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Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (TV)
This first series of recent Jojo adaptations adapted two story arcs from the manga, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency. With that being said, I will be reviewing both arcs to the series separately since their quality varies between both.|
Phantom Blood's role is to introduce Dio Brando and how he would become entangled with the Joestar family bloodline for later installments of the franchise. The storytelling here is rather bland to a good extent as it lacks the energy found with later story arcs of the series and our lead protagonist, Jonathan Joestar, is rather cliched with his typical pure-hearted personality. Ruthless parenting and strained sibling relationships are nothing new in anime, with these storytelling elements making Phantom Blood feel rather dated in terms of plot. On the plus side, later developments in Phantom Blood do redeem the arc somewhat when Dio's transformation into a vampire, the over-the-top action scenes and the title's penchant for naming characters after American rock musicians pop up.
Battle Tendency is where Jojo's trademark energetic and over-the-top characters and battles are fully shown off when Jonathan's grandson, Joseph, is our new protagonist when he clashes with the Pillar Men. Unlike his grandfather, Joseph is a more fun protagonist here as he is more impulsive, loves to toy with his foes regardless of how heated things get and is known to improvise quite a bit to get himself out of heated situations. The Pillar Men are just as eccentric as Joseph with their personality quirks and being named after American music bands, yet are still formidable enough with their abilities to be legitimate threats to Joseph and his allies that test their abilities for combat and show off Joseph improvising whatever means he can think up of overcoming them. The substance of the series in terms of plot and characters is rather typical of shounen titles in its haphazard revelations and developments, but the style it milks is what allows Jojo to stick out from most franchises appealing to the demographic.
In terms of presentation, this animated spin on Jojo does well for the most part with showing off the title's trademark energetic and over-the-top look. Details drawn on characters are exaggerated with the large, muscular bodies of the male cast and the series has fun milking use of bright color tones to compliment the energetic mood of the series. Stylistic approaches to the series such as some of the ridiculous poses struck by characters and sound effect texts displayed onscreen add to the title's fun approach. The soundtrack is energetic and diverse with musical selections such as militaristic themes, opera pieces and mysterious beats that help to enhance the exaggerated feel of scenes played out throughout the series. The only low point of the title's presentation comes from its rather subpar animation as shortcuts are employed at a number of points throughout the title's run such as still shots, jump shots and speed stripes.
Issues aside, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure was still a fun romp for the most part thanks to its stylish approach with its characters and battles and shows that there are occasions where style can prevail over substance as Hellsing Ultimate proved. Might consider giving later titles in the franchise a look whenever the opportunity arises.
Last updated Thursday, January 08 2015. Created Thursday, January 08 2015.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (TV)
(All episodes watched):|
Whereas the plot of the show which I had watched just before Jojo seemed to go nowhere, here the story immediately took off and, if anything is wrong with it, moves too fast. Yet much of the synopsis above remains unrevealed at the end of episode one, which suggested that this story had a long, long way to go (which turned out to be correct). But this show really was telling an interesting story which I could get into, so that seemed that this being a 26-er should be good news. I got the funny feeling during episode one that somehow the premise of Jojo felt like a 19th century novel--a story is clearly told, the characters are fully fleshed out (Jojo good, Dio bad), and the story goes slightly overboard. It's hard to put these qualities into words, but I wondered if this story might really have been written 150-odd years ago, because the storytelling style is that different than what we normally get from anime. The feeling was largely limited to the first episode or two and faded away afterwards, but I think it was worth mentioning anyhow. Dio is a total bastard who it would be hard not to hate. The violence put me off a little; little did I expect what sort of action this show would feature later on. Character designs are very distinctive, as is obvious from the image above. I was left curious to see where this would go. Even if the mask element was omitted, it already had all the signs of a skillfully told story.
It was episode two which made clear how totally over-the-top the series was going to be. Several times during episode two I burst out laughing at the bizarre action--like the totally un-19th century punks that Jojo runs into and the manner in which he deals with them. But I was enjoying it thoroughly. It reminded me of Fist of the North Star in a way. The wild, half anime, half manga OP sequence had me giggling with delight, and the choice of the ED song--'Roundabout', a 1971 tune by the group Yes--was both odd and cool to say the least. It kind of seemed as if the makers had taken the shortest possible route between manga and anime—by all rights, the results should be pathetic, but this show had such spunk that I liked it. Maybe the odd style was intentional. Whatever the case might be, this is one freaky show.
The freakiness continues in episode three, as Dio makes use of the mysterious mask to escape after his plot is exposed. It got a little too crazy at times, and became hard to take seriously, but a scene that you would think would be reserved for the final episode takes place, and we are left wondering where the show will go from here. Something about Jojo pursuing Dio all over the world, perhaps. Episode four was great fun as Jojo finds himself with a new ally, Baron Zepelli, an Italian expert in mystical martial art techniques designed to defeat vampires. Along with 'Speedwagon' a team of colorful charachters comes together in order to take on Dio and his minions. This show is shamelessly bizarre; the philosophy seems to be that nothing is too weird if it is carried forward in a spirited manner. It's not exactly plausible, but it is unique and I can't help enjoying it.
One unusual thing about this show is that major characters sometimes get killed, and sometimes are still around long, long after you would think they would be gone. Assumptions that happen automatically—like Dio will be the main villain and will not be defeated once-and-for-all until the final episode—turn out to be untrue. The result is pleasing unpredictability. A character who seemed set to go the distance buys it, while a seemingly minor one doesn't--it's counter to everything watching anime has taught me. Some new teammembers join up with Jojo to replace the loss. Yet another character who you wouldn't expect the series to lose, at least not until the final episode, dies in episode nine--yet the story goes on.
Another strange thing about Jojo is that around a third of the way through the series the story leaps ahead several decades, from 1888 to 1938. A new villain and a new hero, the original Jojo's grandson, (with a new sidekick) appear. It became clear at this point that this was going to be a 26 episode series, and I wasn't sure if that was good news or bad, because it might be kind of hard to take the freaky premise seriously for six months. But this show does not give you time to ask yourself whether it is plausible or not, it only gets more outlandish. In episode 11 we are introduced to a Nazi occult unit operating in Mexico in 1938--sort of like an Indiana Jones movie. A new, wild and colorful OP sequence for arc two has been introduced. If this show took itself more seriously, it might all fall flat; but since it doesn't, it remains fun and entertaining
'Bizarre' does not nearly describe episode twelve; 'insane' would be more appropriate. When we see the disguise that Jojo has put on to infiltrate the Nazi hideout I wasn't sure whether it was criminally stupid or outrageously hilarious; in the end after a couple seconds of indecision I burst out laughing. In fact, at the end I had tears in my eyes from all the laughing I did during this episode. In spite of the humor this show has a definite 'coolness' to it, what with the brash, sassy attitude of Jojo Junior. And the problems he encounters are so far-out that you would think that the writers of this show were high on something while doing their jobs. Priceless. I was pleasantly surprised at the way Sturmfuhrer Stroheim behaved when things got out of hand, rather than just being another mindless bad guy like his subordinates.
The show does get a little formulaic, however. At times you think that things are verging on boring, and some parts are better than others. In Rome yet another set of seemingly invincible, Godlike evil supermen comes forward. If even bubbles can be a deadly weapon, then you don't know what to think, or how strong and how weak anybody really is. I thought the fight in the Colosseum was much less fun than the one in Mexico had been. Of course this was basically one where Jojo and his new ally are basically helpless against bad guys who seem even stronger than before. It's the usual 'we meet an opponent who is surely invincible, yet the hero comes up with a way to beat him anyhow' bit. But for the most part the unpredictability and the colorful characters manage to keep this from devolving into a boring fight of the week show.
The fights are bizarre, with totally impossible stuff happening routinely; at least that keeps them from getting too boring. Even though they are in the midst of fights for their lives, and have only a split second to spare, characters deliver detailed explanations of what's going on. At one point a mask-man has lost both his arms and has a gaping hole blown through his chest, which must have cost him his heart. Is he down and out? Of course not. You never know what tricks these guys have up their sleeves. Things get weird in the climactic duel between Jojo and the remaining 'Pillar Men'. I wasn't sure if the makers had run out of bizarre twists and were grasping for whatever they could find, or if this was fun and campy. But I enjoyed it in the end, especially the point where Jojo is rescued from what seems like certain death (nothing is certain in this show).
I think in the end the secret to Jojo was that it was a fighting show which bent the laws of physics as it pleased, ignored principles of time and space, was totally outlandish--yet we didn't care, we even enjoyed this, because it had a clever, campy style to it. If only a few more shows could accomplish something like this. It got kind of tiresome here and there, but the high points made watching the slow episodes completely worthwhile. If anybody ever asks me to recommend a 'crazy anime', this one will come to mind. Now, was that bit at the very end about a sequel series serious or not?
My favorite line: "I only ever make way for me morning bowel movement!" --Jojo Jr.
Last updated Wednesday, May 15 2013. Created Tuesday, October 16 2012.