By Sombre 4 Comments
If you've seen the anime thread on here, or know me personally from discord, you'll know my appreciation for JJBA over the last...6 months?
I guess I better start...where my re-introduction to anime began.
When I was young, I fucking adored anime. I first got into it when I watched Ghost in the Shell that I found on VHS at "Music Zone"- A little chain of shops in the North West of England. I took it home, put it in, and it absolutely blew me away. It did everything right. Cut to 10 years later to when I did a Film and Media degree at university, and specialized in anime. I did my thesis on "Posthumanity in Sci-Fi Anime" and basically analysed the meaning of post life in GITS, GITS2, Serial Experiments Lain, and Akira. It was a golden, prosperous time. Now, as the years went on, I'd watch anime, and play JRPG's, but I never really got back into it like I did that 4 years I was at university. By the time I'd turned 25, I almost stopped watching entirely. Not because I fell out of love, or because I grew up: it simply didn't "do it" for me anymore.
Cut to Autumn 2018.
At this time, I'd been on a small, tight knit discord community, and dived into their anime channel. It was a small subset of an even smaller discord, but there was a lot of hardcore fans for certain shows on there. One of those shows, was Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (Henceforth referred to as JJBA, or Jojo's to save time). I was umming and aahing for years about wanting to get back into anime, and I thought if I was gonna get back in, I was gonna go DEEP. I settled on JJBA, and went in with both guns blazing. I made a rule to watching anime: 2 episodes of 2 shows a day, every day: a rule I mostly stick with to this day (with some exceptions). One of the shows was JJBA. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I was told to "Go in with an open mind" and that "Every part is different".
You better believe those 2 statements were accurate representations of my next 6 months or so. I decided to buy into Crunchyroll, an anime streaming service with parallels to Netflix, but for anime. CR had the entirety of modern Jojo on there, so I subscribed, and set off to work. Now, I could, (and did before deleting an hours work) talk about each individual part of Jojo, and how meaningful they were to me getting back into anime, but I'm gonna focus on one part: Stardust Crusaders. I'm gonna try to summarize why SC was so important in my life, and getting back into anime again.
I know this might sound IMMEDIATELY cheesy, but Crusaders really is greater than the sum of its parts. It has remarkable art, fantastic animation, spectacular music, and a cast of characters that really feel like family by the end. Now, I'm a big fan of One Piece. If you've read/watched it, you'll know a central theme of OP is that of "Friendship". No other show in HISTORY has accomplished this idea than Stardust Crusaders. Each and every character feels...meaningful to the story as a whole. You begin with Jotaro, the moody, eponymous protagonist. Now, at the start, and I said this to my discord pals, I HATED Jotaro. I hated his look, how he spoke to his mother, how he acted- I just felt really turned off a character in a way that made me wanna drop the entire season. With some encouragement, I carried on going, and Goddamn am I glad I did. What occurred in the next...48 episodes really ticked my box in a way I didn't think any modern show would.
Historically, I'm a big watcher of what you'd call classic anime. I'm talking turn of the century stuff. Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Lupin, Tenchi Muyo, Dragonball, Gundam- the list could go on. I honestly didn't think a modern show could really turn me on the way that Jojo did.
The show largely revolves around a central cast of characters who have the power of Stands- a physical manifestation of mental acuity. Some stands are more combat orientated, some are more outside the box ones. (This expands the further into Jojo you get, with Parts 4 and 5- where I'm currently up to taking this to the nth degree).
There's Polnareff, who's stand is an armored swordsman. Avdol, who can control fire. Kakyoin, with the power of body manipulation. Iggy, with the power of manipulating sand and dust. Joseph, who's stand allows him to see into the enemies location, with the side power of shooting weird purple vines (?) and the titular Jotaro, with a basic, but incredibly powerful fighting stand that has lightning quick reflexes and can punch...fast. Like, really fast.
You're introduced to each character through 1/2 episodes, and you get to see the basic idea behind their stands. After they come together as a group, they find out that Holly, (Jotaro's mother and Joseph's daughter) is dying from a stand trying to emerge from her. She doesn't have the mental prowess to handle a stand, so they travel to Egypt to fight the fearsome DIO (Yes, the same Dio from Phantom Blood), hoping that by ending his life, they will negate the manifestation of Holly's Stand, saving her life.
What follows is a good old fashioned "Stand of the Week" mentality, through about...40 episodes? They encounter stands from the Tarot cards (Not so dissimilar to the Persona games), and tend to highlight a party members strengths, and creative ways in which they can use their stands to fight off the encroaching enemies. Some stood out more than others (Steely Dan being one of the most memorable, or D'Arby the Gambler). I won't bore you by reeling off each individual stand, or why they were good, but eventually they arrive in Cairo, and encounter the lauded villain, DIO.
What follows is some of the most tense, moody animation I've ever seen.
It just bleeds atmosphere. You've been built up towards DIO throughout the whole arc as this almost ubermensch-esque figure, and when he's finally revealed, it just....works. His design is absolutely killer, his voice actor is menacing, and his power just seems unbeatable. See, DIO's stand is "The World", or as you may know t from decades of internet memery "ZA WARUDO". It's similar to Joseph's "Star Platinum" except that it can stop time. If, like me, you played the JJBA fighting game on PS1, you'll have fond memories of the ROAD ROLLAH finisher, and this is naturally torn straight from the pages.
But it's not the bombastic nature of The World that really summarizes why DIO is such a great villian. For over 40 episodes, you seem him in shadows. Talking to subordinates. Leading his troops from an almost medieval like castle. You don't actually SEE DIO in the flesh till the last 5 or so episodes. They just spend an entire arc of anime building to this one incredible character. Don't get me wrong, the SC posse are an impassable group of super friends. But DIO is clearly the star of Stardust Crusaders. To quote something I've seen online "He's someone that bleeds excellence"
The finale is magnificent, and has to be seen to be fully appreciated. To sum it up, DIO is defeated, and Holly is saved, but not without losing a few members of the SC crew. But the deaths all felt meaningful, ya know? They all had purpose in pushing the story forward, or developing the characters that either died, or survived as a matter of their death.
In conclusion, Stardust Crusaders really is greater than the sum of its parts. It depicts a well thought out story, with interesting, meaningful character interaction, married together with wonderful art, animation and music.
I know you've read so far, but you're maybe thinking "Well...why did Jojo mean so much to you then" like I originally claimed?
You see, Stardust Crusaders came at a really good time in my life. I was struggling at work with an increased load of responsibility, I didn't have many friends, my anxiety was at its absolute PEAK, and I was suffering from an uncommonly high amount of depression. It really helped, knowing that when I came home from work every day, I had something consistent in my life in Jojo. Every day, when I was at work, I was thinking about Jojo. What was gonna happen next, who was gonna appear, how they'd get out of tricky situations, when DIO was gonna appear. It all just clicked in a way that I haven't felt since I was watching "Legend of the Galactic Heroes"- my all time favorite anime.
Please understand that even small things, like a great anime can have a big impact on people's lives. Anime is designed to entertain, and help you escape from reality. Jojo really did that for me. In my worst moments, it helped knowing I had "friends" to come home to. I should give a big shout-out to my friends from my discord channel, key components in helping me keep going in Jojo, and having something awesome to talk about at the end of every day.
Thank you for reading.