So, I was pretty stoked to get back into anime reviewing by diving into this absurd pool of male fashion models and boundless insanity, but it took me quite some time to get through the first 26 episodes, which is already not a good sign. I wanted to do nothing more than adore it, but… I’ll explain.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 1 Review
Studio: David Production
Availability: Subtitled on Crunchyroll
When getting down to brass tacks, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is about a group of lavishly dressed men using magic powers to save the world from an ancient evil assortment of vampires, zombies, and beings who have been sealed away in stone for millennia. However, that brief synopsis does not really describe what it was like to watch the show as, well, I cannot recall the last time I found something with such a good premise, but would honestly believe that there was no real foresight in regards to the plot’s construction, or even any sort of outlining.
Now, that is a bold, and potentially hurtful claim that I would not make unless I had good reason to believe so. However, there are so many trails of events that I could not help but look at and shake my head in regards to what the original author of JoJo was thinking back in the late 1980s. Take for example the following scene: JoJo, a detective, and a magician wearing a silly hat go to a historic British monument wherein knights once trained. They are then robbed of their belongings by a kid who uses a pole to jump across the a lake. JoJo and his magician friend use their magical sunlight and breathing based powers, known as Hamon, to walk across the water and then use Hamon once more to cause the thief to fall off of some rocks. The kid is revealed to be brainwashed by the antagonist at that point, Dio, who is standing on a pillar for symbolic purposes.
Dio then summons some zombies, as the characters were in a graveyard, no I did not forget to mention that, the script did, which they beat before they leap up to fight Dio. However, because he has complete control of his bodily functions and can turn the blood in his arms into vapor, or something, he can freeze anybody who comes near him, and promptly gives the magician frostbite, but don’t worry, he’s okay. Bored, Dio then summons two historic figures, who just happened to be buried here, and they begin fighting the trio, but in the sort of fight that somebody who doesn’t know much about anime would assume all anime fights go, where there is no sense of time and a lot of waiting for the cool thing to happen in order for the battle to continue for way too long. After JoJo kills a zombie through a strategy that involves him going underwater to breathe in air that was trapped under a rock, the heroes, oh, and that kid I mentioned earlier, all escape the other foe by turning a bunch of dead leaves into a hang glider through the power of Hamon.
Now, I’m cutting some stuff out, but I do feel that is an accurate description to what actually happened during episodes five and six of the show, and as a writer, I can’t help but shake my head as I look over this sequence of events. There is no sense of control or foresight, almost as if the writer was only thinking about the big events he wanted to include in this story, but had no idea what he would do to get from point A to B. So much of the show is like this, creating this very unsettling disconnect that I honestly could not ignore, and I feel ruins the show for anybody who is paying attention as the storytelling is on par with something I would have expected from a twelve year old.
Now, there certainly are a lot of really good moments that make up this lanky toppling tower of a story, but just imagine them all reminds me of another gripe that I honestly see more the fault of the adaptation than the source material and that is the tone which JoJo chooses to adopt. This is a story wherein a man transforms a woman into a zombie and has her consume her own child for his pleasure, and where a man crossdresses in order to get past some guards, which he defeats by using magic powers to turn bottles of tequila. While this may sound jarring, I can easily imagine these two scenes belonging in the same series, and I feel the best way to do that would be by making the series completely off the wall and insane, fully embracing the fact that all that many people know about the series is that it is supposedly completely bonkers.
Now, the actions can easily justify this conclusion, but the show fails to capture the energy and silliness I cannot help but feel its premise deserves. It’s similar to hearing an otherwise well written script be read alone in a deadpan emotionless voice. You can appreciate the dialog, but not the performance. It’s visually a bit drab looking, having a decently diverse color scheme, but in an attempt to have the colors reflect lighting, they are very toned down, dark, and as such lose quite a bit of their appeal. I understand this decision if the goal was to make the series appear more serious, but the proportions and posture of so many characters make it hard to look at this decision as anything but a misstep. Heck, the two openings are both vibrant with their color pallette and do clearly have some degree of lighting applied to the tones, so I can’t help but wonder what the studio’s intentions were.
The show also came across as a bit drawn out, especially during fight scenes, most of which would realistically be done in ten minutes at most, but there is so much dialog and exposition placed in just about every one of them telling us how and why things are happening. I believe that this is due to the fact that the manner in which one should pace a fight in a comic and a show are different, and the fact I really never felt that the writer knew what he was doing. Battles constantly involve sudden reveals, incredibly lucky hits, and items being pulled out of a character’s pockets, when they had maybe two seconds to grab the particular item. It’s just lazy writing as far as I am concerned, and I eventually developed a lack of confidence in the writer’s ability to properly construct a story properly beyond a basic sequence of events.
That’s really all I have to say after about a month and a half of slogging through this show, constantly stopping and just trying to grasp, say, how in the blazes Hamon is supposed to work, who thought that bubbles were a good trump card attack, why is the main character dressed like a complete dork for three episodes, and why does his grandson constantly predict opponent’s’ lines before they say them, which they immediately do right after. I’d be lying if I said there were not high points, but I would actually recommend reading the manga, perhaps that fan-colored version floating around, instead of the anime. I can’t help but feel it’d be better paced, and more visually appealing in a lot of places.
Regardless, I will still give Part 3: Stardust Crusaders a chance as, to be honest, I thought the show ended pretty well, and there is probably a good reason why people think of that arc when they think of JoJo.