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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Vol. 2

JoJo and his band of muscular adventurers are still seeking their nemesis, Dio, and this time, his trail leads them to India. It's been almost a year since I saw the first volume, so I had to pull it out to make sure I didn't forget the details of this series.

On the plus side, it was easy to catch up. On the negative side, the ease of getting caught up was largely due to the slow pacing of this dark show.

The main characters in this series can manifest their chi physically in the form of what they call a "Stand." Every person's Stand differs according to his or her personality, and its power is directly proportionate to its summoner's will. There's a person with a Stand for every card of a standard Tarot deck, though we haven't yet been told exactly why this is so.

This animated show is based upon the manga by the same name, and gamers out there that are fond of 2D fighters may have already been introduced to JoJo's world on the Dreamcast. If not, you can probably pick the game up (a pretty solid fighter) for about $5 nowadays.

I like the setup of the story. I like the characters, and even the meaty character designs are interesting in a way, but the game was far more fun than this show.

It tries hard to be an extreme version of Indiana Jones, but it lacks most of the action and all of the charm of the classic Harrison Ford flick. I think it would be more enjoyable if I could watch a large group of episodes in a row, but there are only three on the first disc and only two on this release, which is a little light for a modern anime release. At least the MSRP is lower than average.

Visually, this show is reminiscent of Fist of the North Star, Crying Freeman, or Wounded Man. Men have thick necks, broad shoulders, and arms with treelike diameters. Women aren't very common in the show, but they tend to be portrayed more realistically than the standard anime female.

JoJo is a colorful show, even if it is a series for guys, and the animation is sharp and smooth when it needs to be. There's a little bit of gore and frequent bursts of blood, but nothing horribly gratuitous. A lot of time is devoted to posing (very important if you're a talented martial artist, I'm told) or creating a dramatic effect, and it works when it's not overdone. Like it or not, JoJo has an undeniably distinct style, and I actually lean toward liking it. I just wish the story moved faster than it does.

The voice acting in Japanese features deep-voiced throaty actors that'll make you appreciate your subwoofer, though the English dub is a bit lame, even for my taste. The performers' voices are fine, but the presentation is so unnatural sounding it makes me shudder.

The music consists of ethnic music (Indian themed stuff, which is pretty interesting), but is mostly grounded by electric guitar riffs. The soundtrack walks a very narrow line between dramatic and just plain goofy. It would work well in a fighting game, but in an anime series it leaves a little to be desired.

Extras, at least, are pretty solid for JoJo. There's a collection of storyboards for episode 4, an image gallery, a timeline explaining the background story, a teaser for the third DVD release (which had better be out this year sometime), and a really interesting production documentary featuring interviews with the Japanese staff. They're actually very impressive, which is surprising considering the box doesn't mention extras at all. The box lacks an insert, but came with two Tarot cards, which is something else I wasn't expecting.

Despite the extras, the slow pace of the story and inclusion of only two episodes on this release make this a slightly tough anime series to recommend. I enjoyed it, and I'm certainly going to get the next few discs (I preordered them last March, after all), but I will have to warn viewers seeking out a deep story. There isn't even enough action to sate battle-frenzied fans out there looking for an hour-long brawlfest. If you're looking for fast fights, get the game.

The show is, however, different from a lot of other stuff available now. If you're looking for a change, perhaps this is for you.

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