Death in One Piece might have a more significant meaning.
Part 1 – Gol D. Roger and Portgas D. Ace
One Piece has, time and time again, shown its readers that death plays a significant role in the general story of One Piece. For instance, “Gold” Roger, the King of the Pirates, died in order to begin the “Great Pirate Era” so that people all around the world of One Piece would look to the seas for adventure. Clearly, this started Luffy’s story, and his adventure to become the Pirate King.
In the Sabaody Archipelago arc, Rayleigh has a flashback to Roger’s final words to him:
Did Roger really die? No, of course not! Well, not physically speaking, but more spiritually. Roger lives on in the form of the Straw Hat. Because of Roger’s physical death, both Luffy and Shanks wear it to continue to live how he did: as the most free man in the world.
Portgas D. Ace’s death was especially important to the story of One Piece.
Ace died to spark the commitment in Luffy to train like he did in the timeskip. Without his proper training, Luffy would not have beaten Doflamingo, or later, Cracker or Big Mom. Ace dying was a pivotal point in the story, because it not only developed the character of Luffy, but it also helped Sabo regain his memory. Sabo was able to remember Luffy once Ace died, and as a result, he went to Luffy’s aid in Dressrosa.
One more instance of this is the death of Dr. Hiluluk.
Dr. Hiluluk was an important character to Chopper, as he was the one who got him into medicine. Eventually, Dr. Hiluluk would have to die in order for Chopper to learn more about medicine with Dr. Kureha, leading him to the Straw Hats. Chopper as a character would never have progressed without the death of his master, and he also wouldn’t be the doctor that he is to the Straw Hats today.
Part 2 – Future Death
Future deaths in One Piece can only follow the same pattern, or else they won’t impact the story the way they are supposed to. A constantly argued death of Jinbe is a prime example. There is not much of a reason why Jinbe would die, as it wouldn’t give Luffy some big revelation like Roger and Ace’s deaths did.
Though ominously apparent, Jinbe will most likely not die in the Whole Cake Island arc for these reasons. There is a few pieces of evidence toward him dying, though, like his robe:
Many infer that Jinbe’s robe is a foreshadow to his death. Another piece of evidence is here:
People also infer that from this specific statement, Oda might be foreshadowing Jinbe’s death.
I, for one, highly doubt that Jinbe will die. As stated before, the motif of death in One Piece says otherwise. In the last chapter Luffy proclaimed that he is now Jinbe’s captain, making Jinbe an official member of the Straw Hat Pirates. If he dies right before he joins the crew, that would be very punishing to One Piece readers/watchers.
The only future meaningful death in One Piece I can think of is probably Shanks.
Once Luffy meets Shanks again, it might be amidst a huge war (possibly the battle for the One Piece itself). And Shanks might end up dying for Luffy somehow, making him keep the Straw Hat and allowing him to carry on the same will that was left behind since Roger. This fits the motif of death and develops the main character of Luffy in a concluded way.
All in all, Oda has clearly made death a meaningful aspect of the One Piece story, because unlike other shounen, characters don’t just return from the dead- they stay dead. I’m really glad that Oda doesn’t just throw around dying like it’s nothing because in the real world, dying is a very scarring and impactful event.
*Theory by Fake Mingo