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: June 16-June 22, 2014

My News and Reviews

Well, it wasn’t entirely intentional, but both of my in-depth manga reviews from last week featured manga released by Kodansha Comics. I managed to get my hands on an early copy of Hikaru Suruga’s Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Volume 1, the first installment in a short shoujo series focusing on Erwin and Levi and their pasts. It’s a welcome addition to the Attack on Titan canon and I enjoyed it a great deal. The second review was of Hinoki Kino’s No. 6, Volume 7 which may very well be the best volume yet in the series; it’s intense. I’d still love to read the original novels, but I’m glad that the manga adaptation is being released. I also had a bonus post last week—Random Musings: Cherry Bomb, Cinderseed, and Skyglass. Cherry Bomb is the mature imprint of Chromatic Press. Cinderseed was released through Cherry Bomb and is the prologue to the illustrated novel Skyglass which debuted earlier this month. I’m absolutely loving what I’ve seen of Skyglass so far.

And speaking of great stuff from Chromatic Press, I encourage everyone to check out its Kickstarter to release Gauntlent in print. As for other interesting things found online: The fifth part of Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga was posted at The Lobster Dance and focuses on Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son. Sean has a roundup of the recent license announcements from Seven Seas at A Case Suitable for Treatment. The UK-based comics publisher Breakdown Press is launching a series of classic and avant garde manga in translation, starting with Seiichi Hayashi’s Flowering Harbour in July. And last but not least, I discovered manga brog a newish site which already has some extremely interesting content, like a translation of a conversation between Taiyo Matsumoto, Inio Asano, and Keigo Shinzo.

Quick Takes

Click, Volume 5Click, Volumes 5-8 by Youngran Lee. The relationship dynamics in Click are exceptionally complicated, made more complicated by the fact that Joonha’s sex and gender are in flux. After spending sixteen years of his life physically and mentally as male, the fact that he now has a female body has presented some problems. Initially he tried to separate himself from those closest to him, but now they’re back in his life. For better and for worse, Joonha still hasn’t fully explained the situation or his peculiar genetic condition. Some people treat him as the boy he once was, others treat him as the girl he seems to be now. Surprisingly enough, Joonha seems to care less and less about gender, more or less ignoring it in order to focus on other aspects of life. (Which really is how it should be.) Click is extremely melodramatic, emotions run high, and the plot can occasionally take some absurd turns. Despite being somewhat of a jerk, most everyone seems to be in love with Joonha and those feelings are returned. As a result, the manhwa forms an extraordinary mess of romantic entanglements.

Crimson Spell, Volume 4Crimson Spell, Volumes 3-4 by Ayano Yamane. The first two volumes of Crimson Spell were originally released in English by Media Blasters. I was thrilled when SuBLime rescued the license; Crimson Spell is my favorite Yamane series, and there are relatively few boys’ love manga set in a sword and sorcery fantasy world. On rereading the series, I realized that I had forgotten just how funny it can be, too. Granted, the third volume takes a fairly serious turn when Halvir is captured and Vald must go to his rescue. The plot is getting more involved, more and more characters are introduced, and Vald’s curse and the bond between him and his demon self are growing stronger. Halvir and Vald desperately need to sort out their feelings for one another, a particular thorny issue since Vald has now discovered that Halvir has been taking great pleasure in satisfying the carnal needs of the demon without Vald’s knowledge (or consent). Understandably, Vald isn’t particularly happy to learn this. With all of the drama, magic, and sword fights, and all of the smut to go along with it, I’m still loving Crimson Spell.

Eyeshield 21, Volume 35Eyeshield 21, Volumes 35-37 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. These last three volumes of Eyeshield 21 feel like an afterthought to the series more than anything else. The Christmas Bowl is over, but with the Youth World Cup about to begin Japan needs to pull together its all-star team. Basically this final arc amounts to an excuse to bring all of the favorite characters from the various Japanese teams together one last time. Despite it being a world championship, Eyeshield 21 seems to have lost the sense of urgency and emotional investment that was present during the battles in the Christmas Bowl. In part this is probably due to the fact that most of the members of the other national teams are new to the series, so any established rivalries or histories are missing. As expected, the championship game in the Youth World Cup comes down to Japan versus America. It’s a good game, but I found it to be rather anticlimactic in the end. Still, Eyeshield 21 is a lot of fun and as always Murata’s artwork is fantastic. I mean, the image of Ceasar riding a dinosaur? That’s some great stuff there.

My Little Monster, Volume 2My Little Monster, Volume 2 by Robico. I’m quite enjoying My Little Monster. I particularly appreciate the series’ quirky, offbeat characters—a group of misfits with varying degrees of social awkwardness, ineptitude, and obliviousness. Shizuku is currently struggling to find the balance between her accidental friendships, her feelings towards Haru, and her studying, which had been the only thing in her life that had been constant. As for Haru, he’s starting to become more comfortable at school and around other people. But, though he means well, his more violent tendencies still cause some problems. Haru’s older brother is introduced in this volume and some of Haru’s troubled family life is revealed as well, adding some mystery and ominous undertones to what is generally a fairly lighthearted series. I like Robico’s dry sense of humor in My Little Monster. So far, the series has achieved a nice blend of more serious and more comedic elements. There are certainly some uncomfortable moments, but at this point the series has avoided becoming too heavy. I’m looking forward to reading more of My Little Monster.

JJBATV1JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure directed by Kenichi Suzuki and Naokatsu Tsuda. The first season of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure television anime series covers the first two parts of Hirohiko Araki’s inter-generational action manga epic. Phantom Blood is adapted in a mere nine episodes but still manages to hit most of the major plot points and remains coherent despite its quick pace. The remaining seventeen episodes are devoted to the second story arc, Battle Tendency. While they both obviously belong to the same anime series, the individual parts have their own stylistic quirks in the music and animation that give each its own feel. Phantom Blood has a classically oriented soundtrack and palette while Battle Tendency introduces dubstep and bright, fluorescent colors. Some shortcuts were taken with the animation in order to keep to a budget, some of which are more effective than others. However, the story remains entertaining and engaging, a mix of horror, revenge, and intense battles and action with strong psychological elements. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can be, well, bizarre and over-the-top, but I’ll gladly admit that I get a huge kick out of it.

My Week in Manga: October 22-October 28, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week was the Vampire Manga Moveable Feast. As part of my contribution, I reviewed Vampire Hunter D, Volume 1—Saiko Takaki’s manga adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel of the same name. I still haven’t read the original Vampire Hunter D novels, but the manga adaptation of the series is starting to grow on me. Keeping with the vampire theme, I also reviewed Hideyuki Kikuchi’s vampire novel Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Volume 3. There are parts of Yashakiden that I really enjoy but there are just as many parts that frustrate me immensely. Since there are only two more volumes in the English release, and I’ve already come this far, I’ll probably end up finishing the series at some point. Completely unrelated to vampires, but because it’s a graphic novel I wanted to mention it here: Over at my other blog, Experiments in Reading, I’ve posted a review of Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid on the Hudson, which I quite enjoyed.

Quick Takes

Apocalypse Zero, Volumes 1-6 by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Unfortunately, only six of the eleven volumes of Apocalypse Zero were released in English. I can’t say that I’m surprised and I don’t expect that the license will ever be rescued—the series will appeal only to those with a strong constitution and who aren’t offended easily. It’s extremely graphic, bloody and violent. The imagery is deliberately repulsive, gloriously grotesque, and highly sexualized. Honestly, I feel a little dirty admitting that I loved Apocalypse Zero in all of its outrageousness, but I did. Yamaguchi does make use of a lot of standard tropes and cliches, but he takes them to such ridiculous, over-the-top extremes that they are almost unrecognizable.

Bunny Drop, Volumes 5-6 by Yumi Unita. With a ten year time skip, Bunny Drop has become an entirely different series. It’s not bad, but it has lost much of charm that made the first four volumes stand out. However, the character interactions are still great. The “new” Bunny Drop probably wouldn’t be a series that I would follow had I not already been invested its characters. It seems to have turned into a pretty typical high school drama. I did enjoy seeing the kids all grown up though, Rin and Kouki especially. Unfortunately, Daikichi, who has always been my favorite, has almost become a secondary character in these volumes (although, a very important one). I do still like Unita’s artwork and plan on finishing the last few volumes in the series.

The Drops of God: New World written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. It’s sad to say, but New World may very well be the last volume of The Drops of God to be published in English. At the request of the author, this omnibus (collecting volumes 22 and 23 of the original release) jumps ahead in the story to a point which features New World wines. As Shizuku heads to Australia and Issei heads to America in search of the seventh apostle, they both manage to get into some serious trouble. The plot might be a little ridiculous at times, but I still find The Drops of God to be entertaining and informative. Who knew the world of wine could be so dangerous?

The Flowers of Evil, Volumes 2-3 by Shuzo Oshimi. I really thought that I was through with middle school dramas, but then I started reading The Flowers of Evil. The series is exceedingly dark and ominous. I have a hard time looking away as the events unfold. I have no idea where Oshimi is going with this series and I’m almost afraid to find out. It’s intense, to say the least. The characters in The Flowers of Evil are so incredibly messed up. Even those who at first appear “normal” have some serious issues; it’s hard to tell what’s really going on in their heads. Kasuga is caught in this agonizing relationship between Saeki, the girl he idolizes, and Nakamura, the girl who torments him but from whom he can’t seem to break away.

Tonight’s Take-Out Night! by Akira Minazuki. A collection of three boys’ love stories, Tonight’s Take-Out Night is the first manga that I’ve read by Minazuki. While I enjoyed the stories, the high-contrast art style is what really caught my attention. The stories are short, so the development of the couples’ relationships has to happen fairly quickly. However, Minazuki’s characterizations are strong enough that they carry the stories fairly well. I liked the pairings and I liked their relationships which were mostly free of non-consensual elements. The first and third story are both good-natured and a little quirky. But the second story, with it’s period setting and supernatural twist, was my personal favorite.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Volumes 1-6 produced by Studio APPP. Technically, the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime adaptation is two series. The last six episodes were released between 1993 and 1994 while the first seven were released between 2000 and 2002. I do prefer the manga over the anime, but the OVA series is an excellent adaptation. The anime strips the story down to it’s core. The humor and the horror elements of the original tend to be downplayed; the anime focuses mostly on the action and battles. This does mean that some of my favorite moments from the manga were cut, but all of the fights that are particularly important to plot and character development are included. No matter what the medium, I love JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.