I’m proud of myself, readers. Not only did I finish a shounen series, I finished one of the most memed anime series of the current generation. While it only consisted of the debut 26 episodes, I have now familiarized myself enough with the material to understand internet culture just a little more. My lifelong goal as an internet historian/archivist is ever-so-slightly closer to being achieved.
I’ll preface this write-up by saying that I had a lot of preconceived expectations for JoJo. Nothing in terms of overall quality, as I assumed I would find this mediocre, but rather stylistically. For a name like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, I thought it would be, well, bizarre. Shockingly (to me), it’s pretty tame with its presentation and situations, at least for Part I (more on that later). It’s pretty standard fare of good vs. evil, train and face off against a big battle, and heroic escapades. What ends up being bizarre is the way the characters try to one-up one another in battle, along with some floating, bouncy text and random color changes.
Another thing I’ll state is that I had no idea of the “part” system that this series employs. It was kind of curious to me to see Stardust Crusaders as “Part 3” on MyAnimeList and be marked as the direct sequel to this series. “Wait, why is this not Part 2?” I got my answer upon viewing this.
The rest of this post will be slightly spoiler-ish, so I would recommend that if you want to go in completely blind to skip until the end. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, consisting of 26 episodes and airing in 2012, is split up into two parts. There are the first nine episodes that take place in the late 1800s and revolve around Jonathan Joestar. Episodes ten through the rest of the broadcast take place 50-ish years later and star Jonathan Joestar’s grandson, Joseph. The time skip presents a different variation of what is essentially the same story (from what I can gather) told from a different perspective. After the shock wore off that the first part ended so succinctly, I began to see value in the structure of the story.
With this in mind, it ends up having each part host their own issues. Part I consists of nine episodes—is that enough time to properly develop characters, a story, and motivations? From my viewpoint, only slightly. Jonathan and Dio, the main antagonist, were by far the most interesting characters in the beginning, and their complex relationship remained something that was fascinating to see unfold onscreen. Everything else, well, didn’t prove as successful. Basically every other character ranged from filler stand-in to downright annoying (I hate Speedwagon), and the emotional tale of Zeppeli did not have the impact the series intended for due to just how little he’s actually a part of the group. Most of Part I’s issues stem from just how much they have to cram into just nine episode… and the first three episodes are kind of just an introductory period to the whole Joestar background.
Part II I will go slightly more in-depth with, simply because it benefits from the added context of Part I and has far more episodes to properly develop its characters and story. After the events of Part I, we move to Jonathan, who, in my opinion, is more interesting/entertaining as a character and lead than his grandfather. Jonathan was very admirable, “gentlemanly,” and fiercely pure. He was what many would consider a pure archetype for an epic hero. Some may find that boring (I wasn’t super keen overall), while others feel that more necessary to actually care about the hero. Joseph is more standoffish, witty, and almost punk-like in his attitude, exuding a level of arrogance in his abilities that could almost shine him as unlikeable. Though for me, this is what makes him more interesting, as his battle schemes feel more believable and, by comparison, more unpredictable. It’s more fun to watch.
The overall path the story takes in both parts are, boiled down, fairly generic. A hero is established, a threat is established, the hero goes off to face said threat and, given the outcome, trains to become stronger in the meantime. There are a few other similarities, but that would be encroaching hardcore spoiler territory. There are certainly differences, specifically in how the threats are maintained, handled, and ultimately quelled, and most of the “fun” of JoJo is in the exaggerative detail. Sure, we can defeat the villains, but how do we defeat the villains in an incredibly over-the-top fashion? JoJo tries to go for the “EPIC” moniker whenever possible, trying to instill the memory of big, sweeping attacks and events to titillate the audience (Dragon Ball Z comes to my mind as most similar in this regard). With a big emphasis on “Destiny” and family bloodlines, it does seem to be leaning towards old-fashioned epics and such.
What Part II does manage to accomplish that the prior doesn’t is pleasantly immersing the viewer into the world—emphasis on the word “pleasantly.” Part I is incredibly rushed from its starting line to end, especially from episode four onward. The first three episodes almost seem to be a part of another world, separate from the rest but connected through related characters. Part II establishes itself from around the very beginning, and has more than one-cour of content to build itself a competent path to follow. It ebbs, of course, but it continues down a relatively straightforward path from heroic introductions to big, bad final fight. This helps when important characters do have emotional moments that carry weight for others, as the viewer has had more time to watch their personal growth. It just goes to show that having a set path and time to ruminate in the fine details pay off in the end.
It may sound to you, reader, that I really liked this show, that aside from Part I’s pacing issues I found myself very fond of what was happening onscreen. That would be logical given what I’ve said thus far, but let me pull back the curtain a bit and get “real” with you for a paragraph or two.
I don’t like shounen anime. It incorporates a lot of clichés and executional standards that I believe hamper a story’s potential. JoJo is very much a shounen anime, complete with many of the things the genre typically provides that I don’t care for. Worst of all of it is the abundant amount of exposition and inner monologues, which completely destroy what may already be considered a floundering pace. JoJo, in layman’s terms, will not shut the fuck up. Someone pulls off a bizarre feat in battle—the result is that character or the character they’re battling beginning to explain in-depth as to how they or that person managed to do so. Constantly. Characters blabber on constantly about how powerful they are or how the other is weak or trying to formulate in their head what to do or whatever else you can think of. There is a lot of unnecessary dialogue that just halts the pace considerably.
To some extent, I also believe the “bizarre” moniker the series tries so hard to live up to can occasionally act as a double-edged sword. Part I isn’t really that bizarre; feels more akin to Castlevania than anything else. Part II is when the absurdity begins to pick up quite a bit, complete with wacky characters, bubbles as lethal weapons, and downright confusing battle tactics. However, there’s a certain point where the series tries to be both serious and goofy and can’t seem to really commit to one side. It can serve as a detriment to the generally serious events of preventing world domination when the characters decide that they should battle in a Rome-esque chariot race… what? The way characters try to one-up one another in battle can also be pretty taxing.
When it comes down to putting all things considered into a tangible rating, I would say that JoJo (parts 1 and 2) is an above-average series, with Part II being a wee bit better than Part I. Most of what brings it down is what most shounen titles employ that brings it down for me. An immersive and memorable series full of emotional moments and powerful send-offs, sponged with abundant overexpository details and pacing issues. There were times where I wanted to drop this, along with times I had the “Just one more episode” itch. It’s somewhat inconsistent, but also commendable for its style and knowledge of how to pump up a world and its characters. It’s a surefire recommendation for shounen fans and a casual recommendation for those a little less keen. It wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. I’ll likely continue it at some point.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.