JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders by Hirohiko Araki (An Oxford College Student Review!)
In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Nicolas Ingle:
Nicolas Ingle is a sophomore at Oxford College of Emory University. Nicolas is intending to major in chemistry and Japanese with the intent to go to medical school. Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, Nicolas loves hanging out with friends, watching movies, playing music, and reading manga. Nicolas loves learning about the culture of others and participating in cultural activities. In the future, Nicolas wishes to become a radiologist and possibly a translator.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Sutādasuto Kuruseidāsu) is a sixteen-volume Japanese shounen manga created by Hirohiko Araki that contains epic battles, mystical forces, and focuses on the relationships and sacrifices between family and friends. Originally written in 1989, the series was not officially published in English until 2005. The overall series has had a lasting impact on Japanese pop-culture and is a must read for any comic fan because of its western inspiration and influence on both comics and manga.
Before I discuss the sixteen volumes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Part 3): Stardust Crusaders, I should explain the history and plot of the overall series to give context. The series is currently divided into eight long separate parts, of which Stardust Crusaders is the third part, and each part contains multiple volumes, or separately published books. Although some parts contain characters from the earlier parts, each storyline is independent from the others. The overarching plot of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure follows a member of the Joestar family. The story starts in part one with Jonathan Joestar in England during the year 1880. It follows Jonathan’s quest to stop the power-hungry vampire Dio. Part two follows Joseph Joestar, Jonathan’s grandson, in America in the late 1930s. Part three, Stardust Crusaders, follows the quest of Joseph, his grandson Kujo Jotaro, and Mohammad Avdol to stop the recently resurrected Dio (DIO in part three). Stardust Crusaders is the most popular and the best-known part, and it can be enjoyed without having read the previous two, but if you read the first part you will gain a better grasp of the main antagonist’s character.
Stardust Crusaders, part three of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, starts in Cairo, Egypt. An evil power that has been dormant for one hundred years awakens. With the awakening of this evil also comes the awakening of a mysterious power known as “stands.” To save his dying mother, Kujo Jotaro travels to Egypt to defeat the evil vampire known as DIO. Accompanying him on his journey are four allies: his grandfather, Joseph Joestar; the fortune teller, Mohammed Avdol; and the student, Noriaki Kakyoin. Each wielding the mysterious stand power, the four embark on a trip to Cairo; however, knowing that he is being pursued, DIO handpicks countless stand users to attack Jotaro and company along their journey. The 17-year-old punk Jotaro is no stranger to getting into fights, but with only fifty days to save his dying mother, Jotaro will have to battle the strongest enemies he has ever faced to reach the ultimate evil — DIO.
Although Stardust Crusaders does contain a lot of action and leads up to an epic, highly memorable fight, the action tends to take a back seat in favor of the logic behind the fighters. Many of the fights in the series are won by figuring out the enemy’s weakness while hiding one’s own. So even though the main character is physically strong, he never uses his full strength and instead chooses to outwit his opponents. A great example of this is the fight between Jotaro and D’Arby. The “fight” is a simple poker game, but the wager is the souls of Jotaro’s allies. No powers are used during this fight — both sides rely on their mental fortitude only. My favorite battle in the entirety of Stardust Crusaders is the final fight. The final fight is a perfect blend of a test of strength and a test of wits. I cannot talk about it here without giving spoilers, but I truly believe the series is worth reading for the sake of the final fight alone.
The art of Stardust Crusaders has a similar look to much of the art found in 1980s shounen; however, it stands out due to Hirohiko Araki’s use of character poses and sound effects. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is famous for its character poses and use of sound effects in the art. Araki uses a lot of sharp, straight lines to draw his characters. Many characters strike a pose when using a move or after a fight. This, combined with a sound effect like “BAM!” helps make the characters look cool and powerful. The series is also notorious for its use (and possible overuse) of the character ゴ (like a rumbling sound effect) whenever something ominous is shown. The characters do look a little strange when they are first introduced; however, the art inevitably gets better as the story goes on as Araki becomes more familiar with drawing the characters.
As a fan of manga, I think that JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is worth the investment of time and money for longstanding shounen manga fans because of its history and lasting impact on Japanese culture. Someone new to the shounen manga genre will be drawn into the world of JoJo because of its memorable characters, fight scenes, and phrases. The series appeals to fans of action and those who like characters with strong motivations. Overall, I would give the sixteen volumes of the Stardust Crusaders arc a four and a half out of five. Although it is arguably the most influential arc and defined the direction for the rest of the series, it is not the best of the eight parts because of its rather simple plot compared to later story arcs.