JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: The Animation – 01
「侵略者ディオ」 (Shinryaku-sha Dio)
“Dio the Destroyer”
What JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: The Animation lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in spades with its old school shounen charm and nostalgia. DIIIIIIOOOOOOOO! From the start, it’s hard to understand why it took 25 long years for Araki Hirohiko’s manga to finally make the leap onto television because this premiere hit all the right notes.
These days, many shounen series have casts so large that it may seem like you need Facebook just to keep track of them all. On the good guys’ side there’s a main hero, but then there’s also all his nakama that you need to know names of, along with their powers and backstories. The bad guys usually are even more numerous as there’s usually a revolving door of mostly forgettable villains and their minions. However, JoJo’s appears to be the exception to this shounen trend – there are really only two characters you need to care about so far.
First off, there’s no anti-hero or angsty emo teen protagonist in this series, which is a very welcome surprise. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be really anything wrong with Jonathan Joestar (Okitsu Kazuyuki) at all. One would think that with a childhood marked by tragedy like countless other heroes, he’d have lingering issues of some sort stemming from having lost his mother at such an early age. Turns out, JoJo is just a happy-go-lucky 12 year old boy who wants nothing more than to become a true gentleman – a generic but admirable goal. Sure, the guy’s not very book smart or well-mannered, but he has plenty of heart, which is all a shounen hero really needs. The character who does have issues (and plenty of them) is our antagonist Dio Brando (Koyasu Takehito). He is adopted into the Joestar family to fulfill a debt Lord Joestar owed to Dio’s father, and on the surface, he’s very adept at showing his gratitude and playing the role of an ideal son. In actuality, all he desires is the family’s fortune so he’s set on making JoJo’s life a living hell for reasons yet to be explained. Dio is just flat out unlikeable from the start and his villainy is anything but subtle, like almost everything else in this show.
Character count isn’t the only way this show is different; there doesn’t seem to be much of a moral gray area between the two rivals either. Whether it was varying levels of animal cruelty, spreading lies about JoJo, or forcibly stealing Erina Pendleton’s (Kawasumi Ayako) first kiss, all of Dio’s actions were unquestionably evil and designed to make you feel disgust and hate for his character right from the start. He’s not someone you pity or feel empathy for – those emotions are reserved for JoJo, who falls squarely into the good guy camp with his notions of gentlemanly behavior. This all comes together to create the simple yet classic dichotomy of one hero and one villain, which has an appeal that cannot be achieved with the ensemble casts found many of today’s popular shounen. The focus is on their rivalry, and their rivalry alone – one which will be even more interesting to see once the role of the mysterious mask in the grand scheme of things becomes clearer.
David Productions and director Tsuda Naokatsu (Inu x Boku SS) have done a fantastic job updating this manga for the 21st century, especially with conveying the feeling that the manga itself has leapt off the printed page and onto the television screen. Keeping the old manga art style is a risk in that it could alienate younger viewers unaccustomed to a dated look, but I think it will pay off by making the series unique and charming. I absolutely loved the usage of manga-style sound effect text and character close-ups, and especially the character design of JoJo and Dio. Although the two boys were only 12 years old in this episode, their appearance was a great deal manlier than the majority of male characters found in the shounen genre these days. Their designs go a long way in making the fights feel hard-hitting, visceral, and brutal – just the way I like my action scenes. My only complaint would be that the music often times feels out of place, but it’s a minor one as complaints go.
Some people might scoff at or lose interest in JoJo’s because of its lack of a moral continuum. Others might dislike how absolutely nothing in this show is subtle or thought-provoking. There will inevitably be those who can’t stomach at how dated this show feels either. While those are all valid complaints, I personally wasn’t looking for any of those aspects in this series. What I wanted was a classic good vs. evil story told in an old school shounen manner, and this premiere episode delivered just that. This series has the makings of one that is focused on telling a great story, and doing so with plenty of style, panache, and charm. As JoJo and Dio take their rivalry into adulthood, I can’t help but be drawn into following what surely will become an entertaining and epic battle.
ED: 「Roundabout」 by Yes