JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (2012) Review: The Fabulous Beginning of the Joestar Tale
So it seems that I’m still very much behind on blogging about the series I’ve completed (as there are a great many I’d love to write about, one in particular that recently blew me away like no other), but I’m slowly catching up (or at least, I’d like to believe that I am anyway). Like I said before, I’m gonna be writing about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (2012) this time around. I mentioned that JoJo 2012 is a JoJo adaptation done right, and that it truly is. I still remember first hearing the news about a new TV anime for JoJo at the time and I was utterly shocked, I simply could not believe the news. Of course, I was in no position to complain as JoJo had been one of my favorite Shounen manga (interestingly enough, one written as far back as the 80s, at that) and it was finally going to get a full-length, serious adaptation from the very beginning. Almost a year ago I watched the first 7 or so episodes of the anime with some friends for my birthday, and I was very much impressed with the anime’s take on Phantom Blood. Unfortunately, with a lot of other series I had to complete at the time, I was distracted quite a bit and didn’t get back to it for a while. Back around October or November, a friend came to my house and (as huge fans of the manga) we decided to give some more of those JoJo episodes a good watch and we got through a decent bit of the Battle Tendency episodes, and it was amazing as always. Having gotten through more, I decided that, once and for all, I had to watch through the rest of the 2012 anime and I did just that at the beginning of winter break (which seems very far from me now, and a big sign I’m really slow about my posts….). JoJo 2012 was a fantastic way for me to relive the nostalgia days of early JoJo with flashy new animation, and it really is one of the best ways for newcomers to jump into the JoJo series.
JoJo 2012 covers the Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency arcs of the manga, which are effectively parts 1 and 2. Phantom Blood revolves around Jonathan Joestar, a good-natured boy from a wealthy family in England. He enjoys a peaceful life until a boy named Dio Brando joins the family. As George Joestar (Jonathan’s father) believes he and Jonathan were saved by Dario Brando in a stagecoach accident many years ago (though he was only attempting to steal from them in reality), he feels indebted to him and decides to take Dio in after Dario dies. Jonathan attempts to befriend Dio, though Dio is a cruel, aggressive individual who is out solely to claim the Joestar fortune and carry out his own success. Dio finds himself interested in a stone mask in the Joestars’ possession, and this obsession with the Stone Mask ultimately leads to a grand conflict between Jonathan and Dio as Jonathan attempts to stop Dio’s evils from terrorizing not only the Joestar family but perhaps even the rest of England. Battle Tendency takes place many years later, focusing on Joseph Joestar, Jonathan’s grandson. Joseph is thrown into the chaos surrounding the Stone Mask just as his grandfather was, ultimately learning of the Pillar Men (who have created the Stone Mask). As Nazis, a fellow descendant of an important Phantom Blood character, and many more become involved, Joseph must use his abilities and his wits to stop the Pillar Men before mass destruction beyond human capability can destroy the world.
The description I gave of JoJo’s story may not be the greatest, but it certainly has a very engaging plot. Phantom Blood is a pretty straightforward story and it’s pretty much a good guy vs. bad guy situation, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. From the very beginning, JoJo establishes its exaggerated, over-the-top style and it is only helped by the colorful visuals and animation that the new adaptation offers. Even if the events themselves are simple, JoJo’s sense of style makes every event that much more dramatic and makes for great fight scenes. JoJo is a very action-packed series, and most of Phantom Blood’s great moments are the intense battles that take place. Battle Tendency’s story is a bit more colorful than Phantom Blood’s as it adds more dimensions to many aspects of part 1 (continuing the story of some characters who have lived through to part 2, addressing more about the Stone Mask, and eventually elaborating on what took place between the two parts) as well as adding more variety as a whole. Battle Tendency is also much more strategy-based (in large part due to Joseph’s character) and adds much more variety to the combat established in part 1, making for incredibly engaging combat. At its core, however, Battle Tendency is still about how the protagonist must fight against bizarre, supernatural enemies to save the world. While JoJo’s story is far from complex and is incredibly easy to follow, it is a great joy to watch because of how much it emphasizes the ridiculousness of its situations and takes advantage of its atmosphere. It’s one of those cases where the plot on paper may not sound like the greatest story, yet its execution makes it an exciting, insane, hilarious, and sometimes emotional watch. The story has its way of capturing the viewer in spite of its simplicity, and when great battles or tragic character deaths do take place, they really do have the impact they need. JoJo is a story that doesn’t always take itself seriously (especially when it comes to part 2 with Joseph’s utter ridiclousness at times) but when it really does get going, JoJo knows how to set the intensity and make for great scenes.
If the story is straightforward, then JoJo would do very well to use fantastic characters to make up for the simplicity of the plot, and to an extent JoJo does do that. Admittedly Phantom Blood’s characters are pretty one-dimensional as Jonathan is a completely pure, kind, and forgiving individual while Dio is an absolutely despicable, manipulative, and cruel character that does nearly every single evil act that comes to his mind. My favorite of the Phantom Blood cast would be Jonathan’s mentor Will Zeppeli, who teaches Jonathan the art of the Ripple technique, though he too is limited as far as characterization. Also deserving of mention is Robert E.O. Speedwagon, Jonathan’s loyal comrade. Speedwagon, while ordinary in comparison to the fighters of the series, is a dedicated friend that is very important to the story and (particularly in Phantom Blood) often provides dramatic explanation about what is taking place (sometimes in such an exaggerated way that it feels comedic). While Phantom Blood’s characters are simple and to the point, however, Battle Tendency’s characters are utterly fantastic and add greatly to the whole experience. Joseph is an amazing protagonist and, for me at least, much more entertaining than Jonathan. Joseph is hotheaded and aggressive, constantly fooling around and rarely taking anything seriously. Beneath Joseph’s goofy and careless demeanor, however, lies a clever tactician that constantly uses strategies to one-up his opponents. Joseph is a great character that is not only utterly hilarious at his most ridiculous but incredibly badass when he is facing a powerful enemy. While Jonathan used his power and technique to win his battles, Joseph faces enemies much more powerful than him and thus relies on his brain and his available resources to take down his foes. Battle Tendency also introduces Caesar Zeppeli, the grandson of Will Zeppeli from Phantom Blood. Caesar serves as Joseph’s foil as he is sophisticated and gentlemanly compared to the rough, ill-tempered Joseph. The two despise each other at first, though the harsh struggles they must endure together strengthens their bonds as they trust each other as invaluable allies. The protagonists are incredibly endearing, but even the antagonists of Battle Tendency are memorable characters. While Dio was defined solely by his cruel, evil personality, the same cannot be said about the Pillar Men. The Pillar Men are certainly capable of being as ruthless and violent as Dio to achieve their goals, though there is more to their characters beyond that. In particular, I am especially fond of Wham due to his honorable nature and the respect he holds for his opponents. Cars and ACDC also make for interesting villains as well and make for an interesting mix when Wham is added to the picture, though I personally wasn’t quite as attached to them. JoJo’s cast is quite a unique bunch with a lot of life, particularly the standout characters of Battle Tendency. While Phantom Blood’s characters aren’t quite as complex and (mostly) aren’t as quirky, they still fit very well with the nature of their story and are very important as far as setting the foundation for the rest of the JoJo series. Dio in particular is extremely relevant to the series as a whole and remains quite iconic as a major villain in the series.
Having watched the OVAs for Stardust Crusaders, I can say that they weren’t entirely bad, but they were a far cry from being the ideal animated versions of a JoJo story. With limited development time, changes to the story, and a lack of characterization to contribute to both light-hearted and serious moments (many of which couldn’t be added to begin with), they were far from the ideal, complete JoJo anime. Luckily, this is not true of the 2012 anime, which I feel has gone above and beyond in presenting parts 1 and 2 of the manga. JoJo 2012 does a fantastic job of adapting the manga material, and it still fascinates me how these manga are getting a proper adaptation about 25 years after creation. The wait must certainly have been agonizing for long-time, dedicated fans (it certainly was for me, and I only started reading it about 4 or 5 years ago), though I feel the wait was worthwhile as it led to a fresh, energetic adaptation of the series with a new style to it. While the JoJo atmosphere established by the manga is still in full gear for this adaptation, it really does feel new with its character designs and the very colorful visuals. It’s not quite the same artistic style presented in the manga, but it does a fantastic job with portraying the characters nonetheless. One thing I noticed in particular was just how exaggerated the fabulous style was presented in the anime. While some of those bizarre, over the top poses were very much present in the manga, I felt they were extremely noticeable in the anime and it felt like every other scene seemed to have some pose or another, I mean:
It has been a while since I read the manga so I don’t remember exactly how this was portrayed there, but it’s hard to deny that the anime does a great job of making the fabulousness its own. The sparkly colorful visuals add to the effect and those poses are great as per the usual with JoJo. I think it should also be mentioned that JoJo has a fantastic soundtrack, particularly in part 2. Much to my surprise, JoJo 2012 actually incorporates a good amount of dubstep. Back when I first read JoJo, I would never have conceived the possibility of dubstep going along with the story (in large part because I didn’t know it existed, and I’m not even sure if it did exist then now that I think of it), and even when I first heard about it I found it to be quite a peculiar combination. Yet I watched through the anime and got to the awesome part 2 moments, and much to my surprise, it was a perfect fit. The OST captures the JoJo atmosphere in a new way that seemed nearly impossible with the manga yet works brilliantly in context with the anime adaptation.
There have been quite a few instances where I’ve seen anime adaptations of manga I’ve read and ended up feeling slightly disappointed in some way. This is not to say that I dislike anime adaptations and more often than not I genuinely enjoy them regardless, though there are typically those minor bits that make me feel that the anime adaptation couldn’t quite live up to the greatness of the manga even if it was still a very fun watch. Luckily for me, JoJo 2012 is not one of those cases and beyond animating parts 1 and 2 of the manga, it adds a style of its own to the experience and effectively uses the anime medium to present an older story in a way modern viewers can easily enjoy. For this alone, I absolutely must commend the people who created this adaptation. It hasn’t been the easiest of tasks convincing friends to commit to a series that is not only from the late 80s but also longer than every other manga I’ve read up to date. However, with the creation of JoJo 2012, lots of new viewers have been informed about the series and given a chance to try it out and even have a reason to read the manga as well. The response to the JoJo anime has certainly pleased me and I’m only happier knowing that a new, full anime for JoJo part 3 is on the way in only a couple of months. Having finished JoJo 2012, I can proudly say I would give it a 9/10, which I had certainly hoped for prior to watching. If this is the quality I can expect from future JoJo anime, then I would absolutely love for David Production to continue making JoJo. It might be too much to ask for a Steel Ball Run adaptation (if anything, I’d best wait a decade before I even try making demands like that….) but JoJo truly is a series worth animating and I’ll be glad to see whatever is adapted from the manga. Part 3 is my favorite of the series so I will be satisfied with the Stardust Crusaders anime either way, but part 4 and beyond do deserve (and undoubtedly receive) a lot of love and it would be such a treat to watch them in anime form.