Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – First Impression
Jo Jo was a man who thought he was a loner
But he knew it couldn’t last
Jo Jo left his home in Tucson, Arizona
For some California grass
Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
Get back Jo Jo
“Get Back”, The Beatles
Like I’m sure most people were upon hearing that Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure would be getting animated, I was very nervous about how it would turn out. It’s one of the most stylized series to come out of Japan, and I understand quite a few people weren’t happy with how the OVAs adapted it. The fact that it was a small company like David Productions only added to the worry, since they likely wouldn’t have the budget you would have expected something so well-known to get. Now that I’ve finally seen the first episode, I can happily say that my fears have started to disappear.
Before I really start getting into the episode, the first stuff I should address while I’m here are the questions some of you probably have. Most of those questions likely relate to Dio and all the memes surrounding him. The problem is that most of the answers I could give are both incredible spoilers and have very little to do with the current story. See, what’s interesting about the memes in Jojo is that almost all of them are things the audience shouldn’t know right away. That’s because they come from the OVAs, which deal with the third part of the series while this anime starts from the beginning. So it would be best to leave those questions alone for now and enjoy the series as it was intended. Oh, unless you wanted to know what “WRYYYYYY!” means. That one is just a few episodes away.
From a visual perspective, Jojo is trying its best to look presentable as well as unique. David Productions has gone with the idea that it would be far too difficult to make the manga look stylish and fluid if they copied the design completely. The changes they made appear to be focused on the use of colour, which is visually interesting though a little much at times. I’m personally okay with the changes, primarily because of how Liefieldian the artwork in the early parts of the series can be. I also appreciated the use of manga-like sound effects, as they add to the already over-the-top nature of the show.
From the very start, it’s clear that Jojo is attempting to be as silly as it can even when the elements of the show would be expected to be taken seriously. The series was originally written in the 1980s, and while there does seem to be some effort put into making it work for an anime, it still comes across as very old school writing. I imagine this will turn off some people who don’t like to see characters standing around monologuing about the attacks they just performed. If so, it probably won’t comfort you very much to know this was the series that inspired a lot of those trends in shonen. At least you know who to blame for all that.
While the strongly melodramatic style of the writing gets across what kind of show this is, one thing I found a bit lacking in this episode is that it didn’t feel very bizarre. Presentation aside, there wasn’t very much in this episode to make it appear like the supernatural thriller it will eventually turn into. In fact I’m sure there are people who have only seen the OVAs and this episode and have trouble telling that they take place in the same universe. So far the only real connection to the more fantastic part of the show is the Stone Mask. I won’t spoil what it does, but it is fairly clear that it’s more than an ornament for your wall. I assume this is meant to slowly get the audience used to the more bizarre elements, since I know the mildly bizarre Robert E. O. Speedwagon appears next episode.
The strongest part of this episode is the characters. Something I always liked about the various parts of Jojo is how they start off with only a few characters and slowly build from there, so we can more easily understand how these four or five people think. I will openly admit that Jonathan Joestar is not the most interesting character, even within this series. What makes him much easier to relate to is the way he interacts with everyone else. Dio acts as his nemesis and his greatest obstacle to overcome, his father is the tough authority figure who thinks you can never expect too much, and Erina is his greatest ray of hope when everything else started to come down. With people like this around him, it’s much easier to understand his reactions and motivations, and we’re able to root for him because of it. That comes across rather well in this episode, though sometimes it also helps to remind ourselves that he’s both 12 and a character in a shonen. “Dio! Dio! Dioooooo! *rolls down hill*”
One last thing I wanted to bring up. Going into this series, there were several moments I was worried would get censored or otherwise changed in order to get the series onto TV. The first moment is the above seen where Dio jams his thumb into Jonathan’s eye. I remember cringing when I first read that because I thought he would lose that eye permanently. This made it into the show intact, though they didn’t focus too heavily on the injury. The second was something I’m VERY glad they censored. In the original manga, Jonathan himself was the one who found Danny in the furnace, and he manages to get it open, which results in the heavily burned dog walking out for a panel right before he falls over dead! Yeah. I don’t think anyone wanted to see that.
The one remaining thing I was curious about was handled rather interestingly. The very first scene of the manga is not of the Joestar’s crashed carriage. It’s a scene from some time in the distant past, where an ancient cult is sacrificing a woman for the Stone Mask. This is part of why I expected the first episode to be a little more bizarre, because that scene was originally there to set the mood like the first scene of Higurashi. It did come across as out of place, but what interested me the most is that they didn’t remove it. They made it the first shot of the ending theme. The exact significance of that will be a little clearer later on, but for now it serves as a nice little piece of foreshadowing.
Just from the first episode, I can tell that Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is a very faithful adaptation with a lot of thought put into it. I’m curious how they’re going to animate some of the material from later on, but I’m sure they’ll be able to manage it well. So to David Productions, I say thanks for the interesting show, and please give Zeppeli a good voice actor.