JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, Vol. 2

By Hirohiko Araki. Released in Japan as “Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken” by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media.

It is possible, I suppose, that someone out there read the first volume of this series, featuring grandiose over the top histrionics galore, and felt “well that was OK, but it was just far too sedate and naturalistic. What would really make the series take off is if one of the characters came back as an immortal vampire”. Well have I got news for you! Araki ups his game here, turning the amp from 11 to 12 and delivering more action, more histrionics, and a whole lot more death and violence, while also adding a few trickster mentors and loathsome underlings. It’s still not a parody, honest: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure just is.

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The highlight of the book may very well be the beginning, where Dio cuts loose and starts to not only kill people and steal their lifeforce but bring them back to life as hideous zombies. JoJo’s still looks up to Fist of the North Star after all, so there’s lots of heads exploding and eyes popping in slow motion here. That said, probably the most grotesque moment of violence comes later on, when Jack the Ripper (yes, that one – Dio takes him on as a disciple) attack the horse and wagon our heroes are in, kills the horses (and driver) by cutting their heads off, and then hides inside a horse corpse so that he can emerge, womb-like, from the neck like your worst nightmare. It’s around that time that you realize how “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” the first volume really was.

If there is any break from the nonstop action and hysteria, it comes in the form of Erina Pendleton, who went to India for several years to study nursing and attend the Tsukasa Hojo School of Heroine Design, and arrives just in time to attend to a dying Jonathan’s wounds. We see once again the steel that’s underneath her soft exterior, and even Speedwagon is forced to withdraw coolly (yes, Viz kept that, thank goodness) in her presence. Sadly, when he starts training and getting attacked by evil minions, Jonathan thinks he can’t let Erina get involved in this, and she vanishes once more. The same cannot be said for Speedwagon, who is both the ‘normal guy’ and Greek Chorus in this series – although how normal someone is when they use the power of their flaming hot abs to heal Zeppeli’s arm is a debate for another time.

I should also probably mention the narrative voice here, or rather the multiple ones. Araki has third person narration drop in from time to time, telling us how glorious everything is in full! blown! CAPSLOCK! But then Jonathan, Speedwagon and Dio also seem to have their own inner monologue, functioning as a narrative voice as well, and just as dramatic. It’s as if you took all the characters and gave them microphones so they could turn to the audience and soliloquize for a while. Honestly, the only normal thing in this entire volume is Zeppeli, whose attitude towards training has been used over and over in so many shonen manga (and yes, he probably got it from Ashita no Joe or something) that you don’t even bat an eye when he threatens Jonathan. But that’s OK, Speedwagon is there to bat them for you.

You can’t really casually read a title like this – you have to leap in full body and drown yourself in it. If you do, not only do you get top notch action and horror, but you also get things like Elizabeth I’s evil face as she condemns two nights to their deaths, where she looks like a yanki punk. I can’t wait for the conclusion of this arc.

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