SONO CHI NO SADAME! All right. Let’s talk about “the bad part,” or whatever.
So I decided to revisit JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, recently, for… reasons. And I thought it’d be a cool idea to just go over it, one part at a time. So why not begin with the saga that started it all?
Jonathan Joestar is the young heir of a 19th century aristocratic family, with his heart set on growing into the perfect gentleman. But his life changes dramatically when his father takes in Dio Brando – a boy of low birth with an insatiable lust for power. Their conflicting ideologies give birth to a rivalry that defines not only them, but the Joestar family for generations. All because of a mysterious stone mask.
I’ll just say it now. It’s not… that… bad. It just isn’t. I understand where a lot of the flack thrown the way of Phantom Blood comes from. Really, I do. For starters, the pacing is odd. And that’s largely because of the major shifts in the series’s direction, about a third of the way through. The first three episodes are essentially a parody of classic, melodramatic Soap Operas. It throws a little of that good ol’ Shounen hot blood in there, for good measure, of course. But it’s still ultimately pretty harmless. If there’s any problem with this, it likely comes more from just not getting the joke. The last six episodes are where things shift gears hardcore, going from a Soap Opera parody to a parody of – by my best guess – Fist of the North Star? Correct me if I’m wrong as I’ve not seen FotNS in its entirety. But it seems like that’s the direction it was trending in. As an affectionate parody of that sort of prototypical Shounen series – poking fun at the tropes while still being a guilty participant of them – it does fine. Particularly in the way it turns the typical Shounen-style exaggerated reactions shots up to eleven. It does pretty well for itself, considering its having to tell the majority of its story in just 6 episodes. If anything, that’s the main failing. It’s short, which makes it feel a bit hurried.
Those last six episodes – or I should say, five of the last six episodes, since Episode 6 really does feel like its own thing – are essentially the standard Hero’s Journey, economy style. Compressing the entire thing into such a small space of time is a feat, in and of itself. But it does tick all the boxes. Still, the briefness of it all doesn’t give the story an abundance of time to ruminate and grow on you, which I understand can lead to it feeling rather pedestrian. Things aren’t given a whole lot of room to properly grow and root themselves with the audience in those five episodes. Even the entire system of Hamon – which is a heavy focus within the part – while not glossed over, is barely given the time to be properly understood. It’s luckily kept just simple enough to not really be a problem (the story doesn’t really need you to grasp much beyond Hamon Go Brrr, JoJo Kill Vampire Zombies). The things that do take root are those that persist throughout all nine episodes. And we all know what I’m talking about. It’s Dio.
I’m not going to spend a great deal of time talking about him here because I could write pages about him, alone. But Dio really does steal the show. In performance, he has no equal in the series. He has the most engaging character in the whole thing as well, and his rivalry with Jonathan is actually one of the better character dynamics, not just in this part, but in the entirety of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. If there’s one thing about the shortness of this arc that does actually irk me, it’s that it means we don’t get a whole lot of time to let the two of the interact after Dio becomes a vampire.
That said, there is one aspect that just doesn’t get the time I think it deserves, even despite it being around in every episode of the part, and that would be JoJo and Erina, just… in general. More interactions between them would’ve been nice. It was the one space where I felt the part lacking overall. But even then, it’s not really a big thing.
So, at the end of the day, do I like Phantom Blood. Eh. Not really. It exists. Killer OP. Other’n that though, it doesn’t really do much for me. There’s the odd chuckle, here or there. Dio, himself, is great. That character dynamic is fun. It’s enough to just barely escape total mediocrity, at least.
What’s your favorite part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? Let me know, down below. Thanks for reading, as always.
Keep up the Awesome,