Secret Santa Project Review: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Hamon and Cheese Sandwich

30x30 icon for Lothos After hearing much about it, I finally got around to watching JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, specifically the 2013 series which covers the first two story arcs of the manga. It was quite a bizarre adventure. It reminded me a bit of Grappler Baki both due to the art style and in the style of action. The art features anatomically impossible muscle men often in beautiful poses, making kissy lips, and high fashion clothing. The crazy poses featured was mainly the only thing I knew about JoJo before going in, that and that there were some crazy mystical martial arts (again like Baki).

What I was not aware of is that the story of JoJo actually spans multiple generations, each arc featuring a different JoJo and taking place in different eras. The first arc features Johnathan Joestar and takes place in the late 1800s in England. The antagonist is JoJo’s adopted brother, Dio Brando. The second arc features Johnathan’s grandson, Joseph Joestar and the big bads are the “Pillar Men,” ancient super powered beings who created the stone masks featured in the first arc.

The action is often over the top and melodramatic, but always engaging. Much like in Grappler Baki, a fair amount of time is spent on explaining exactly what/how the characters do these crazy things. The writers are always thinking up some really creative and crazy things for the characters to do during their battles. This is what really keeps JoJo so interesting and entertaining to watch, because it’s just one ridiculously awesome thing after another. Air Master is really the only other show I can think of that matches JoJo in the level of hilariously awesome fighting techniques.

There are the typical training episodes, after being defeated by one of the big bads, then the showdown at the end. There are a myriad of characters as well, and often times a previous enemy will come back as an ally to JoJo but they’re typically no match for the big bads and at best can only help with dispatching henchmen.

Like many shonen protagonists, the various JoJos tend to be naturally gifted in the use of Hamon (basically the series’ form of chi) but lack proper training and rely mostly on raw power/force of will over technique. That carries them for awhile, but then they are forced to train with a Hamon master to refine their abilities. In the case of Johnathan Joestar his master was Will A. Zeppeli, for Joseph it was Zeppeli’s grandson Caesar and the mysterious Hamon master Lisa Lisa.

Respect for one’s enemy also seems to play a big role in the JoJo series, as the heroes and villains alike seemingly show moments of respect for one another. Of course, that’s usually after one of them has died, but still it’s a seemingly central theme.

The opening and closing themes are both fantastic. I especially love the use of Yes’ “Roundabout” as the ending theme, it’s just such a groovy kick ass tune and the classical acoustic guitar lead in works perfectly for the usually high tension cliff hangers in each episode. Follow that up with the funky bass line and punchy drums and it gets you so pumped to watch the next episode!

I tend to enjoy series with all the above qualities mentioned, and JoJo’s Bizarre adventure I’m glad to say was no exception, I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end and am now looking forward seeing the third arc.

– Lothos

Rurouni Kenshin Shin Kyoto-hen Pt. 1: Battosai the Funslayer

SPOILERS FOR RUROUNI KENSHIN

You know what you’re wanting to see in a Rurouni Kenshin OVA, fights. You know what this is missing, you guessed it, fights. This is a shonen fighting series that the staff completely forgot half of. I’m not saying that the characters and backstory aren’t interesting in Kenshin, but those things aren’t executed with much grace either.

This OVA is like the reverse of a clips reel. Instead of showing all the cool fights and intense moments, it is a collection of people talking to each other in between all the awesome things that go on during the (arguably) best arc of the Kenshin series. Note, most awesome things not included.

I’m going to admit it. I was not so secretly hyped for this OVA. When I heard they were going to remake the Kyoto Arc from Kenshin I thought that was pretty amazing idea. Take what is one of the strongest arcs of the manga and animate it with modern techniques and a decent sized budget. (Note: Debates over the superiority of the Remembrance or Revenge arcs can be saved for another day.) It seems like a recipe for awesome. Then they announced the OVA would be from Makimachi Misao’s perspective. That was a bit puzzling. I love Makimachi Misao. She is my favorite character from the series. A spunky kunoichi who is a wonderful sidekick for Kenshin during the arc as she adds a much-needed dash of comedy and drama to what would have otherwise been a less engaging solo journey for Kenshin. But as much as I love her she is still firmly a side kick character. So I was a bit worried that a story too much from her perspective would be claustrophobic and miss some of the most important parts of the arc due to their choice of perspective.

So I went in hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. In the end I had nothing to worry about in that regard. They did not do any of the things I was worried about. They botched the OVA is so many other more egregious ways that my initial fears seemed laughably quaint. It takes a special talent to do everything incorrectly. A bad anime will usually be broken in several places. The worse it is the more places it tends to have major flaws. But usually there are some bright spots that lift it out of being a complete train wreck. The thing is this Kenshin OVA does absolutely everything wrong with its plot and characterization it can.

Continue reading

Manga of the Month: D.Gray Man

D.Gray Man (ディー・グレイマン) by Katsura Hoshino

Every time I get a new volume of D.Gray Man, I think to myself why don’t more people read this? I realize it is not an unpopular series but it also doesn’t seem to have really stuck around. This may be partially due to it moving from the prominent Weekly Shonen Jump magazine to the monthly Jump Square. There is a lot of shonen fighting manga out there, so it is easy to miss one. And besides that, picking and choosing what is worth settling in the long haul with can be difficult.

D.Gray Man combines supernatural powers and occult lore with the shonen fighting formula. The gothic and macabre designs are well utilized giving life to everything from the obvious horror to less imaginable whimsy and humor. The art overall is a real treat in the series; the details in the European setting to costume and architecture are wonderful. Allen Walker possess a power called Innocence that can be harnessed to defeat demons and the like. The organization known at the Black Order recruits people with these gifts in an ongoing war against the Millennium Earl and his dark minions. Even before Allen joins their ranks, it is clear that there are many secrets to each side and to Allen himself. Allen is a positive lead who has a lot of charm about him; he is very honest and possesses a lot of heart. He isn’t the type of character who you forget about to concentrate on the support personalities. But he does have an electric group of people around him. The series utilizes everyone and the setting well, even pushing the grotesque monsters and violence pretty far at times. And it has a lot of mystery in the undercurrent which slowly reveals itself.

At just 22 volumes so far, D.Gray Man isn’t too much of a commitment compared to its brethren. (And VIZ is almost in line with the Japanese, releasing the 21st volume in November.) Within its pages is a solid journey that doesn’t drag and reveals its twists and turns in good time. Add in a good cast and artwork that begs to be looked at in detail and I find I can’t resist D.Gray Man.