There are many reasons why Vegapunk couldn’t restore Kuma’s humanity. It could be a matter of skills, resources, or even a matter of choice.
The following contains spoilers for One Piece Chapter 1071, “Hero Deployment,” by Eiichiro Oda, Stephen Paul, and Vanessa Satone, available in English from Viz Media.
Bonney Jewelry was given a key role in One Piece’s Egghead Arc. She’s on the island of science to get Dr. Vegapunk to restore humanity to her father Bartholomew Kuma. It was determined that he regretted turning Kuma into a Pacifista from the start, so he should be willing to help Bonney with this. However, in Chapter 1071, “Hero Deploys”, he says he can’t do it and for a good reason.
The fact that the chapter ended without Vegapunk giving a reason suggests that it could be more complicated than one might think. Otherwise, there’s no point in keeping the audience in suspense. Looking at Vegapunk’s words like this, there could be all sorts of reasons why he couldn’t fix Kuma.
What is the reason why Vegapunk can’t turn Bartholomew Kuma back into a human?
Maybe restoring the robot’s free will is a matter of skill. As simple as the fact that Vegapunk was able to remove Kuma’s humanity and turn him into a mindless machine, perhaps returning it was a different story altogether. However, the only satisfying way for this spin-off to have a happy ending is if there’s a way to turn Kuma back into a human. The validity of this possibility depends on how much Eiichiro Oda wants to make this part of the story dark.
It’s also possible that Vegapunk doesn’t have the resources to restore Kuma, at least not at hand. He may have the tools to repair him or whatever he holds Kuma’s memories in his hand, but he needs Kuma himself to perform any form of restoration; it’s like how Trafalgar Law can switch people’s bodies, but only if they’re in the same place at the same time. Since Kuma was currently busy in Red Port for some unknown reason, there was nothing Vegapunk could do. However, if it were as simple as that, Vegapunk could probably have said it and saved everyone from the suspense, so that might not be the case, at least not quite.
Maybe he wanted Bonney to do it. Restoring Kuma’s mind could be as simple as reassembling any drive or disk or similar object that holds his memories on it. If that’s the case, then Vegapunk may feel that the responsibility of restoring his humanity should fall to his daughter.
What makes this especially possible is Vegapunk’s statement from Chapter 1067, “Punk Records”. He said he had something to give Bonney. This could be anything from her dad’s memory drive to the last recording he made for her. Whatever it is, it’s likely related to Vegapunk’s ability or inability to restore Kuma.
Does Kuma want to be a Pacifista?
Kuma becoming a cyborg could also have been a conscious choice on his part. For now, the details surround why he decided to work for the World Government. He may have reached some sort of agreement with them to protect someone or something close to him. Maybe he wanted to do some secret spying work for the Revolutionary Army; he might even be the one who says he wants to be turned into a machine just to earn more trust from the World Government. Whatever the reason for Kuma’s removal of humanity, it’s probably something Vegapunk intends to respect.
As for whether Vegapunk really can’t fix Kuma, that remains to be seen. His “good reason” for why he can’t do it can be anything from physical to moral. Whatever it was, it would have to be a pretty cool thing to get Bonney to stop trying to kill him for it.
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