What do you get when you combine musclemen with an affinity for dramatic posing and a string of increasingly absurd opponents, plus a wacky sense of humor? Why, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, of course.
The review is provided in video form here, but for those that prefer the written medium, the entire thing is transcribed directly below.
Before I begin, I must explain that I am a fan of more serious shows, anime that focus on the struggles of some group fighting for the sake of their home, their family, even their planet. I find myself drawn to the "darker" and more dramatic plots that tend to veer far away from much comedy. Probably one of the reasons for this is that, generally, comedic anime tend to focus exclusively on a slice-of-life high school setting, but that's beside the point. Let's just say that, for the most part, completely out-there comedy isn't my thing.
And then, we have JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, adapted by David Production from the long-running manga of the same name. It's not exactly a comedy, and it has its fair share of drama, but it certainly doesn't take itself too seriously. Appropriate considering it is a bizarre adventure.
In a nightmarish hellscape of muscle bound maniacs, a rivalry emerges between two brothers: Jonathan Joestar, "JoJo", a true English gentleman and the adopted Dio Brando, a sick bastard who will stop at nothing to make the world entirely his own. Their conflict escalates with the introduction of a mysterious Stone Mask, with which Dio is granted supernatural powers. With the help of martial arts expert Zeppeli and former thug Speedwagon, JoJo sets out to free the world and put Dio down, once and for all.
Fifty years later, Jonathon's grandson, Joseph Joestar, is drawn into his grandfather's fight. He makes new allies (and some old ones) to end the tyranny of the Stone Masks, and their creators, for good.
Lives Up to Its Name
The first question many will likely ask is this:
Is JoJo's Bizarre Adventure really that bizarre?
My answer to you? Yes. Just to list a few things, you have superpowers from breathing the right way, non-lethal decapitations, cyborg Nazis, hordes of zombies, insect scarves, vampire masks, wise-cracking Yankees, resurrected knights, mouth pigeons, fanservice, Aztec gods, tentacle veins, "OH NO" and the pinnacle of evolution itself. So, yes, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a very apt title.
I liked watching both of the show's JoJos, Jonathan and Joseph, albeit for different reasons. Jonathan prides himself on his code of chivalry and being a "true gentleman". He's not particularly standout, I suppose, but he's also not flat enough to be boring. His character traits can be summed up as kind, courageous and bit naive, but that was alright. I don't mind the hero being somewhat unremarkable if he at least keeps me engaged, and for whatever reason, Jonathan did.
However, as much as I like Jonathan, Joseph is probably the better of the two. Joseph's more of a street kid, so he definitely doesn't follow in his grandfather's footsteps. He's not afraid to use some tricks to beat out the competition, though not really anything that would be called "dirty", more just clever. He's quick on his feet and surprisingly quippy, overall much more of a comedic character than Jonathan ever was. And it never gets old hearing him exclaim some bit of strangled Engrish. I would say Joseph was my favorite character...
Unquestionably one of JoJo's finest points, for me, was Dio. Dio's a pretty smart guy who truly believes that everyone he's ever met is beneath him. He has no qualms using anyone or anything to achieve his ends, which makes Dio so absurdly evil and cruel that it is just too much fun.
He's not even the kind of bad guy that you necessarily root against, because you so love to hate him. Imagine like Joffrey from Game of Thrones. An absolute bastard, but supremely entertaining in practically every scene he's in.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has two openings, both of which are quite good, in song and in visuals. The first theme is JoJo ~Sono Chi no Sadame~ by Tominaga "TOMMY" Hiroaki and the second is Bloody Stream by Coda. They're very different songs, but both are appropriate for their respective arcs. Sono Chi no Sadame is more forceful and heart-pumping, while Bloody Stream errs on the calmer but still upbeat side of music. David Production also made the somewhat odd choice of rendering the openings in 3D animation, but it's polished enough to not be jarring.
Then, the ending theme. For the entire season, the credits are set to Roundabout by Yes. For those that, for whatever reason, are not familiar with the song, it's an English progressive rock hit from the 1970s. And it fits shockingly well.
In the second arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, a woman is introduced by the name of Lisa Lisa. She's more or less the show's attempt to create a strong female character, presented as a powerful and respected mentor for our lead characters... and she is so disappointing. Throughout the entire run of the series they try to hold up the facade that "yes, Lisa Lisa is a badass". On closer inspection, this falls flat.
The fanservice doesn't help matters, certainly, but she also doesn't actually do a whole lot. Whenever push comes to shove, for whatever reason she never seems able to get out of it herself. I'm not saying she plays the strict role of a damsel in distress, but she never lives up to her supposed reputation. Plus, her one big twist isn't even a twist. If you simply pay attention, they blatantly give you all the plot pieces, and the big reveal is meaningless.
The Pillar Men
Part 1 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure had Dio, who was a pretty great villain. In Part 2, Dio takes a backseat to the Pillar Men. Without giving too much away, the Pillar Men are boring. They're aloof and haughty villains that think themselves above mere humans. I know that sounds vaguely similar to Dio, but trust me, it's not. Dio was clawing his way to the top of the world, but the Pillar Men think they already are the top. Their personalities are par for the course, you've got the arrogant one, the honorable one and the quiet, conniving one. They're just dull. They feel typical and uninspired, with a few noteworthy scenes but overall pretty lackluster.
Full disclaimer, I have read zero of the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga. However, I'm guessing this complaint stems from the source material. In practically every fight throughout JoJo's, there tends to be a running commentary from bystanders or even the participants themselves, and it slows the pace of any fight tremendously. Not even joking, there can sometimes be up to 30 seconds between blows as the characters reiterate, verbally, what you have just seen.
I assume this is a holdover from the manga because, in a still, non-moving medium, it makes sense. If you just get frames of the action it's not always clear what exactly is happening. However, in full motion, as in an anime, that's not an issue. So, the commentary feels redundant at best and filler at worst, and it's a problem that plagues the entire show. Thankfully it's a problem that must have been picked up on because it is significantly reduced in the later seasons, but that has no impact on these first 26 episodes.
Only JoJo Matters
Pay close attention while watching JoJo's, and you might start to notice a pattern. Excluding the villains, the only person that ever really matters is JoJo, whichever one of them is the main character at the time. Every single major event, and most of the minor ones, center completely on JoJo. No one else matters. If they're doing something, anything, chances are it will be rendered irrelevant in one way or another or some tragedy will befall them and they'll become a source of motivation for JoJo. Because the only person who can actually do anything, is JoJo.
It's not something that you notice at first, but you'll look back on it all at the end, and realize "yeah, in the grand scheme of things, no one else mattered". That's just upsetting, because as much as I like JoJo himself, I did like a lot of the other characters too, and it sucks that they were all relegated to the sidelines to bask in the glory that is the Joestars.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a fun series, but not a perfect one. Although it's certainly strange enough to live up to its title, its characters are generally hit or miss and it makes some noticeable missteps in the general presentation of it all. If you're not one to care about plot or anything like that, and just want to see some impressively muscular freaks battle it out with a combination of wits and supernatural powers, I urge you to go for it. Otherwise, proceed with caution, though chances are you won't find it a complete waste of time.
So, after taking everything into account, as well as my own subjective enjoyment, on a scale from F (the worst) to S (the best), I would give JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (Parts 1 and 2) a B rating.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is currently available for legal streaming from Crunchyroll.