First story arc of JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken series.
Jonathan Joestar, a young wealthy son living in Victorian England, has his life destroyed by a recently orphaned Dio Brando, who was taken in by Jonathan's father. Dio, who plots to drive Jonathan to insanity and inherit the Joestar fortune, becomes an unstoppable vampire that Jonathan must fight.
A 17-volume kanzenban version dubbed as JoJonium was published in Japan from December 4, 2013, to March 4, 2015. This edition covered the first three parts of the Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken series and included new cover art which showed redesigns of the characters by Araki Hirohiko. JoJonium's first three volumes cover the first part.
JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 1: Phantom Blood was published in English by VIZ Media as JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood from February 24 to August 4, 2015. These were released in a hardback format featuring the JoJonium artwork and contents. It was also published in Italy by Star Comics from from November 1993 to May 1994, and in Spain by Editorial Ivrea following the JoJonium format from June 30 to September 21, 2017.
A beat'em up video game based on the series developed by Namco Bandai Games Inc. was released in Japan on October 26, 2006.
As the starting point for one of the longest running manga series', JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood, while certainly not very flashy, provides a solid foundation on which Araki builds the rest of the JoJo saga.
The story of Phantom Blood is simple: save the world by killing the false childhood friend turned vampire. To accomplish this feat, Araki introduces "Hamon", a fighting technique based on breathing. Though an interesting concept, Hamon is not the most creative feature to be found even in shonen manga, especially compared with the wonderfully imaginative "Stands" introduced by the third JoJo series "Stardust Crusaders". Nevertheless, along with the
powerful fighting technique comes equally powerful foes derived from English history with the intention of putting an end to Jonathan Joestar's quest for revenge. This of courses makes for plenty of exciting action, but at the end of it all, the story is still highly generic. An emotional ending wraps up the five-volume series quite well, but it is only enough to carry quality of the overall story to a mere "fair" level -- not bad, but nothing to be amazed about.
Like the story, the characters of Phantom blood are also very simple. They are mostly distinctively black-and-white. The good guys are exceedingly noble and just, while the bad guys are overwhelmingly sinister and cruel. There are a lot of exaggerated emotions to be seen from the characters -- tears would be shed at the hero's act of benevolence, while the vile deeds of the villains would always be accompanied by exclamations of sheer horror. But because of how excessive it is, the reader would often passionately cheer for the heroes and boo for the bad guys, adding satisfaction to each of the heroes' victories. The simplistic characters of JoJo, while not outstanding, carry a hint a undeniable charm.
The art style of JoJo is definitely its selling point, though it may not appeal to everyone. The physical build of the characters is Phantom Blood's most obvious distinction: virtually every male character who makes an appearance dons the physique that would be the envy of bodybuilders. Araki loves to draw muscles, and a LOT of them, to point where he would draw muscles that do not exist in actual human anatomy. As a result, the men become hulking giants with clothes so tight that it makes make one wonder how they can manage to breath. However, the burly heroes and villains look great while fighting, and combined with Araki's bold style, the action is both gruesome and vivid. The tone of the panels are dark due to the heavy use of shading, which serves to build the dark atmosphere of most of Phantom Blood's settings. The details on the monsters make them so hideous that instances of their often brutal demise are greatly satisfying.
If you are looking for a simple beat-them-up shonen manga and do not mind the lack of creativity in the story and characters, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood is worth a look. It is not the best the JoJo saga has to offer, but its unique and dynamic art, accessible characters, and even the simple but generic plot still offer up plenty of thrills.
If I were to tell you that I though JoJo part 1 was the best in the series you would probably think I was some mediocre pretentious pseudo intellectual reviewer who has no idea what he is talking about , but it was ME! Speak The Weak!!!
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 deconstructs the shounen genre through its dynamic story line that bends clichés and tropes in order to craft a unique in a manner that only Hirohiko Araki (JoJo mangaka) could. The story focuses on a rich boy named Jonathan Joestar (JoJo) who lives with his father, George in England. One day Jojo's father
takes in an orphan named Dio Brando because Dio's father who passed away saved George's life! To Jojo's surprise Dio wants to ruin his privileged life and take the Joestar family fortune all for himself! What JoJo does that most shounen don't is portray a rich privileged character as a protagonist and the poor tragic character as a villain. Dio started from the bottom and when he got to the top he abused his newfound power to wreak havoc (not to mention act like a total badass)!
Unlike other shounen works JoJo part 1 also features a wide array of characters each with their own role in the series, no character in the Jojo series, part 1 in particular is forgettable. Who could ever forget famous lines like "Even Speedwagon is afraid!" and "It was me! Dio!!!" and even "WRYYYYY". Though its wit and general badassery Jojo part one offers a one of a kind experience that none of the other installments can even try to imitate. Jojo part 1 also incorporates a unique fighting system called hamon, I don't want to go too in depth about it though because I want to avoid spoilers so read it for yourself to find out.
The art in JoJo is perfect similar to the rest of it, it pays homage to the other classic shounen manga of its time such as Fist of the North Star while also maintain its own unique manly style, unlike the later parts which make use of a much more feminine and ugly style which is inspired by fashion magazines instead of classic works in the medium of manga.
The characters in JoJo are as I mentioned before unforgettable and extremely badass, there are no dense, intensive protagonists, no disgusting fan service, and no boring moe pandering. Only men in their most masculine state.
JoJo Part One is a masterpiece that defined the shounen genre and kick started a series that would go on for many years and attract a wide array of fans, sadly the work does not get as much praise as its deserves despite being one of the best works of literature in the shounen demographic.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has only recently experienced a big boom over in the English-speaking parts of the world, due to the recent anime adaptation taking off in a big way, and beforehand was merely a cult series with a small but devoted fanbase. However, in Japan, it has been huge for a very long time - it's tremendous influence spans to everything from Hunter X Hunter to Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, and it still stands as the 9th longest manga of all time, and still going. And through all this (well-deserved) attention and acclaim, it's pretty easy to forget that this, where it all began, really just
isn't very good.
The story begins in England, during the 1800s. It opens with a petty thief, Dario Brando, attempting to rob a fallen carriage and the dead nobles inside. However, it turns out that the noble in question survived - and thinks that Dario saved his life. Many years later, after Dario's death, he repays what he thinks he owes Dario by taking in his son, Dio Brando. Dio is incredibly embittered by his life in the slums and his abusive father... and upon meeting Jonathan "JoJo" Joestar, the son of the noble Dario supposedly saved, he begins to take it out on him and attempt to ruin Jonathan's life.
It's obvious that a premise like that couldn't possibly launch 107 volumes (and counting), so to say the least, the plot goes to very, VERY different places as it progresses. The strife between Jonathan and Dio doesn't last that long, relatively speaking, but it does feel pretty long at the time - it takes almost two volumes before the supernatural aspect takes over the plot. Much as I can appreciate that it doesn't baby the viewer by introducing the entire premise as fast as possible (as shonen series are oft to do), the beginning can be a real struggle to get through.
It isn't helped by how generally appalling the art is art first. By the end of this arc, it's passable, but at the very beginning, body proportions are appalling (the 12-year old Dio and Jonathan look like bodybuilders), the anatomy is ridiculous, lines are far too thick and cartoony-looking, and darker pages are very hard to follow due to how unclear and smudged-looking everything becomes. In this day and age Araki Hirohiko is one of the best artists in the business, but looking back on this you'd be hard-pressed to believe it.
While the slow start is definitely the biggest flaw with Phantom Blood, it's far from the only one. The rest of the series is littered with a number of small issues that collectively build up into something very problematic. Perhaps the most obvious is Jonathan Joestar himself. I haven't said much about him thus far in this review, and there's a very simple reason for that - there isn't much to say. The "JoJo" in the title is something of a legacy character, passing onto a new character every arc, and Jonathan is arguably the worst, and definitely the least interesting. He's little more than a generic noble and chivalrous shonen hero, complete with idiotic idealism. To make matters worse, every single fight in the series revolves around him. This is especially irritating, because his comrades, Will Zeppeli and Robert E.O. Speedwagon (I'm not making this up, that's actually his name) are actually interesting characters, and yet fail to be anything more than likeable because of how much Jonathan hogs the spotlight.
And now, I'll stop beating up on Phantom Blood, because for all it's faults there are still plenty of things it does right.
The first, and most obvious, is Dio Motherfucking Brando (expletive sorely needed). Don't get me wrong - he's not a deep character by any means. His utter nefariousness is given little reason, and his Freudian excuse does very little to explain his behaviour. He is completely, atrociously, unspeakably evil, and pretty one-dimensional for it. However, once he gains vampire powers, Dio becomes mind-bogglingly fun to watch. Perhaps the best thing about him is that unlike so many other shonen villains, Dio does not fuck around. Whether he's using his newfound superstrength to chase his Jonathan by digging his feet into the walls, or digging an entire, intact artery out of Jonathan's neck and playing with it just to let him known how easily he could kill him on the spot, Dio is unflinchingly brutal in the most disturbing, almost playful way.
And while Dio is the patron saint of this (for Phantom Blood at least), this is the key strength of Phantom Blood and one of the key strengths of JJBA as a whole - it does not pull a single punch. Looking at other shonen series after reading JJBA, it's remarkable how much the characters use their powers in utterly pedestrian and obvious ways. Let's face it - if you had anything that extraordinary, one of the first things you'd do is find out how many ways you can use it. And this is something Araki seems to truly understand - what with not only the enourmous variety of vampiric techniques that go above and beyond the generic bloodsucking bat-transforming fodder you'd usually see. Much as the setting owes itself to classic vampire horror, the vampires themselves are wholly original (Battle Tendency would later elaborate on why). Similarly, the Hamon technique (often translated as "Ripple") that the protagonists use is a wonderful slice of applied pseudoscience, effectively using breathing techniques to channel the energies of the sun, and playing around with a wonderful variety of ways to channel and conduct it.
Finally, the cherry on top is of course the naming conventions. By this point you'd have to be blind, dense, or just plain unfamiliar with rock music in it's entirety to have not noticed Araki's love for music. Almost every character is named after some sort of band or musician - JoJo himself is a reference to a certain Beatles song, Dio is named for the small man with the big voice himself, and hilariously, there is actually a character named Robert E.O. Speedwagon (as mentioned before). Then there's a pair of Hamon disciples named Dire and Straights, trained under master Ton Petti, a quartet of vampires named Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham... the list goes on. It's a colourful little addition that makes for a nice finishing touch.
So for all that... Phantom Blood is a heavily flawed manga. However, it has numerous redeeming features in of itself, and more importantly, it's the weakest arc by far - not to mention the shortest. Phantom Blood clocks in at a meagre 5 volumes, far less than most arcs. And as it is immediately followed by what is one of if not THE best of the arcs, any patience you're willing to exercise with Phantom Blood will soon be rewarded.
Final Words: Has plenty of issues but it's one hell of a worthy investment.
In the world of Manga and Anime you're likely to find many unusual stories that are massive and incredibly unique in scope, several of which garner high praise and several more that fall into obscurity. In this case while the aptly named JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has left a massive cultural impact on the Manga industry overall, its first saga "Phantom Blood" only brings a small (but very important) part of the overall appeal of the series.
To put things bluntly Phantom Blood's story isn't anything ground breaking: it is essentially what you'd get if you tried to cross Castlevania with a dark adventure series and feels
more like a Seinin series than a Shonen series (what it actually is). It takes place in the 19th century and begins with the recently orphaned Dio Brando being adopted into the aristocratic Joestar family, where he proceeds to make his adoptive brother Jonathan Joestar's life a living hell by alienating everyone close to him in an attempt to become the favoured son in the Joestar family and presumably to become the biggest bastard that the world has ever seen in the process. Dio eventually becomes a vampire by way of a mysterious stone mask (just go with it) and like most villains sets his sights on world domination. Jonathan and his companions Robert E.O Speedwagon and Ripple master Will A. Zeppeli go on a mission to hunt Dio down and to destroy the accursed stone mask in the process. To summarize despite being weird the narrative is extremely linear and should not be taken too seriously, as it serves little more than a framing device for the fight scenes and gore. Which is all it really needs to do honestly.
As far as the characters are concerned the truth is that there isn't a whole lot to most of them; Jonathan is your typical naïve, idealistic hero on a mission to save the world and is easily the least interesting JoJo in the entire franchise, Speedwagon is Jonathan's sidekick and while he's not useless he mainly plays a supportive role in fights and frequently has the job of exclaiming about just how awful their current situation is and Zeppeli is the mentor figure with a sordid past involving the stone mask. Supporting characters while occasionally superficially interesting generally lack characterisation and are at worst are relegated into being two dimensional cannon-fodder. The character who really deserves special mention is Dio, who despite being a deplorable evil monster of a man is both extremely entertaining in a twisted sense and more fleshed out as a character than anybody else. Dio simply steals the show away from Jonathan whenever he's on the scene, the show and whatever he fancies taking away from his adoptive brother.
By far the strongest thing that Phantom Blood has going for it are the fight scenes, which are both highly entertaining and well thought out. Battles in this series are almost always about outsmarting the other person as opposed to the more common "overpowering the other guy" and this is something that continues on through the other parts. To combat Dio and his vampiric minions the series introduces a fighting style that utilises an energy source referred to as the Ripple (think chi combined with UV rays from the sun), which is used in conjunction with physical attacks. It's explained that only select few individuals can harness the power of the Ripple as it requires constant focus on the rhythm of ones own breathing (which of course Jonathan is capable of doing). While the concept of Ripple energy is interesting in itself, it is hardly anything unique and lacks anything to make it really stand out over similar concepts in other series. It's not until the next part in the series, “Battle Tendency” that it becomes something more unique and even then the concept is abandoned in the third series for something much more creative.
As for the art style of the series, it is quite reminiscent of "Fist of the North Star". Araki takes joy in drawing extremely muscle-bound main characters, wearing well designed and unique clothing and will almost always have a handsome face to top things off (Jonathan and Dio are prime Examples of this). Minor villains aren't quite as privileged in this regard as quite a few of them can be described as looking like hulking trolls, which can be distracting at times when its focusing just the two extremes without a sense of middle ground. Scenery is often inventive with a few locations later on that distinctly look like something out of a horror film, which again is very appropriate given Dio's vampiric nature. Overall despite some minor gripes, the art remains pleasantly consistent throughout the series' run.
In conclusion if you're just interested in an over the top action series or are just interested in the premise then this may be worth a look, if you want to get into JJBA however then it is a must read as it will give you a greater appreciation for the later parts in the series. In any case while Phantom Blood may have its flaws it is a truly unique journey that you're not likely to forget.