What do muscular men flaunting flamboyance, outlandish superpowers, and villains bearing names that tribute popular musicians all have in common? They are all staple parts of the wild ride that is the overwhelmingly popular JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The long running manga has dipped its toes into all manners of weirdness, experimenting with an array of ideas that have often yielded thoroughly entertaining results. Its most recent anime adaptation, beginning in 2012, has currently found ample time to bring to life JoJo’s initial batch of story arcs, beginning with Phantom Blood and concluding with 2016’s Diamond Is Unbreakable. Whilst the continuation of said successful JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime throughout the future is almost certain, it is worth posing the question: Which of the currently animated five story arcs reign supreme? Which of JoJo’s many bizarre adventures is truly the most bizarre, and which of them drown in non-bizarre mediocrity by comparison? Of course, only story arcs boasting anime adaptations will be discussed, so apologies to Vento Aureo, Stone Ocean, Steel Ball Run and JoJolion, but you guys will have to wait your turn.
In last place: Phantom Blood.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure may be excellent, but its introductory story arc does little to sell that fact to the audience. Despite being led by a tremendously likeable protagonist in the form of Jonathan Joestar, his fierce conflict with certified super jerk Dio Brando is underwhelming to say the least. England during the late 1800’s (the location in which Phantom Blood takes place) offers a grippingly bleak backdrop, and the charming simplicity of Phantom Blood’s overall direction deserves some praise. However, it unfortunately flaunts a story that is lacking in development, and dialogue that interrupts action scenes more often than a Fifty Shades Of Grey movie makes you want to take a hammer to your face. As a result, Phantom Blood is a disappointing introduction into the world of JoJo.
In third place: Battle Tendency.
Following Phantom Blood, JoJo’s second story arc vastly improves upon its predecessor, but never the less stumbles into some of the same pitfalls. Combining a World War II time period with an ancient threat in the form of the powerful Pillar Men, Battle Tendency captivates the curiosity of its viewers with relative ease. Being almost twice as long as Phantom Blood (seventeen episodes in contrast to Phantom Blood’s nine), it successfully develops its story and characters to far greater detail, and feels more polished as a result. Unfortunately, obnoxiously frequent dialogue still plagues many of Battle Tendency’s action scenes, bringing any tension to a screeching halt far too often. The presence of ‘good guy’ Nazi soldiers is also extremely off putting to anybody who instinctively equates Naziism with evil (i.e. anybody who isn’t an anti-semite, white supremacist, or general piece of stinking trash). Whilst JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure rarely shies away from taking risks, Nazi soldiers assisting the heroes of our story is certainly not something that stands out as a series high point. Regardless of this however, Battle Tendency is still a mostly entertaining watch, and showcases a definite increase in storytelling quality from Phantom Blood, the limp beginning of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
In second place: Diamond Is Unbreakable.
Possibly the most bizarre adventure from a series that prides itself on bizarre adventures, Diamond Is Unbreakable’s ever shifting tone, whilst satisfyingly strange, also serves as its Achilles heel. The colourful expressiveness of JoJo’s fourth story arc is second to none, and its backdrop against a picturesque Japanese town during the year of 1999 is thoroughly captivating. A diverse and intriguing cast of characters also help to bolster the quality of Diamond Is Unbreakable. Where its story succeeds in spades is when it focuses on a particular goal and/or concept. For example, when exploring an unnerving murder mystery, or surprising viewers with an unexpected groundhog day-esque threat that poses tremendous consequences to its story and characters, it is stellar. However, Diamond Is Unbreakable’s shortcomings lie in its reluctance to settle into said gripping moments more frequently. Its bizarreness is often delivered in its tendency to offer content that deviates from the importance of the primary story, such as attempting to discover the mother and father of an invisible baby, or playing a game of Janken/Rock, paper, scissors with a child who seems to be incapable of speaking at non-irritating levels of loudness. As a result, Diamond Is Unbreakable (whilst consistently entertaining and fittingly bizarre) comes up short of being the masterpiece it could have been. All of the right parts are in play, just not necessarily in the right order.
In first place: Stardust Crusaders/Battle In Egypt.
If you told somebody that Stardust Crusaders/Battle In Egypt and Phantom Blood are part of the same series, they may very well laugh in disbelief, as these story arcs are worlds apart in quality. It more than likely comes as little surprise that the most iconic story arc of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is also the absolute best. By the conclusion of the forty eight episode long journey, Jotaro Kujo (a protagonist that makes a first impression as cold and uninspiring) turns out to be significantly cooler than the coolest person you know. This globetrotting adventure offers everything a JoJo story should offer, and then some. Boasting a suspenseful and addictive narrative, well developed and memorable characters, varied and creative backdrops from around the world, laugh out loud humour, and (best of all) frantic action scenes that are rarely interrupted by unnecessary dialogue, they result in what many will agree to be JoJo’s best and most awesomely bizarre adventure. With a story that places focus on a journey to find and defeat DIO (the resurrected antagonist of Phantom Blood, and also the Joffrey Baratheon of anime villains), the entire ride is an absolute blast, and cements JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure as a wonderful series with tremendous capabilities.