Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Part 1: Phantom Blood – A Hero’s Journey

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“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” is a show I first heard about from cultural osmosis via the Dio memes. Now that we’re in October and I’ve been reviewing horror related content I think JoJo’s applies as it cover the vampire mythology. I have only watched the first 2 parts but Part 1 is easily the strongest and worth checking out as the first part captures both the major strengths and some of the cons of the series. For those the pacing can be off and the villain plans aren’t well thought out.

The series was created by Hirohika Araki and produced by David Production.

Part 1 follows the story of Joseph Joestar and his rivalry with his toxic adopted brother Dio Brando.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – Hirohika Anaki has such a unique style that stands out in the animation. Like “Fist of the North Star,” we have large heroes but they are much more colorful than other animes of the same type. The show does a good job capturing that.

The World – The world is intriguing. We have a stone mask that creates vampires with the implication of a larger lore behind it. We have family dramas and honor codes that pull from our world and are taken from there. Like Castlevania you can see where history and fantasy meet.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” and it is really their arcs that keep the story going. They drive the drama and create the basis for the show.

Erina Pendleton – Erina is the love interest of Jonathan and stands against the awful crap she faces. She resists being kissed by Dio and doesn’t let the era sexism define her. She fights it and defines her own life. In the end she chooses Jonathan out of organic falling in love. This is powerful and she doesn’t fall into the damsel role.

Will Zeppeli – Will is Jonathan’s mentor after he believes he has defeated Dio, who became a vampire from the family mask. Zeppeli teaches him how to use the power of Hamon and is there with Jonathan until the end, giving him his power to defeat Dio. They have a fun relationship as Will is flamboyant and fun versus the serious, honor driven Jonathan.

Robert E. O. Speedwagon – Speedwagon starts out as a villain and becomes an ally after Jonathan spares his life. He is so inspired by the good in Jonathan he changes. He is a fun character who doesn’t help during battles but is good emotional support. Also takes his name inspiration from a great band.

Dio Brando – Dio Brando is the villain who SPOILERS again (lives beyond Part 1). I knew this already from the memes but you should know this now. Part 1 is a great arc so I hope him coming back isn’t messed up. In this he is the father of a drunk and crook who becomes the beloved adopted child only to have that all turn against him when Jonathan reveals the truth of how he is poisoning his adoptive father for the inheritance. Before this though, he learned the secret of the stone mask and uses it to become a vampire. He is powerful too and kills his adopted father and sets out for conquest. Dio and Zeppeli defeat him but he doesn’t die as his head survives. This ends in a confrontation after Erina and Jonathan marry, that ends in Jonathan’s death when he hold’s Dio’s head as the ship explodes.

Jonathan Joestar – Jonathan reminds me of what I like about Castlevania. Castlevania you have a medieval society fighting Dracula over generations. I knew that was Dio going in so establishing the original relationship is important. Jonathan’s arc is going from no confidence to confidence as he loses people along the way. He is the honorable and good and in the end he gives his life in forgiveness believing he defeated Dio. It is tragic as he loved his brother who abused him even as he sought to stop and destroy. This is the strength that carries this Part. It is Jonathan’s goodness that inspires goodness in others like Speedwagon to good. This was a real good arc.

The Cons:

Pacing – One of the biggest problems, that also exists in Part 2 is pacing. This series is fast but after goes very slow. This is fine but it took me a while to finish both parts and that started in Part 1. Dio is defeated initially in Part 1 but isn’t dead and it slows down. This is after his first defeat. So we are left waiting for action to happen, and that hurts the story.

Era Sexism – When Dio molests Erena it is against her will and the guilt is put on her. This is sexism both of the era and sadly current and I wish it would go away. She advocates for herself and still stands strong but I hate the echo of needing to be saved that does inspire Jonathan, even if he doesn’t say anything. She is strong but she is never part of the party.

Dio’s Final Plan – So Dio wants to conquer the world but after he is just a head he wants Jonathan’s body to conquer the world in the final of this part. So, after? What does that even mean? I get he wants dominance and to be a “God” but it is never explored deeper than that. This is where the “Castlevania” show does a better job with it’s villain than this show.

I thought this show was real good and worth checking out for folks into vampires and anime. I will not be rating Part 2 as high, so know that now. This narrative still lags but it is focused. The lag gets worse. So know that going forward if you plan to watch on. I’m about to start Part 3 and do plan to finish it, but know that Part 2 is much more flawed than this good introduction to the world.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10 The overall arc between Jonathan and Dio is strong but Dio’s final plan was very poorly executed and felt rushed.

Paranoia Agent – A Beautiful Critique of Society, the Self, Life and Death

        “Paranoia Agent” is a fascinating anime that pulls you in almost immediately as it proceeds to critique and explore reality through the world it exists in and the characters who inhabit it. My friend had recommended this anime to me and I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing it as any story that explores deep concepts and ideas and does it through complex characters is a story worth watching. It helps that the director Satoshi Con is one of my favorites for his film “Tokyo Godfather.”

     The story takes place in Japan involves Tsukiko, a character designer who created a famous character named Maromi (after her childhood pet)  who is under pressure at work to create the next character just as famous. When she is walking home at night a young boy with a twisted bat and roller skates attacks her leading to an investigation that leads to questions about what really happened as this Lil’ Slugger grows into legend as more attacks occur.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is very much a reflection of our own but with supernatural elements as Lil’ Slugger proves to be a major break from reality beyond the breaks from reality our characters face in the show. This is part of what makes it so fascinating. All our characters are broken and it is through their fractured lenses that we view their world.

The Tone – The tone is dark with an element of unrealness. From characters like toys being able to talk, but only a select few hearing them, a guy who sees life as an RPG where people are monsters to be defeated and an actual monster in Lil’ Slugger. The tone is dark as all our characters are broken in different ways and that is established early.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful and does a great job capturing the twisted reality of our characters and the dark tone. It is beautiful and at times trippy as warped reality scenes appear on multiple occasions.

The Characters – The characters are complex and fascinating, with the Police Chief being my favorite as he is caught up in his old ways but it is in his finding empathy for others and their perspectives that helps him save Tokyo from Tsukiko whose fears and denial created Lil’ Slugger in the first. We get a lot of days in the life of characters too and their relation to the events unfolding and how they react to the Lil’ Slugger incidents.

Gossip and the Creation of Legends – One of the major themes of the episode is Gossip and how it can feed the darker aspects of already horrendous things (like the Lil’ Slugger attacks) we see a group of women isolate and pick on another as each tries to one up what they know about Lil’ Slugger…Through it all there is fear of the other and the woman who is quiet is constantly targeted by the gossiping horde who has turned Lil’ Slugger into Legend.

Consumer Culture and How it Feeds Isolation and Fear – Isolation and the things that feed isolation are a major theme of the show too. From Maromi being the isolating factor of consumerism that gives Lil’ Slugger a feast of people’s insecurities and their avoidance of others and responsibilities. The ending sets up Lil’ Slugger is likely to return as rebuilt Tokyo is just like the Tokyo before meaning the same culture of consumerism is likely to lead to another being overwhelmed and creating another Lil’ Slugger as no one cares about anyone beyond themselves.

Escape versus Obligation and Responsibility – Escape versus Obligation is another theme as all our characters are running away. Whether it is running away from life, suffering, responsibility, etc. The episodes are about reeling them back in and forcing them to confront their obligation or responsibility. IT is only in taking responsibility for the death of her pet that Tsukiko is able to stop Lil’ Slugger from completely destroying Tokyo.

How Denial Can Consume – Denial consumes a lot of our characters…and each instance Lil’ Slugger arrives and kills them or knocks them out. Sometimes he saves, sometimes he arrives after they’ve already done the damage, like the anime worker who kills his entire team or the Police Chief after he’s lost his position. In one instance he has a suicide group who chases him and it is the only time he’s afraid as his power comes from those consumed by guilt and fear and the three who chase him were not. In the end denial destroys Tokyo as even Tsukiko’s guilt was not enough to turn Lil’ Slugger into the darkness that consumes Tokyo.

Isolation versus Relationship in Culture – All our characters are isolated and it is only in moments of connections with others that they find relief and peace. Isolation is what feeds Lil’ Slugger as lack of communication leads to obsession and fear. In the anime the culture of Japan in the story is one where everyone is isolated on their phones and stuck in their jobs and not wanting any responsibility or obligation. It represents the own darker nature of humanity and our own contradictory nature of wanting connection but wanting to be alone. Wanting responsibility but wanting none at all. This anime is great at showing the two sides of wants and desires and does it so well.

  This is easily one of my favorite animes now. Like “Tokyo Godfathers,” Satoshi Con created another classic that gives us complex characters and deep things in an overarching narrative that is willing to push the boundaries of understanding and comfort and in the process creates a masterpiece well worth your time. I’m extremely grateful to my friend for recommending this anime, and I plan to watch it again. There are so many deep themes that are covered and the complex characters are the perfect way to present these ideas. This is a perfect anime that sets out and achieves it’s narrative ends.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Ranma 1/2 – Upcoming Anime Reviews

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   “Ranma 1/2” is one of the animes I’ve had recommended to me a few times so I’ve decided to that I will be reviewing the show! I’ll be doing it episodically with Season reviews and also taking my time on it too, that way there can still be a variety of other shows and films being reviewed as well.

     The story was created by Rumiko Takahashi and Fuji TV was who aired the show.

   “Ranma 1/2” ran for 7 seasons and is more of a romantic type anime though it does have fighting as the main character is a martial artist Ranma who has to deal with the curse where he changes into a girl while dealing with the threats from rivals and fiances who his con man father had tried to set him up with.

    So without further ado, “Ranma 1/2” will be the next anime reviewed!

“Sword Art Online” – Upcoming Series Episode Reviews

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     After finishing up “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” wanted to take a break and do something different besides “Star Wars: Clone Wars” as I’d like to save that when we get closer to “The Force Awakens.” I’ve always been a fan of anime and this show was recommending to me a few times. It is also different enough from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” that I don’t think the episodic reviews would clash together.

      The show as created by Reki Kawahara, produced by A-1 Pictures it ran through 2012 and has a second series (I’m just going to be reviewing the first one and not any of the manga) and was directed by Tomohiko Ito.

    The premise of the show is the creator Akihiko Kayaba  of “Sword Art Online” which is an MMORPG that is connected to the brain and body, traps all the players in the game and if they die they die in real life. It is up to Kazuto who played with the first 1000 in the Beta. He is the main protagonist whose loner life soon becomes a part of so many other lives.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1 – “The Shooting Star She Saw” – Setting the Stage

The Shooting Star She Saw

We kick off our reviews of “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing” with “The Shooting Star She Saw.” The script was written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa and directed by Yasunao Aoki and Nobuyoshi Nishimura. It is this episode that introduces the first major players and sets up this universe.

“The Shooting Star She Saw” is the pilot to “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.” It introduces the world where the United Earth Sphere Alliance has taken control of the space colonies surrounding. The colonies rebel and are put down but plot a way to get freedom which leads to Operation Meteor, where Five Gundam Pilots and their Gundams are sent down to different areas of the world to take out strategic facilities of the UESA and begin the revolution while being able to claim deniability. From here the story unfolds as we are introduced to the factions in play and the Gundam pilots who drive the story.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is a vast improvement over “Mobile Suit Gundam.” The characters aren’t blocky, the colors are clear and not faded and the fight scenes flow together and are able to incorporate a lot of action into scenes without cluttering them.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack during the episodes has an intense tech. feel to it which does a good job of adding tension to the scenes and reflecting the minds of the characters. Ko Otani did a great job.

The World – It’s great seeing Earth as the clear villain who has grown complacent allowing for other factions to rise and for the Gundams to reek havoc. This is different and allows for more focus on characters rather than having a single character like Amuro dominate the narrative.

The Gundam Pilots and their Gundams – We are introduced to the Gundam Pilots and their awesome. They are pros even though some have only very small introductory scenes. I’ll explain why soon.

Duo Maxwell – Duo Maxwell is the cocky American Gundam pilot who pilots Deathscythe one of the coolest designed Gundams as it fights with a giant scythe and is quick and sneaky making it a deadly foe. He has battle lust and we see him reveling in the conflict showing just how broken most of our pilots are.

Trowa Barton – Owns the ranged gundam Heavyarms and destroys the space port. His has the highest body count and his character is very calm and deadly and repressed. In this way he is the biggest mystery.

Quatre – Quatre is the most peaceful of the pilots and only kills those who don’t surrender. He doesn’t love fighting and is the most apparent commander as he is with a troop of Gundams when he attacks. His gundam is Sandrock, a close range Gundam.

Wufei Chang – Wufei is the calm soldier who is doing what needs to be done to win the war. He doesn’t revel in it as some of the other pilots do and is all about the job. His Gundam has flamethrowers and is known as the Shenlong Gundam.

Heero – Heero is the character we follow as we are introduced to the man who will be his rival Zechs who is tracking his descent. He manages to kill two of the Gundams that are set him before Zechs’s Gundam overpowers him and forces him to fall into the ocean. It is here he is washed up on shore and meets Relana, the Vice Foreign Minister’s daughter of the UESA. He runs from her and later threatens her at school. He is the hardest and most broken of the pilots and there is no reason to like this guy currently. He does make an intriguing protagonist though as he is coming from a place of desperate survival. His Gundam he loses is the most powerful and is Gundam Wing, it’s design is similar to Amuro’s Gundam.

Lt. Zechs Marquise – Zechs works for OZ and is friends with OZ’s leader Treize. Through OZ he works for the UESA but plans to overthrow them. He wears a mask and is definitely a Char analogue but he is colder than Char and crueler as well as smarter as he only acts when he knows he has the upper hand. Can’t wait to see this guy in action.

Treize – Treize is the leader of OZ and is planning to overthrow the UESA as he sees how complacent they have become and ignorant of their vulnerability (given how successful Operation Meteor is just in the first episode). He is calm and collected and you get why he leads OZ.

Okay – Relena – Is the person who isn’t broken or plotting but is connected to power via her dad being the Vice Foriegn Minister’s daughter. She’s kind as she gets help for Heero which she exploits but she holds her own too and doesn’t flinch when Heero threatens her. She’s a bit bland at this point though but I’m curious what role she’ll play in all of this.

The Cons: The UESA Leaders – These guys are boring and refuse to listen to Zechs or his boss Treize who heads OZ which shows them to be falling. This was a shame as they were the original threat of the colonies. I hope we meet some good or smart UESA characters. Loud abrasive generals are boring.

This episode is a good introduction to everyone and the world, while still giving us enough of a mystery for the next 48 episodes to explore the characters, build relationships and resolve the conflict…if it’s done right. I’m excited to see how they handle this as it does a very good job setting up the stage and giving us the players.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10. Really good and nearly great.