A few years ago, I wrote about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and how much I enjoyed it. At the time, I had seen the first two story arcs of the anime and reach halfway through the third on the manga it’s adapted from, but because of changes in my life, I lost track of the series and didn’t see the adaptation of the third story arc, Stardust Crusaders.
Until now. I’ve been enjoying it for the past couple of weeks, taking any free time I can to go through its 48 episodes of pure undiluted madness.
Everything that made me love Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in its two starting arcs is back in Stardust Crusaders and turned up to 11. I lament the loss of Hamon, the exaggerated version of the standard-fare anime super martial art, since it led to some insane moments in the earlier arcs and some truly colourful characters. But with the focus lessened on Vampires, with only Dio Brando as one such creature.
But in place of Hamon we have what is perhaps one of the most creative superpowers I’ve ever seen in an anime: The Stand, which starting from this storyline becomes the main power throughout the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure series. I say it’s creative because stands can be just about anything.
With Stands, Hirohiko Araki creates powers that match the characters’ personalities, aesthetics and stories, without worrying if these abilities will be useful in combat or not, which tends to be the downfall of shonen series, where everything has to be combat-related since fights are the main focus.
But Stands are all over the place in terms of skills and abilities. Even the main party has a Stand user, Joseph Joestar—returning from the 2nd story arc as a secondary character to his grandson Kujo Jotaro—whose Stand, Hermit Purple’s main skill is augury. It’s profoundly weak in combat and is mostly a utility power.
The Stands they meet range from purely combat oriented to camouflage, the ability to possess dolls and even turning people’s souls into gambling chips. Every character they meet is a refreshing new antagonist, as you can never truly predict what the hell their stand is going to be.
Beyond the powers though, what I still find to be the best part of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is not only how over the top everything is, including the brutality of killings. It’s brilliantly gory in that way that adds to the campiness, much like in Evil Dead/Army of Darkness, only rarely being visually shocking and done only to emphasise how villainous a character is. The barrage of references to music is there as well, including a henchman called Vanilla Ice, a dog named Iggy (Pop) and a falcon called Pet Shop (Boys). There’s also the fact that no one is remotely normal, but some freakish character with one form of extreme personality or other. Joseph Joestar now randomly shouts curse words in English, because he’s the American character and so must use random expletives.
But, the one element of this over the top nature of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure that they really went out to make as insane as possible, and which I still absolutely adore, is that no one has an inner monologue. They all feel the desperate need to shout out—top of the lungs too—every single idea that crosses through their mind, especially if that thought is the play-by-play of what just happened on screen. It’s ludicrous and it might put you off, but I just think it’s brilliant. Only the main villain is even remotely subtle, and it’s perhaps the only reason the length of the quest to find him makes sense.
Hell, there’s an episode from a Stand User Dog’s point of view and even the dog lacks an inner monologue, verbalising everything happening. It’s just completely insane!
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s third arc, Stardust Crusaders still manages to deliver a satisfying story though, with complex characters with different motivations and closes off the original Joestar saga, adding some Vampire action near the end for a little nostalgia.
If you enjoyed the first couple of story arcs, you’ll love this one. And if you don’t know much of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, then you should definitely give it a shot. It’s brilliant in its sheer madness.