One Piece Philippines – What is the inspiration for Devil Fruits?

It is possible that he was inspired by the biblical story, the conflict between the Ancient Kingdom and the World Government has been described as a battle between “heaven and hell”. However, the parallels there don’t go very deep.

Honestly, the real inspiration was simply functional.

Oda knew he wanted the people in his world to have powers. But he didn’t want everyone to have powers (even though he has eventually written himself into a situation where basically anyone who is anyone has a devil fruit and even if they don’t they have haki powers to make up for not having one). Furthermore he wanted these powers to be limited— so, for his protagonist he knew he wanted him to have rubber powers but he didn’t want that to mean that his protagonist could simply learn all other powers he encountered.

In an earlier draft of One Piece the first enemy that Luffy encountered had actual magic, the nebulous kind where it wasn’t clear what he could and couldn’t do. This was thrown out as he wanted the world to have a stricter magic system with specific rules. By having such limits in place in your story. I would definitely recommend this if one writes a story with magic, the limitations actually allow you to create better scenarios and solutions to those scenarios and force you to be more creative.

When many worlds do this, they do it by simply having the character born special and have whatever power they were born with— even if it doesn’t manifest until later in life. See X-Men or Hero Academia for good examples of this. But Oda didn’t want to use the excuse ‘they were just born special’ for the powers. Perhaps specifically he already had in mind the idea of someone who doesn’t have powers obtaining something and then they would gain powers as part of a story arc. For instance, the first enemy that Luffy fought came back at the end of the first arc having gained powers and greatly altered her appearance.

And, finally, the devil fruits origin and purpose within the world is not fully explained. It seems almost certain that they are artificial and created in an ancient past that has been forcefully erased from history. This can help keep people invested and interested in the story.

So the devil fruits serve the function of being a device that
1) Grants people very limited and defined magical powers
2) Can be obtained and granted after a character is introduced with no powers
3) Serves as an ongoing mystery to keep readers engaged or coming back if their attention is pulled elsewhere