Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

I guess this is the month where I get to redact my opinions. First I'm over at Haywire realizing that I never gave Devil Survivor 2 a chance and now I'm here to take back most of my unkind thoughts about Jojo's Bizarre Adventure:Stardust Crusaders while also adding some new ones I skipped over last time. Maybe the fact that it's animated now or that I didn't binge the show like I did the manga but I enjoyed the anime more than the manga.

Like it's predecessor, Stardust Crusaders is a almost panel perfect adaption of said arc with a few events subtly changed to match up with later events of the arc. As a result it keeps the stories strengths and weaknesses mostly intact. The plot follows Jotaro and his companions as they travel to Egypt to stop DIO. Introduced in this arc of the manga are the iconic Stand powers. Basically physic abilities that can manifest in those with a strong will or in later parts surviving being pierced by a special arrow. These powers of course manifest in the cast and more or less kick off the plot in a way. The early episodes front load most of the back-story on DIO,Stands and the Jostar family; which causes the first few episodes to drag a bit especially if you've read the manga. It's also here that we run into most of the speed bumps in the story.

The first big one is the case of Holly Kujo and her inability to control her Stand. I could write a few pages on why this is stupid in the grander scheme of the series and also within in this arc. To keep it brief, Holly is portrayed as a rather strong  person yet can't seem to wield a stand. She may be a bit frailer physically but a baby and a decrepit old lady can use their Stands no problem,yet Holly can't. Probably because Jotaro needed more motivation than simply the world is in danger. To say nothing of the unfortunate implications this brings up, I'll just leave it at insulting and a waste of a perfectly good character.

The other gripe I have is that for some reason DIO 's defeat means that Holly will be free of her Stand's influence. Despite the fact that this won't affect any other Jostar Stands which spawned as a result of DIO's theft of Johnathan Jostar's body. It's almost like Holly and DIO as less characters and more motivations. The lack of real interactions with DIO outside of the final fight fails to make him anything more than a entertaining if shallow villain. He's noticeably changed since Phantom Blood,becoming much more paranoid and Genre Savvy than before However like Jotaro it doesn't make him a particular deep character.

Speaking of Jotaro, I grew to like him over the courses of parts four and six but loathed as a lead since we had more interesting characters in the group. Then I finally noticed his much more sarcastic and dry sense of humor and more subtle character development. He serves as a nice contrast to the arcs wackier villains and supporting cast. While someone like Polnareff ,the group's penultimate recruit, is more prone to rush right in and play the fool; Jotaro seems more like an annoyed mom at the others antics and it's funny to an extent. He does learn to grow closer to the people in the group as the story progresses but not people in general as evidenced by part six. He works well within the group but still comes off as a boring lead. His stand,Star Platinum, matches his blandness and versatility.

Star Platinum has precision and super strength on his side, the latter coming standard on many a Stand later down the line. While it is basic it aids in Jotaro's versatility, many of the more creative uses of the group's powers come out of his Stand. From inhaling a gas based Stand to using it to bluff a professional con man,it never feels like Star Platinum is pulling something out its butt. That is till the end and concerns my last major problem with Stardust Crusaders and spoilers for the Final DIO fight so skip this next paragraph if you want to stay in the dark.

The anime has the advantage of being able to fore shadow events more clearly and fixing a few things related to Avdol's (first) death. However the show never really explains Jotaro's ability to move during DIO's time stop that clearly. The logical extension that Jotaro can stop time himself is hinted via the ability to move during a time stop but the initial movements nor is Jotaro's flying around like DIO ever really explained. Maybe the fact that Jotaro can fly like that is meant to mirror DIO's The World and show that they are similar Stands thus time stop should be possible for Jotaro. Yeah, no it still feels like somewhat of an ass pull on Araki's part and I'm sad that it wasn't better handled this time around.

Okay back in non-spoiler land,I said I enjoyed this part yet all I've done so far is gripe. So what works in this shows favor,everything else. The group dynamics that were present in the original are played up much stronger here. Spending time with these characters drew me closer to them as they all learned to trust one another. Deaths in the manga that left me unfazed hit me hard in the anime. Both versions of this story do fall into the formula of travel some distance then have a fight. However with the anime I was going at it's pace rather than my own and it let me stand back and appreciate the story and characters. By the end of the show I was sad that this journey had to end and I had to depart from beloved friends.

The only weak link in the Jostar group is probably Kakyoin. While pulling some cool tricks off with his Stand,Hierophant Green, is put on a bus for most of season two. He finally returns for the storming of DIO's mansion. Even then it takes to the final fight to get some deeper development for him. It could have been spread out a bit akin to Iggy's development from cold jerk to loyal team member is played out. He's still a fun character that is a bit of a walking meme and brings up the idea of how growing up with a Stand might effect a person's social skills.

Everyone else is the group also brings something to the table asides from there Stands. Polnareff and Iggy bring a bit of levity to the group while examining what it means to live for others. Avdol is half of a cool old guy duo with Joseph, while serving as somewhat of a mentor to the group. A role that Jotaro would take on in part four, he's comforting to have around in a way. Joseph while not being full blown comic relief like Polnareff, is still a lovable hot blooded goof  that has some what mellowed out since Battle Tendency.What spurs these changes for him are again a whole article by itself so I'll leave it at that.

The Stands lack the more bizarre powers that later parts have but this arc was meant to ease people into the idea of Stands,hence the stats of each one. It lays does the groundwork for what Stands can do and who can wield one. This doesn't mean the Stands are boring per se, they are used in interesting ways to build some cool battles. Such as the battle against a gorilla whose Stand is the ship the characters are on.

The one major problem the 2012 anime had was pacing,squeezing about twelve volumes of material into one season is a bit difficult. However with two seasons to stretch it's legs out in Stardust Crusaders does away with most of those problems. The first season does have the aforementioned front loading problem but once it gets going it doesn't look back. The fights move at a quick clip and never out stay their welcome. The show still drips with that signature style and compliments the crazy events on screen perfectly. The voice cast works perfectly as well,everyone sounds like they should. Takehio Koyasu reprises his role as DIO playing him in a more subdued fashion while still retaining the sinister and crazy fun aspects that made him a blast in Phantom Blood.

So I come to you a more humble person,it's a bit of a painful feeling.The pain is dulled by the fact that Stardust Crusaders is better than I first thought.While it has it's flaws,the story is one that ultimately works with a colorful cast that I felt closer to than I ever have. If you're like me and lukewarm about the Stardust Crusaders section of the manga, then I encourage you to give the arc another try with this anime. If you still haven't experienced this arc then this is the best way to go about it.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

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