’s even rarer for that woman to be a trans woman. Kiku is an incredible character in her own right, but she also symbolizes important representation on a number of fronts.

One Piece’s LGBTQ Representation History

To understand Kiku’s importance, a look into One Piece‘s LGBTQ history is warranted. And that history is … complicated. On one hand, you have characters like Bon Clay and Emporio Ivankov. While not “pretty” characters, which could be interpreted as problematic, they are two unapologetically queer characters who are presented as sympathetic and complex. They both became fan-favorites. There’s also Ivankov’s New Kama Land in Impel Down, a “paradise” where everyone expressed their gender identities as they pleased (and with the help of Ivankov’s Hormone-Hormone Fruit). And it truly looked like a gender-queer paradise, with all its citizens looking like normal, happy people. (“O-kama,” to my understanding, is a word for a gay man, especially one who wears women’s clothing.)

Because the depiction of New Kama Land was … kind of perfect, seeing the Kamabakka Queendom felt like a punch in the face. Kamabakka (“bakka” means “full of”) is played as a joke, an island of full of trans women who are drawn to look like ugly men. What’s more, thanks to Sanji’s distaste for the island given his brand of lust and Ivankov’s (its monarch) continuing importance in the series, the gag keeps returning. Kamabakka is my greatest shame as a One Piece fan.

Kamabakka is unfortunately still Kamabakka. (It has reappeared recently.) Maybe Eiichiro Oda felt he couldn’t “write it back.” But this long, twisted, 25-year history is what makes both Kiku and Yamato feel so important. They feel like a new chapter in a series that has been trying, and sometimes (often? sometimes?) failing, to depict LGBTQ identities for much longer than its peers. For all its problems, keep in mind that Bon Clay was introduced in 2000. How many other series can you name with a sympathetic, openly gender-queer character in 2000? Especially in Japanese media?

So anyway, this is why Kiku’s current predicament hits hard. Spare a thought for Kiku and her fans. And raise a glass to the dawn she so poetically wished for as she lay dying in Kin’emon’s arms. Hopefully, that’s a much more inclusive, representative dawn than she could even imagine.

So is Kiku actually dead in One Piece?

Oh, you want to know if she’s actually dead? Well … I’ll spoil the manga for you below if you really want.

Spoilers for the One Piece manga below!!

For real! Go away if you don’t want the anime spoiled!

Last chance!

She pulls through. This would have been a much angrier article if she didn’t.

(featured image: Toei Animation)


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Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.