Here’s everything you want to know about Luffy’s gear first:
For Luffy, gear first is his natural, even resting state.
He only has the first gear for a significant portion of the early saga, and it’s enough for him to fight every enemy he comes across until he gets to Enies Lobby.
If Luffy isn’t clearly using one of his higher gears, he’s in gear first, whether relaxing or fighting.
So if you want to learn all about Luffy’s gear first, then this article is for you.
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Who Is Luffy?
Since you’re reading this, I assume you’ve heard of Luffy before.
He’s the protagonist of One Piece.
As such, talking about Luffy and his gears actually involves a lot of plot points related to One Piece, and that’s the real point of this section.
There are spoilers ahead.
In fact, there are massive spoilers ahead, even if you’re fully caught up on the One Piece anime.
So, if you’re avoiding One Piece spoilers, you need to leave right now.
If you’re caught up or don’t care about spoilers, then we can talk about Luffy’s gears.
What Are Luffy’s Gears? (4 Kinds)
Gear first doesn’t fully make sense unless we fully discuss all of the gears.
Luffy has five different gears to date, each offering different power-ups and coming with different drawbacks.
As you go up in gears, the power Luffy gains from it does increase, but it helps to understand how and why the gears are so different.
The first time Luffy ever mentions a gear is near the end of the Enies Lobby arc.
At this point, most of the Straw Hat crew has paired off with various enemies, and the only one left to find and fight is Rob Lucci.
Lucci is the most formidable opponent that Luffy has faced at this point, and earlier in the arc, Luffy realized he wasn’t strong enough to win.
That’s when he came up with the idea for his gears.
With gear 2nd, Luffy uses the elasticity of his body to speed up the flow of his blood.
This increased blood flow gives him a burst of energy and power, making him significantly stronger and faster than when he isn’t using this technique.
When he first starts using it, it drains his stamina very quickly.
But, as Luffy gets stronger, gear second stops straining him so much, and he can pretty much use it at will.
In many cases, he doesn’t even feel the need to mention when he is actively using it.
Luffy came up with gear 3rd at the same time as gear 2nd, but the technique is very different.
Since his body is made of rubber, Luffy realizes that he can blow air into his body to expand a body part.
Originally, he does this to make his fist massive.
This allows him to deliver an extraordinary punch (even by Luffy’s standards) with incredible destructive power.
The very first time we see him use it, he opens a sealed door with it.
The drawback to the third gear is that after Luffy uses it, his body contracts in response to the previous expansion, and he looks like a tiny version of himself.
The effects are temporary, but while present, they weaken him substantially.
Eventually, Luffy masters this technique to the point that he no longer suffers this blowback when he uses it.
By the time he fights Kaido, he can use many different variations of gear third as often as he likes with no real repercussions.
With gear 4th, things really start to escalate.
This is a technique that Luffy came up with when he was training with Rayleigh during the time skip.
He unveils it for the very first time when he fights with Doflamingo on Dressrosa.
Gear 4th is the first to take advantage of the concept of haki.
In case you’re unfamiliar, haki is a special power available to the characters in the world of One Piece.
It comes in three different forms (or ‘colors’), each providing special abilities to the user.
Observational haki allows the user to read the flow of things very well, and in its most advanced form, it enables people to see the future.
Conqueror’s haki is the most rare, and it allows users to project their will onto others.
Most commonly, conqueror’s haki can make people around the user pass out when exposed to it.
Eventually, Luffy learns advanced conqueror’s haki which he can use to attack others with extraordinary power.
But, the one that matters for gear fourth is armament haki.
This makes a user’s body very strong (and it can be applied to objects).
With armament haki, a user can take hits that would otherwise incapacitate them very easily.
On top of that, when you strike someone while using armament haki, the strike is empowered.
There is an advancement of armament haki too, and it can harm people from the inside out.
With gear 4th, Luffy uses armament haki to make his rubber skin stronger.
By doing this, the elasticity of his rubbery skin increases dramatically.
He can stretch much farther and faster.
At the same time, Luffy uses the concept of gear third and blows air into himself.
This inflates him and makes him very light.
Doing this, he can move extremely fast and hit harder than ever.
On top of that, fourth gear actually has three different forms.
Boundman is extremely light and bounces around very quickly.
Tankman makes Luffy a lot bigger and makes his body much tougher.
Snameman slims down his appearance and allows him to change the trajectory of his attacks very quickly.
All three of these forms are part of gear 4th.
Each offers different advantages, but any form is substantially stronger than the lower gears.
As a drawback, when Luffy uses gear 4th, he exhausts his haki and needs time to recover before he can use any more haki.
It’s likely that he will eventually overcome this drawback too, but that has not yet happened in the series.
This is the major spoiler in this article.
As of the time of this writing, gear 5th has not yet been revealed in the anime, and it wasn’t revealed in the manga all that long ago.
It’s Luffy’s newest and most powerful ability, and it’s completely different from the ones before.
Luffy is made of rubber because he ate a devil fruit.
He was told that he ate the gomu gomu no mi (rubber fruit), and it turned his body into rubber.
Based on that, he came up with his fighting style and the previous gears.
It turns out that this was a lie.
Luffy did eat a devil fruit, but it wasn’t the gomu gomu no mi.
Instead, it was the hito hito no mi, model: Nika (human human fruit, model: Nika).
That might sound a little complicated, but it turns out that Luffy ate the mystical zoan fruit that gave him the powers of the sun god, Nika.
This fruit did give his body the properties of rubber, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
You see, devil fruit powers can be awakened.
Basically, when the user gets proficient enough with the fruit, and if their body is strong enough to handle it, they can unlock the full potential of the fruit.
Awakenings usually involve massive increases in devil fruit powers.
When fighting against Kaido, Luffy finally awakened his devil fruit, but since he was using the Nika fruit instead of the rubber fruit, the awakening was surprising.
With this awakening, Luffy’s appearance changed and he appeared to be covered in white flames.
At the same time, he gained the ability to alter the reality around him.
He could rubberize things and people as if they were cartoons (yes, this is a fun bit of irony).
This power allowed him to fight with unparalleled freedom, and he turned a very serious fight into something that looked like an old rubber hose cartoon.
With Luffy’s creativity, this awakening made him even stronger, and he used it (along with his developed haki) to defeat Kaido.
When Luffy awakened the fruit, he called it gear fifth.
It easily eclipsed the power of the other gears.
One Piece isn’t over yet, but it’s possible that gear fifth is the last and strongest gear in Luffy’s arsenal.
So, What Is Gear First?
Luffy never yells “Gear First!” before winding up and punching a bad guy.
It’s not a thing.
So, what is gear first?
Some people might tell you that there is no first gear, but I don’t agree with that.
Even if Luffy doesn’t yell it out, we can reasonably infer that there is a first gear, and the easiest way to understand that is with an automotive analogy.
If you have ever seen a car with a manual transmission, then you can relate to the different gears that Luffy always references.
When you want to go faster, you need to move into a higher gear.
It’s pretty easy.
But, when the car isn’t going fast (or isn’t moving at all), then you might be in first gear.
With a lot of automatic transmissions, you might have a parking gear, but manual transmissions don’t.
Typically, when you park a car with a stick shifter, you leave it in first gear.
It’s the default gear.
It’s the gear for when everything is relaxed or even turned off.
It’s also the starting gear when you begin to drive.
Coming from a stop, you start in first gear and then shift up from there as needed.
That’s what gear first is for Luffy.
It’s his natural state.
He’s in first gear when he’s sleeping or palling around with his crew on the Sunny.
When he doesn’t need to move faster or fight harder, he’s in gear first.
That means that Luffy actually can fight in first gear, and up until the Water 7 saga, he does.
He even defeated one of the Seven Warlords (Crocodile) while in first gear.
So, Luffy’s lowest gear is no laughing matter.
But when things get really serious, he takes things up a notch, and that’s when you’ll see the higher gears.