AN ODE TO SCARVES; Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Episode 11

I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU WE ALL WERE ROOTING FOR YOU

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.

yikes.

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.

Matrix dodge! GOGOGOGOGO

Jojo, you wascally wabbit! You will pay for this!

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.

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8 responses to “AN ODE TO SCARVES; Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Episode 11

  1. The term “ugly bitch” was used in the English manga scanlations, but I will point out that Joseph only said this in an attempt to make Straits believe that he didn’t care about him taking an innocent bystander as a hostage. It was a bluff, you know? I thought that much was made totally obvious, but…. I guess not. =P

    The scene with Stroheim murdering Mexican villagers does not seem racist to me. It’s a scene of nazi assholes being nazi assholes, imprisoning and killing however many innocent people from the area that they wanted to. The fact that they were Mexican people is only a coincidence by where the Pillar Man happened to be located. They would have happily killed anyone else (other than German aryans) for their purposes, I’m sure.

    Now, the short scene in the manga where Joseph had a skirmish with a stereotypical Mexican man in a stereotypical Mexican town…. THAT was racist. Thankfully, it was removed from the anime.

    • Okay, I’d like to clarify one thing – What I meant in the second paragraph is that the nazis would have gladly killed a village of white people (their own race) if the Pillar Man been located in France. They are racist assholes for sure, but in this case they were murdering people because they wanted the blood, and because they’re murderous assholes in general.

      • I mean it’s basic understanding that the Nazis were discriminate to anyone other than their own “Aryan” race, so in that aspect, they are complete racists, but the fact that the show posed the Mexicans as a race that was wiped out (people of color in other words) wasn’t…POOR, but it was slightly distasteful to me, as people from Mexico don’t have such a dark tan. I may be completely wrong in that the choice of ethnicity was incorrect and that these may have been African Americans or people with a darker skin tone, instead of Mexicans, but at the same time, it stood out as something quite odd to me.

        At the same time, as I’ve pointed out, Jojo has made a point on racism with Smokey and his skin color, so it’s not like the show is unaware of the era it’s using as the main setting for this arc? And it’s BECAUSE the show is aware of this that I feel like the choice of using POC as cows for slaughter was much more self conscious than “oh they were just Mexicans, it was no big deal.” I’d still like to point out that Jojo is a great show, but like I said, there are these sorts of things that I still can’t help but notice! There’s no doubt that Nazis are pretty problematic in nature of course, but the choice of using people of color in comparison to white people was a conscious one that has slight racist undertones to me.

        • Well, I’m sorry that there weren’t any heroes around to swoop in and save the innocent villagers from being killed, but there just weren’t. They were killed because the nazis are villains, and they wanted blood to awaken the Pillar Man.

          The scene is not trying to make any kind of racist statement against Mexicans or show them as deserving to die, so please stop trying to construe that it is. All it does is demonstrate what kind of heartlessly cruel bastard Stroheim is.

          • Once again, it has nothing to do with how the Nazis aren’t racist. It was the conscious choice of using POC when Mexicans aren’t even that sort of skin tone (not that I know of, once again). I’m not suggesting it’s outright racist, but I am suggesting that there may have been racist undertones. As I’ve said before – I still enjoy JoJo and I think it’s a great show but I’m not going to overlook incidents where I think there might have been something involved (see once again: the social vacuum theory). Nor did I say that Mexicans deserved to die; that’s not racism.

  2. Ahahah this Jojo cracks me up! I swear we never know what he is thinking or what he is planning next and yeah the Nazis/Holocaust stuff is a bit different for me to see in anime, but I have seen it before! aka Hellsing ultimate anyone? Even though the enemies were vampires! As for the racism parts that has been touched on a few series for me like One Piece? They finished an arc were these half fish half human characters that were used as slaves and looked down upon by the humans! Yeah it was confusing…

    The forthcoming episodes are going to be glorious. <100% agreed! I can't wait to see more over the top fighting xD

    • Yeah, I’m pretty fond of this Jojo as well! Even though I did wince at some of the weirdly misogynist stuff that came out of his mouth. I’ve read enough of Jojo to know that it isn’t always very politically correct, but that bit in particular pulled me out of the experience a bit. Still a great show though.

      I think that Hellsing Ultimate and this arc of Jojo are pulling from the same well: the same 1930s-40s serials that led to films like Indiana Jones, etc. Hellsing of course is more in line with exploitation films (see: Grindhouse and Werewolf Women of the S.S.) but the concept of the Nazis as investigators of the occult is definitely a popular trope in pulp literature. Especially because of all those (possibly groundless) rumors about the Third Reich’s connection to the Thule Society–look it up!

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