Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1: Phantom Blood
Author: Hirohiko Araki.
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump Advanced)
Volume: Volumes 1 and 2 ($19.99, HC)
Vintage: 1987-1988 by Shueisha, February and April 2015 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, adventure
Jonathan Joestar, also known as JoJo, lives a happy life with his father on their large estate, passing his idle time with his dog, Danny. His life turns upside down when Dio Brando arrives to live with them. Dio’s father once saved the life of JoJo’s father. Brando Sr.’s dying wish was for Dio to go and live with the Joestars. Rather than be grateful at being taken in like a second son, Dio sets out to destroy the Joestars, specifically JoJo. He kills JoJo’s dog, frightens away his girlfriend, Erina, beats up on JoJo, destroys his friendships, and plays the perfect son in front of JoJo’s father. Seven years later, JoJo seems to have forgotten about the horrors Dio rained upon him, and they attend school as friends. JoJo has spent the passing years studying a mysterious ancient mask that reacts to blood, and is said to have destroyed an entire civilization in the past. Dio, meanwhile, has been biding his time until he no longer needs the Joestars and can steal away the family fortune for himself. Of course, this requires the death of Joestar himself, and luckily for Dio, the man is deathly ill. While JoJo rushes to find a cure for his father’s illness, Dio steals away the mask and all of JoJo’s notes. With the help of a street thug named Speedwagon, JoJo finds his cure, but when he returns home, Dio has discovered the mask’s secrets and used it, turning himself into a frightening vampiric creature.
With his father dead after protecting his son from an attack by Dio, JoJo has nothing left to lose. He goes all out in a fight against the powerful, invulnerable Dio, destroying the Joestar mansion in the process. He’s barely able to keep up with Dio’s new powers – enormous strength, superior reflexes, rapid healing, immortality. Speedwagon is helpless to assist, and JoJo must employ a few tricks to bring down his adopted brother. Unfortunately this means setting fire to the mansion and remaining inside to try and bury Dio in an inferno. In a stroke of luck, JoJo’s final attack, which pins Dio in place, also propels him out of the house to safety and the aid of Speedwagon. Under the tender care of Erina, JoJo’s wounds heal. But back at the mansion, Dio manages to cling to life by absorbing the life force of a passerby. Thus begins his journey to restore his power and gather an army to take over the world. He starts with Jack the Ripper, and continues to collect a cadre of evil men from there. A strange man soon appears in front of JoJo, claiming that Dio is alive and must be stopped, and the mask destroyed. Baron Zeppeli claims to have the power to destroy Dio, and is ready to teach it to JoJo. Zeppeli is trained in a special breathing technique that utilizes the oxygen in the bloodstream to enhance a person’s physical strength – Sendo. Zeppeli is convinced this is the only way to defeat Dio, so he puts JoJo through a grueling training regimen. Unfortunately, they’re discovered and attacked by one of Dio’s men, who takes this news back to his master. They are, however, able to follow this man to Windknight’s Lot, where Dio is living. Along the way, they’re attacked by a monstrously powerful Jack the Ripper, whom they must defeat to even get a chance at fighting Dio. When they do finally come across Dio, he’s even more powerful than before, and not even the combined might of Zeppeli and JoJo can stand up to him…or his two reanimated knights.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is, well, bizarre. To the max. The art is hilariously over-proportioned, with massive rippling muscles and big 80s hairstyles. It’s jarring, especially if you don’t tend to read heavy action titles, which I don’t, but it’s definitely a precursor to series like One Piece (and came out just two years after Dragon Ball). JoJo is a pretty classic shonen hero – kind, rambunctious and immature as a youth, a bit spoiled to start out. There’s not a whole lot to set him apart from other heroes of his ilk. Aside from his back story, which is just a variation. Life is great; enter a rival to bring our hero crashing down; kill and hurt people close to our hero; give him a quest; have him learn amazing new powers. Dio is the main villain here, and is the complete opposite of JoJo. Born into poverty, filled with hate and vengeance, his initial goal is to make JoJo’s life as miserable as possible. Later on he wants to conquer the world, but even then he’s obsessed with destroying JoJo. Frankly, I think Zeppeli is the most interesting character. He has the most unique design, an interesting back story (that also ties him into JoJo’s life), and he’s no slouch when it comes to combat. Watching him kick ass while casually sipping a glass of wine is pretty epic. It’s fun to read, even if it’s extremely cheesy, and there’s plenty of action throughout the pages. Some gore, too, if you’re into that. The translation can be equally as goofy as the art at times, which might be the point (plus it’s dated), but there are times when the text feels very awkward. The presentation is well done. The first volume has a decent amount of color pages, though there’s significantly less in volume 2 (likely availability, but it’s still disappointing; could also be cost, as volume 2 is a bit thicker). The books are nicely bound with newly designed covers in an updated art style by Araki. This one’s an oldie but a goodie, that fans have been asking for. You can also watch new episodes of the most recent animated version of JoJo’s, Stardust Crusaders, simulcast on Crunchyroll.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.