Cloudy with a chance of steamrollers
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is probably one of the oldest running manga around. Starting in the late 1980s, it took nearly 30 years for the manga to get a right and proper anime adaptation. Well, there was an OVA of Part 3 in the early 1990s but nobody tries to remember that one. How does the 2012 version stack up? Let’s jump in.
The 26 episodes chronicle parts 1 and 2 of the long running JoJo series, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency. Each part of the series chronicles a new member of the JoJo family as they go on misadventures and fight vampires, zombies, the mafia, cybernetic Nazis, and the president of the United States.
Phantom Blood which is spans the first 9 episodes tells of Jonathan Joestar, the kind son of the noble George Joestar. The family takes in Dio Brando, a poor youth with a troubled childhood, but Dio proceeds to set his sights on stealing the Joestar fortune. JoJo thwarts Dio but hellbent on revenge, Dio is cursed by a mysterious mask and turned into a vampire. Now Jonathan ventures to stop Dio and his plans for world domination using his only weakness, the way of the Ripple.
Battle Tendency follows Joeseph Joestar, the grandson of Jonathan, and looks into the creators of the stone mask that transformed Dio and the new foes that arise. This arc is much longer but also the story is more complex than Phantom Blood was. The neat thing about the adaptation is that it reveals Araki’s shifts in the original manga stylistically. Part 2 of even the anime has more of the flamboyance and more over-the-top shenanigans that JoJo is famous for.
The stories themselves may not particularly be complex for this day and age, but its delivery and the character motivations are strong. Just because the plot doesn’t overtly philosophically pontificate about “deep” things does not necessarily mean it is without substance. You can easily point out themes of nurture vs nature, and of course, the definition of manliness. The story is well-told and easily hooks viewers in, young and old.
Actually, to be quite frank, I thought this adaptation could either be very weak or very strong, since there is a massive generation gap between modern shonen and the type of shonen JoJo is, especially the early parts of the manga; it could easily be very dated and out-of-fashion in this day and age of Narutards. However, much to my satisfaction, the anime did very well in story, style, and aesthetic. The very wild art is reflective of the 1980s with onomatopoeia flying all over like a manga panel.
The whole world and story is very immersive. The Ripple in and of itself is a very nuanced and creative power, unlike most overpowered powers *cough* chakra, zanpaku-to, etc *cough* I had initial reservations about how the character designs would be received in 2012. No bishonen here, just manly men of honor, but combined with what looks like Fist of the North Star and David Bowie combined, the modern normal viewer seems to take to ironically manly men. If anything, the uh… references are charming to a normal modern audience. Just think of Terry Crews in his Old Spice commercials.
The voice acting is all-star. We have greats like Tomokazu Sugita voicing Joeseph, and for later on, Daisuke Ono voicing Jotaro Kujo. Moreover, the mix of various genres of music from Roundabout by Yes to Lotus Juice has a very timeless effect on the OST, further closing a generation gap, especially with the kids and their dubstep.
Outside of a little bit of lopsidedness in the story framing, the 2012 JoJo anime is very strong and it illustrates young and old paradigms of Japanese pop culture coming together in a very elegant way. This anime is a very excellent hook for a new generation of fans, and it’s got me by the legs. A hands-down must-watch shonen. Doubly so if you like classics. I for one can’t wait until a hopeful remake of Stardust Crusaders. Join me next time when I spawn four eyes and two tongues.
– Mixes elements of old and new. Aged very well
– Unique art style and plays over the top nature to its benefit
– OST and stellar voice work complement the feel of the anime
– End pacing might be a bit rushed
– A little lopsided in adaptation structure
Studio: David Production
Director: Naokatsu Tsuda, Kenichi Suzuki
Writer: Yasuko Kobayashi
Character design: Takako Shimizu
Music: Hayato Matsuo (part 1), Taku Iwasaki (part 2)
Original creator: Hirohiko Araki (manga)
Original run: October 5, 2012 – April 5, 2013
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