JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has been around for decades and been called one of the most influential Shonen Jump manga ever, but it’s never been a big deal in the United States until recently. There’s always been a fandom for it thanks to the 90’s OVAs and the memes spawned by the video games such as “ZA WARUDO”, and Part 3 of the manga was published by Viz Media, but it’s never been discussed with the same fervor as say Dragon Ball or Death Note. That all changed this year with the anime adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, the famous Part 3 that introduced the concept of Stands to the series and has used as its main appeal since. Yet I was not looking forward to Stardust Crusaders when it aired this spring. In fact, I was ready to hate it.
My prior experience with JoJo’s had not been all that pleasant truth be told. I enjoyed the 90’s OVA well enough despite not getting the story since it only adapted parts of the Egypt arc. The highlights for me were the poker match between D’arby and the Crusaders and the final confrontation with DIO. I may not have known the backstory for DIO and the Joestars without Wikipedia, but DIO is so cool that he doesn’t need explanation. So in 2012 when JoJo’s was getting a TV adaptation of the first two parts of the manga, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, of course I was excited. I wanted to know more about this strange franchise. This was before Crunchyroll picked up the show, so I had to resort to fansubs to watch. I dropped after the first three episodes.
On paper, Phantom Blood is okay. It sets up the conflict between the Joestars and DIO that is present throughout the first 6 parts of JoJo’s. And yet, I dunno, I just couldn’t get into Phantom Blood. Jonathan Joestar is a bland protagonist, I thought the conflict with his father liking Dio more than him was kind of lame, and there were no Stands! Nothing was as gripping as that gambling match with D’arby in Part 3. Worst of all, Phantom Blood looks so ugly. It easily has the worst animation of all the anime adaptations, and the purple-and-green filters look cheap, not cool. Coming from the 90’s OVA, I just found the whole thing jarring and unpleasant to look at, and I wasn’t enjoying it.
Some former friends of mine were big JoJo’s fans, and they gave me a really hard time about not liking Phantom Blood, to the point I grew sour towards JoJo’s as a whole. I wouldn’t bother with JoJo’s again until this spring. Getting back into Stardust Crusaders helped me learn to love JoJo’s. Its first episode was a tremendous improvement over Phantom Blood. Already the color palette, animation, and direction were much better, old Joseph Joestar was a riot, and it introduced Stands! I think Stands are the coolest invention of Shonen Jump manga. Not only do they allow for infinite possibilities of superpowers, unlike Hamon, I just like the idea of having a cool ghost to summon at your side to fight with you. RIP Hamon.
As of now, I’ve not only bought and read all of the Stardust Crusaders manga, I went back and finished the 2012 JoJo’s anime. I’m still not a fan of Phantom Blood, but thankfully it’s short. However, I’m glad I sat through Battle Tendency. It may not have Stands, but it does have Joseph Joestar, easily one of the most fun Shonen Jump protagonists ever. He has no desire to be the best at whatever, he’s not even that good of a fighter, and he runs away a lot, but that’s part of his charm. Like Indiana Jones, which Battle Tendency as a whole seems to be influenced by, Joseph’s charm comes from his ability to bullshit his way through circumstances and survive by the skin of his teeth.
I’ve also been reading the later parts of the JoJo’s manga, and they’re so good. Part 4, Diamond is Unbreakable, screws around a lot and doesn’t have quite the forward momentum of earlier parts, but it also has some of the most creative battles and goofiest moments in all of JoJo’s. Part 7, Steel Ball Run, is the best by virtue of having the most compelling story and character writing in the whole series, and seeing how Araki’s art has evolved over 7 parts is really interesting. It’s a homoerotic race across America involving shapeshifting dinosaurs, dimension-hopping presidents, and Jesus Christ himself. I really hope this gets an anime adaptation, but we got 4 other parts to get through first!
Rarely do I get into a franchise after initially hating it, but sometimes it pays to delve a little deeper and give them a second chance. It’s easy to see why JoJo’s has endured and finally gained popularity in the United States. Few series are as consistently entertaining and embracing of weird shit like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. So now that I’ve given JoJo’s a second chance and ended up loving it, maybe I should give the Monogatari series another chance? Eh, maybe not.
Day 4 preview: Part 1 of a Studio Ghibli retrospective. I discuss my mixed reactions to The Wind Rises and my thoughts on Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement.