Now we are at the big guns. We’ve now arrived at the most iconic series of Hirhiko Araki’s work, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. The main story created by Joestar family will end here, but does the final third live up to it’s popularity? Due to the show’s length, I’m going to review the first half aka “The Tarot Arc” of the 48-episode run. We watched new characters thrive, summon the glorious “stands” that defined the genre, and we witnessed the weird manifestations that labeled this show as truly bizarre. So get your flashiest outfit and tilt your cap in intensity as we dive into Part 1 of Stardust Crusaders!
Series Director: Kenichi Suzuki
Series Composition: Yasuko Kobayashi
Original Author: Hirohiko Araki
Character Design: Masahiko Komino
Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara
Animation Production: David Production
Licensed by: Warner Bros.
Synopsis: Jotaro Kujo is the delinquent grandson of Battle Tendency’s Joseph Joestar, whose paths have crossed as Jotaro has locked himself away in prison believing an evil spirit has possessed him. Joseph explains that these spirits are actually “stands,” manifestations of one’s own psychic power in amazing and unbelievable ways. However, these powers have arisen after the resurrection of DIO, who is using the body of Jonathan Joestar to slowly conquer the world from his home base in Egypt. After Jotaro’s innocent mother Holly is infested with a stand that will destroy her body from the inside out, the two living JoJos set off on a globe-trotting trip to save her. Along with fortuneteller Mohammed Avdol, student Noriaki Kakyoin, and vengeance-seeking Frenchman John Pierre Polnareff, the five of them band together to fight unusual and powerful forces in their search to destroy DIO.
Stardust Crusaders is the most formulaic in terms of all of the Jojo series so far, because it actually follows a “monster-of-the-week” type of format throughout it’s overarching plot. The heroes encounter a new stand after the introductory episodes and they have to come up a strategy to overpower or out-smart the villain at hand that was fueled by DIO’s hypnotic charm. Araki shifts from the casual group dynamic from sentai programs because each individual member of the group gets to showcase their talents and intelligence per episode, with Jotaro as the calm-minded, grounded center. Just about every episode ends in a satisfying way where the villain gets trashed or the tension is ratcheted up thanks to each new dramatic development.
The series has that level of panache you want in most anime, where every character from the protagonists to the one-offs is uniquely memorable. It was quite amusing to see Joseph evolve from his brash nature to become a worldly, but belligerent old man who serves as the compass to the show’s adventure. Although Jotaro and Joseph are always engaging, Araki still has the persistent problem of balance amongst his main cast. Avdol hardly gets to do anything considering his powers, and when Polnareff is introduced, it nearly becomes Polnareff’s Bizarre Adventure by the amount of screen time he has.
Thankfully, the show is still carried by character development that meshes really well with surprisingly comedic moments. Joseph’s Engrish obscenities in particular are some of the best moments of Part 3.
What drags the show down a tad more than Battle Tendency is the nature of the stands. Despite the fact Jotaro and the others learn the capabilities of what stands can be or accomplish, they seem to get tricked or bamboozled into most of their unusual situations. Even when someone is acting strangely or the mood appears queer, it takes a good 10 minutes before someone realizes what’s up. On one hand, while I criticize Araki for using the same trappings for each series of episode, I’m mesmerized by how he can make every ridiculous opponent an actual threat. These are highlighted particularly through episodes like “Yellow Temperance,” “Justice,” and “The Empress.”
By now, the animation studio David Production has mastered Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s distinctive art style. Each vibrant costume and garish expression is captured wonderfully on the screen and is never missed in the heat of battle or with a change of scenery. The scope of this company’s talent is most striking during the opening and ending scenes when they add depth to everyone’s actions and poses on a 2.5D level. The animators will let the onomatopoeia pop out from the background, giving each pose a bold, defiant sense of weight.
Stardust Crusaders is also elevated by the use of its Japanese voice cast, who include some of the finest seiyuus working today. My personal favorite would be Unshō Ishizuka’s interpretation of Joseph Joestar, who captures the essence of an elderly rogue from his delivery and reactions to small details. Daisuke Ono makes for a great Jotaro, who is the type of character who only speaks when it’s necessary to. Other standouts would be Fuminori Komatsu as the clueless Polnareff and Takehito Koyasu sinister return as DIO, who now has a more shadowy dimension of evil. This is going to be a massive undertaking for the group dubbing the anime, because these voices are undeniably stellar.
The tarot arc of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders is a really good fare for those seeking for something more mature and out of the ordinary within the shonen genre. What you love about this series madcap sense of adventure comes through in full force, with a pulsing guitars playing at every exciting moment. Our simple world domination plot rises above similar stories thanks to clever characters, great pacing, and that overwhelming sense of manly determination. But with all that in mind how does the second half compare to what’s been build out? Check out The Mind of the Hybrid One blog next week to find out!
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is currently available on Crunchyroll and is licensed by Warner Bros. The original manga is ongoing, written by Hirohiko Araki and published by Ultra Jump/Viz Media.
For more of Scott’s work, you can find it on the website One of Us.