Whether you love it or you hate it, there is one thing that is undeniable: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is something special. While it is easy to pass off JoJo’s early goings as a Fist of the North Star knock-off at first glance at hulking men drawn with sharp lines and heavy ink. Phantom Blood is brimming with creativity the likes of which are damn near incomparable. That is what JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is, simply unlike anything else in manga.
Phantom Blood is the first of eight (and counting) parts of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure series. Originally released back in 1986, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has spanned hundreds of volumes and thousands upon thousands of chapters and remains in serialization today. However this is the first time ever that the Phantom Blood part of the series has been released in English, with Viz Media having only ever dabbled in localizing part three of the series, Stardust Crusaders. Needless to say, this is a release that is a long time coming and Viz Media have not disappointed, giving the release a hardback and packing it with bonus content to make up for all that lost time.
So what exactly is it about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure that is so special? It’s simple really, JoJo’s is undeniably creative. This manga is just as ingenious as it is wildly random. For example the story of Phantom Blood begins as what can only be described as a brotherly rivalry between a total asshole and the most gentlemanly guy ever to live. It quickly evolves into a chronicle of the intertwining fates of the asshole now turned vampire and the gentleman now turned magical martial artist. While JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure goes to some rather crazy territory in this volume alone, if you know anything about future parts of the series it only gets more bizarre as it goes on.
It is rather apparent that Araki didn’t exactly have a grand plan in mind for this series. There is few signs that he had envisioned the story developing to the heights it has but it is focused and the feud between Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando is one of the best rivalries ever put to manga. Jonathan’s inherent goodness against Dio’s pitch black villainy feels antiquated in a world obsessed with shades of grey. Dio is just plain evil, there is no good in his heart, not even a little. On the same token there is nothing morally ambiguous about Jonathan, he is a gentleman with a heart of gold and only ‘doing the right thing’ on his mind.
At times JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure takes some rather wild shifts in tone, clearly evidence of Araki’s wandering mind. One gets the feeling that just about any idea that pops into Araki’s head, be it good or down right terrible, it makes it into his manga. The result is a mixed bag with some moments coming off as odd and confusing and other moments coming off as a stroke of utter genius. With such a creative style and an anything and everything can be in this manga mentality, Araki’s magnum opus is filled with hits and misses but there is something about that creative process that is utterly enthralling. There is simply nothing that can’t be in this manga, no story too bizarre, no detail too specific, no character too quirky, no idea too stupid. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure exists in excess and for that reason alone it is a downright page-turner.
With the brilliant quality of this release, I for one hope that Viz Media continues on to release the rest of the entire series in English, a formidable task no doubt but one well worth tackling. Here’s to hoping for some more bizarre adventures in the future.