Review: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood, Vol. 1

You expected another review, but it was me, Dio!

I came into the famed manga series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure more or less blind – I had seen a few memes and GIFs of the anime adaptation, but knew nothing of the actual story. All I knew that was that it presumably involved someone named JoJo, and that it was allegedly bizarre.

So how bizarre is the first volume of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood? Less bizarre than the title would have you believe, presumably so that author Hirohiko Araki can gently lower you into the strange stuff rather than flinging you into the deep end and letting you drown in undiluted bizarre. It starts off fairly normal as the tale of a psychopath infiltrating an aristocratic family… and about two-thirds of the way through, weird things start to happen.

The story follows two young boys, the aristocratic Jonathan Joestar and his foster brother Dio Brando. They are raised together by Jonathan’s kindly father, whose kindness apparently doesn’t extend to keeping his son – or his son’s unfortunate dog, or his son’s girlfriend – away from a violent psychopath. Yes, Dio is pretty much pure evil, and is scheming to destroy Jonathan and steal the Joestar fortune for himself. Why? Well, because he’s a violent psychopath.

The two boys somehow manage to grow up and flourish despite their hatred for each other, and Dio being pure evil. But when Lord Joestar becomes mysteriously ill, Jonathan becomes convinced that Dio is responsible, and sets out to London to prove it. Dio pursues him with the intent of killing him, using an ancient Aztec mask that shoots giant spines into the brain of its wearer when it ingests blood.

And then things get weird.

Yes, that’s when things get weird. That’s when we encounter a strange man named after a rock’n’roll band, who spins a razor-brimmed hat on his arms like a top. And there are vampires.

Fortunately, the first volume of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood is actually a pretty compelling read even before it spirals into the crazy stuff. It’s not a very complicated story – it’s more or less a clash between the ridiculously noble and idealistic Joestars, and the ceaselessly corrupt and evil Dio. There’s not really any shades of grey here, just a clash between darkness and light.

And Hirohiko Araki doesn’t really bother beating around the bush with showing us how evil Dio is, since literally the first thing he does when he meets Jonathan is to abuse the kid’s beloved dog. It’s pretty frustrating to watch, since Lord Joestar just sort of lets Dio do whatever he wants, rather than recognizing how despicable the boy is and getting him out of the Joestar family’s life. It’s actually a huge relief when Jonathan takes control of the situation, and fights back against Dio’s attempts to kill his father and crush his spirit.

And it’s all so wildly, wonderfully dramatic. Characters strike powerful poses and shout grandiose statements at each other, especially Dio’s openly narcissistic question of how “scum” like Jonathan could hurt him. The action scenes are relatively rare, but they are full of rough raw kinetic energy that bursts off of the page, lots of muscled bodies swinging and crashing with the power of collapsing Titans.

Although if cruelty to dogs bothers you, there are… certain scenes to be skipped.

The first volume of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood is still a little rough around the edges, and it takes a little while to get to the weird stuff, but it’s a bombastic and entertaining ride. And one can only assume Hirohiko Araki has more bizarreness to come.

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