Reviews

Dec 23, 2016
ZephSilver (All reviews)
Morioh, an insignificant town that sits out in the sun for anyone to visit and the new home for the never-ending battle carried out by one family. Somewhere in this scrambled slice of suburbia, we're introduced to the latest member of the Joestar lineage, as we encroach on what would be one of many fights to come.

A new enemy Stand makes its entrance; veins protruding through swollen biceps; wrinkled brow plaster the expression of a robust figure; eyes fixated on the opposition; pompadour takes aim, a tangerine sky hanging above; onomatopoeias floods the screen—BAM! MENACING! RUMBLE!—with wall-to-wall color dancing around on the border of psychedelia and pop art. Head titled, shoulders rolled back, chest puffed out; an epic pose is struck. A feeble old geezer hunched over in the background, hands clasping his cheek, lets out a compulsory "Oh my Gawd!" in Engrish. A powerful aura exudes from the frame of the young Joestar. A muscle-bound, apparition clad in lavender emerges from within him, as he lets out a herculean roar: "CRAZY DIAMOND!!!"..., Gritted teeth, fist wound up, body arched back—fades to black..., trumpets blare, cue intro, welcome to Jojo's Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable!

Since 2012, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has been spearheading a campaign to bring GAR and all things manly back to the limelight; introducing newcomers to an anime staple that's been underrepresented in the 2000s, while also shamelessly serving as a form of fanservice for veteran viewers who self-indulge in all things retro. For those people that miss the blockbuster era of beefy action heroes that were deep-rooted in the product of 80s Americana. With a dedicated following that only grows bigger year after year, Jojo's crusade for "manly ass men doing manly ass things" has proven to be a successful one. A fact that's made all the more surprising when accounting for the current cultural shift in anime that favors infectiously cute shows or those garishly showered in 2edgy4u content. Jojo stands firm, pressing forward to the beat of its own drum while giving sensitivity the middle finger as it flexes its biceps in the name of awesome.

But perhaps the strongest aspect of Jojo isn't this flippant disregard towards popular trends, but the way it goes about expressing itself within it.

There are a few cardinal rules that most writers try their best to abide by, one of which is maintaining some semblance of plausibility within the realm of the written work being presented. Whether the story in question is grounded in reality or contains plenty of fantastical elements, maintaining some level of plausible "cause and effect" is what helps the audience experience immersion. Even in a fictional universe that contains many otherworldly themes, there are still constants that are expected to be maintained. In the same way, the theoretical law in our universe remains consistent no matter the time or location; the same is also expected with works of fiction. Anything that doesn't uphold established in-world laws tends to be perceived as poorly constructed or just outright "bad writing." We may not always identify it up front, but somewhere in our subconscious, the "bullshit" meter is going off.

And yet, even with this unspoken rule in mind, there are some stories that purposefully leave common sense at the front door. They're shows that are propelled by nonsensical conclusions, improbable physics, and pure absurdity. But somehow, despite this, or perhaps because of it, they have been adored the world over. Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is that kind of show. A show driven forward by madness, adrenaline, and a gratuitous amount of machismo. It embraces the "Bizarre" in its namesake to the utmost extent, doing whatever it pleases with total conviction and never looking back at the body count trailing behind it.

And like the hyperactive installments before it, Part 4 continues to keep the ball rolling, following the lineage of the Joestar family and all the inherent problems that come with the blood-line. This brings us to the next Joestar tasked with carrying on the legacy, the ever-fabulous Jousuke Higashikata; a man of few words, unless the words addressed to him are insults directed at his ultra sleek Greece Lightening hairdo. Unlike the hard-boiled demeanor of Joutarou, Jousuke actions are driven by hot-tempered impulses, choosing to punch first and ask questions later. He wears his heart on his sleeve, an attribute that would usually be perceived as weak in the testosterone-filled world of Jojo, except for the fact that Jousuke kicks all kinds of ass with his Stand, Crazy Diamond. A Stand that grants him the ability to restore any damage inflicted to something back to its original state or alter it to its base elements. Pairing that with his hair-trigger personality makes for a formidable combo, something that many enemy Stands find out the hard way.

As the aftermath surrounding Dio Brando begins to settle down, remnants of his misdeeds are still spreading when the Bow and Arrow—the weapon used to create Stands—ends up in the wrong hands. Because of this, Joutarou finds himself traveling to the town of Moriah where his illegitimate nephew Jousuke calls home. And as the Joestars team up to rid the town of Stand users hellbent on causing harm to the citizens, they find themselves encountering greater threats along the way.

With a narrative that solely exists to have as many physical encounters as possible, Part 4 manages the impossible task of circumventing the trappings of episodic content while using that exact structure to create bottle episodes filled with high-octane battles. Whether it's pounding the snot out of an enemy Stand or simply going to a restaurant to eat, Part 4 is continuously pressing down on the gas peddle. For those that don't like stagnation, this sequel is a Godsend.

There's no calm moment of clarity to reflect on the situation at hand, all that's left on display is brittle logical leaps followed up by gonzo wall-texts flying in with a flurry of saturated color. It's vivid, it's spastic, it's a mural hacked up on PCP. And while this commitment to never slowing down may seem like a detriment for any other show, for Jojo—a show that's as straightforward as the content being displayed—there couldn't have been a better marriage of purposeful storytelling.

Jojo's brilliance is in its simplicity. It isn't a show that's out to have an intricate story-line filled with multifaceted themes, nor does it try to craft layered personalities that appear 3-dimensional. Jojo personifies the mindset of a neanderthal, where problems are solved with fists and beating enemies into submission. Loyalty is proven with actions and not half-baked words. And motivations that's as explicit as the expository dialogue being used to express them. The only thought process being taken is assuring that they properly utilize their Stand abilities to defeat their enemy with optimal results. These muscle-bound brutes painted up like Easter eggs leave no room for interpretation, what you see is what you get.

This isn't to say there's no thought placed into Jojo's production. The show is littered with inventive encounters that overlap Stand abilities to create a chess game of wits, seeing both sides constantly fighting for the upper hand over one another. Matches that eventually dissolve into pissing contests to see who would cave in first. Each Stand ability is accounted for, creating interesting back and forths between the combatants. And with there being countless possible Stand abilities that could manifest in someone, the end result is no two fights being the same. The battlefield is forever morphing, with something as simple as the changes in partnership or location altering the very course of a how a match can turn out.

It's this very ingenuity that demonstrates that behind the burly men clashing fists, there's still a thought process keeping the madness together. This also includes the more straightforward parts of Jojo's production, such as the naming of the characters and the reasoning for its brightly-colored world.

If you've made it all the way to Part 4, then this should come as no surprise to you that Hirohiko Araki, the creator of the Jojo manga, has consciously decided to name characters after musicians and songs, mostly from western pop culture. It's an inconsequential bit of trivia that doesn't do much for the long-haul but despite that, adds to the overall appeal of his work. And with French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin being cited as an influential person in his approach to color theory, there's always a sense that Jojo was much more than just a whim being held up by simple admiration for a particular era. If you've ever felt like the colors used was oddly at home despite the constant clash of sassy meet gusto, that's because of this conscious effort on Araki's part to blend the two. This well-cultured sensibility is what gives Jojo such a distinct personality from its counterparts. It's an entity birthed outside of typical circular influence, having a unique appeal while winning the admiration of a broader market in the process.

But let's not mistake all this appraisal of Jojo as the show being a flawless creation, it does suffer from its fair share of issues. For one, because of its straightforward approach, there's never any questions posed at the actions being taken. And as such, this is an anime that only works because of the universe pre-established before it. Had we not seen the impossible happen time and time again, Jojo would have never worked. Its absurdity disallows genuine immersion in the circumstances taking place. You're entertained but never for a second buy into the ridiculousness of it all. It's a show where you laugh at the nonsense and take enjoyment out of how committed it is to seeing it through, despite the apparent shortcomings of said actions making close to little sense. Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is always entertaining but never something to be held up as proper literature. It's the show's greatest strength but sadly its greatest weakness as well.

This issue also means that all of the characters are usually dwindled down to becoming internet memes or lovable caricatures. No one is looking onto Jojo for enriched characterization. All that's expected out of it is hyperactive personalities with cool abilities trading blow for blow in an environment that allow these occurrences to go on undisturbed. This is usually the trade-off for dumb-fun entertainment. Finding a balance between the absurd and tightly written is a rarity that escapes Jojo. But what it still has is an unshakable commitment to do everything at 110%, so even when you question the logic of a scenario, it doesn't take long before you accept it for what it is to continue seeing the Joestars pummel enemies into submission.

And if this fact can be accepted for what it is, then Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable should be nothing short of an entertaining ride for most fans of this bizarre adventure. With more epic poses, more stands, more cool ass character designs, and too much awesome shit to know what to do with, Jojo Part 4 has been one hell of a ride. And with this being another successful adaptation by David Production, here's hoping it's an adventure with many more iterations to come.

-Sepia bathe the screen, title card cropped in an arrow: To Be Continued-