JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Vol. 1

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

Though this is the third arc in the JoJo’s series, it was actually the first released in North America, as Viz released it on its own in 2005. I never read it, mostly as it was the 3rd part of a series, and from what I hear its sales were no great shakes. But now JoJo’s is becoming more of a phenomenon, and the hardcovers seem to be doing OK, and so thankfully we get to read this somewhat in context, as we are introduced to Joseph Joestar’s grandson, Jotaro Kujo, his somewhat airheaded mother, Holly (she must get it from her own mother), and another epic quest, as Dio has returned from the dead to stir up trouble, kill off a few helpless victims, and make life miserable for the Joestars. And so the stage is set for an epic battle. Sadly, the first volume of said epic battle mostly falls flat for me.


Jotaro is Japanese, unlike his English great-great grandfather or American grandfather, and shows it off by taking on the staple of 80s manga destined never to be licensed here, the delinquent uniform, complete with peaked cap that is worn slightly off-kilter. Unlike his overearnest/cocky (delete where applicable) ancestors, Jotaro is mostly stoic and cool, which is nice but makes him a lot more of a flat character than his predecessors. Thankfully, Joseph is here, albeit mellowed, and we get a few of the classic JoJo’s types – the mentor and friend, the villain turned good guy, the smug asshole minor villains, and the piles of cannon fodder that lead to many sort-of deaths. (The deaths are not as numerous as you’d expect – the school nurse who is possessed by evil literally has her head ripped off, but should be fine if she’s treated soon. What the hell?)

Of course, the main driving force of this arc is that Dio is back, and clearly up to his old tricks, using Jonathan’s body with his head stapled into it to possess people with parasitic brain worms and casually rape and murder random women in his castle of doom. What’s more, people are now exhibiting new Superpowers, called “Stands” for a reason so stupid I’d rather forget about it. Sometimes these can be cool, like JoJo’s, but they can also be deadly, like his mothers, which is causing her to slowly die by mutating into a plant, as far as I can tell. Thus our heroes must fly to Cairo to take on Dio, provided of course their plane is not hijacked, which it is. This arc is apparently a road movie, so expect lots of foreign settings in amongst the cool poses and piles of gore.

If you read JoJo’s for such things, you should enjoy this volume. There’s cool fights, there’s grotesque violence (the insect pulling the tongues out of an entire aisle of innocents on the plane wins), and there’s occasional stabs at humor, including a bad pun as the cliffhanger. But unfortunately, this was the first JoJo’s that I came away from thinking it was rather dull compared to its predecessors. Given it’s longer than both its predecessors combined, I’m hoping it fixes that soon.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, 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 Media. Translated by Evan Galloway.

By now I think the seasoned JoJo reader is used to the ‘Bizarre’ part of the title, to the point that when the vampire horses show up early in this volume it merely earns a slight shrug, as if to say “of course there would be vampire horses, this is JoJo’. And I feel much the same way. That said, the vampire squirrel growing from the villain’s severed hand took even me by surprise, and reminded us of why this title was so successful – it really does not know when to quit. Be it amazingly graphic violence (for a Jump title), badass boasting, cool posing, or even coming back from near death almost a dozen times over the course of the book, Battle Tendency can be exhausting.


We’re down to only two villains, each based off of a classic 1980s music reference, and the book is almost entirely devoted to JoJo taking out the two one by one. (What, you thought they would double team him? Get real. This is an HONORABLE fight between MEN!) First we have Wham… pardon me, Wamuu (is anyone else here reminded of the old Bastard!! translations?), who goes all Ben-Hur on JoJo with a chariot race to the death. This gives us a chance to see JoJo’s strength and weaknesses, because trust me, he’s filled with weaknesses. Sometimes you want to strangle the kid for how impulsive he is. It’s also a good way to see how he thinks, though, and to show us that much of his fabled “I’m going to predict what you say/do next” is just bluffing. Then we’re supposed to see his mentor (and, as it turns out, something more) Lisa Lisa fight Cars… sorry, Kars. But alas, this is JoJo’s title, and so she’s reduced to hostage bait. Sigh.

And so we come to the end of another arc. The villain has been destroyed after multiple attempts, but just as in the first series, the hero dies. Or so one might think. As I said in my last review, Caesar’s death allows JoJo to live on, in a parallel of Speedwagon and Erina living on after Jonathan’s death. It also gives us a hilariously silly graveside scene where JoJo shows up with Suzi Q in tow, wondering why everyone is at his grave and surprised to see him. (It also reads as very rushed – I suspect Araki ran out of time, or maybe just didn’t care enough. More Suzi Q, please!) And we see an older, grumpier, and apparently Japanese-hating Joseph at the very end, showing that amazingly, a Joestar *can* live to a ripe old age. This dovetails nicely with the start of the third arc, which takes place in Japan.

I enjoyed Battle Tendency a lot, more, I think, than the first part. It lacks a truly memorable villain like Dio, but Joseph is a lot more charismatic and likeable than Jonathan was. I look forward to seeing how Jotaro is different from both of them. I also look forward to less good-hearted Nazis in the next series. But above all, I hope we can top the vampire squirrels for hands thing, because that’s what JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, in the end, is all about.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, 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 Media.

In modern days, it has become a somewhat amusing joke to say that “no one dies in (insert Jump title here)”, be it Bleach, One Piece (until recently), or other such series. There are lots of apparent deaths, but it is a very popular cliche to have the supposedly dead person reappear to much rejoicing, and Jump in particular loves to do it. That said, this is a good 25 years earlier, and so JoJo’s is not afraid to brutally murder major cast members in order to advance the plot and provide much character development and tears of rage from our titular hero. Indeed, the villains are so arrogant that being killed by one of them personally is deemed to be a blessing given to a worthy opponent – attention has been paid.


Last arc it was Speedwagon who survived, with Jonathan being killed off right at the very end. Joseph is a different, less tragic sort of hero, and so it falls to Caesar to be the one who loses his life so that the others may pursue their goal of defeating the evil whositses – honestly, a lot of the plot details of JoJo still tend to whiz by me as people scream battle poses at each other. Not that this is a bad thing – that is why we read this series, as Araki is very good at keeping a reader’s interest with reaction shots and amazed exclamations. Take, for example, the return of Stroheim, who has returned as something of a cyborg, and manages for a while to go toe to toe with Kars (named after the band, or the Gary Numan song? Or both). This despite the fact that the entire “he’s a Nazi, but I don’t hate him as a person” plotline is deeply uncomfortable, and I won’t cry when we leave World War II behind.

As for Joseph himself, he is, as ever, more of a trickster than his grandfather was, which allows him more success in battle against enemies who are prone to being faked out. Of course, this comes with cocksure arrogance and sometimes a petulant anger as well. He’s at his best here dealing with Suzie Q, who he flirts with for about two pages before she’s possessed by another one of the bad guys. This is why seeing him and Lisa Lisa devastated at the climax of this volume is so heartbreaking. We don’t like seeing Joseph like this. I have no doubt that he will get an epic revenge in the fourth and final volume of this arc, but will he be able to bounce back and show us some cocksurity? Who knows.

By now anyone reading this series knows what they’re getting into. I wish there was less “Nazis may be evil but they sure are cool” here, to be frank, but other than that this is wall to wall excellent shonen at 100% volume.