And subtextually, Luffy’s abilities are perfect for a character that is all about freedom and joy. He’s silly, certainly, but also consistently fascinated by anything (or anyone) that’s different from the norm and a purveyor of open-mindedness. His rubbery ability is a reflection of that very personality; he’s a malleable fellow that interacts with anything from inanimate objects, people, and even governments in any fashion.
Luffy’s latest Gear 5 transformation — since, as any well-cultured individual knows, a Shounen anime introducing a new power up for the main character is treated like the Super Bowl — is so important for all of those very reasons. It’s an amalgamation of all those points baked into a neat stew of childlike joy and earnestness in a world that eerily reflects the shortcomings of our own.
Just look at that little fool go! After having literally been killed by his adversary Kaido — one of the Four Emperors (i.e. strongest pirates in the world) — Luffy inadvertently awakens his devil fruit power, and the revelations come pouring in. It turns out the devil fruit Luffy ate at the beginning of the series wasn’t exactly a rubber one, but rather the true name (the Hito Hito no Mi rather than the previously-titled Gomu Gomu no Mi) suggests something grander. Essentially, the awakened fruit gives the user an array of abilities only limited by imagination.
And in this case, that imagination manifests itself in the form of a genuine cartoon character. It is, as described in the story, the “most ridiculous power in the world.”
Most of the time, when you think of anime power-ups, you conjure up images of Goku’s various Super Saiyan forms. The characters emit an astounding aura around them, harness it, and are made almost comically more powerful than whatever obstacle is in their way. But unlike your Goku’s and Naruto’s and Deku’s, Luffy’s Gear 5 isn’t just the usual “oh, now he’s SUPER DUPER stronger and faster!” sort of affair. Sure, those are part of it, but there’s an emphasis placed on creativity here.
Instead of a confident glare, Luffy’s Gear 5 arrives with laughter. Instead of moving so fast it’s as if he’s teleporting, he moves like the Looney Toons Roadrunner. Rather than strength being measured purely by the character punching their adversary through multiple mountains or whatever, Luffy simply plays jump rope with them. Every “gear” of Luffy’s power has always had a wacky element to it, but never to this extent.