OP: 「STONE OCEAN」 by Ichigo
「石作りの海ストーンオーシャン」 (Sutoon Ooshan)
And the race is on! With Netflix releasing the first 12 episodes of Stone Ocean ahead of the TV broadcast scheduled for next month/year, the timer to determine how long we can talk about these episodes before it becomes old news has started.
Even if the binge-watch culture that Netflix caters towards murders a show’s relevance a week after its release and the anticipation that comes from weekly episodic series’, it’s exciting to see Stone Ocean finally receive an adaptation. And above all else, David Productions has another hit on its hands as they capture the fun, surreal, and bizarre adventure that Kujou Jolyne is forced to take part in by the powers that keep her restrained in Green Dolphin Street Prison.
I’ve been waiting for ages to see what Jolyne would be like animated, and I’m happy to report that she’s as much of a joy to follow her as she was in the manga. She’s the closest we’ve gotten to a JoJo like Joseph considering how extreme and exaggerated her response is towards the lunacy going on around her.
Josuke is pretty close to the Joseph archetype, but I feel that Jolyne is more unfiltered and unafraid of fighting through dire circumstances on a regular basis. Fairouz Ai also captures Jolyne’s energy as well as Sawashiro Miyuki did in the video games, doing an effective job at balancing her unbridled fury with her bewilderment about the weirdness surrounding her. I’m looking forward to hearing the dub later to see how it fares, but so far, I’m impressed with how the anime was able to get Jolyne right.
Because of the experimental nature of Part VI, the story is unafraid to place Jolyne in astonishingly dreadful situations. From getting caught masturbating and being made to share it with the rest of her cellmates to hearing that her new friend is possibly stuffing hundreds of dollars in spaces only a cavity search could find, she responds to each scenario with an appropriate level of disgust or astonishment.
Jolyne also proves to be a sympathetic character given the odds that are stacked up against her. She not only had to contend with living without her father as Jotaro neglected her for her entire life up until she was arrested, but she now has to face real prison time for taking a fraudulent plea deal that served to protect her wealthy ex.
In a way, it gives her a few traits reminiscent of her dad to have her be vengeful and bitter as she carries herself through so much BS. It makes it all the more satisfying to see her experiment with how she can use her new Stand “Stone Free” and test it on guards attacking her new friend Ermes and strangling her corrupt lawyer while he’s driving away from the prison. Even with some of the funnier situations she gets stuck in, she directs enough anger at those in her way that she rises to the occasion as someone who doesn’t take nonsense well.
Art-wise, David Productions managed to get the crazier, loonier tone down very well with the oceanic aesthetic that Stone Ocean and its cover art embrace. Shades of pastel blues, purples, and greens shine through as the show’s key color palette as it paints an absurd, otherworldly version of Port Saint Lucie, Florida. It was also funny to see a cameo from West Palm Beach, which is accosted by dangerous downpours even in the extraordinary world of anime.
The only thing that takes me aback as a Floridian is Green Dolphin Street Prison. I didn’t notice how close to the ocean the prison was in the manga, but it’s such a crazy location to build a prison. Any part of Florida along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean is constantly keeping an eye on whether a hurricane will make landfall or not. It doesn’t matter because it’s a fictional prison and they might have protocol carried over from Hurricane Andrew, but I can only imagine how much disarray the prison would be in if it was on lockdown during a major hurricane, let alone a tropical storm.
That being said, I really dig Stone Ocean’s wackier appearance since it also thematically lends itself to the absurdity of the prison that Jolyne and the other prisoners are trapped in. Araki leans into a cartoonishly freaky design for most of the antagonistic characters, especially for the prison guards and legal officials who rig the system against Jolyne and the others to maintain the status quo. It helps set the scene for some of the more grotesque encounters that are to be had in Green Dolphin Street Prison.
「ストーン・フリー」 (Sutoon Furii)
“Stone Free / Prisoner FE40536: Jolyne Cujoh”
TAKE A WILD GWESS
I hadn’t remembered whether the Gwess or Jotaro chapters were first, but it was a treat to see that the Gwess fight was the first one up. The format is similar to Part V’s fight where Little Feet shrunk down Narancia, but thankfully, Gwess has her own ideas in mind for how she wants to use Goo Goo Dolls for her own self-interest. Not just in finding a way out of the jail, but also in fulfilling her dreams of taxidermy.
Gwess embodies a lot of what made some of the more memorable villains of JoJo very amusing to follow. Because she feels validated by cutesy talk and having pets of her own, she channels this particular energy into hollowing out animals and using Goo Goo Dolls to shrink denizens of prison to act as pets for her. You see shades of the creepiness that Ciocolatta had with their twisted way of doting on their “pets”. Similarly, Gwess also shares the misplaced ego that shows up in antagonists like Steely Dan and Rubber Soul that make it satisfying to see Jolyne go agro on her after a series of underhanded moves and fakeouts.
S’CUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY
Each JoJo part feels like it has a two-episode litmus test that gauges what tone the story is going for and what boundaries they’re willing to cross. In Stone Ocean’s case, we’ve already witnessed brutal deaths, trippy character designs, crass humor, and Stands that revel in disturbing body horror.
Goo Goo Dolls and Gwess’ imagination provide us with all of the above as we see some disgusting imagery with Jolyne and a prison guard stuffed inside of animal corpses and being forced to act out petplay fantasies. It’s the kind of story that is unafraid of making you throw up after seeing Jolyne struggle inside of a rat corpse as she starts expanding inside of its taxidermied body and tearing it apart from the inside out.
HIGH ON PURP WITH SOME SHADES ON
One awesome sight to see was Stone Free actually emerging, giving us a better view of how this cool looking Stand appears than some strings. It’s a Stand with built-in sunglasses! How cool is that!? Aside from this detail, it’s neat that string and webbing appear to be the motif that Jolyne’s powers take on as it gives her the opportunity to operate her Stand remotely. And because she isn’t entirely surrounded by people aware of Stands, she also has the freedom to get away with things that most other Stand users might get caught doing, which leads me to…
Now onto the music. I wasn’t sure what to make of the switch back to 3D that the first three parts had considering how fond I was of Part IV and V’s 2D openings. But Ichigo’s song combined with the colorful visuals not only look and sound amazing, but they do a ton of justice to the source material. The fun, trippy visuals from the manga volume covers all come out in full force as they break down parts of the story that the first Netflix dump will cover.
The ED is interesting because I was speculating whether they’d choose poppy music from the Y2K era or if they’d pull from music between 1999 and 2012. One of Duffy’s lower profile songs was a pleasant surprise though because she really deserved far more than what life threw her way. She’s been through hell and back in between the release of her big hit “Mercy” and now with a combination of the pressure fame brought her and the trauma she faced from her terrifying abduction. Hopefully, the appreciation that JoJo audience has with the new ending will be able to provide her with enough appreciation and support to be uplifting for her.
「面会人 その①」 (Menkai Hito Sono 1)
“The Visitor (1)”
YOU’RE LOCKED IN HERE WITH ME
One interesting thing about Stone Ocean taking place in jail is how Jolyne is one of the handfuls of people who are capable of having a Stand. Because of this, it’s neat to see how she ends up using Stone Free as a means of navigating around prison life.
When she has to intimidate a fellow inmate into paying her back for a debt, she just uses Stone Free to slip crushed up coins into her coffee and occupies the restroom so she’d have to pay to use it. It offers a unique way for Jolyne to use her Stand as a means of intimidating others or getting past tricky obstacles in her path as a prisoner.
It should also be noted that this prison has an odd debt system. Apparently, giving someone money tells people they can mess with you and keep threatening you with more demands for money. But from what I’ve read, it’s usually taking money that’s the real problem in jail.
Where borrowing money makes you indebted to whoever you gave it to. Jolyne and the one bullied girl actually have the power to leverage whatever they want because the ball is in their court to collect unpaid debts however they wish.
BAD DAD OR RAD DAD?
We also learn from this episode that Jotaro never beat the true Joestar curse of becoming a terrible father. Jonathan would’ve probably been a good dad and George was only stern to Jonathan out of concern. But starting with Joseph’s infidelity which gave us Josuke, the JoJo’s that took on fatherhood would not go on to be father of the year material, to say the least.
Josuke would’ve had a hearty laugh if he found out that Jotaro got divorced for being a negligent father. To be fair, Jotaro’s long-distance work with the Speedwagon Foundation would always be a hard sell for marriage considering that it meant his occupation would take up more of his time and interest than domesticity. It was enough to get Jolyne and her mother to despise him, and I wouldn’t blame them. Being married and having kids aren’t exactly decisions to make if you were planning on ghosting them throughout your child’s formative years.
The good thing though is that Jotaro doesn’t hold it against her or act inconvenienced by Jolyne thinking he’s a deadbeat. I don’t think he’d disagree given that it took wanting to protect her from a hitman targeting her from jail to get him to visit. But since their visit is directed towards Jotaro asking about her Stand abilities and deciding their next steps towards avoiding a hitman, there isn’t time to make up for all those years he wasn’t there for Jolyne. As a side note, it’s cool to see that the anime is making a better effort to make Jotaro look much older. Araki’s art style change from Part IV to Part VI made Jotaro look pretty young for 40, so it’s a pleasant surprise that Jotaro looks like he’s a little older in the face for the anime.
ED: 「Distant Dreamer」 by Duffy
As for the schedule on how the Stone Ocean posts will go, I’m aiming for a weekly schedule where I break down the current batch of episodes in threes. It might be a little tricky since it might not be until Spring when the second batch appears, but the discussion of Stone Ocean will be barely alive if I follow the TV broadcast. And because Stone Ocean has plenty of topics to discuss, it’d be nicer to explore the episodes while they’re still fresh and new.
But so far, the Stone Ocean adaptation is shaping up to be yet another awesome JoJo adaptation that beefs up the source material and brings its surreal, twisted imagery to life. It’d be weird to say “Looking forward to the next ep,” since there’s still more, but I’m really looking forward to continuing through the current batch and seeing how they pull off the early parts of Stone Ocean.