“In 1868, Dario Brando saves the life of an English nobleman, George Joestar. By taking in Dario’s son Dio when the boy becomes fatherless, George hopes to repay the debt he owes to his savior. However Dio, unsatisfied with his station in life, aspires to seize the Joestar house for his own. Wielding an Aztec stone mask with supernatural properties, he sets out to destroy George and his son, Jonathan “JoJo” Joestar, and triggers a chain of events that will continue to echo through the years to come.
Half a century later, in New York City, Jonathan’s grandson Joseph Joestar discovers the legacy his grandfather left for him. When an archeological dig unearths the truth behind the stone mask, he realizes that he is the only one who can defeat the Pillar Men, mystical beings of immeasurable power who inadvertently began everything.
Adapted from the first two arcs of Hirohiko Araki’s outlandish manga series, JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken follows the many thrilling expeditions of JoJo and his descendants. Whether it’s facing off with the evil Dio, or combatting the sinister Pillar Men, there’s always plenty of bizarre adventures in store.” – MAL Synopsis
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is the 2012 adaptation of Hirohiko Araki’s wonderfully, shall I say for lack of a better word, bizarre manga. Season one sets up almost everything that their is to love about JoJo. The completely over the top characters, events, motivations, Araki’s love and appreciation of western culture and its music, a very creative and well thought out power system. While most would say that the first half of season 1 is the weakest part of JoJo, and I agree to some extent, the foundation for future seasons is set up very well here and a strong foundation makes for a strong series.
Season One Part 1 – Phantom Blood
The first episode sets the stage for our protagonist and antagonist’s motivations and personality. We have Dio Brando son of Dario Brando, a thief that on his death bed wished for his son to move in with the Joestars to fulfill their family’s debt. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say, because Dio plans on stealing the Joestars fortune for himself. Dio is one of the most devious characters in all of anime. In the first few episodes, he kisses our protagonist’s girl, we’ll get to Jonathan later. Kicks a dog and has it killed, which will be a running theme in the series as the author of the manga has said that one of the evilest things that you can do is hurt a dog, so in this series that is the mark of true evil. We also come to find out due to our truly deductive protagonist, that Dio also poisoned his father Dario and also the protagonist’s father George Joestar. The first two episodes are full of Dio’s evil deeds, which set him up to be the prime evil or the big baddy of our first cour of JoJos Bizarre Adventure.
The complete opposite of Dio, our protagonist Jonathan Joestar is, for lack of a better word, a boy scout. Or at least he has a lot of traits that fall into that character archetype. He’s a goody too shoes, which is the main reason why for a lot of people he is their least favorite Joestar. Jonathan is rich, handsome, and intelligent. The son of the wealthy George Joestar he and Dio come to blows after all of Dio’s evil deeds early on and the murder of his father. Something that Araki does very well with his characters is portraying them as very perceptive and intelligent in their own way; such as, Jonathan figuring out that Dio killed his father and always being wise to Dios plans to some extent.
Now let’s get into what makes JoJo so great, besides the characters, the power systems. While they may get wacky later on, as of the first season we get introduced to two power systems those being; vampires and hamon (or ripple). Dio is granted the powers of a vampire and able to turn others into his zombies via an ancient stone mask. Now the vampire powers are typical, but still cool cause you know vampires are awesome. Dios abilities include super speed, strength, claws, immortality, and hypnosis. For Phantom Blood, we get a pretty basic but still enjoyable power system for Jonathan and his allies, which is called Hamon. Think of it as sort of kin to most energy/chi/ki abilities in anime and other Asian media. Jonathan uses this technique to do a wide variety of psychically enhancing techniques and also healing. Phantom Blood gives us some cool but still basic powers that are fun and used well due to Jonathan being very intelligent and perceptive and also Dio being just so evil.
A strong point of the whole series is the supporting casts. In Phantom Blood, we are treated to the amazingly eccentric Italian man, inspired by the likes of Mr. Miyagi, Will Anthonio Zeppeli (a reference to Led Zeplin). He is the one who teaches Jonathan hamon and fights alongside him. What’s not to love about this man. He’s quirky and eccentric but also a master in his craft and methodical and fearless when it comes to his battles. The third man in the crew is the whole series, and I mean every part, best girl that’s not a girl, Robert E. O. Speedwagon (namesake from the band REO Speedwagon). A resourceful London street thug that while powerless, becomes a major ally or help in every single part of the series thus far. He’s honorable and hot-headed but every moment with him on screen is great. This ragtag crew is honestly a lot of fun to watch together on their short 9 episode journey to defeat Dio and his minions. The chemistry is all there, Jonathan and Zeppilinis’ mentor-teacher relationship, Jonathan and Speedwagon’s somewhat love triangle with Jonathan’s love interest in the show (who Dio also kissed just to spite Jonathan, how much more evil can you get?) Erina but ultimately sort of end up with a brotherly relationship at the end. It all just works and for our first set of a “Joestar and his gang” it’s great, probably one of my favorite groups of the series still.
Phantom Blood might not be the strongest in terms of its main character and powers but where it may lack in that I think the animation, overall wacky but enjoyable story and the side characters do enough to keep this part as enjoyable as possible. I mean we got two fan favorites in Dio and Speedwagon right off the bat, you gotta love it. The ending of Phantom Blood in the anime is a bit weird as it seems like they weren’t sure if they would get to adapt the second part so the ending gets straight retconned in part 2 Battle Tendency. All in all Phantom Blood hooked me enough to watch part 2 and that’s why it’s a solid 7/10 and a good start to the series overall.
Season One Part 2 – Battle Tendency
Now, this is where the series begins to really pick up and fully embrace all the wackiness and fun that it’s known for. The first episode introduces us to the best Joestar (no debate), Joseph. The hot-headed grandson of Jonathan and Erina who fights using American clackers and hamon, but also loves to get into his enemy’s heads by always predicting what they’re going to say next with the patented line “your next line will be..”. Joseph is the best of all things JoJo, past and present, witty, goofy, cunning, and deductive, its hard not to love him as a character.
The main conflict of this arc is set up in the first episode as, our love-able side character from Phantom Blood, Speedwagon (who’s now very very rich and owns a company that will help many a Joestar) and an expedition crew of his uncover a tomb filled with stone masks just like the one from Phantom Blood. A minor ally from part 1, turned vampire obsessed with immortality cause I mean who doesn’t want to live forever? That’d be awesome. Straizo kills the expedition team and gravely wounds Speedwagon, spilling his blood on the stone mask to awaken a pillar man. Which sets up for the resurrection of the other 3 surviving Pillar Men.
The main goal of this series is to stop and destroy the pillar men before they regain their full power and become the Ultimate Being. This takes Joseph and our cast that consist of his reluctant, and in personality, polar opposite Caesar Antonio Zeppeli (descendant of Will A. Zeppeli), their beautiful hamon coach Lisa Lisa (looking back at it, the double name is wonderful foreshadowing), and as over the top as it can get we are blessed with a supporting cast of nazi? German military men who aid in the goal to stop the Pillar Men. The Pillar Men themselves weren’t too interesting but their goal to become all-powerful and just their over-the-top design and physique are just awe-inspiring. Something that I haven’t touched on but is something that David Pro has nailed in every single part of JoJo, is the music. Every opening and character theme song is a bop. I say all of that just to state, that above all the great music in this series, the Pillar Men theme song might be the greatest in the series, maybe in any series in all of history. No seriously after you’re done reading this go listen to it on YouTube. You will not be disappointed or you’re money back guaranteed link below.
Battle Tendency takes the foundation that Phantom Blood built and directly improves upon it in almost every way. Joseph is a more enjoyable and flawed character than his late grandfather, and if you were to ask the wider community, probably the best JoJo ever. While Dio’s chaotic evil is hard to outshine, the Pillar Men are good in their own right if not solely because of their amazing theme song and character design. They have some cool powers such as wind, blood, light, and body manipulation. and of course, their names are just referenced central. Satana (the band and Carlos Santana), Esidisi (rock band AC/DC), Kars (the band cars), and Wamuu ( the band Wham!). Lisa Lisa and Caesar don’t really measure up against Phantom Blood’s main companions but they definitely have their moments later in the season. The mystique surrounding Lisa Lisa and her vast knowledge of hamon added a lot to the group. Meanwhile, Caesar didn’t really do much for me but the contrast with his personality with Josephs was more than likely needed. Also, his abilities are freaking awesome, characters that control and manipulate bubbles will always be cool to me. The Germans add the right amount of comedy and wackiness that makes every moment with them on-screen enjoyable. Battle Tendency is a great sequel to Phantom Blood and ending to this stage of JoJo. Everything that comes next is truly Bizarre. Battle Tendency is an 8/10. Also, do yourself a favor and listen to that Pillar Men Theme.