A few weeks ago I decided to sit down and watch the entirety of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I did so partly out of boredom, but also to seek an answer to a question that’s plagued me for years. That question being, just how bizarre could the show truly be? I’ve known of the series for years and even watched the original OVA adaption of Stardust Crusaders. Back then, I had assumed that beyond the OVA, that’s all we would get from the property here in the states until I began seeing the influx of memes, and random posts online about the series. Even becoming aware of not only the series but the wealth of manga the series was adapting, couldn’t bring me to sit down and figure out the complicated world of the Joestars’. I viewed the length of the series as an insurmountable challenge I simply didn’t have the time or energy to complete, even though over the past few years I attempted to dabble with it, entering their adventure at awkward and confusing junctures. Different Joestar’s? Over a hundred years of storytelling? To the uninitiated, these concepts, combined with the outlandish nature of anime could serve as a deterrent. For too long it did for me, and how truly thankful I am to have made the time to explore this completely insane universe.
To answer one of the biggest questions I’ve heard over the years, I can confidently state that Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure at its core, is a love letter to not only classic anime fans, but video game enthusiasts as well. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure owes as much to Hokuto No Ken, as it does Konami’s Castlevania series. The very nature of the Joestar family’s quest is largely rooted (albeit) loosely, on the crusade Leon Belmont began against Dracula. Yes, the story essentially is about a families 100+ year battle, against a vampire!
Swapping Leon for Jonathan, we begin a tale of two bitter rivals, that eventually extends to Jonathan’s great-grandson. During Jonathan’s time, we explore a rare supernatural art known as “Hamon” (i.e. Ripple) which he uses to combat the forces of evil, eventually “passing it down” to his Grandson. The bitter rivalry and war between Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando are highly reminiscent of the quest of the Belmont family to rid itself and the world of Dracula and the forces of evil. It’s here, that the story allows itself to extend beyond the main antagonist, to include a host of other supernatural villains for the family to fight, while remaining rooted to the evil machinations of Dio, and the Joestars’ dedication to stopping him.
Along the way, we’re introduced to wonderful side characters and treated to amazing Shonen Jump style anime fights. The first part of the series is rather short while pushing the world building forward considerably in its second part. Vampires, supernatural martial arts, pretty tame stuff…until you reach the third part of the series. I personally believe that part three is where the “Bizarre” in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure truly derives from. Without warning, the series abandons Hamon, and shifts its focus to “Stand Users”.
Before delving further into Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, let me first take the time talk about one of the main underlying themes of the series. That theme being Legacy. Our journey begins in the first part of the series, “Phantom Blood”, but that series’ consequences can be felt all the way through part six. While the legacy of the Joestar family grows throughout the century or so that the series takes place, so does the strength of Dio’s influence, as well as his actions against the family, and “the world”.
Jonathan was nothing more than an entry point, and partial catalyst to the conflict that extends till the end of the original JoJo timeline (more on that later). Hirohiko Araki (creator of the Jojo universe) lamented the almost perfect nature of Jonathan Joestar. He was modeled after the action stars of the ’80s, along with the typical anime hero tropes of the time (i.e. Hokuto No Ken) while seemingly lacking any hard edges. Araki felt that Jonathan, although key to the narrative, limited the longevity of the series, and hindered the growth of the overall franchise.
This choice leads us (in my humble opinion) to one of the most endearing characters in anime and manga, that being the second JoJo within JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Joseph Joestar. Now those who know of the series will argue that discounting George Joestar (and his Grandson George Joestar ii) is a disservice, but I’m only seeking to discuss the main protagonists of the JoJo series. Joseph was a departure from the stoic, noble, and often dry Jonathan. Street Smart, and naturally gifted with the ability to use Hamon, Joseph injected the series with a level of humor that was sadly missing from the first part of the series. Brash, arrogant, manipulative, Joseph brought us into the early 20th century while pushing the narrative forward in a refreshing, unexpected, yet completely connected direction. While we ultimately take a break from feud established in the previous part, we are greeted to new enemies and supporting characters, as we delve into the origins of the Joestar family’s 100+ year battle.
I’m actively choosing to avoid as many spoilers as possible, as I feel the series is best seen, rather than explained, but ultimately, “Battle Tendency” is a wonderful Shonen series, complete with amazing battles, memorable side characters, and extends the theme of legacy and heroism into a new generation. There are quite a few heartbreaking deaths along the way, revelations made, and relationships forged, ultimately culminating in a wonderful globetrotting adventure, to rid the world of yet more vampires! I thoroughly enjoyed the story for part two, yet have to admit that although I loved Joseph and his world in the 1930s, his use of Hamon, and explanation for the vampires of the series, I really loved the return the series made to the overarching plot of the Joestar/ Brando feud. I also enjoyed the switch to the 80s and the fact that Araki saw fit to bring back part two’s protagonist in a supporting role, all while giving us the JoJo that for a time, was the most recognizable. I’ll be covering my thoughts about part three, and four in my next installment, as well as exploring the intricacies of not only the characters, but the endless musical and pop culture references Araki relies on to craft his world. We’ll also discuss “Stands”, and the series transition to more supernatural elements, culminating in why I feel that part three should have been the end of the series while extending a warning for why part five should be the end of your “Bizarre” adventure.