JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure OVA Review: Stardust Crusaders and The Bizarre Release Order
So this winter break I’ve gotten around to quite a bit of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and as it happens, the very first thing I finished of it over the break was the 1993 OVA. I’m a huge fan of the JoJo series and I first began reading the manga a few years ago when I was in middle school, really loving it. For some reason or another, I got distracted/lazy/a number of other things and just didn’t get around to catching up to it. I read the first 5 parts and got halfway through 6 but stopped and just didn’t get back to it (which is quite a shame because part 6 and beyond are indeed great as expected of the JoJo name, but that’s for another day). Much to my surprise, the JoJo anime of 2012 came out and did a brilliant job of covering parts 1 and 2 (again, more on that is also for another day). I ended up watching through a little over half of the 2012 anime with a friend but didn’t get around to finishing that for some time either, though nowhere near as long as the many years between my part 5 and parts 6-8 run. Since I got through a good portion of the 2012 anime already, I decided I might as well finish that before jumping into the remaining manga content. Some of you probably already know that I’m a bit of a picky person about watching order and almost always stick to release order, and to no surprise I did this with the JoJo anime adaptations as well and I think it was ultimately for the better. That said, I would not recommend others do the same for a variety of reasons, with the exception of those who (like me) are familiar with the manga, or at least parts 1-3. Since I’ve rambled a bit about my history with the fantastic series that is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, I suppose I should get back to the main topic at hand: What did I think of the 1993 OVA? Well, it didn’t do a bad job with its material, but it’s certainly not the strongest adaptation out there and could probably be skipped on, even more so with this year in mind than in the past.
JoJo OVA covers material from the third part of the manga, Stardust Crusaders. A teenager named Jotaro Kujo learns that he has a strange ability, which he discovers is a Stand. Stands are essentially spiritual manifestations that appear next to the user and can be used to battle. Jotaro and his grandfather Joseph find they have such powers due to the appearance of Dio, who for a variety of (spoilerish) reasons has led to the awakening of their abilities. Jotaro’s mother Holly also gains the Stand ability but is unable to handle it and thus becomes sick. As a result, Jotaro and his companions (many of whom join along the journey for various reasons) set off to Egypt in order to defeat Dio and save Holly. Those who are unfamiliar with the series probably wouldn’t understand this, as the details of it all are covered at the beginning of part 3 and to get the full impact of the story, one would have to be familiar with the first two parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to truly grasp the significance of Dio. As it happens, however, the JoJo OVA jumps about halfway into the story, thus skipping a lot of the introduction explanation I’ve given and leaving the viewer to figure out a lot of this on their own as the anime goes on. The OVA begins with the introduction of an independent yet powerful dog named Iggy and a battle against an individual named N’Doul. The OVA has 6 episodes that proceed to cover material up to the final fight of part 3, and as one might expect, that means a lot is skipped over (even beyond the introduction and exposition about the story in general). This makes for a very confusing watch for newcomers as well as a very short run for what is initially a pretty lengthy story.
As a huge fan of the JoJo series (and part 3 especially), I’ve always been quite engrossed by the series. While part 3’s plot is relatively simple, I found it to be a very exciting ride when I read the manga, and even though this OVA isn’t exactly the strongest of adaptations, the parts adapted properly were extremely enjoyable for the Stardust Crusaders fan in me. It was very exciting seeing the D’Arby episode and the final battle was also a great watch. On the other hand, the Vanilla Ice fight was extremely disappointing here in comparison to how it was in the manga. Fans of the manga will definitely appreciate some of the highlights of the OVA, but as a standalone installment it doesn’t have great value and those who are not acquainted with the source material will not appreciate it nearly as much. The OVA pretty much consists of fights (with one notable exception) and the heroes going from one place to another to reach their destination and there isn’t a whole lot plotwise beyond that. In short, those who can really enjoy the fights will probably be content with those OVA, but viewers who are not so engrossed by the action really won’t get much at all from the OVA experience alone. Considering the OVA’s release and how it was all handled, it’s clear that this set of episodes was meant for JoJo fans rather than other viewers, as there really isn’t much of any value, development, or significance for people who just jump into the second half of the third part of a long Shounen action series. Manga fans may enjoy seeing some of the scenes animated, but others should definitely avoid using this OVA as an intro to JoJo. There is an option as far as this goes, but I’ll save that for a bit later.
The characters are just about the same as they were in the manga, so those who were fond of them in the original will be fond of them here. That said, however, with only 6 episodes, only a few major scenes are covered, and so there isn’t a whole lot of room for all of the cast to shine as only a few have particularly important scenes. Furthermore, because the OVA starts in the middle of the manga, there isn’t much development to be seen as much of the character motives and growth is established long before where the OVA begins. Now it is true that the characters retain their personalities for the most part, Jotaro being the stoic badass, Joseph the intelligent tactician, Avdol the careful fighter, Kakyoin the confident and loyal friend, and Polnareff the goofy yet reliable comrade. After all, the story largely sticks to the manga material (and even in the cases where it does not and hurts the story as a result, the characters themselves aren’t compromised too greatly). But with only a few events taking place and no reason given for one to care about the cast, the OVA truly does rely on attachment to the manga to be of value in regard to the characters.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s anime treatment is a bit of a strange case. The first adaptation is this OVA, though in 2000 another set of OVA episodes was released. Interestingly enough, these episodes serve as a prequel to those in this OVA, which does make it more accessible to newcomers and more properly introduces the story to viewers as a result. Because of this, those who wish to watch the JoJo OVAs are often recommended to begin with the 2000 OVAs and conclude with the 1993 OVA episodes, which I only refrained from doing since it wouldn’t ruin my personal experience any and because it feels strange to go from newer art to something more noticeably aged. While it would have been better to start from the beginning initially, it is likely that the creators wished to animate some of the more memorable and dramatic moments of the story for manga fans before worrying about marketing to a new group of viewers that may not be so receptive to the story. While it is a good thing that this prequel set of OVA episodes was later created, it does make things a bit confusing. It also seems that in 2007, a movie for Phantom Blood (part 1 of the manga) was created, though from what I’ve heard, it did not properly adapt the material and the author was so displeased with it that it never saw a home video release, and certainly it would not be available online as a result. Beyond that, however, 2012 saw the creation of the JoJo TV anime that I mentioned earlier. Unlike the OVAs, however, JoJo 2012 was a full length adaptation with proper pacing and development for the material it covered, along with giving a fresh take on a manga that’s comparably old (with both parts 1 and 2 being written in the late 1980s). The JoJo anime story does not end here, however, as it has been announced that part 3 is getting another adaptation by the same studio responsible for the 2012 anime. While it is still unaired and anything could happen as far as the adaptation treatment goes, the success of the 2012 anime certainly makes it seem that the new part 3 anime will be a complete and satisfying take on Stardust Crusaders.
JoJo OVA wasn’t a bad watch and it was nice to see a brief, though rushed, bit of the JoJo story once again after so long. I suppose those who are impatient to see part 3 animated material wouldn’t necessarily go wrong with seeing some of the better episodes of the OVA and it certainly was enjoyable to an extent. However, as an incomplete adaptation it is severely limited, and with the upcoming TV anime for Stardust Crusaders ahead, it is very likely that this and the 2000 OVA will become obsolete as a result. While I can’t be entirely confident of the quality of the new Stardust Crusaders anime, it seems very likely that it will be a much more developed and gripping experience than the OVAs. Ultimately, I would give the JoJo OVA a 7/10. A good watch and certainly entertaining for its best scenes, but by no means something that must definitely be watched (and absolutely not on its own), especially when taking into account the new anime.