JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 3

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 3Creator: Hirohiko Araki
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421578804
Released: August 2015
Original release: 1988

Although I had been previously aware of the manga series for some time, my real introduction to Hirohiko Araki’s multi-generational shounen epic JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was in 2012 through the standalone spinoff Rohan at the Louvre. I then proceeded to read the third story arc Stardust Crusaders, at the time the only other part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to have been released English. It wasn’t until 2015 that Phantom Blood, the very beginning of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was translated, published in a beautiful hardcover edition under Viz Media’s Shonen Jump imprint. When Phantom Blood was originally collected in Japan it was released in five volumes between 1987 and 1988. However, in 2002 it was re-released in three volumes which is what Viz Media’s edition is based on. Phantom Blood, Volume 3, published in English in 2015, is largely equivalent to the fourth and fifth volumes of the original Japanese release.

Having arrived in Wind Knights Lot in pursuit of his adoptive brother Dio, Jonathan Joestar must first successfully defeat two of Dio’s strongest undead minions and then traverse a town with a population that is steadily being turned into a hoard of zombies before he even has the chance to confront his brother. The Dark Knight Blueford, who is filled with hatred for the world and loyalty to Dio, is determined to take JoJo’s life. The other knight, Tarukus, is also exceptionally skilled when it comes to dealing out death and takes great delight in it. Should JoJo and his allies manage to survive their encounter with these two undead foe, they face an even more formidable adversary in Dio. Having used an ancient stone mask to turn himself into a vampire, Dio has gained untold strength and powers. Fortunately, JoJo is a quick and talented study—under the tutelage of Baron Zeppeli he has been able to begin to master Hamon energy, the only thing other than the sun itself that can harm to Dio.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 3, page 147JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure truly is a bizarre series; Phantom Blood makes this very clear from the very start. From the characters’ weird anatomy and disproportionate musculature to the story’s strange mix of melodrama, horror, and fantastic martial arts, Phantom Blood doesn’t just strain readers’ suspension of disbelief, the manga completely shatters it. Entire backstories are revealed in the time it takes for characters to tumble down cliff sides; combatants continue to live on after suffering injures that even the undead couldn’t survive; fights quickly escalate to unbelievable extremes, opponents continuously outdoing and outmaneuvering one another. Although the “why” of what’s going on is sometimes questionable, even considering Araki’s pseudo-scientific explanations, most everything is blatantly narrated by the participants and observers, so it’s fairly easy to at least follow the “what” of all of the strangeness. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is admittedly ridiculous and absurd, but that’s part of what makes the series so entertaining.

Phantom Blood is a relatively short series, especially when compared to the later story arcs of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. While Phantom Blood is a complete story in its own right, if often feels even more like a prologue to the rest of the series, laying the groundwork for all of the weirdness and machismo to come. Phantom Blood introduces the noble Joestar family—Jonathan in particular being especially gallant and large-hearted, even towards his enemies—but even more important is the introduction of Dio, an extraordinary villain. As Araki points out in the volume’s author notes, what make Dio so terrifying isn’t his impressive powers or brute strength, it’s his stunning ability to control others. Dio is arrogant but extremely charismatic, gaining many willing followers and easily manipulating those who aren’t. Phantom Blood is frequently gruesome and grotesque, with over-the-top violence, outrageous story developments, and audacious, larger-than-life characters. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a peculiar work, but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next arc, Battle Tendency.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 2

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 2Creator: Hirohiko Araki
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421578804
Released: May 2015
Original release: 1988

For years the only part of Hirohiko Araki’s epic and fashionably strange shōnen manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure that was available in English was the third story arc, Stardust Crusaders. A standalone side story, Rohan at the Louvre was released as well, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the very beginning of the series, Phantom Blood, was translated and released in print, and in a lovely hardcover edition, too. (I have a feeling that the popularity of the recent JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime adaptation probably had something to do with that.) Phantom Blood was originally published in five volumes in Japan between 1987 and 1988, but in 2002 the first story arc was re-released in three volumes. Viz Media’s English-language edition is based on that 2002 release. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 2, published in 2015, collects part of the second volume, all of the third volume, and part of the fourth volume of the original Japanese release.

JoJo’s life isn’t exactly turning out the way that he would have hoped or expected. His father lays dying in his arms after having taken a fatal blow that was intended for him. Behind the knife that will end his father’s life is Dio, a man who was raised as his brother but who has turned against the Joestar family as was always his plan and intention. Not only that, Dio has gained untold powers from a mysterious and ancient stone mask. Now a vampire, Dio is nearly immortal and possesses great strength. Even he doesn’t know the full extent of his astonishing abilities, but he has already begun gathering followers who are drawn to his charisma and promises of power. With the help of a curious man named Baron Zeppeli, JoJo becomes one of the only people who might have a chance of defeating Dio. Zeppeli unlocks JoJo’s own latent talents, training him in Sendo and its use of Hamon energy, an impressive martial technique which when mastered may make it possible for JoJo to destroy Dio and save the world.

PhantomBlood2-72JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a very aptly named series. It is an exceedingly strange manga with nonstop, over-the-top action and drama. Nearly every phrase of narration and dialogue in Phantom Blood, Volume 2 is an exclamation. Even the few relatively quiet moments are fervently intense and the calm never lasts for very long. Most of the second volume of Phantom Blood consists of extended fight scenes and training sequences. Araki keeps Phantom Blood moving along at a breakneck pace which sometimes includes the actual breaking of necks. Blood, gore, dismembered body parts, splattered guts, eyeballs, and brain matter are all fairly common in the series. There is definitely a strong element of horror in the early part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. While Araki’s artwork in Phantom Blood understandably doesn’t show the same refinement found in his later illustrations, it still has a sense of visceral dynamism and the occasional panel can actually be quite beautiful or striking.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a very odd manga. The story, artwork, and characters are all memorable if for no other reason than they are so over-the-top and strange. Additionally, Araki freely mixes historical events with historical fantasy in Phantom Blood. For example, Jack the Ripper becomes one of Dio’s earliest followers and England’s bloody dynastic struggles of the sixteenth century form a dramatic backstory for some of the other warriors that JoJo must face as he pursues his adoptive brother. Plenty of Phantom Blood is completely Araki’s own creation, though. And lest there be any confusion about all the weirdness, JoJo’s faithful and at times even useful companion Speedwagon is there to explain everything that’s going on, as well as to narrate the obvious. Speedwagon’s help isn’t needed to realize how much of a villain Dio is, though. Even before becoming a vampire Dio delighted in his own evil and the evil of others, but with his newfound powers he is in a better position than ever to make his malevolent schemes a reality. How successful he will actually be remains to be seen, but so far the results are marvelously terrifying and outrageous.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 1

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 1Creator: Hirohiko Araki
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421578798
Released: February 2015
Original release: 1987-1988

Hirohiko Araki’s multi-generational epic JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the longest-running manga series in Japan. Araki began the series in 1986 and the manga is still ongoing at well over a hundred volumes. Between 2005 and 2010, Viz Media published the sixteen volumes of the third story arc, Stardust Crusaders, arguably on of the most popular, or at least well-known, parts of the series. In 2012, NBM Publishing released Rohan at the Louvre, a largely standalone manga related to Diamond Is Unbreakable, the fourth arc of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Finally, in 2015, the first part of the epic, Phantom Blood was released in print in English by Viz in a beautiful, deluxe hardcover edition. Phantom Blood was originally published in Japan in five volumes between 1987 and 1988, but was reissued in three volumes in 2002. That release is the basis for Viz’s English-language edition. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Volume 1 includes the entirety of the first volume and the majority of the second volume of the original Japanese release.

Jonathan Joestar, known as JoJo, is the son of a wealthy 19th-century English nobleman. He lost his mother while still an infant when the entire family was involved in a tragic carriage accident. JoJo survived, but his mother and the driver died and his father was severely injured. Years later, a young man named Dio Brando is sent to live with the Joestars. His father, who recently passed away, was the first person upon the scene of the carriage accident. Lord Joestar believes himself to be in Brando’s debt, under the mistaken impression that he saved his life, and so welcomes Dio with open arms. But Dio isn’t the upright character he often portrays himself to be. His intention is to destroy the Joestar family and take its wealth for his own using anyone and any means necessary, including a mysterious stone mask that grants vampiric powers. JoJo is the only person to suspect Dio isn’t all that he seems, and Dio is determined to make his life miserable. The two of them are raised as brothers, but despite JoJo’s initial attempts at friendship, there is no love lost between them.

Phantom Blood, Volume 1, page 80JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a very aptly named series. Phantom Blood is strange and outlandish, proceeding at a breakneck pace with a tremendous amount of drama and flying fists. It’s not subtle by any means, but the series’ uninhibited, over-the-top nature is part of Araki’s style. Heightened action and drama often take precedence over logical consistencies or realism in the manga’s artwork and story. Devastating injuries that would maim or kill most people are easily disregarded or overcome by the series’ heroes and villains, although the pain and suffering they incur certainly leave an impression. JoJo and Dio fight it out on several different occasions in the first volume of Phantom Blood, each battle becoming increasingly more violent and destructive, and they are pretty bloody to being with. And that’s not even taking into account the psychological damage that also results. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can be brutal.

Dio is one of the most fabulous antagonists that I’ve come across in manga. Extraordinarily charismatic and completely without scruples, he makes an extremely dangerous opponent. But Dio does have flaws, and he is a much more interesting character because of them. While he is often unable to control his intense anger and arrogance, even at a young age he is able to hold people under his thrall. JoJo on the other hand, especially in comparison to Dio, is astoundingly honest, naive, and kindhearted, a gentleman through and through in both mind and deed. He uses his strength of character and impressive physical fortitude to protect his family and other people he cares about. JoJo’s repeated confrontations with Dio force hem to become even stronger as the series progresses. He grows into a formidable opponent in his own right with a firm sense of and desire for justice. The stark contrast between the two young men and the extreme dynamics of their relationship are a large part of what makes Phantom Blood such an engaging manga.

My Week in Manga: November 5-November 11, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the winner of the Nausicaä giveaway. In addition to naming the winner, the post excerpts some of the entrants’ thoughts on the various formats in which manga is released in English. I also managed to post two reviews last week. The first was for the new edition of Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. I had read and reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) the original edition in the past, but the revised edition is even better. I also reviewed The Immortal: Demon in the Blood, the comic adaptation of Fumi Nakamura’s novel Enma the Immortal. I absolutely love Enma the Immortal; unfortunately, The Immortal: Demon in the Blood didn’t quite live up to my hopes.

Probably the biggest news in the manga blogging community last week is that Kate Dacey’s The Manga Critic will be shutting down. Kate has been a huge inspiration to me, so I’m sad to see The Manga Critic go. Fortunately, she will continue to write for The Manga Bookshelf from time to time. In happier news, I’ve found two great blogs to add to the Resource page: Shojo Corner and The Manga Test Drive.

Quick Takes

Arisa, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando. I originally picked up Arisa after hearing the story described as something that Naoki Urasawa might come up with if he wrote shōjo. And for the most part, I think that’s a pretty apt description. The mystery is ominous and there is an impressive number of plot twists in just the first volume. Arisa and Tsubasa are twin sisters who have been separated due to their parents’ divorce. Tsubasa adores her sister who she thinks leads the perfect life. But Arisa is hiding a terrible secret. I really want to know what’s going on, so I guess I’ll just have to read more of Arisa to find out. Also, if the artwork in Arisa looks familiar, it’s because Ando was the illustrator for the series Kitchen Princess.

Baoh, Volumes 1-2 by Hirohiko Araki. I’ve been going through a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure withdrawal and so I decided to give Araki’s short series Baoh a try. Baoh is certainly no JoJo. In fact, the series was largely a failure in the American market. However, it was interesting to see some of Araki’s earlier work. After being kidnapped and experimented upon by the Judas Laboratory, Ikuro has been turned into deadly bioweapon. But with the aid of a young psychic, he is able to escape his captors who desperately want to find him again. The story itself felt fairly generic to me but I am rather fond of Ikuro as a character. The art in Baoh isn’t as refined as it is in Araki’s later series but there’s plenty of the strangeness and gore that I’ve come to expect.

Dorohedoro, Volumes 4-7 by Q Hayashida. Sure, the story can be all over the place and doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but I still find Dorohedoro to be a tremendous amount of graphic, gory fun. I love its dark humor and quirky characters (who seem to be eating constantly). Hayashida’s artwork perfectly captures the dirt and the grime of the series’ setting. More about the world of Dorohedoro is slowly being revealed and many of the characters’ back stories are explored in these volumes. The plot is beginning to be a bit more coherent, too. Dorohedoro is such an incredibly weird series, but it does make me happy. I’m really looking forward to future volumes, so here’s hoping Viz continues to release them!

Empowered: Deluxe Edition, Volume 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Adam Warren. I love Empowered. It’s smart, sexy, and genuinely funny. Empowered is an associate member of a superhero group known as the Superhomeys. Unfortunately, her teammates are jerks and Emp is often caught in compromising situations (her supersuit is less than reliable). Fortunately, she has a great guy for a boyfriend (even if he did work as minion for a string of supervillians) and a runaway ninja princess for a best friend. Empowered exists in this strange place between manga and superhero comics; although for the most part it’s accessible on its own, Empowered probably works best for readers who have at least some rudimentary knowledge of both.

Lovers in the Night by Fumi Yoshinaga. There are quite a few parallels between Yoshinaga’s Lovers in the Night and her later series Gerard & Jacques (which I happened to read first). Both are historical romances taking place in France around the time of the French Revolution. Each manga also features a couple with significant age and class differences, although the dynamics of their respective relationships are significantly different. Lovers in the Night is a one-shot collection of related stories featuring the aristocratic Antoine and his extraordinarily competent butler Claude. The characters made their first appearance in Yoshinaga’s anthology Truly Kindly in the story “A Butler’s Proper Place.”

Ristorante Paradiso directed by Mitsuko Kase. I missed the Ristorante Paradiso anime when it was first streamed. It’s been unavailable for a while now, which is one of the reasons I was so excited when the series was licensed for a DVD release. The Ristorante Paradiso anime uses both Natsume Ono’s one-shot manga Ristorante Paradiso and its companion series Gente as its source material. It’s nice too see so many of the stories pulled together into one series. The anime captures the elegance and sensuality (and dare I say sexiness) of the Casetta dell’Orso’s staff quite nicely. Claudio in particular is beautifully portrayed. Ristorante Paradiso is a slow and quiet anime; it’s about the characters and setting more than anything else, but there’s human drama, too.

My Week in Manga: October 15-October 21, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was apparently mountain survival week here at Experiments in Manga. I posted two reviews, both of which had something to do with life and death situations in the mountains. It wasn’t really intentional either; it just happened to work out that way. The first review was of Jirō Nitta’s historical novel Death March on Mount Hakkōda, which is about a disastrous military winter exercise known as the Hakkōda Mountains Incident that occurred in Japan in 1902. I first learned about the incident while reading Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Yurei Attack!. Nitta has done his research; Death March on Mount Hakkōda is a chilling account. For my second review last week, I took a look Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Summit of the Gods, Volume 1. The series is my favorite Taniguchi collaboration currently available in English. The artwork is phenomenal and the characters are compelling. In time, I plan to review the entire series.

This week is the Vampire Manga Moveable Feast! Anne at Chic Pixel is hosting for the very first time, so let’s all show some support. As part of my contribution to the Feast, I have a bunch of vampire manga quick takes below. Later this week, I will be posting a review of the first volume of Saiko Takaki’s manga adaptation of Vampire Hunter D. I’ll also be posting a review of the third volume of the English-language release of Yashakiden: The Demon Princess by Hideyuki Kikuchi. Although it’s not manga, Yashakiden most certainly fits in with this week’s vampire theme.

Quick Takes

Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangu, Volumes 1-4 written by Saki Okuse and illustrated by Aki Shimizu. With vampires, organized crime, religious cults, and assassins, Blood Sucker has plenty of violent, bloody action going on. There is a plot, too, but the almost non-stop combat is more prominent. The series jumps into the middle of the action before launching into an extended flashback exploring the characters’ histories. The relationship between Yusuke and Kikuri does develop rather quickly, but there’s destiny and reincarnation involved so there is an excuse for the hasty progression. I actually really enjoyed Blood Sucker, so I’ll be tracking down the rest of the volumes that made it into English before Tokyopop’s demise.

Devil by Torajiro Kishi. In addition to Kishi, Madhouse Studios was involved in Devil, a full color Western-style comic created exclusively for Dark Horse. (Depending on how you want to define the term, Devil may or may not be considered manga.) Written as a four-issue mini-series, Devil is not particularly long. It’s a quick, vaguely entertaining read and the art style Kishi uses fits nicely. Set in a near future where the human race is succumbing to a virus that causes vampirism, the story follows two cops who serve on a special unit that deals with those who have been infected. The ending seems to imply that the government may have somehow been involved in the creation of the disease, but Devil isn’t long enough to explore this, so it feels like a halfhearted addition to the plot.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 13-16 by Hirohiko Araki. I can’t help it, I love this series. It’s stylish. It’s weird. It has great characters. And it’s a lot of fun. I’m sad that this is the only arc licensed in English, because I want to read more. Jotaro and the others have finally made it to Dio’s mansion in Cairo. Not much has been seen of Dio up until now, but he is one scary dude. Extremely powerful, and a vampire to boot, he has very few weaknesses. The showdown between Jotaro and Dio is fantastic—one of the greatest fight scenes that I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. I like that the battles in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure aren’t just about brute strength; outwitting and outmaneuvering opponents is important, too. 

Pathos, Volumes 1-2 by Mika Sadahiro. Not surprisingly, two vampires taking charge of raising a human child to adulthood is not a good idea. The relationships that develop between the characters are intense and twisted. Dark passion and jealousy consume them. Pathos isn’t creepy because vampires are involved; it’s disturbing because the characters’ relationships are so unhealthy and warped. Technically Pathos is boys’ love, but it’s not at all romantic. Desire, lust, and attraction all play an important role the series, but love, despite what the characters might claim, is not to be found. Although provocative, the more intimate scenes in Pathos aren’t nearly as explicit as those in Sadahiro’s other series. Unfortunately, Pathos is plagued by plot inconsistencies.

Until the Full Moon, Volumes 1-2 by Sanami Matoh. Originally published by Broccoli Books, Until the Full Moon‘s license was rescued by Kodansha Comics and published with additional material. It’s a quirky, fairly episodic series about David, a vampire, and his cousin Marlo, a half-vampire/half-werewolf who, instead of transforming into a wolf under the full moon, changes from a man into a woman. Their parents, who may actually be the most delightfully absurd characters in the series, decide that they should be married to each other. Until the Full Moon is a short, amusing series, and I did enjoy it’s silliness, but it’s nothing spectacular. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be following up with the sequel, @Full Moon.

Vampire Hunter D, Volumes 2-5 by by Saiko Takaki. I still haven’t read any of the novels in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series Vampire Hunter D, but I have been following the manga adaptation to some extent. So far, each volume of the manga adapts one of volume of the original series. Other than that, I can’t say how the two series compare. For the most part, the different volumes stand alone. Except for a few minor reference to previous volumes, the eponymous D is really the only thing that ties them all together. I quite like D. He’s a dark, handsome (well, beautiful may be the more accurate term), brooding anti-hero. I also like how the series blends all sorts of elements and genres together—Western, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and more.