I first heard about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure via memes on Twitter, like I’m sure many people did. It was during the airing of Part 4 (Diamond is Unbreakable), sometime in 2016, and I thought the joke was pretty funny. I’d heard some good things about the show, so thought I’d give it a shot. I was immediately blown away by a completely new experience in anime: gore, violence, captivating storylines, enthralling characters, and plenty of humour. 5 years on, having watched and read Parts 1-7, I want to give my own review on each Part that has an anime so far, meaning the first 6. It’s been far too long since I read Part 7 so I could not possibly give as much of an accurate review as the others, so it will be left out.
Before I do so, I’ll give some background information on how JoJo works. Each iteration follows a different main character in a different time, and these are categorised as ‘Parts’. There are 8 in total, and the anime adaptation of Part 6 has recently begun airing on Netflix, with series author Hirohiko Araki having announced a Part 9 to be in the works.
Part 1: Phantom Blood
Phantom Blood opens with a gruesome scene of the aftermath of a wagon-crash in England, blood and bodies are on display immediately. The sole survivors are George Joestar and his baby son, Jonathan. A wandering looter, Dario Brando, happens upon the scene and attempts to steal the belongings of the rich corpses. George, who was presumed dead by Dario, mistakes him for someone who saved his life and feels indebted to the thief. This manifests many years later when Dario mysteriously dies, leaving his son Dio Brando to be adopted by George alongside a grown Jonathan, now nicknamed JoJo.
Dio however, is far more evil than his father, having been the one who poisoned Dario and wanting nothing more than to inherit the full wealth of his new adoptive father at any cost. His arrival begins a sinister rivalry between himself and JoJo, with such heinous actions as stealing a first kiss from JoJo’s love interest Erina, brutally beating him down in a boxing match, and killing Jonathan’s dog (all in the first episode.)
What follows is the discovery of a supernatural mask that turns victims into powerful vampires, and Dio, upon discovery, murders his adoptive father and rejects his humanity. Jonathan learns a technique known as ‘Ripple’, which utilises the energy of the sun to destroy creatures of the night, on his quest to defeat Dio once and for all.
Phantom Blood is sadly overlooked by newcomers when in reality it’s a wonderful opening. It perfectly introduces the JoJo line, our protagonists, the menacing Dio, whose actions are the main cause for every subsequent plot, and the overall theme of the series. I highly recommend it as the starting point, disregarding what many others say about starting at Part 3. You truly grow to appreciate the story more when you realise just how much Part 1 affects everything else.
Part 2: Battle Tendency
Battle Tendency follows Jonathan’s grandson, Joseph, who now lives in late 1930s New York with his grandmother and Jonathan’s best friend Robert E.O. Speedwagon (everything is named after songs and music artists if you haven’t noticed.) Far less gentlemanly than his predecessor, the new JoJo is charismatic and hilarious from the get-go. Inheriting the power of Ripple, he first beats up two corrupt cops bullying and extorting a young black boy called Smoky. When another vampire, who used to be a companion of Jonathan, shows up and tries to kill Joseph, it sends him on a similar journey during the early years of World War 2 to discover the secrets of the stone masks and learn how to master Ripple.
The enemies this time are the creators of the masks, a vampiric superhuman race known as Pillar Men. They seek a jewel that, with the power of the stone mask, will turn their leader Kars into the ultimate being.
Part 2 is where the series really picks up. While Part 1 is reminiscent of a gothic horror story, Battle Tendency comes into its own through the wonderful character that is Joseph Joestar. His casual attitude and unchivalrous behaviour couldn’t be further from what we were used to with Jonathan, although his heart is in the right place and he knows his responsibility to defend humanity from the new threat. That doesn’t stop him from having his fun, constantly predicting his foes’ next moves and lines perfectly. Part 2 remains one of my favourites to this day.
Part 3: Stardust Crusaders
The most popular Part of the whole series, Stardust Crusaders is iconic in every way. It introduces Stands, spirit-like manifestations of a person’s soul, that wield different powers individual to each person. Our new JoJo is the grandson of Joseph, Jotaro Kujo, a colossally sized, Japanese 17-year-old delinquent. Tall, dark and handsome, he’s sought after by many schoolgirls, but rudely rejects them at every turn, although this only makes them like him more. He even is abrasive to his own mother, who brings Grandpa Joseph to get Jotaro out of jail.
Jotaro believes his Stand, Star Platinum, is an evil spirit, but after Joseph explains and his friend Avdol forcibly removes Jotaro from jail with his own Stand, the story begins anew. DIO had survived his encounter with Jonathan many decades ago and stolen his body, replacing his head with his vampiric powers. DIO has amassed a following of Stand-users and threatens to take over the world. Jotaro must journey from Japan to Egypt in the late 80s and destroy DIO once and for all within 40 days to save his mother from a cursed Stand, inherited from Jonathan’s body. Along the way, the trio meet and free two people under control from DIO: Kakyoin, a fellow student, and Polnareff, a Frenchman seeking the murderer of his sister, who is a Stand-user in the service of DIO.
Their intended flight is foiled by one of DIO’s minions, and they must instead go from city to city and fight numerous Stand-users as they go. The five of them eventually arrive in Egypt, their friendship evolving into a brotherhood, only to find the best and most powerful of DIO’s servants awaiting them. Fierce fights await them, leading to a conclusive confrontation between Jotaro and DIO himself.
Part 3 is to Part 2, as Part 2 is to Part 1, if that makes sense. It’s a step in a complete other direction, with tons of charm in the characters, interesting abilities and satisfying fights. There is a clear reason why this is the fan favourite, it remains outstanding no matter how many times you rewatch it. The humour and seriousness are both kicked up a notch, and having so many main characters only accentuates the chemistry. While you can start the series here, like many say, Stardust Crusaders is a conclusion to Parts 1 and 2, and not knowing the past of Jonathan and DIO diminishes the impact of the final battle. It is unapologetically fantastic.
Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable
Part 4 is one I do not personally enjoy very much, in comparison to the others. It follows Josuke Higashikata, Joseph’s illegitimate son from an affair, thus making him Jotaro’s young uncle. If that wasn’t complicated enough, the reason he’s a JoJo is that the Kanji used for his name, specifically ‘suke’, can also be said as ‘Jo’. Don’t quote me on this, my knowledge of Japanese is not very proficient.
He lives in a small town called Morioh with his mother, when one day Jotaro visits looking for his uncle and a mysterious bow and arrow that, when shot at a person, can grant them a Stand. This leads them both on a detective-style chase after the one shooting people with the arrow, which may also kill a person rather than give them powers.
After seemingly catching the culprit, the cast come across the Ghost Girl’s Alley, where the ghost of a young lady tells them she was murdered by a serial killer years ago, and the killer is still somewhere in the town. This introduces Yoshikage Kira, a seemingly normal man who hides his dark nature with his mundane job. He obsessively collects the hands of young women after killing them with his Stand, Killer Queen, which explodes whatever he touches. After having to murder one of Josuke’s friends to cover his tracks, it leads Josuke on a vengeful mission to find the killer and end his spree.
Honestly, I don’t find Josuke nearly as charming as the other JoJos, nor do I much like his group of friends. Kira, on the other hand, is a fantastic villain. While I personally prefer DIO, I cannot deny Kira is the better antagonist. He is by far the most interesting antagonist presented yet in the series, and is most definitely one of the best in any anime I’ve seen. He alone gives me enough reason to rewatch Part 4, seeing everything from his POV is simply thrilling.
Part 5: Vento Aureo
Part 5 features Giorno Giovanni, (GioGio), the son of DIO. If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s set in Italy circa 2001, just a couple of years after Part 4. Giorno is a 15-year-old con-artist and thief, but has much nobler goals. He aspires to become a gang boss to end drug-trafficking that uses the youth of Italy. To this end, he persuades a mafioso called Bruno Bucciarati, who belongs to the Stand-user mafia gang Passione, to help accomplish his dream. After Giorno murders a capo anonymously, Bucciarati is promoted to his position, and Giorno joins Bucciarati’s group in secretly overthrowing their boss.
They are given a mission to find and protect the boss’ daughter, Trish Una, and bring her to him, while fending off a group of traitorous hitmen. They then discover the boss wants to murder his innocent daughter to protect his anonymity, and Bucciarati instead betrays the boss to protect Trish. His group defects and takes up the goal of discovering the boss’ identity in order to overthrow him.
The setting alone is amazing, paired with the engrossing story and diverse main cast, and we have my second favourite Part. Giorno is ironically the most noble character since Jonathan, and goes above and beyond to realise his goals. The boss’ complex ability, sinister motives and shadowy appearance serve to make him a fascinating villain. Stands become far more complicated and interesting starting here, and the creativity of Araki really shines through.
Part 6: Stone Ocean
Part 6 is a hot topic right now, with the first season of it releasing on the first of December already. It is my personal favourite Part, but to avoid spoilers I won’t summarise much of the story. It follows Jotaro’s daughter Jolyne, who was framed for murder and sentenced to prison in Florida. There, she is caught up in a plot involving the father she wants nothing to do with, and the legacy of DIO realised through an enigmatic figure. She is sought after by people who desire the information and the Stand of Jotaro Kujo, and quickly finds herself needing to protect the father she once resented.
Fans of the series, especially those who haven’t read the manga, are in for an exhaustingly thrilling ride.