JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Vol. 4

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. Translated by Evan Galloway, original translation and adaptation by Alexis Kirsch and Mayumi Kobayashi.

For all of the cool fight scenes and new arrogant villains, there is a certain sameness to Stardust Crusaders that I just can’t seem to escape from. It doesn’t help that this arc of JoJo’s is essentially a road movie/extended chase scene, and so we don’t really get much plot beyond “who will turn up in which Middle Eastern town to attack our heroes?”. To be fair, some of those villains are interesting, and there’s a lot of “the villain thinks they will be saved by the main villain, but no, they are just another pawn” here, but I’ll tell you; reading Jotaro’s story is a lot like traveling across the Midwest and staying at the same Holiday Inn with the same wallpaper every single night. Fortunately, there is the art if nothing else; JoJo’s always LOOKS really cool.

As I’ve observed before, there is a huge love of Western music that we’ve seen throughout the series, particularly in the naming of its various characters (mostly villains, but let’s not forget R.E.O. Speedwagon too). It reminds me of a previous old-school manga Viz used to release back in the day, Bastard!!. And just like that series, some of the names have to be changed to avoid litigation. Here we have Enyaba on the cover, who is Enya with a -ba added to her name to let us know she’s a wizened granny. There is also Dan of Steel, who is named after Steely Dan, of course, and like the item the band named themselves after, he proves to be a giant dick. An enterprising young fan could probably give us a nice JoJo’s soundtrack filled with songs from the bands and artists mentioned here. It also helps to emphasize the ‘road’ feel of this storyline.

The fights are the same, filled with action and horror, also continuing the body possession from last time. Fortunately, there is also a helping of humor, some of it gross (Polnareff and his tendency to need to use the bathroom – which rebounds nastily on him here) and some of it amusing if a bit sad (Joseph was always street smart rather than intelligent, but a lot of times here he becomes stupid for the sake of the gag). The humor is needed to offset the grisliness of the battles here, with many of the villains being taken out in highly grotesque ways. For all that Dio is meant to be the main villain of this arc, and I’ve no doubt he will be appearing in the final volumes, so much of this is like a video game where you have to battle endless mid-boss after mid-boss. The journey here in JoJo’s is definitely more important than the destination, and therefore this volume gets the same opinion as the others: I liked it, but like the first two arcs better.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Vol. 3

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. Translated by Evan Galloway, original translation and adaptation by Alexis Kirsch and Fred Burke.

This is a stronger volume of JoJo than the previous two, and don’t think I haven’t noticed that Jotaro is barely in it. Instead, this focuses on Joseph for an extended period, and coincidentally has some of its more exciting, amusing, and terrifying fights. Indeed, terrifying may be a good word for most of the volume, as this book reminds you that as much as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is an action manga, it could also be classified as horror. Leaving aside the obvious gore, which is horrific enough, we get body possession/disguise (it’s not actually clear which it is), and the villain being able to appear only in reflections as he advances slowly on our hero, something that is right out of the horror movie handbook. Araki is very good at this sort of thing.

I suspected I would enjoy this volume more than the previous two right from the start, as everyone worries about the cliches they’ve heard about India, and Avdol reassures them that those are just stereotypes… only to enter the city and see exactly what they were afraid of. Stereotypes are there for a reason, after all. Sadly, Avdol doesn’t last very long in this book, sacrificing his life to protect the dumbass Polnareff, who is hell-bent on revenge and so therefore not listening very well. To be fair, Polnareff has a good reason for revenge, and the villain Centerfold (changed from the original J. Geil – we should be grateful Nena wasn’t renamed 99 Red Balloons, I suppose) is a loathsome creep, bringing up Polnareff’s sister (who he raped and murdered) again and again. You’re happy when he dies.

The second half of the book, as I said, mostly deals with Joseph and his battle against Centerfold’s evil mother, who was disguised (or possessed?) as Nena and has now taken control of his arm via a gruesome “bug bite” that turns into a Basket Case-esque monster. Fans of the 2nd arc will find a lot to smile about here, as Joseph runs all over the city trying out various plans that don’t work very well (and also being framed for murder) before finally getting the upper hand and saying his trademark “you’re thinking” line. And we end up in the middle of the Himilayas, as our heroes battle what appears to be a guy whose car is a Stand, and also pick up the annoying 11-year-old girl they had dumped the book before – she’s back, and she’s still comic relief. There’s even some amusing meta, as the villain, who has seemingly burned Jotaro alive, shouts that this is the end of Part 3!

It’s not, of course, and Jotaro points out that no one is going to be replacing him anytime soon, much as I might want them to. In the meantime, this is a good comeback volume for Stardust Crusaders, which does what I always like best about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, in that it has an equal amount of both bizarre and adventure. But will we ever get to Dio again?

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, 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. Translated by Evan Galloway, original translation and adaptation by Alexis Kirsch and Fred Burke.

I had worried with the last volume if I wasn’t going to like Jotaro as much as his predecessors, and indeed that still seems to be the case, though I’ve somewhat come to terms with it. Things are still “we must do as many cool things as possible”, but there’s a notable element of humanity missing from this new series, instead relying on set piece after set piece and slowly moving the story around the globe, presumably ending up confronting Dio, though he barely shows up here. I also noticed the first major “we have to change this or the band will sue us” adaptation fix, as Soul Survivor (a Santana reference, so clearly the translators did an excellent job there) replacing the Japanese Devo. (Couldn’t they just say Deevo or Divo or something? They did with Kars, after all.)

It’s always worrying when I’m discussing translation choices in the first paragraph of a review. JoJo’s is one of those series I decided to write full reviews for every volume, but that was much easier in the days of Jonathan’s histrionics and Joseph’s amusing banter. The trouble with Stardust Crusaders is that while it’s not exactly bad, there’s nothing to really grasp and think deeply about. It’s all surface. Now, to be fair, Araki does surface very well. There are some striking fights here, and some of the gory deaths are both horrifying and somewhat amusing, in the best JoJo’s tradition. But even when a major plot point does appear, such as Kakyoin supposedly still being under the influence of Dio, it ends up being a bit too confusing for its own good, as it turns out that the Kakyoin that’s betraying them is actually a spy. (Also, is he named Rubber Soul or Yellow Temperance? Was the name adapted out as well?)

We also pick up a bratty little kid along the way, which I don’t really have too much of an objection to – bratty kids hanging out with heroes is very much a shonen manga trope. I was rather annoyed when she randomly decided to take a shower in the face of ever-present danger, which seems to have been solely to have her be named when faced with such danger. She looks to be about 11 years old, so this was especially annoying. We don’t need that kind of fanservice. I’m not sure how long into the series she’ll last – she doesn’t even have a name to date – but she certainly seems to have taken a shine to Jotaro. As for everyone else, they pose, they shout, and I can’t even remember most of their names.

After spending its first two volumes influencing the majority of modern Jump manga, Stardust Crusaders seems to be coasting, confident that it’s popular enough not to worry about getting cancelled, and relying on violence, set pieces, and attempting to look cool. I miss the earlier style.