It was first introduced under the name "Mantra" when Satori used it to fight Sanji, Luffy, and Usopp as they went through the Ordeal of Balls. Aisa is the only known Shandia who has this ability. It served as a plot point when she helped Luffy locate Enel.
It varied in strength between users, with Enel seeming to have the greatest range. With his Devil Fruit, the Goro Goro no Mi, Enel could pick up electromagnetic waves in the air, allowing him to overhear conversations and everything around him; this extended the range of his Mantra to cover roughly all of Skypiea. By comparison, most of the other priests could only keep track of people nearby.
The first time it was seen being used and referred to as Haki was during Luffy's battle on Amazon Lily with the Boa Sisters. Later, Rayleigh explained Haki to Luffy and confirmed that Mantra and Haki are one and the same, and that "Mantra" is simply the Skypiean name for the ability.
Kenbunshoku Haki Users
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The usage of this type of Haki grants its user the ability to access a kind of extrasensory perception, granting the user several helpful abilities. These abilities are great assets in most occasions, especially in combat.
Kenbunshoku Haki, unlike the other types of Haki, has hardly any visible indication when being used in the manga (like the blackening effect of hardening for Busoshoku or the ripple effect for Haoshoku), aside from their enhanced dodge rate. In the anime special Heart of Gold, anime movie One Piece Film: Z and since Whole Cake Island Arc, those who are able to use Kenbunshoku Haki were shown with bright red pupils when sensing incoming attacks, hidden opponents or seeing slightly into the future.
According to Charlotte Katakuri, Kenbunshoku Haki works best if the user is in a calm state. Kenbunshoku Haki works independently from the physical senses. This was proven through Kin'emon, after his body was split apart by Law, when his torso and legs acted independently, relying solely on Haki for guidance.
The most common usage of this Haki allows the user to sense the presence of others. Rayleigh states that to fully master this ability would allow the user to see others, even if they are concealed from view or too far to see naturally.
This type of Haki allows the user to see another person through the aura, be it behind buildings, strategically hidden, or camouflaged. Given this, Kenbunshoku Haki, depending on the level, can discover who is hidden, but still present.
When viewed this way, the user cannot actually see the person or animal with any physical characteristics, but rather recognizes the target(s) by their "aura", which is a mental image of a colored silhouette of them on a dark background, as demonstrated when Usopp sniped Sugar, or how the blind Issho sees the world.
In the unique circumstance of being swallowed by a larger creature and still being alive, the Mantra user will only be able to sense the larger energy signature. This was best shown when Enel failed to discern the presence of Luffy inside the giant snake Nola, only detecting him after he escaped, indicating that her 'voice' most likely enveloped their own when he used the ability. Similarly, Aisa could not detect how the battle was progressing with her Mantra while inside Nola and only found out what happened after she and Luffy escaped.
This application of Haki allows the user to measure the strength of the people whose presence they sense. This usage of Haki is useful in finding "powerful auras", something Sanji displayed in Zou when he sensed Nekomamushi approaching Bege. Through Strength Sensing, the user can easily locate powerful allies and avoid powerful enemies.
This was first seen when Rayleigh used this Haki to sense that there were 500 creatures on Rusukaina who were stronger than Luffy at that time. Another example is when Koby first met Kyros, he could immediately sense that Kyros was very strong.
This variation of Kenbunshoku allows the user to sense and empathize with the emotions and nature of others. For example, Otohime used this Haki to sense the sufferings and emotions in the heart of a Fish-Man thief as well as hear the screams coming from Fisher Tiger's heart. Another example is that Aisa was able to sense Wyper's aggressive nature with this Haki. In addition, Issho sensed no trace of resentment from the citizens of Dressrosa, discovering that they were putting on a facade to help the Straw Hats escape.
However, this ability is not flawless. People with high control over their emotions and acting abilities can somewhat counter this technique. An example of this is Squard, Pudding or Kanjuro, who were able to fool very proficient users of Kenbunshoku Haki like Whitebeard, Sanji or the Nine Red Scabbards.
When someone awakens this ability unconsciously, they become vulnerable to passively empathizing with the negative emotions of others without having the proper mental fortitude. This can be a traumatic experience for the user; especially in the context of several people dying, as the user will passively empathize with strong emotions of fear, pain, and hate. This was shown with Koby and Aisa.
Another variant of Kenbunshoku Haki allows its user to sense another person's intent to act in the immediate future (especially through bloodlust/killing intent within combat), allowing them to predict what someone is going to do, usually seconds prior, in what resembles a pseudo-form of precognition. However, it should not be confused with the actual, literal ability to see into the future which (as explained below) requires another level of skill entirely.
Naturally, this predictive application of Haki is highly helpful in battle, as the user, depending on their level of proficiency, may have a vastly easier time predicting the path of enemy attacks to either dodge or counter them. The more killing intent exuded by a given enemy, the more predictable their attacks, although great enough Kenbunshoku experts can predict enemy moves whether there is murderous intent or not.
Of course, since conscious intent has to be present for one to sense it with Haki, any actions are done unconsciously or with complete indiscrimination cannot be predicted. Luffy, during his fight against Enel, was able to counter the latter's Kenbunshoku by delivering attacks in random, uncontrolled directions. Yet another way to counter predictive Kenbunshoku is by simply being so fast that, even if an enemy can predict one's attack, they cannot dodge in time.
A highly advanced level of Kenbunshoku Haki allows the user to see a short period into the future; instead of just sensing what will happen by intuition, the user of this advanced level of Kenbunshoku Haki can literally see a precise mental image of what will happen in the immediate future. Contrary to basic Haki, there is no need to sense emotions or intention to use this technique. According to Rayleigh, this ability is very difficult to obtain via training, it has to be learned by advancing their Haki in the heat of battle against strong opponents.
This advanced Haki ability has been proven to be an effective countermeasure against Busoshoku Haki for Devil Fruit users whose powers grant shapeshifting abilities, such as Logia's or Special Paramecia's. With Kenbunshoku Haki, they can foresee their opponents' attacks and quickly change the shape of their bodies to avoid contact. Katakuri is a great user of this tactic, as he forms holes in his Mochi body so the attacks pass through empty air without actually touching him, giving the impression that not even Busoshoku Haki works on him, while in reality, the attack simply does not make any contact at all.
Future Vision does have its limitations; unlike basic Kenbunshoku, the user needs to properly focus in order to use this ability. If the user is not concentrating enough, they may be unable to see the future. Only another user of Kenbunshoku Haki with a proficient level or a distraction can counter this ability.
In addition, the user can only interpret the future through their own senses. Katakuri foresaw his sister Pudding crying on the altar, but because he was too far away from her in his vision to hear what had happened, he had no way to know what was about to cause this.
The future that the user sees can be changed, which could result in an outcome that the user failed to foresee. Charlotte Katakuri was able to see Sanji dodging another person's gunshot and tried to intervene, immediately by attacking Sanji himself. However, he was unable to see the outcome of his own intervention of this event in time, resulting in Sanji surprising him when he dodged his attack as well.
Luffy may have used this ability for the first time unconsciously during his encounter against Mihawk at Marineford, allowing him to foresee and avoid the amputation of both of his arms by the sword of the Warlord (Mihawk even pointed that Luffy was being too calm for the time being). Charlotte Katakuri, the strongest Sweet Commander of the Big Mom Pirates, is well known for mastering this technique and a great part of his reputation is thanks to this. The only two people able to evade this technique was Sanji with his speed and his own mastery of Kenbunshoku Haki and Luffy who got to attack Katakuri while he was not focused after his true nature was discovered.
This type of Haki is also known to falter if the user loses their concentration. Satori lost control of his Mantra when Luffy unexpectedly brought the string of exploding balls right to him, enabling Luffy to grab him from behind when the smoke cleared, Gedatsu lost to Chopper because he lost his concentration and his Mantra faltered, and Otohime was killed by a gunshot in the confusion when her petition pages were being burned, as she was caught off guard due to her happiness over everyone signing her petitions, she lost her concentration.
While Kenbunshoku Haki to be very effective against the living and things affected by the conscious thought of the living, such as an enemy’s weapon, its effect is limited against the unconscious, such as purely random things, or that which is affected by reflexes as shown when Luffy fought Enel. It is also limited in sensing things with no intent at all, such as the environment, as shown with Kin'emon whilst his body was separated. His torso and legs were able to move and accurately attack independently thanks to Haki, but still ended up stumbling occasionally, with his torso even being unable to sense the lake and falling into it. Even the blind Issho still requires a cane to navigate his surroundings, despite being able to use Haki to accurately pinpoint the location of other people and differentiate between them.
Additionally, particularly fast opponents can give Kenbunshoku Haki users trouble. While they are able to sense the incoming attack, they still need to dodge it. This was shown in Amazon Lily when Luffy used Gear Second to outpace Boa Sandersonia. This also applies to users of advanced Kenbunshoku Haki. During the raid on Onigashima, Kaido still managed to graze Luffy even though he saw the attack coming due to Kaido's speed.
It is revealed that like Busoshoku Haki, Kenbunshoku Haki can be depleted if used too much.
Training to learn Kenbunshoku Haki involves dodging various types of attacks while blindfolded, as well as counterattacking while blindfolded. One first trains by fighting against animals, and later against humans. Kenbunshoku is easier to use against animals because they show their emotions and act on instinct, unlike humans who are capable of deception.
The most important thing to remember is that every attack carries an intent, and a hint.
Concludes non-canon section.
Translation and Dub Issues
- The concept of Kenbunshoku Haki, known to Skypieans as Mantra, is loosely based on the style of thinking in Hinduism, which goes by the same name.
- Mantra was initially planned to be called "Tazuna".
- In World Seeker, Luffy can use Kenbunshoku Haki to see enemies from behind walls, to slow downtime, and to improve his sneaking prowess with stealth attacks.
- Though it was non-canon when Luffy first found Nidai Kitetsu, he actually detected it with Kenbunshoku Haki. Even before this, Zoro claimed he could detect his Sandai Kitetsu thanks to its aura, which may imply that cursed items may have an intent detectable by Kenbunshoku Haki users.