Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Company: Studio APPP
Format: 6 OVA
Dates: 19 Nov 1993 – 18 Nov 1994
Synopsis: Joseph Joestar, his grandson Jotaro and three other colleagues are on a mission to track down the mysterious Dio Brando somewhere in Egypt. Each of the men are Stand users, meaning they can summon powerful alter egos to aid them in combat. They have heard stories of Dio’s Stand, the power of which remains a mystery. Before they can find out for themselves, they will have to defeat Dio’s followers, who are Stand users themselves and more inclined to battles of wit than muscle.
Brawn vs. Brain: A good balance.
The first half of the story: You won’t find it here.
Muscles: Go big or go home.
Battles: Well executed and diverse in style.
This story begins in the middle. In fact, this six part OVA actually represents the second half of the third arc of a long, popular manga series. These episodes are produced specifically for fans of the manga who are already familiar with the story. Thus, there is no introduction to the concept of Stands, the characters or their relationships to each other. However, seven years later the studio has released a second OVA which tells the first half of the story. If you are unfamiliar with the world of JoJo, as I was, then I strongly recommend starting with the 2000 Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
The only background provided in this version is the four minute long intro, which features story elements from the distant past and some vague insight into Dio as the villain. Except for in the first episode, this opening is set to energetic synth music by Marco d’Ambrosio, who also provides the soundtrack.
Considering the main cast is a group of enormous muscle men, I fully expected this story to feature violent confrontations. While the story does include some intense battles and extended fight scenes, I was pleased to see the group faced with some battles of the mind as well. Several of Dio’s henchmen use tricks and puzzles to entrap the heroes, who need to find clever ways to defeat them. Strength alone is not enough. In one episode, the team take on a gambler and the entire confrontation is played out as the men sit across the table from one another. This face-off is one of the best of the OVA.
The fights themselves are ridiculous in the best possible way. The use of Stands allows for physics-defying stunts and attacks. Their long coats and cloaks and bright outfits make the characters stand out against the dull Egyptian backgrounds. It’s almost as if the characters exist in parallel to the rest of the world, leaving mass destruction in their wake. The creators are not afraid to hurt their main cast and even let some of the good guys lose. The abilities of the Stands are well matched and diverse, making each battle unique and forcing the heroes to develop new strategies. That’s not to say that Jojo’s is without the miracle healing and corny mid-fight monologues so common in action, but it is well executed. In the end, everyone contributes to the eventual outcome. None of them could have done it alone.
At first glance, one word that JoJo’s immediately brings to mind is ‘manly’. Indeed the heroes sport enormous muscles and their motivations include fighting for one’s honour and protecting or avenging women they care about, but the topic itself is never discussed by the characters. They simply are what they are without it being deliberate, making it more of an artistic decision than something relevant to the story.
Sadly, I was disappointed by the ending of the OVA. It comes across as far too convenient and cheesy, diminishing the weight of what the characters had just been though. It could have been light-hearted without being so disconnected. Another letdown is the quality of the animation, which is mediocre is best. Still, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is fun, violent and entertaining even as a piece of a much larger story.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Kaikyaku