trigger warning: genocide, slurs
illegenes: There’s no doubt that Battle Tendency has skyrocketed out of my prediction chart and has landed in the “awesome” department”, but there were still some issues I couldn’t ignore here. Let’s break it down:
1.) Misogyny. Jojo has always been about masculinized men and their big, beefy arms and dramatic poses, with little attention toward the females, but I still couldn’t help but cringe a little during the ‘damsel in distress’ scene when Jojo saved the female reporter. Not only does he nearly call her a c**t, but he also threatens to forcefully kiss a lady if she didn’t shut up at the shop earlier in the episode (I thought we were supposed to stray away from becoming like Dio?). Combine this with the fact that a female servant had to lick the blood off of a German soldier, and you had a little more sexism in this week’s episode than usual, enough to stir me up a little.
2.) Racism. This was minor compared to the sexism, but the fact that the people used as sacrifices for the Pillar Man were minorities/people of color slightly bothered me. As far as I understand it, people from the Mexico region don’t share that dark of a skin tone, but I may be completely wrong here. Nevertheless, this scene had a sort of ‘slavery’ tone ringing to it that also made me feel a bit uneasy.
3.) Nazis/Holocaust. I know this is the central arc, and I know Jojo does not enter dangerous territory where it makes remarks on the Holocaust and genocide. To even touch the material of genocide and whip it into a Bizarre fantasy would be distasteful and crude, and I can’t even see how Jojo would get away with something like a vampire being responsible for the death of millions of an ethnic group and still be considered as funny and smart. But! Nazism is often a subject focused on in media, and it has often entered the comedy area which sometimes bothers me. I don’t think Jojo is a show that focuses on political commentary, but so far there have been shades of it; just take a look at Grandmother Erina, and her call out on racism last week when one of the men had said something rude to Smokey. Hirohiko Araki may not care about political statements or social justice, and yes, Jojo was created in the 1980′s – an era usually full of this sort of -ist material – but I think he’s more than aware of the content he’s drawing from. Media never functions within a social vacuum; it is always a reflection of the ideas and perceptions held at that time, and that in itself is enough for me to keep my eyes out for more of this sort of sexist/racist content.
It’s at this point where I will say this: you can enjoy problematic content as long as you’re fully aware of how problematic it can be. There is no doubt that I still love Jojo with all of my heart, along with Joseph and his brash attitude. I mean, otherwise, this episode was pretty great! The animation itself has gone up some levels, and the music was beyond good. Joseph’s witty remarks along with the way he easily defeated Straits was fantastic and really well done; enough to earn the show a #1 ranking in this week’s APR for me. Does this mean that we ignore the icky -ist things? No. But to say that Jojo is devoid of heart and soul would be ridiculous and undeserving in itself. The show is stylistic, smart, and fierce, despite having some problems here and there. But then again, which show doesn’t have its own share of problems? Combine this with a jazzy and delightful new OP that rings of James Bond and a new Jojo entering the block, and you’ve still got me hooked: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is the best thing to come out of this season. There. I said it.
wendeego: So I checked a different subbing group than Nutbladder for confirmation, and in that one Joseph said something along the lines of “you bitch” rather than “you [CENSORED CENSORED SEE THE ABOVE SCREENSHOT]” I’m not sure if it makes much of a difference in this case, since enough dialogue remains to make it clear that this Jojo is still a misogynistic asshole (see: “shut up or I’ll french kiss you until you do!”) but if anyone knows which of the above is a better translation of the Japanese, feel free to speak up in the comments! That said, Jojo’s use of the C word in Nutbladder’s subs really bothered me too.
Besides the distractingly problematic stuff in this episode that Natasha succinctly pointed out above, two things stood out to me on further reflection about the direction that Araki and David Production are taking this arc. The first is that while this episode and the previous one mark a new beginning of Jojo in a sense, they are very clearly an escalation of what has come before. The first arc of the story was very personal, beginning with a feud between two brothers and eventually exploding into an all-out battle between a solar-powered martial artist and an exceptionally dangerous vampire. But the second arc, titled Battle Tendency, not only makes it clear with the inclusion of Nazi Germany that the story is about to go global, but also makes it very clear that the game is more dangerous and the stakes higher than in the previous arc. If Jonathan’s first trial was a twelve-year-old but mortal Dio, than Joseph’s is an immortal vampire with in-depth knowledge of the secret weapon necessary to defeat him. Thankfully Joseph starts out a lot smarter and more resourceful than Jonathan did, and both Araki and David Production scale the fight scenes up to match.
The grenade sequence is a pretty good indicator of what we’ll be getting with Joseph as a protagonist: total impossibilities pulled off as grand schemes. There’s probably no way in real life that Jojo could have sneaked behind Straits and stuck those grenades to his scarf, but the Jojo universe is just “bizarre” enough that the move comes off as brilliant planning rather than as a cheap trick. It also helps that this Jojo doesn’t take himself too seriously at all, finishing people’s sentences for them and often more willing to run away from a hopeless battle than fight it. But when it comes down to it, while Joseph is different from his grandfather in many ways–he relies on brains over brawn, is totally chivalrousness and isn’t afraid to fight dirty–but when push comes to shove, he’s just as much the gentleman that Jonathan was. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that right when Joseph abruptly turns from rogue to hero, he tears off his street-smart coat in order to reveal the Fist of the North Star-esque muscles within.
Joseph might be different from Jonathan, but all in all he’s the same Jojo we know and love. Much like Battle Tendency itself: simultaneously a new start and a natural continuation of Phantom Blood. The problematic stuff in this show makes me wince as well, but if Battle Tendency keeps up its winning streak (and I’ve read the manga, so I know it will) then the forthcoming episodes are going to be glorious.