Arakifest ’12: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 2

June 7, 2012

So, again. In case you missed the earlier review of Rohan at the Louvre, I always take June 7th as a day to talk about Hirohiko Araki. He’s my favorite artist ever, and coincidentally, I share a June 7th birthday with him, so it seems like a fine time to promote an artist who isn’t very popular among English-language fans.

It’s been awhile since I’ve actually written a post like this. Usually I just talk about the most recent volume of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in English, but I ran out of those last year. I’m always out of town this week, so doing a fancy article is difficult. But this year, I planned ahead! So now, I’m going to cover Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure part two, which is volumes 6-12. This wasn’t translated into English, and the reviews I link above are actually part three, which starts in Japanese volume 13.

If you’ve read part three, then you’re already familiar with Joseph Joestar. Jotaro’s grandpa, and the user of the Purple Hermit stand, part two covers his adventures with the Aztec master vampires that made the stone masks in part one. It’s almost as globe-trotting-tastic as part three, and the adventure starts in New York City in the 1930s.

I mention Joseph’s stand, but the stands don’t actually appear until part three. Parts one and two use a technique called “hamon,” or “ripple,” which is… some sort of life energy thing that blows up vampires. That’s about all the explanation we get in the series, too. Truth is, it doesn’t really matter what the ripple technique is or where it comes from, the important part is that it blows up vampires.

Joseph is a mix of Jonathan and Jotaro. He’s heroic in the same way that Jonathan was (though much less so), but sort of a delinquent in the same way that Jotaro is. He’s also fond of talking, and frequently adds running idiotic commentary to the fights, which is completely unlike either Joseph or Jotaro. That sounds like a bad thing, but it’s actually quite funny given how serious the fights are. Our introduction to Joseph has him using the ripple technique from part one to straighten out some really corrupt police officers. The police officers are more than a bit of a stereotype, but it makes me feel a lot better at laughing at some of the more… inappropriate parts of part three. Comedic exaggeration is simply Araki’s M.O. And it’s still funny here.

Also, messily exploding body parts. It wouldn’t be Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure without a lot of that.

Anyway, Speedwagon (a character from part one) has discovered one of the master vampires in Mexico. However, Straits (also from part one) betrays him and slays the entire party. Alarmed when Speedwagon is reported missing, Jojo goes to Mexico to check things out. While there, he discovers Santana, one of four Aztec master vampires. Nazis are trying to revive him and use him for their own ends.

I’m not going to talk about the Nazi Stroheim very much, but he’s sort of a main character through this story arc. He has one of the creepiest introductions I’ve ever seen, then comes back from the dead repeatedly throughout the story. Literally, this man is killed several times. At the end of the final fight, he is just a living torso, but he’s still alive. Of all the things that don’t actually kill him in part two, commentary at the end lets us know he died in battle during WWII. A volcanic eruption powerful enough to eject an omnipotent being into space is not enough to kill this man, but American bullets are.

I should mention that, in order to fool the Nazis, Jojo also cross-dresses at one point. This… this. I have no words.

Anyway. Santana slays the Nazis handily, then fights Jojo. Jojo is completely unprepared for this fight, and his ripple technique is not strong enough to beat Santana.

I own, like, 300 volumes of yaoi manga, and this fight is still one of the most homoerotic things I’ve ever seen. Then again, yaoi is technically porn for women, so it doesn’t really count. Anyway.

A series of gruesome tricks are required to bring Santana into sunlight, which will kill him. But! It turns out Santana is the weakest of the Aztec master vampires! The other three can’t even be destroyed in direct sunlight! They’re in Rome, and they’re getting ready to wake up after sleeping for 2,000 years! Oh no!

In Rome, Jojo teams up with ripple user Cesar Zeppeli, the grandson of the ripple mentor in part one. You might remember him best as the torso that coached Jonathan through a zombie collar fight. Anyway, Cesar blames Joestar family incompetence for the death of his grandfather. Jojo, being a cocky showboating kind of guy, doesn’t take well to this. After a quick BFF moment, the two venture to the site where the other three Aztec master vampires are, along with a third man that drives the car. The driver is unrelated to any character from part one, and proceeds to tell a lengthy story about his fiancee and how he’s going to marry her in a few days. This man is promptly killed when they arrive at the site. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be funny or not, but it’s such a mundane story, it lasts forever, and it’s so clear that he’s going to die. It made my black heart glad.

The thing about these three Aztec master vampires… I was distracted all the way through this fight because I’m pretty sure these men are naked. I don’t know what to make of that.

Anyway, it’s clear that neither Cesar nor Jojo are strong enough to even wound these three. Even Jojo’s dirty tricks, involving ripple-laced clackers, don’t work against them. One of them slits Jojo’s wrist, giving him a “blood clock” deadline of one minute to defeat them before he loses all his blood and dies. This doesn’t happen, but Jojo appeals to the Aztec master vampire’s pride. He claims that in one month, if he trains, he could be a match for them, and killing him now would be cowardly. The vampires fall for the plea for life, and give Jojo an… uh, a wedding ring full of poison. One is around the arteries in his heart, and the other around the arteries in his neck. He has one month before the walls of the rings disintegrate and release poison into his system. If he wants to live, he needs to kill two of the three vampires and take back the antidote, stored in their lip rings and nose rings.

Done with mundane introductions, Jojo and Cesar travel to Venice to train with ripple master Lisa Lisa. Mercifully, this training is condensed into only a few chapters (one of the other fantastic things about this series), and the only part of it we really see is the first exercise, where Jojo and Cesar have to climb an ancient oily Roman pillar with only the ripple technique. This takes several days of hanging from an oily wall by their fingertips, and their progress at the top is met with a spray of oil that could cut a man in half.

Then we find out that Lisa Lisa is the keeper of an ancient jewel that is the key to making the Aztec master vampires truly indestructible. So it’s no surprise that when Jojo goes to take his final ripple mastery test with teachers Loggins and Messina, Aztec master vampire AC/DC is there instead, with Loggins impaled on his knee. Then an Aztec master vampire spike pit fight follows.

I don’t really think there’s anything I can say about this that could inform it better.

The best part is when Jojo tricks AC/DC into letting him wrap a wire around his arm and separates it from his body. The arm spirals through the air and comes to rest impaled on a spike. Jojo then vaporizes it down to the bones with a ripple.

Then AC/DC does what any self-respecting villain does in that situation. He cries for three pages.

Again, this works because everything about this series is completely straight-faced and serious. Jojo’s strange jests during fights, and the villains turning into blubbering babies suddenly, are particularly absurd in that context, and made way better than they would be in an actual comedy series. The crying is an especially nice touch here, given Araki’s fondness for beefy character designs.

Anyway, AC/DC succeeds in separating Lisa Lisa from the jewel, and mails it to his associate Cars in Switzerland. Lisa Lisa, Jojo, Cesar, and Messina give chase. Shockingly, one of the scenes that introduces Cars in Switzerland involves a weak puppy getting run over by a car full of jerks, and somehow, the puppy lives. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time an easy dog slaughter scene wasn’t taken advantage of in a Hirohiko Araki series.

The jewel has fallen into the hands of Nazis, who know exactly what it’s for. Cars shows up to relieve them of the jewel, but comes up against the Nazi Stroheim. Stroheim was last seen dying back in Mexico, but Nazi science has revived him as a cybernetic Nazi who plans on pinching Cars to death.

This fight involves a deep Swiss precipice and chaining ice stalagtites together in order to make a rope. Most of the fighting happens in midair in a matter of seconds. That doesn’t sound very extreme, because a lot of shounen manga do midair battles. But those characters can usually fly, or jump high, or move fast, or something. These two are literally just falling down a precipice for a couple chapters, locked in mortal combat.

Because this fight isn’t absurd enough, the group rushes into battle next with Aztec master vampire Wham. This fight takes place in broad daylight, and Wham pulls off this feat by venting his lungs outside his chest and using the air generated by his breathing to surround himself with a cloud of air that refracts the sunlight, thus keeping him from burning up.

It looks cool as hell.

Anyway, Cesar is the one that fights Wham here. He fulfills the Zeppeli family tradition of dying as a manly sacrifice, as his father did, and his father before him.

Jojo takes it poorly.

Next, Lisa Lisa fights for the first time in the series against a throwaway enemy named Wired Beck. He’s an eccentric minion vampire that hits on her. She takes him out in a very Fist of the North Star way, where he doesn’t even realize he’s already dead. Later, a minion vampire that irritates Jojo is stopped by having his tongue yanked out of his head and his teeth pulled through it, with the comment that he ought to suck his own blood.

Anyway, the final fight with Wham and Cars is scheduled, and they decide to hold it in what appears to be a Swiss version of Stonehenge (that doesn’t actually exist, I think). When Jojo shows up to fight, Wham is charged by a vampire horse, and Wham declares their fight will be a traditional chariot race. No character in the first 10 volumes of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has ever expressed any interest in horses, chariots, or racing, so this was a little out of left field. Who would have thought that this series could throw a curveball? Perhaps less of a curve than you think though, because if there was true justice, Cars would be doing the chariot race instead of Wham.

The strangeness is immediately forgiven when the arena fills with vampire minions that begin chanting “Wham! Wham! Wham!”

The chariot race itself is… you know. Mundane. Pretty standard stuff. No tricks, reversals, or Aztec master vampire self-blinding. Nor does it end in a messy Aztec master vampire explosion. Again, if the world was just, this explosion would have been accompanied by an onomonopoetic “WHAM!”

It may or may not also contain the decapitated head of an Aztec master vampire loading itself onto a crossbow, bending the nigh unbendable strings with its hair, and then taking out, like, ten minion vampires by using its head as a bullet and a long unicorn horn it sprouted as a weapon.

Then, for the final volume, Cars goes all Highlander on us. What started as a group of four Aztec master vampires has become one. But, you know, there can be only one at the top.

So the final fight takes place, with Cars and Lisa Lisa. There’s some Nazi deus ex machina, except that only serves to bring Speedwagon into the fray in order to reveal… THAT LISA LISA IS JOJO’S MOTHER!!! And now the two of them are hanging by a rope on either side of a temple in the Piz Bernina, and if he lets go, his mom will die! But an Aztec master vampire wants to kill them both!

Now the Stonehenge chariot race seems almost normal!

And more normal still when Cars turns his hand into a cannibalistic squirrel! Now Jojo has to defeat the perfect being, who is unkillable and can do anything!

Translation: badass.

It only gets crazier from here. I didn’t think that was possible, but it does. Jojo casually hops into a plane to make a getaway (he’s 17 or something, and nothing suggests he is a pilot). He glances over in mid-flight, only to notice his shoulder is being devoured by a piranha.

Then, the plane explodes into octopus tentacles. There are good reasons for all of this.

This. This is why I read manga.

Jojo crashes into a volcano. Cars tries to kill him, but he’s too powerful, and his blows cause the volcano to erupt. The eruption is so powerful it ejects him into space. The vacuum prevents him from using his powers to get anywhere, so he eventually stops thinking.

The end.

2 Responses to “Arakifest ’12: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 2”

  1. There truly are no words. :) I love your reviews and the joy you take in the absurdity. I wish I could like this series more, but I think that would require the right mood, an empty stomach, and several volumes . . .

  2. cybustier Says:

    I’ve got the huge Japanese Omnibus editions of Part 1 and 2, the ones they put out to celebrate the tv anime. It has all the original color inserts reproduced in their full glory, and they’re GORGEOUS. Well worth a look if you don’t mind owning a copy of the series that isn’t in english.

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