JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 6: Stone Ocean Review: Prison Breakout and Jotaro’s Successor
It seems my winter break was filled with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which can never be a bad thing. Along with having watched through the glorious TV adaptation of JoJo parts 1 and 2 over winter break, I also caught up to the manga material that I hadn’t completed and it was quite a wonderful experience. The last part I had completed was part 5, which I read through something along the lines of 4 or 5 years ago. I did read through about half of part 6 (Stone Ocean) in middle school but for one reason or another I never got around to finishing it until a couple months ago. And it’s truly a shame because Stone Ocean was just as phenomenal as the other JoJo parts and truly has a lot going for it. As enjoyable as parts 4 and 5 were, they did have more of a side story feel to them and in the grand scheme of things they could probably be removed without having too huge an impact on the story’s continuity (though it would be a shame because both parts do add a great deal to the whole package). Stone Ocean ties in much more closely to part 3 (Stardust Crusaders) than parts 4 or 5, in large part because many elements of part 3 are actually plot relevant (whereas parts 4 and 5 do have characters and/or character relations that, while in some form connecting to the rest of the story, are largely isolated from the main plot of JoJo in the grand scheme of things). In many ways I would say that Stone Ocean is the true sequel to Stardust Crusaders and it’s very significant to the series, arguably one of the most crucial parts at that. While most of my hype for what remained of JoJo was dedicated to all I’d heard of part 7 (Steel Ball Run), I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Stone Ocean was more than just a disposable addition necessary to move on to SBR. In fact, I might even say that I enjoyed Stone Ocean more, though that’s not to say that SBR is bad by any means. Anywho, enough about SBR, Stone Ocean is the topic at hand and I can save my words about SBR for when I actually do get around to reviewing it.
Stone Ocean revolves around Jolyne Kujo, the daughter of Jotaro Kujo (protagonist of Stardust Crusaders). The story begin with Jolyne being falsely accused of murder and sentenced to 15 years at Green Dolphin Street Prison. An amulet given to her by Jotaro unlocks her ability to use a Stand known as Stone Free, which allows Jolyne to turn her body into string. Jolyne must learn how to adjust to the strange ways of prison life and somehow find a way to get out of her dangerous situation. Beyond that, however, Jolyne must become more accustomed to her Stand, as she soon becomes drawn into the Joestar struggle that all JoJos face and is sucked into the chaotic, world-threatening dilemma that her father is already deeply involved in. Dio’s ambition still remains, and it is up to Jolyne and company to prevent those connected with Dio from extinguishing the Joestar bloodline and extending control to the rest of the world, or perhaps even the universe itself.
Stone Ocean’s story begins a bit slowly, though as it goes on it becomes an incredibly engaging read. Stone Ocean is initially a story somewhat like Deadman Wonderland with its prison setting and clashes between people with bizarre powers. Much of the early parts of the story involve Jolyne’s encounters within the prison and her attempts to discover more about the mysteries behind discs which contain either the memories or the Stand abilities of various individuals. As the plot extends beyond the prison setting and becomes more involved with Dio’s connection to the story and characters, however, Stone Ocean becomes an incredibly exciting read with a number of reveals and powerful moments. Stone Ocean has what I feel to be some of the best backstory material in the series, and the background behind two relevant characters near the end of the manga is one of my personal favorites (probably rivaled only by those of Steel Ball Run, in which Araki has truly solidified the quality of his backstory characterization use). It must also be mentioned that Stone Ocean’s conclusion is easily the most memorable of any JoJo part in my opinion, surpassing the scale of any other JoJo ending by good measure with a more powerful finish than the parts before it (and in my opinion, SBR as well). I suppose this can be attributed in some part to the fact that Stone Ocean is a conclusion of sorts, and while the series does continue beyond it, the manga could very well have ended at Stone Ocean and it’s a fantastic way to come to the epic Joestar tale’s end. At the same time, however, Stone Ocean’s ending sets the stage for even more potential from the story and this potential is very much taken advantage of with Steel Ball Run. It’s quite an interesting way to end its part of the story and SBR’s inclusion into the series following it is pretty clever. This may sound a bit unclear and unspecific, but elaborating too much would be blatant spoiler material and I’d prefer not to ruin my favorite JoJo conclusion and what I feel is easily one of the best parts of Stone Ocean. That last stretch really solidified my love for it more than anything else.
Stone Ocean has a pretty colorful cast, and while I wouldn’t say I love all of the cast or that everyone gets glorious development, I feel the ones that do get the relevant characterization are fantastic characters. Jolyne is a great protagonist, and while I wasn’t quite as attached to her as I was to Joseph from part 2 or Jotaro, I can’t imagine having any of the other JoJos taking the lead with Stone Ocean’s story. Jolyne has the hotheaded badassery yet heroic and kind nature that the JoJos are typically known for and her interactions with the other characters add a lot to her development. Jolyne is notable for being the first (and so far, only) female protagonist in the series, and while her femininity is present to an extent, she is by no means a damsel in distress and is just as strong (physically and mentally) as previous JoJos. Jolyne has a number of allies as well, starting with the proud and determined Hermes Costello and the often comical yet no less reliable F.F. As the manga goes on, however, more characters become reliable comrades for Jolyne’s group. Such allies include the mysterious boy Emporio Alnino, the amnesiac Weather Report, and the eccentric, hostile (to everyone who is not Jolyne that is, though he is very dedicated to her) Narciso Annasui. The character I personally found most interesting in Stone Ocean, however, is the antagonist, Enrico Pucci. While Pucci is clearly shown to be warped and willing to go to great lengths to kill Jolyne, Jotaro, and any others who get in his way, he proves to be a complex character as more is revealed about him. Up to this point in the series, I personally feel that Pucci has the strongest characterization of any JoJo antagonist and probably the only one I would say is comparable would be Funny Valentine, the antagonist of Steel Ball Run. While most of the antagonists are clearly defined as evil from the get-go (with the possible exception being Cars, who is a clear threat as an enemy of humanity and obsessively dedicated to his goal, yet is not necessarily a completely “evil” individual), such a designation would be much too simple to accurately describe Pucci. Pucci very much proves to be a victim of circumstance and distorted by what takes place in his life, making him much more than a simple cruel villain (which Dio is primarily depicted as in parts 1 and 3, and interestingly enough, Stone Ocean actually adds more dimensions to Dio’s character despite the lack of his physical presence in the main storyline).
Like I mentioned before, upon preparing to catch up to the rest of JoJo, I initially viewed Stone Ocean as just being another part I had to read before getting to SBR, which it seems many fans view as the best JoJo part (and understandably so, even if it’s not my personal favorite). Luckily, Stone Ocean did not disappoint and went far beyond my expectations, serving as a very instrumental part of the JoJo experience. In a way, Stone Ocean is like the beginning and the end. On one hand, Stone Ocean is the last arc of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure as readers initially knew it, as the atmosphere changes dramatically with SBR and even the series itself changes demographics from Shounen to Seinen with the start of SBR. Stone Ocean concludes the story of Jotaro (and to some degree, even the JoJo generational tale itself) and it is the last part in which the Dio as fans know him exists. However, as fate would have it, it’s not quite the end after all. SBR (and later part 8, Jojolion) continues the JoJo adventure, and while it was not initially announced as being a part of the JoJo series, it later became a part of the continuity and this not only makes SBR a very interesting installment but also proves just how relevant a part Stone Ocean was in the grand scheme of things. It’s impossible to explain more without giving away very extreme spoilers for this part, though all I can say is that it all ties together brilliantly and adds so much more to Stone Ocean’s already amazing conclusion.
So with all that said, it does make me a bit sad that I waited so long to finish Stone Ocean (especially since the first time I read through it, I never did reach the best of it), but now that I’ve completed it I can certainly appreciate it. It’s also nice to know that my lagging on reading through JoJo meant I didn’t have to keep up with SBR ongoing, back when I first got into JoJo it still hadn’t concluded and the thought of reading through all of that on a monthly basis is pretty disturbing in retrospect so perhaps my long break from JoJo wasn’t such a tragedy after all. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed Stone Ocean (as expected of pretty much any installment in the JoJo series, of course) and I’d probably rank it as one of my more favored JoJo parts. While Stardust Crusaders and Battle Tendency are still at the top, I’d probably rank Stone Ocean right under it. Well, it might actually be Steel Ball Run after those two (since I really can’t decide between them, considering both do excellent jobs in different areas), but that’s a tale for another day. In any case, Stone Ocean gets a 9/10 from me. Before I stop writing though, I’d like to mention that the JoJo series as a whole is actually worthy of a 10/10 from me. While I don’t think I would rate any single part a 10/10 (with the possible exception of Stardust Crusaders, in large part because of Jotaro fanboyism and extreme nostalgia power), the way everything comes together with this series from its start in the 80s is absolutely brilliant and it takes great skill for an author to keep a story so engaging and so well-written for such a long period of time. I suppose I might not have as much praise for Jojolion as I do for the other parts, but Jojolion has a lot of potential and it’s still far too early for me to give a proper opinion on it as a whole seeing as how there are still countless mysteries to answer with that. Sooner or later I do intend on writing about Steel Ball Run and Jojolion, but considering the fact that I still have countless fall 2013 anime that I still have yet to write about, methinks SBR and Jojolion will have to wait their turn, and perhaps for a very long time at that. Too many series to write about, not enough time to write about them. Starting to sound like my anime watching too…..this can’t be pretty.