Tuesday 5 March 2013
Anime review: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure volume 1
This is the first time that the beginning of the saga has ever been animated and released for proper consumption (a short-lived movie soon disappeared without trace, and the OAV which previously made it to the US covered a later part of the story). My previous JoJo experience is relatively weak, so I was lucky enough to be able to experience many of the twists and turns for the first time. It would have been impossible for me to go in with no knowledge of the characters at all - the series is simply too famous and a goldmine for parodies. Still, I feel that the impact of these three episodes is even greater if they're allowed to surprise the audience without excessive spoilers, so I'm going to avoid saying too much about the actual content.
Visually, this new television adaptation is stunning. Rather than updating the early parts of the original manga to match a modern aesthetic, the animation staff has completely embraced the camp, bold artwork to create a blend of styles unlike anything else I've seen in television anime. The opening sequence uses computer generated animation to bring the manga to life; it's one of the best title sequences I've seen in a long time. The rest of the show looks more traditional, while still incorporating bold colour and on-screen sound effects to keep the spectacle as crazy as possible.
The show delivers with its audio too. Dio almost steals the show completely, thanks in part to veteran Koyasu Takehito's deeply masculine performance. Opposite him is Okitsu Kazuyuki playing Jonathan Joestar. I hadn't taken notice of Okitsu before; here he makes a perfect JoJo with a naive, honest and occasionally petulant tone of voice. The opening song "JoJo ~Sono Chi No Sadame~" is an instant classic in the anison tradition. It's worth noting that even the music played during the credits is subtitled in English on the disc.
Sometimes, older material suffers when compared to recent hits in its genre, often due to later works having drawn inspiration from the manga which predated them. This isn't the case here; JoJo can make new fans laugh, gasp and cheer without even appearing to try. What a shame that this fantastic shounen classic was never picked up for a worldwide streaming broadcast. Its age and shameless affection for a camp aesthetic might not resonate with everyone in the current generation of overseas fans, but anyone who goes into it with an open mind is sure to find it impossible to resist the show's many charms.
special edition Blu-ray, standard edition Blu-ray, first press DVD or standard edition DVD. The only difference between the DVD editions seems to be a stylish slipcase, while the special Blu-ray comes with a different slipcase, a soundtrack CD and a proof of purchase, which can eventually be used to apply for a special figure set once you've collected the whole series. The Blu-ray version also includes English subtitles, making it an excellent deal for fans overseas frustrated with the lack of streaming options. It's also worth noting that the animation has been cleaned up for the home video versions and previously-censored violent scenes have been restored to their full glory. The Blu-ray special edition is the version I purchased and used for the screenshots above, and I feel this is the best way to watch JoJo. The show's unusual art style deserves nothing less than the highest quality picture.
With another eight Blu-ray volumes lined up for release in 2013, JoJo is going to be part of my life for the rest of the year. There's still no word on whether it will be continuing into the third story arc at a later date even though sales of the home video version have been brisk. I'm fully satisfied with the content of the Japanese edition even if the series receives a localised release later on, however, for the sake of other fans it would be great to see it make it to the US (or even the UK) one day. I just hope that future seasons of the anime, if they ever come to exist, will be streamed outside Japan so that I don't have to keep watching each episode five months behind my friends on Twitter.