2012 saw the advent of the long awaited TV anime adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. For the uninitiated, JoJo’s is one of the longest-running fighting manga out there, having originally begun its run way back in 1987. One of the secrets to its longevity is its unique format in how it tells its story. Rather than following one character throughout its entire run, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure follows a new generation of the Joestar family after the story of the previous generation has come to a close. With that in mind, we’ve recently saw the end of part one: Phantom Blood.
The big deal surrounding the adaptation of JoJo’s was that, while part three had been adapted into an OVA series in the 90s and part one was adapted as a movie a few years ago, that was it. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was famous for its multigenerational story and yet we had only seen two different chapters of that story adapted for any form of the screen. The TV anime was the first serious project intent on animating the entirety of the manga. I could feel there was something historic going on while watching the first episode of part two – but we’ll get to that much later, for now, we’re talking about Phantom Blood.
The story follows Jonathan Joestar, otherwise known as JoJo, in his quest for vengeance against Dio Brando, the man who killed his father. As a baby, JoJo’s family was in a stagecoach accident, his mother died that night and both he and his father were saved by an unscrupulous man. That man eventually called in a favor years later and sent his son, Dio, to live with the Joestars. Dio immediately made his grudge towards JoJo known, going as far as burning his dog alive. George Joestar, JoJo’s father, was unaware of all this and treated Dio as a son. Once it becomes clear that JoJo stands in the way of Dio taking the Joestar estate for himself, he begins to slowly poison JoJo’s father through his daily medicine. While looking for the poison, Dio accidentally put on a mask left behind by JoJo’s mother. The strange stone mask turned Dio into a vampire. When it’s found out that Dio was poisoning JoJo’s father, the two have a confrontation and what would have been a deathblow to any other man was simply the beginning of our story. The rest of the story follows JoJo in his quest for revenge, along the way he meets two vital friends. Speedwagon, a gangster turned straight-laced bruiser, and Will A. Zeppeli, a man who teaches JoJo to use the incredible power called Ripple.
The manga to anime adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the more interesting adaptations out there. The anime captures the bizarre and over-the-top feel of the manga down to the finest detail. At times it feels like you’ve been watching a motion comic as sound effects appear on screen quite often. Movements are exaggerated, colors are all over the place, and posing is everywhere you look. JoJo’s is one of the finest examples of what an over-the-top fighting story can be. Seriously, how often does JoJo go Super Saiyan on us and change hair color?
Now, of course that’s just my take on it. There are other opinions out there that say the anime is nothing but a low budget show, and while it might be low budget, the fine people at David Production manage to make it work for them. Much like a tokusatsu trying to pull off impressive visual effects through clever thinking, JoJo’s pulls off being a high quality anime by playing it off as style. Rather than crudely animating fights, we get the stylistic choice of making the show seem more motion comic than straight up anime from time to time.
But don’t let that fool you, when the show decides to pull out all the stops, there’s no telling how good it can look. The show oozes the talents of the people working on it, all trying to do as best a job as possible with such a reverent title. In a series where people are cut in half, survive for minutes after having their heads cut off, and fire energy beams in different colors of the rainbow, the strange look provided for the show works wonders.
Phantom Blood was adapted in a scant nine episodes and as you watch it, you should be able to feel how rushed it can be from time to time. I would definitely recommend reading the manga to supplement your enjoyment of this part of the story once you finish its anime counterpart. Part Two, Battle Tendency, is looking like it’s going to run for 17 episodes, and after that, each part is sure to get at least 26 episodes each given how long they can be.
If you’ve not yet watched this strange piece of anime history, I’d highly recommend that you give the first few episodes a shot. You’ll either love it or hate it, there isn’t a lot of room for undecided emotions with JoJo’s as an anime. Though, there are two things I’m certain of: you’ll hate Dio within minutes and you’ll love belting out that iconic line in the opening “JoooooJOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” each and every episode.