JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

20140517-222715.jpgJoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is based around the misadventures of the Joestars, a powerful family with English roots. The idea of the series is that it spans generations with each story arc centring around a particular Joestar descendant. Each main character also has an antagonist, whom they must defeat.

The title of the series is a reference to the main character’s name, that is, the first two letters of his forename and surname put together. Each main character features a play on this nickname. Jonathan Joestar, Joseph Joestar, Jotaro… you see where I’m going with this.

The JoJo franchise has spanned over 25 years. Although it already had two OVAs and a feature film, it has never been featured as a TV series until a few years ago. Perhaps because of its popularity in Japan, and the giant gap between the anime and the manga (which is still going strong with over 100 tankobon volumes) the anime stays very true to original storyline.

In some cases, particularly in the earlier episodes, the anime is nearly word-for-word identical to the manga. JoJo’s struggle with his adopted brother Dio, the rivalry between them and their developing relationship are completely spot-on. The fight scenes, which must be difficult to recreate from a panel-by-panel manga, are action-packed and gripping. And of course, we have the poses. One of the most spectacular things about JoJo is the pre-battle vogue poses. Nothing is quite so intimidating to an opponent than a good battle pose.

20140517-222723.jpgThe colours used in this anime are particularly interesting. JoJo’s drawing style is quite thick and blocky when compared to a usual anime, but the colours more than make up for this. The anime ignores subtle shades and tints and just goes for bold, block colour that can completely change the atmosphere of a story. It accentuates impactive moments by abruptly changing the colour palette for a stark, harrowing cliffhanger or a particularly devastating attack as well as expertly arranging vivid colour in dark temples and catacombs that really bolsters some of the supernatural elements.

20140517-222138.jpgBut then, the story does tend to go off on little tangents. Even though its been converted into an anime, the fact that is loyally follows the manga means that the story lacks a sharp conciseness that it might need in order to speed the story along. Essentially the story begins with Jonothan Joestar and Dio Brando growing up together in Victorian England. At the beginning they are just young boys that dislike one another, but one becomes a zombie-controlling vampire and the other is a martial artist that can utilise life and light as physical power. How it gets from one setting to the other is a maze of twists and jumps that will either excite or isolate you. One of the things I love most about anime is how ludicrously random it can get away with being sometimes, so I really enjoyed the twists and jumps. Others… perhaps not. The rushing ahead at light speed means that the viewer is always trying to catch their breath and, even though there are information dumps along the way, you wouldn’t be blamed if you emerged from a particularly lengthy fight scene only understanding about 70% of what actually happened and why. As a stark contrast to this, things have been known to slow down to an impossible snails pace. In the earlier episodes, a certain character gets sliced in half in quite a gory way, but somehow can spend half an episode lamenting and choking until I ended up thinking “Just die, already! JoJo’s got some fightin’ to do!”

20140517-223155.jpgThis leads me onto one of the most annoying things about JoJo – the supporting cast’s constant need for the running commentary. Okay, sometimes the viewer needs a little extra description to understand the three simultaneous events that just happened, but they’re not blind. When there’s a heated battle, it’s not uncommon for the supporting characters to give a blow-by-blow narration of what’s happening. Yes, Speedwagon, we can see that it’s heading straight for JoJo and yes, we can see that JoJo managed to dodge it just in the nick of time. Thanks for the update. Intricate detail that is right at home in a manga really suffers in an anime such as this. Every attack, counter-attack and fighting trick is broken down and explained at the expense of the speed of the actual fight. Let the visuals do the storytelling for us and we’re good here.

Yes! I can see that! THANK YOU.
Yes! I can see that! THANK YOU.

I admit, JoJo is not the type of anime that I would naturally gravitate to. However, what kind of self-respecting otaku would I be if I didn’t give it a thorough examination? I found it a mixed bag of fights, backstory, colour and randomness. Once I got used to being a little confused and stopped taking it so seriously (gotta take a quick break to think of my latest battle-pose, guys) I really began to enjoy it. The way the story spans over so many generations is a personal favourite, since I’m a fan of family saga books, and I’m eager to see how the JoJo’s differ from their predecessors. Of course, as an anime, it would benefit from having a bit of freedom to get comfortable in its own skin rather than religiously following the manga. I don’t always agree with this way of thinking, but JoJo is a prime example that an anime staying completely true to its manga counterpart is not always the best decision.