Evidence.ZIP: Nami's slow descent into love
Before we start I want to make clear a few things.
This is not paid work which means it’s substandard trash, all of the scans used are unofficial, but all the interpretations are mine.
Ready? Set. Go.
This first panel is not a shipping panel. LuNa or SaNa, it’s not. However because it’s been some days since Sanji took off, that means between that day and the day Luffy and company arrived, he’s been on her mind. Again I stress, this is not a romantic sign or symbol of any note. Her tears are of worry and relief because she’s been worried sick for her nakama and relief because finally, Luffy’s here, let’s get the rescue rolling.
The next two pictures are about Nami being eager to get off their butts and go after Sanji right away. But Luffy and Zoro are in no hurry, and even Chopper and Brook in other panels are just sad that Sanji is gone but they’re not like Nami who’s gung ho about chasing him right away. Does that mean they’re not worried about Sanji? No, of course they are, but Nami obviously is the most worried here.
Right before everything happened, Nami was pretty belligerent towards Sanji. She’s used to everything he does, including his antics. But by no means does that mean she’s apathetic to him. After all, even as early as FI our guy Sanji put in the work. In PH even if he didn’t like it, he followed Nami’s wish to save the kids and his body serendipitously saved Nami from Caesar’s explosion. Nami knows that Sanji would save any other of his nakama, but it was only during the time skip that she began to see how much special attention Sanji actually paid her. And she doesn’t even know yet, that Sanji gave her body respect when he dived that lake to get Kinemon’s torso, when just a few minutes ago he was cupping her breasts like a madlad for a punchline.
Nami also remembers quite clearly what little Sanji told them about his family. It doesn’t seem anything special until you realize that when this happened, Nami asked Chopper right before to dig a spot up for gold, and forgot all about it entirely when Sanji was telling them about Liar Norland.
So then Sanji and co. got captured. This is what I think triggered Nami, the “I’ll be back but not really” smile she’s seen twice in her life now: Sanji’s and Bellemere’s. She never really knew what she had until he was gone.
In this panel Nami is mad at Zoro for victim blaming Sanji. Both sides have a point, but take note of Luffy. He noticed, as well as I did (and a few others), that Nami was being a teensy bit overreacting at this point. Why I judged that to be his action instead of Luffy observing the back and forth, is because he’s of the same opinion as Zoro…marriages are no big deal, it’s not like somebody won’t return from a marriage. But Nami’s uncomfortable with it, so in order to remedy the problem, he decides to go up to Sanji and ask him to come back, because their navigator was being cranky when he wasn’t around. Also because he didn’t want to be a Big Mom subordinate, but if it was really the basis of his decision then he should have decided the chase before Nami’s overreaction.
The other two victims, Brook and Chopper, had very different stances. Brook was the calm and mature narrator while Chopper just kept apologizing.
See again Luffy in this panel. But, in addition to noticing Nami’s vehement objection to Sanji’s Vinsmoke lineage, there’s also what I call the “wait a minute!” graphic. It’s those small lines that form a semicircle near a character when something catches their attention during someone else’s monologue. So now he knows something’s definitely up with Nami, if he wasn’t sure before.
That face isn’t a “wait a minute, what are Vinsmokes?” but rather a “wait a minute, why are you objecting?”
For comparison, this is Nami’s “wait a minute, I know who you’re talking about” panel.
After the Jack ownage, Luffy was open to another banquet like he wasn’t done with one the night before. Nami feels once is enough, let’s get going, and gives her usual excuse of “you can’t go anywhere without a navigator” spiel like Luffy doesn’t know what she does. Go back to when Luffy visited Pekoms, he was still saying no to her because the fewer the members the higher the chance of stealth. But now all he says is OK. He knows that somebody on his crew can’t wait to see Sanji again, and he’s all too happy to oblige.
Even in this catfight prelude, Nami wants to hurry up, giddy up. But when Pudding elaborates on her situation…
THIS is where I think Nami caught herself slippin’. Luffy’s just happy with someone complimenting his cook, Chopper is concerned with fact checking, but Nami…is concerned about Sanji’s emotional well-being? If she really didn’t give him the time of day then why the hell does she care whether Sanji marries for love and not just for political reasons? Just Nami well-wishing? Can’t be, because well-wishers would not question whether or not the bride loves her groom in a political marriage.
ANYBODY else would give the happy bride-to-be a congratulations but only a “former-gf-who-has-accepted-the-reality-of-the-situation-who-still-has-residual-feelings-of-love” would confirm for herself if the man she left/who left her is being loved by his bride-to-be.
And before someone says “But family members and to an extent nakama would ask that too!”, they won’t question the bride’s/groom’s feelings, but whether or not he/she is ready to take care of their partner for the rest of their life. Nami isn’t asking “Will you take care of Sanji for the rest of his life?”
Also I think this conversation makes One Piece finally fail the Bechdel Test after all these years.
Fast forward to when they caught up with the Germa, that’s Nami’s face of relief from being worried about not being able to see each other again. If Sanji were his normal self this is probably where he’d ask her Do you love me now, Nami-san? or something. And after Nami fighting about quarter/half of 11 hours vs Cracker (this dude could take several G4 punches too), she’d probably reply to him in kind at that point.
I have no doubt in my mind that this Nami was one who already recognized her feelings and had no problem acting on them.
But reality is cruel…Sanji wasn’t taking any chances. Even going as far as mock Luffy for his dream…and she believed it…despite hearing about a week ago from his own mouth that Luffy was going to be PK!
Luffy never believed the cockbull Sanji was cranking out, so why did Nami? Well for starters, Nami never experienced Sanji lying to her. Ever. You can even search the whole manga for a panel up to that point where Sanji lied to her, you won’t find it. That’s why she believed Sanji’s lies so easily.
Do you remember the Usopp vs Luffy fight? The stated reason is because Usopp doesn’t want to leave the Merry behind, due to his own insecurity about being weak and his projection onto the boat being useless and needing replacement which snowballed into him cracking. But was that really all it was? Of course not, Usopp wasn’t selfish enough to fight for himself. Flee for himself maybe. He wasn’t just fighting for the Merry Go, he was also fighting for Kaya because Merry was his reminder of her.
Scour the manga, all of Usopp’s most emotional fight moments are because he was fighting for someone else.
Back to Nami, what did the slap mean? Was it anger at beating Luffy up and spitting on his dream? Yes. Was it because of all the stress and worry for him being useless at that point? Yes. But as a natural opposite of Usopp, Nami’s most emotional fight moments are about herself.
Nami decided to fight Arlong because of his continued tyranny towards Cocoyashi Village despite her doing her best to pay up their freedom, but the bulk of her anger was about how much Arlong fucked her life up. Thanks to him she never grew up with a normal childhood.
With Nami vs Ms. Doublefinger, I think Nami even decided to leave her to Zoro. However because she was being labeled a weakling (and underestimated), she decided to stay and fight. Nami vs Kalifa was a similar case of underestimation despite her taking the fight because Sanji was useless against Kalifa.
I think Nami was also mad that Sanji wasn’t the same man she realized she fell in love with. Gone was the kind, humble, and goofy man who would stick up for his nakama and their dreams. In his place was a snotty brat who acted superior to everything and believed status gave them the right to shit on other people’s dreams. Nami thinks Sanji has changed for the worse because of his newfound status, and drops the endearment term “-kun” which she only used for him.
It’s framed like in TV dramas where the lady slaps the man out of passion. Yonji even lampshades it: “She’s the fiery type!”
The last pic is just Nami’s “oh shit no” look compared to Luffy’s “oh shit” one.
I’m too tired to continue so I’m stopping this here.
Better researchers than I can spot where Nami first got infatuated by Sanji.
All I’m saying is,
they don’t really care about us Sanami shippers should not worry about the character development Oda gave Nami in the Year of Sanji. It’s been a long time coming for us but it’s the last stretch before the game ends.
Don’t expect Oda to give them a flashy confession or an extraordinary action to validate the ship.
But if I read Oda right and this is where he wants Sanji and Nami to take the next step into their relationship, we’re in the green.
Naysayers will say things like “but Nami would do the same for the other nakama” or “so and so would act like that too” but take heed and remember, Oda does not write without reason. He MADE Nami overreact because he wants US to care that Sanji was taken from the crew. He WROTE Sanji into catching Nami with both of them sharing a brief smile because he wants US to feel the relief of both parties safe in each other’s hold.
And he DREW Pudding being jealous because that’s how some other ships feel about this arc. jk ilu guise this is just banter
Thanks for reading.