Jojo, you say? Well, we say damn straight, we’re blogging Jojo now.
wendeego: I’ll be brief: so far, this is the best adaptation of Jojo we could have hoped for. David Production has had to make due with a limited amount of time and a presumably miniscule budget, but the spark of genius present in their previous efforts, such as Book of Bantorra and Ben-to (also Level-E, which I haven’t seen) has fully manifested itself here. This is a Jojo that tackles the over the top stylization of its source with courage bordering on madness, and while occasionally impeded by poorly implemented censorship, there’s no doubting the craft on display here. I don’t think I’ve seen a low-budget show done this impressively since Imagawa’s giant robot epic Shin Mazinger, and while Imagawa comes out the stronger in this case, the fact I’m making this comparison at all should speak to how strongly I admire what David Production is doing here.
Let’s talk more specifically about this episode: there are already some pretty clear differences between this arc and last arc, befitting of the sudden change in tone and setting. Most obvious is the soundtrack, which has been taken over by Taku Iwasaaki. The result is pretty fantastic, even if it’s not as immediately impressive as Gurren Lagann’s or Katanagatari’s, two immediate points of comparison. The second arc also has much more of a sense of place thus far. Phantom Blood attempted to incorporate history into its story with cameos by Jack the Ripper and other famous figures, but all in all Jojo’s England felt less like a fully realized setting and more like a line connecting the dots of Jojo’s mansion, the back alleys of London and Dio’s secret domain. Battle Tendency, on the other hand, goes much farther into emulating the feel of 1920s New York for its first episode, and while it leans heavily on cliches and even gross stereotypes (the evil racist policemen, the mob who have infiltrated all the city’s restaurants) it comes off as remarkably atmospheric and well-realized in comparison.
What makes the most difference, though, is that while these first two arcs of Jojo share similarities, they are both very different stories. The first arc is Fist of the North Star set in Victorian England, with a gentleman hero and a plot that wouldn’t be out of place in a penny dreadful. The second arc, on the other hand, is a rip-roaring adventure story in the same spirit as the serials from the 1920s-30s adventure serials Indiana Jones made famous. Joeseph Joestar is more in the vein of an Indy than a Jonathan; he brings a Tommy gun to a fight when his uncle Jonathan probably would have only brought his fists. That said, there are enough moments of decency that show through the exterior to make it clear that deep down, Jonathan’s heart is just as soft and gooey as his grandfather was. Tears might be passe in New York at this point in time, but those are what are running down his cheeks as he faces Straits at the episode’s end.
Really, this was a solidly executed episode all around: they even snuck in a reference to mangaka Araki’s Jojo predecessor, BAOH. The best thing, though, is that they aren’t even at the good part yet. If David Production can keep this level of quality up, I wouldn’t have any difficulty calling Jojo the best anime of the season, if not the year. Right now I’m hedging my bets, but it’s been a while since I’ve been this kind of confidence in an ongoing season. Maybe it’s because I’ve read the manga Battle Tendency is based on, but where this show goes, I will follow. Fantastic work.
illegenes: It’s taken a while for us to get on board, but here we are, blogging JJBA 10 episodes in, with 17 episodes to go. Why now, you ask? “Goddammit, SBD, YOU’RE TOO LATE!!! MUDA MUDA MUDA!”
Well, think of it like this: it’s a new season of Doctor Who and we’re jumping in with a new face and new story. Sure, the Doctor might have a new body, and we might bump into things that showed up in the previous seasons, but all in all, things are just the same, but slightly different, and there’s more than enough time to catch up on the other seasons. Not so bad now, is it? And that’s one of the great things about JJBA, because (so far) you don’t really need to know what happened in Phantom Blood (Part 1, or Episodes 1-9) to get what’s going on in Battle Tendency. Or maybe I’m totally wrong and Dio will pop up in the middle of nowhere and show off some new tricks and a new set of fangs. Who knows? What Wendeego has, I don’t – I have never read Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (though I sincerely want to now) and so I have no clue what’s in store for me next. Does this make things better? Yes. Do I want to spoil myself? Yes, really badly. Will I? Not if I can help it.*
When I mean being unspoiled makes things great, let’s take a look at this week’s episode. I thought Dio was going to come back to life and take vengeance on the rest of Jonathan Joestar’s family, including his son, Joseph**. The preview for Tendency didn’t really help in confirming or denying my theory when I saw the stone mask reappearing. The shock that slammed me in the face as Straits turned evil and killed Speedwagon- SPEEDWAGON! – in front of my own eyes was horrific, and yet oddly satisfying. It’s because JJBA is so ‘cliche’ and typical that these surprises matter for me, and make the experience all the more entertaining and fun. And considering that Phantom Blood didn’t really have as many surprises as it set the general tone and format of the story (I say ‘general’ understanding that apparently, every arc in JJBA gets even weirder), Battle Tendency is bound to be full of delightful twists here and there. How do I know? Oh, let’s say, the fact that Joseph pulled a motherfucking gun from out of nowhere and drilled holes into our now-evil ex-friend Straits was enough to surprise me and win me over. There’s no doubt that Wendeego knew that this was coming, but I got the surprise because I was not spoiled! HA!
…Anyways, talking about Joseph, who, within 20 minutes, kind of stole my heart. Whereas Jonathan was kind of ridiculously…shortsighted in his approach to justice and honor (almost like a cooler but nobler version of Eddard Stark), Joseph is all about the hip and rock of the 1920’s. Impulsive? Check. Suave? Not really. A total grandma’s boy? Definitely. From the sounds of it, Joseph seems like you ordinary shounen protagonist. Except wait! JJBA is clever here, and decides to turn the “all talk, no action” trope inside out as Joseph can talk, and kick butt at the same time. He’s arrogant but smart, and it’s so refreshing to see that when we spent a good 9 weeks watching Jonathan walk into nearly ever trap ever and screaming “DIOOOOO!!!” Not that I dislike Jonathan – I adore him, and episode 9 kind of brought tears to my eyes, but Joseph is much more colorful and I’m excited to see him kick some butt, Jojo style.
But you know who stole my heart even more? Let’s talk about the star of this episode, who didn’t even really do anything, except talk. I’m not talking about Smokey, who is actually kind of cool (is he the Speedwagon successor, doomed to be an animated medium for dramatic explanations, reactions and warming ice up with his -heart-?). We’re talking about this gurl.
I mean, it’s only been one episode since we’ve really seen Erina, and in Phantom Blood, she was mostly out of the picture – nothing but the sweetheart, damsel in distress, the one to carry out Jonathan’s last wish. Flash a good 40 years later, and instead of pretty dresses, cute talk, and a passive personality, we have hip hop grandmother Erina, who doesn’t even bat an eye at commanding her grandson to take a mafia boss down for racist remarks. I know, I know, I’m predictable, but who doesn’t like an old woman who won’t take any of your bullshit, especially in the 1920’s? I’m sure the years have been hard on her, without Jonathan as well as her own daughter/son being killed young, but it was still really lovely to see a different side to Erica than the one I thought I had been yawning at during Phantom Blood. Considering that she has a very strong bond with Joseph (and vice versa – FAMILY FEELS) I’m hoping that she continues to play a more aggressive role in this arc than the previous one.
Next week brings us a new OP, which I’m all too excited for. Heck, count me in as the person who’s excited about everything for this show. It’s just too good.
*Storytime! The last time I read a manga before the anime adaptation was Fullmetal Alchemist. Not that I could help it, as I had been keeping up with the manga since the 2003 anime aired, but when Brotherhood started, I couldn’t be any more bored because I had already read through all the manga content, panel for panel, and seeing it animated just felt really…dull. Not that FMA:B is a bad show! It’s fantastic. But from that day onward, I promised not to touch a manga if there was going to be an anime adaption until the anime had finished.
**I’m really going to get these Jojos mixed up, aren’t I? I want to label them as just Jojo 1 and Jojo 2, but that would be performing a disservice to the name Jojo,
WHICH HAS BEEN PASSED DOWN THE JOESTAR FAMILY FOR GENERATIONS!