This is my favorite series ever, and it finally got a real weekly anime adaptation after 25 years—the ‘94 and ‘00 OVAs and the Phantom Blood movie, which never saw DVD/home video release do not count—there is definitely some bias in this review. That said, there’s a reason I still didn’t give it a perfect score, and it’s because I’m still trying to keep a hint of objectivity in here.
Art - 8/10
I suppose I’ll start off with how it adapted the source material. Unlike the OVAs and Phantom Blood movie, there were no cuts in content, and it actually adapted parts 1 and 2 of the manga: Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency. The studio, David Production, did what I would consider a masterful job in terms of bringing out Araki Hirohiko’s style into the manga. He is an artist, and you can see his art evolve throughout the long-running JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure franchise. DP hired multiple art directors and tried to incorporate the different faces and builds in body throughout the series. Also, because there is no such thing as “canon” colors for characters, DP, in an unexpected but very innovative manner, used their poor budget to their advantage—by changing color schemes and using colorful abstract backgrounds during monologues and still-frames. I’ll give the art by itself a 10/10, even though sometimes Jonathan and Joseph, the titular JoJos in this series, suffer from Gorilla Face Syndrome, since the BD/DVDs are doing a great job of fixing it.
On still-frames, this is one of TWO flaws I found throughout the whole series. DP was contracted by Warner Bros. and they were given a pretty weak budget to work with. As a result, some might say that there are lots of times where this show is more of a “live-manga” or stream of the manga. The “animated” SFX from the source material, plentiful still-frames, and lack of actual animation at times are what add to this idea. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like every episode is a slideshow; however, there are DEFINITELY times when it feels that way—I’m looking at you, episode 16. Honestly, I feel like DP made it up to us with some episodes that were battle-heavy, like episode 20 and most definitely the final 3 or so episodes. Especially the last one. For this I will have to give the animation itself a 7/10. The distinct art style and use of colors boost it up to an 8 for me.
Sound - 8/10
So-no Chi no Sa-da-me, JOOOOOOOOO~JO! There are two opening themes, JOJO~Sono Chi no Sadame~ by Hiroaki “TOMMY” Tominaga , and BLOODY STREAM by Coda. Both were tailored for their respective Part in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, in both lyrics, atmosphere, and animation itself—we actually get some pretty good CG depicting events in Parts 1 and 2. They were extremely catchy, and I never skipped them. The ending theme was Roundabout by progressive rock band YES, which actually came out in the 70s—and influenced the original manga! and I applaud DP for that choice. The song’s lyrics fit extremely well and it is actually one of Araki Hirohiko’s favorite bands! Also, because it is an 8 minute song, they used different snippets, some soft, some more intense, depending on what kind of note the episode ended on. That was genius and definitely made the watching experience better. If it were up to the OP and ED alone I'd give the sound a 10/10
As for the actual soundtrack, because of the difference in atmosphere between Parts 1 and 2, or at least I assume it’s for that reason, DP hired two composers and gave us two soundtracks per part. Phantom Blood was mostly orchestral, very fitting with the late Victorian feel we get when we think of England in the 1880s. It fit extremely well and I applaud Matsuo Hayato for his beautiful soundtrack. Part 2, being much more dynamic and quite literally “all over the place”, has Iwasaki Taku, who worked with his friends Lotus Juice. The soundtrack he made has soft, orchestral pieces and, well, everything. He has rap/hip-hop, rock, metal, DUBSTEP, and even flutes and drums that bring a middle-eastern feel. Personally, I thought the dubstep was actually very good and tamer than most, and that it fit well the middle-eastern sounds he composed for with the Pillar Men, the main antagonists of Part 2. The sound direction, however, was not as amazing. Iwasaki Taku complained himself, over Twitter, that his songs were not being used correctly, and, after paying close attention to episodes 22 and 23, I can’t say I disagree. David Productions flubbed it when it came to transitioning the music and providing an appropriate atmosphere with the songs in those two episodes. For that reason, although the music itself was superb, I will have to give it an 8 total.
Story - 9/10
Story is pretty simple, to say the least. The original story came out in 1987, in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump. Phantom Blood can be pretty much summed up as Castlevania with Hokuto no Ken elements, which shouldn’t be seen as bad in any way. Araki Hirohiko wanted to make a solid base so that he could evolve his work throughout time, and I think he did a pretty good job, taking in the work of contemporaries around him. The first part is hot-blooded, fast-paced, and the definition of “camp”. Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando are probably the most one-dimensional characters you will ever find, but it is because they were so static, they polarized each other and made the fight between them so interesting. Dio Part 1's main antagonist, from the first episode, is depicted to us as the very definition of EVIL at the age of 12! Although the story is simple, the characters are definitely what make the sure. In Battle Tendency, the story takes a more adventurous route and we see our new JoJo, Joseph Joestar, go from New York, to Mexico, to Italy, to Sweden, and it’s amazing. The main antagonists of this part are a powerful trio of “Pillar Men” called Wham, ACDC, and Cars, responsible for the creation of the stone mask that set the events in Part 1. The continuity is great and you definitely feel time passing as you watch the series, characters like Speedwagon and Erina are shown old, and with every major timeskip you see differences in character design. Story, when it boils down to it, just has to be interesting. I was definitely interested in the stories for Parts 1 and 2 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. They were simple, straight, and to the point, which made it possible to expand more on the character dynamics, arguably the strongest part of this series. There were no long and obnoxious training arcs, the fights are NOT dragged out—probably the most common flaw in shonen battle series—and if there are cliches, they are exaggerated to their extremes. This series does not take itself that seriously, and when it does, you can bet that you’ll be on the edge of your seat. Story gets a 9/10 from me.
Character - 10/10
As for the characters. Araki sure knows how to get you attached to characters. And then rip them away from you. There are definitely deaths in this series and they are dramatic and will definitely tug at your heart. Also, the voice actors are passionate and work admirably together. Takehito Koyasu, with his smooth, deep voice will send chills down your spine whenever Dio is formulating a plot or mocking JoJo. Okitsu Kazuyuki may be a newbie, unlike the slew of veterans in the rest of the cast, but he makes Jonathan Joestar so damn LIKABLE with his passionate screams, calm reassurance, and definitely makes the heart of gold in this character shine brightly. Sugita Tomokazu, probably best known for his characteristic shonen gag voice as Gintoki (Gintama) and serious/apathetic voice as Kyon (Haruhi Suzumiya series), makes a perfect Joseph Joestar, because Joseph embodies the ideal shonen protagonist—smart, strong, funny, and extremely expressive. Basically, where the animation fell short, I believe that the voice actors definitely picked up the slack. Everyone has fun, because this is supposed to be a fun series. I love it. Characters get 5/5 from me. Both as they were written and how they were acted, you can definitely feel the chemistry between all the voices and that made it way more enjoyable.
Enjoyment - 10/10
Enjoyment. I keep on mentioning this when I score each aspect of the show for this review. Ultimately, when you watch an anime, or any show, movie, etc; you do so because you want to enjoy and be entertained. I can almost guarantee that if you go and watch this show with a blank slate and just a pure, unadulterated desire to be entertained, you will not come out disappointed. Just keep in mind that JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a series that is 25 years in the making, and this is but the beginning. It is without a doubt my favorite manga series, and this long-awaited anime adaption gives it the justice that it deserves. If you watch it, and enjoy it, like I said you probably will, then I implore to take up the manga. You can skip right to Part 3, the most popular arc in the franchise, but I recommend reading from the beginning, you’ll pick out some tiny things left out that couldn’t be conveyed through the anime, and you’ll see the evolution of Araki Hirohiko’s art throughout the ages.
But first, if you watch the anime, I recommend Muda Muda Muda Subs [MMM] subs or CommieSubs [Commie]. They are the most accurate subs and if you prefer a better script, go with MMM, if you want better typesetting and subtitled SFX, go with Commie. Personally, I used MMM because they are a group that got together solely for this series, released in a timely schedule with accurate subs, took advice/criticism well, and also have better encoding.
I hope that after this review some of you watch this show and develop the same love I have for it!