Seventh story arc of JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken series.
Set in 1890, Steel Ball Run spotlights Gyro Zeppeli and Johnny Joestar as they pit their spirits on a Fifty Million Dollar race across the heart of America. Their track quickly becomes a no-rules land as the racers' dreams collide and only human will spurs them on. But there is more to this race than any contestant realized and each of them soon grasps the real size of their world.
JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 7: Steel Ball Run was originally presented as an unrelated story to the JoJo series and was serialized in Weekly Shounen Jump magazine as Steel Ball Run from 8th to 47th 2004 issue. Serialization then transferred to Ultra Jump magazine from May 2005 issue and the series was officially declared as Part 7 of the JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken series.
Serving as a soft reset for Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Steel Ball Run takes the story in original and daring directions. But does it work? Oh who am I kidding? I'm going to be straight up.
I consider Steel Ball Run to be one of the greatest written works I've ever read.
I will admit Steel Ball Run has a very, very slow start. In fact, Stands aren't even introduced until like 20 chapters in. That's another thing: Steel Ball Run is seinen instead of shounen. That means each chapter ranges from 35 to 60 pages long in comparison to the 20 page long
chapters of the Jojo Parts before. This may seem daunting at first, but once you get invested in Steel Ball Run it feels like the story was too short, despite being the longest Jojo Part to date. Steel Ball Run also changes the Jojo formula in its fights. Stands are no longer humanoid for the most part, and they function more as superpowers than spirits who fight for you. Each fight is engaging and unique, dealing with psychological warfare more than throwing blind punches. This makes the fights in Steel Ball Run among the best in the series.
Steel Ball Run is also magnificently written with very great story arcs throughout. However, there is a controversial near the very end direction which I won't spoil that will surely throw some people off and make them consider it unnecessary. Eh, I didn't mind it too much, though it does undermine what made a previous Part so good to a degree. Despite that, it still contains one of the greatest and most emotional endings I've ever read.
Part 4 may have been the pinnacle of Araki's style, but Steel Ball Run is his pinnacle in his talent. Truly perfect art in all fields. The detail is much more in depth than previous Parts and character designs are on point.
Steel Ball Run, though its primary cast is a fraction of other Parts, contains some of the best characters in Jojo, and in my opinion some of the best characters of all time. Gyro Zeppeli qualifies for the latter. He's hilarious but he also has a tragic backstory that offers him plenty of motivation while keeping him in mystery. Diego Brando is an interesting spin on Dio Brando from The Phantom Blood and his Stand Scary Monsters is awesome. Lucy and Steven Steel are a great duo. Steven is barely in the story but he's a well written and unique supporting character and while Lucy doesn't really come into play until the finale she is still compelling. Wekapipo is one of the best side protagonists and works well as a foil to Gyro. Steel Ball Run also contains my favorite side villain, Ringo Roadaggin, and though his time spent in the story is brief it is arguably he pinnacle of Jojo.
As for the Jojo and main villain, they're simply the best. Johnny Joestar is a tragic lightning rod of Shakespearean proportions. It's not only impossible to not root for him, it is immoral. He has one of the greatest and most significant character arcs I've ever experienced, and his Stand Tusk is awesome to boot. He is my favorite Jojo bar none, despite being one of the most depraved ones. Johnny is immoral and sinful and honestly can be considered the villain of Steel Ball Run, but he is still a compelling force of nature.
The villain, President Funny Valentine, in contrast, can be considered the hero to an extent, and is one of the most sympathetic villains to grace manga. In fact, it's no secret Funny Valentine is my favorite antagonist ever. He's like a better version of Ozymandias from Watchmen who takes pride in his actions rather than cry in secret. A true patriot, Funny Valentine will stop at nothing to make America great again. As said by the man himself, his "heart and actions are utterly unclouded. They are those of JUSTICE.". His Stand, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (D4C), has one of the most insane and unique powers of any Stand and makes for a more than satisfying final fight.
Steel Ball Run blew me away in every way. It is a literal epic, a poetic work of great magnitude following flawed heroes on a large scale journey that tests their spiritual and emotional strength as well as their physical. It is compelling and powerful and the fights are pretty damn great. Absolutely mind blowing and awe inspiring yet will leave you in an emotional wreck, despite the story still being filled with trademark Araki humor (Thanks mostly to Gyro and his obsession with making up gags). Johnny and Gyro are a perfect tag team; their relationship is strong and real and their chemistry is on point. They are part of what makes the story so damn compelling.
Steel Ball Run is one of the most intense and pleasing emotional rollorcoasters I've ever experienced. It contains some of my favorite characters in fiction history and is a fantastic new take on the Jojo universe that, dare I say, is utterly superior to all that's come before it. Featuring my favorite fights, my favorite Jojo, my favorite villain, my favorite story, and one of the most emotional endings I've read, it's no secret that I consider Steel Ball Run to be the greatest Jojo Part, and one of the greatest manga ever created, period.
I am writing this review simply because there was only one review which means that no matter how bad this review is it will still end up being the second most helpful.
Set in an alternate universe from previous parts as a result of the events at the end of Stone Ocean, Steal Ball Run is probably the apex of the massive Jojo's Bizzare Adventure franchise, which is no small statement. Araki has once again recycled and improved upon his formula for making terrifically bizarre adventures.
The premise for Steel Ball Run like many of the other parts of the JJBA series is fairly simple and straightforward
yet manages to go so far beyond the limits in depth and development of such a simple story. Essentially the story is about a cross-continental horse race across America with a prize of $50 million. There are many wacky and wonderful characters who enter this race ranging from a native american trying to save his village to a man who entered the race because he got a good fortune from a creepy fortune teller.
Moving onto the two main characters of Steel Ball Run. We have Johnny Joestar the titular Jojo of the series and Gyro Zeppeli. In his youth Johnny was a promising horse jockey until he was shot and paralyzed which resulted in him being unable to compete, he also lost all his fame and his father's love as well. It's at this point Johnny encounters the flamboyant Gyro Zeppeli who Johnny believes holds the ability to restore his ability to walk, with nothing to lose Johnny pursues Gyro. Gyro whilst reluctant at first allows Johnny to race alongside him in the Steel Ball Run. Araki decided only to have two central characters in this part as opposed to previous parts such as Stardust Crusaders and Vento Aureo which results in both characters receiving brilliant development over the course of the series, this is hands down the best bromance in anime and manga. There are still many notable side characters present and they still play an important role in the plot, we have a magnificent cameo performance from previous villain Dio Brando in the form of the suave ladies man Diego Brando who is willing to do anything to achieve his ambitions. As well as the mysterious Hot Pants who provided one of the most shocking twists in the entire series.
We then have the antagonist of the story Funny Valentine (named after the song 'My funny valentine' by Chet Baker) who happens to be the President of the United States and is the one secretly pulling the strings behind the scenes of the Steel Ball Run for his own nefarious means. Valentine manages to set himself apart from the other villains in the series and even manages to surpass his counterparts which is very impressive considering JJBA arguably has some of the best villains in any series. He manages to combine his strong philosophical and political views with perhaps the coolest ability of all time to become a truly great villain.
Once more Araki's artistic style has evolved further, his eccentric character designs have been brushed up to the point of perfection. Since the series moved from Weekly Shounen Jump to Ultra Jump which has monthly release the length of the chapters has lengthened, as well as the quality of the backgrounds and landscapes which vary greatly across the massive continent of America from vast desserts to frozen wastelands which are all captured beautifully.
The Stand fighting system is back once more, but has been refined further. Araki once again provides the reader with a banquet of fabulous powers and intelligent fights that other fighting series could only wish for. A special mention to Diego Brando's 'Scary Monsters' because well it is awesome.
Araki has really outdone himself this time. He has truly created one of the most exciting and memorable manga series of all time with Steel Ball Run, I have no idea how he plans to top himself with Jojolion but he has set the bar pretty damn high for himself and every other shounen author out there.
I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a fantastic series filled with intelligent and innovative fights, brilliantly developed characters who are genuinely relatable and for anyone who wants to read a series with horse races in it. If you are interested in reading Steel Ball Run you can probably get away with not reading the entire series from parts 1-6 but I would strongly advise you to check out the entire series as you would be missing out on a lot of greatness, at any rate you should at the very least watch the 2012 series as there are a few overlapping themes and characters which you should be aware of.
After the striking and shocking, yet beautiful, conclusion of Stone Ocean, the seventh part in the JoJo story definitely had an act to follow. Going above and beyond the call of duty to an extent unseen within the medium, Steel Ball Run is a true artistic achievement, in every regard.
As has become tradition, the visuals are first on the chopping block. We’ve come to expect lusciously detailed characters, harsh shading and an eye for strong poses from Araki’s work, but what certainly cannot be complimented about previous parts is the paneling and panel flow, a problem which is very much rectified here. More importantly,
however, is the panel composition. Steel Ball Run’s panels are composed in such a way to focus on intimacy and closeness, which adds a great deal to immersing the reader in the dirt, grime, sweat and tears that coat every major action scene. The artstyle has gone for a mix between the flamboyant style of Vento Aureo, the modern slickness of Stone Ocean and the bulky grittiness of Battle Tendency. Such a style leads to the characters feeling both playful and grounded, which enhances the tone greatly.
To expound further on the grunginess of the series, the fights constantly feel like the participants are fighting for their lives in every moment. The aforementioned aesthetic points certainly play no small part in creating such a feeling, but the complexity of the situations, and the quick-wittedness of the players in the field are the stars here. The most notable example, from a narrative perspective, would be the fight with Ringo Roadagain in volume 7. Gyro, one of the protagonists, fights tooth and nail against Roadagain, and every blow taken feels like it could be the end. None of the brawls are senseless, far from it, as they are as complex as action scenes in manga get; the playing field is ever changing, abilities are constantly being used in new ways, the setting is taken advantage of, and often times, four or more characters, all with an equal stake in the battle, will be involved.
Johnny Joestar, the protagonist, is written wholly differently from previous JoJos. Johnny is self important, lacks purpose, yet distinctly forsakes others in service of his whims; in distinct contrast to previous series protagonists, who are far more upstanding and “heroic” in the traditional sense. Johnny, being a paraplegic, often uses the metaphor of comparing the story to his “learning to walk”, which is a quite apt description of his arc throughout this journey, as he learns the value of others and finds a reason to be. Despite the harshness of my words, Johnny is nonetheless still likeable; he’s often silly, and has a degree of charisma, along with being a generally good guy when push comes to shove. Gyro Zeppeli is the even more comical of the two, as he will occasionally come up with comic sketch ideas, spout puns or other such wordplay, and even bring up random nonsense in the middle or right before a serious battle. He, however, is not a character to be taken lightly, as his role in the story is crucial, and his backstory and motivation are those of great tragedy. Funny Valentine is the main antagonist of the series, and the President of the United States. Suffice to say, his goals are debatably far more noble than those of “our heroes”, and he merely falls apart in his execution of said helpful intentions.
The stands and other such abilities in Steel Ball Run are more vast, creative and unique than previous parts, while also being far less battle focused. There’s a stand that allows the user to freeze rain in mid fall, and another stand that allows the user to spray skin onto people. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world in Part 7, and they make sure everyone knows it. The most notable non-stand ability introduced in this part is “The Spin”, which is essentially the reincarnation of “Ripples” from Part 1, which essentially could just do anything as long as you breathed carefully enough. The Spin is a bit harder; now you have to spin a ball in a rectangle shape and you can do literally anything. It’s pretty much the most fuckin retardedly amazing thing I’ve ever fuckin seen, and definitely don’t think about it at all or your brain will explode.
Steel Ball Run is a triumph, as it manages to not only be an unquestionably phenomenal work of stand alone art, but also fits in perfectly with the JoJo mythos. While I usually strongly fight the idea of skipping parts, I would see no issue with someone who merely has a passing interest in manga reading exclusively this part, and ignoring the others. Every part of JoJo is great, but it’s definitely worth mentioning that SBR is far and away the most broadly appreciable and the easiest one for most people to recognize as a masterpiece.
In Steel Ball Run, Araki once again delivers a story arc full of clever battles, creative abilities, crazy plots and lovely characters. No, this is even better than the previous arcs, as the author continues to recycle his own style and improve without limits. This is a very rare example in which the author actually gets better with time, and Steel Ball Run provides very good evidence for that.
The story starts out pretty simple: our crippled Joestar hero, Johny, gangs up with Gyro Zeppeli and aims for the top in the intense Steel Ball Run race. Each competitor has his own unique motivations, abilities and
means to win. Add the wackiness of the Stands to the mix and you've got yourself one hell of a ride, much like previous installments of the saga. But Steel Ball Run goes one step beyond and throws in characters/factions with their own agendas, a large conspiracy and personal quests.
That doesn't mean the story is complicated, but it definitely has interesting plot twists, intense conflicts and engaging character dynamics. Everything just flows so well that it's easy to get sucked in by the manga.
The art gets even more refined, making brilliant use of Araki's trademark style to highlight emotions, grant impact to a scene or simply serve as true feasts to the reader's eyes, specially with the rich character designs.
Gyro and Johny are likely the best JoJo protagonists to date, despite not topping Joseph from Part 2 in terms of badassery. They are far from perfect, but that's what makes them fascinating: they keep struggling with their inner demons, which are also their greatest enemies, in order to continue advancing, revealing more and more aspects of their personalities in the process. Their bond of friendship is quite powerful and authentic; even meaningless interactions are a lot of fun to watch. Oh, and Gyro's charisma is a huge plus.
The rest of the cast may not be as developed as Johny and Gyro, but they still shine. For starters, you've got Dio, who is again that bastard we all love to hate, manipulating everyone he can to achieve his personal goals. There is also the sympathetic cowboy Mountain Tim, the conflicted Hot Pants, the hilarious comedy relief Pocoloco and many other remarkable characters. The main antagonist is also great, using all of his experience acquired in combat, political power and honest, strong patriotism to pose a serious threat for the heroes.
As usual, battles are one of the biggest focus of the narrative and the main driving force behind the characters' growth, by putting them against desperate situations which demand a strong resolve and difficult choices to be made. While the Stands were becoming stronger and stronger in the previous arcs, Steel Ball Run brings most of them down dramatically. There are few overpowered abilities, making the battles very strategical and a lot demanding of the users. This is highlighted in battles such as the one against Axl Ro, which literally makes everyone involved face their sins, specially Johny and Hot Pants.
If you're up for some exciting, yet intelligent battles, a great cast of characters and one of the most bizarre races of the entire universe, then JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run is for you. And it doesn't matter whether you are an experienced reader of the JoJo saga or a total newcomer, because the Steel Ball Run excludes no one!
(Reviewed for the club "Reviews for the unreviewed")