I know JoJo will be coming back next January, but I figured I might as well say some things that I want to say about it right now and judge the second part of Stardust Crusaders on its own.
Thoughts on Stardust Crusaders as a standalone entry
When I say, standalone entry, I mean without comparison to Phantom Blood or Battle Tendency.
Stardust Crusaders is a fun anime. There is really no better way to put it. When an episode popped up on Crunchy, I would leisurely go and watch it. I’d laugh, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I’d glee with wonder, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I’d cheer for our heroes, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
For some of the two part episodes, I’d put of watching the first part until the second came out. After the initial excitement of “OH MY GOD JOJO” wore off, there was never really any rush to watch more. It became a kind of optional thing. “Oh, I don’t have much stuff to do, and hey there is a new JoJo, and I like JoJo, so let’s watch it.”
That’s not exactly a bad feeling, but it is one I normally reserve for casual, slice of life shows and not for a thrilling adventure of epic proportions like JoJo claims to be.
I guess that pretty much sums up my thoughts on Stardust Crusaders. Most of it is pretty good, with some parts being exceptional, but as a whole, it never quite lives up to the potential it promises. It never really pulled me in and made me desperate for more. There were a bunch of reasons why this was the case.
Most of the villains never really got enough development to be worth my time. it is not that they were boring or uninteresting per say, but the time spent on most villains (1 or 2 episodes) was really not enough to make them worth caring about. It didn’t help that all of them basically only had one objective and that was to kill the heroes in some brutal, cruel way.
A few villains like Hol Horse and Enya were very entertaining, but that is because they got a heck of a lot more screen time then the other villains in the show.
Most of the villains (with perhaps the exception of the baby oddly enough) did not feel all that menacing or terrifying. Yes, they had horrifying stands that killed people with enough brutality to require major censorship, but we always knew the main characters would come out relatively unharmed and the villains themselves were often too cartoonish in nature to incite much of a visceral response.
Fights like Death 13, the encounter with the Hanged Man and perhaps the Lovers fight were an exception to this and it genuinely felt like our heroes might die at any moment.
Jotaru is everything a little boy like me wants to be. He is stoic, quiet, tall, muscular and handsome. He is a man of few words who can seduce any woman by simply looking in her general direction. Unfortunately, as great as it would be to be Jotaru, he is kind of boring to watch.
His main shtick is pulling down his cap and punching his enemy to death while his Stand screams ORA ORA ORA ORA. It is nice seeing him figure out the enemy’s secret, but he isn’t at the same level of tactical genius that his grandfather or Kakyoin are.
That said, I do feel like some folk (including myself) give Jotaru a harder time than he deserves. It might seem like he is a walking brick wall, but there are some subtle cues in his actions that indicate otherwise. I like the mockery he dishes out at his grandfather and I like the concern he shows for his grandfather or mother when they are in trouble. The Lovers fight was a pretty good demonstrator of his character and how far he is willing to go for his grandfather. In the second last episode, I really liked the phone call he had with his grandmother. It felt quite special.
Leaving aside my confused feelings for Jotaru, I wish I could like Avdol more. I really do. He is just so uninteresting. He got a bit better (and weirder) after his “return”, but still….Oh and his “death” was terrible. Terrible as in, it had almost no emotional impact. For a death that was initially supposed to be final, it felt very lacking.
Polnareff is a goofy idiot. I love him when he is being goofy, but I like him a bit less when he is being an idiot. I loved him stepping all over Enya. The accidental insults he made towards her were hilarious and one of the funniest things I have seen this year.
I don’t like him when he is utterly taken back by a strange ability (despite having encountered so many of them) or when he asks dumb questions on behalf of the viewer. Ponlareff is actually a pretty smart guy at times, but it feels like the anime uses him as a dumb representative of the audience far too often.
(And that ladies and gentlemen is why we need Speedwagon.)
Joseph is my darling anime grandpa. I don’t think there is anyone who watched Stardust Crusaders who doesn’t like Joseph. He is hilarious, witty and still downright clever. Joseph aged very well. It is just such a shame that in terms of overall battle strength, he is incredibly weak. The only reason he has gotten this far is because he is incredibly smart. It is a bit depressing seeing one of the greatest Ripple Warriors of all time turn into this.
I think one of the biggest problems with Stardust Crusaders is that in most fights, only one or two characters actually get to shine and this generally comes at the expense of someone else. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the anime’s treatment of Kakyoin. Kakyoin is the most underutilized character in this series.
When he is not in the spotlight, Kakyoin is quite useless. He sprouts a few useful hints and assists a little with his tentacles. He is not quite as useless as Polnareff or Avdol, but still pretty useless. His uselessness is especially obvious because when given the chance, he becomes very useful.
When Kakyoin gets the spotlight, he changes from a small squid that talks into a Giant Squid that wrecks everything in its path. Like, holy crap. Motivated Kakyoin is fucking amazing.
His wrap up of the Death13 arc was awe inspiring and it was definitely one of my favorite anime moments this year. His team up with Polnareff during the Hanged man bit was also incredible. Even some of his assists (like his little bit at the end of the Lovers fight) were very good.
Basically, Apart from Polnareff and Joseph’s humor, this anime’s best moments all happen when Kakyoin is at his best. He is that good and it is such a shame that he isn’t used more often. It really is. I would be totally up for a spin-off featuring just Kakyoin or a Kakyoin and Polnareff duet.
Compared to Battle Tendency
For good or for bad, it is inevitable that Stardust Crusaders would get compared to its much beloved predecessor. The two series are actually quite different. One is about saving the world and oneself, while the other is more about a group of friends who go on a dangerous road (/air/sea/everything else) trip.
Battle Tendency (despite its far goofier lead) is also far more serious than Stardust Crusaders.
The villains in Battle Tendency were one of its greatest strengths. There is a reason why the anime really only hit peak form when the Pillar Men woke up.
Those Pillar Man were not just strong, they were, for all sakes and purposes, gods. Unlike a lot of the cartoony villains in Stardust Crusaders, the Pillar Men had no reason to be cruel. They didn’t kill people because they enjoyed it or anything, they just literally walked right through people and any that were in their way died. It was that simple.
Humans were to them what ants are to us minus our irrational fear of insects. When Joseph and Caesar took on the Pillar Men, it felt like our heroes were completely outclassed. The two protagonists had to work insanely hard to set themselves on level footing with these villains and even then Joseph had to resort to using a volcano to shoot Cars into space.
Honestly, if I was Joseph, I would still have frequent nightmares about the Pillar Men. I’d see Wham and AC-DC rise from their graves and come for me. I’d see Cars somehow find his way back down and come for me. Having to face Cars again at such an old age would be an incredibly frightening thought.
And it is not even the viewer’s connection to the villains that was better in BT, but the protagonists connection with the villains as well. When he killed AC-DC, Joseph held AC-DC and sympathized a little. Joseph treated Wham with honor on the race track and Wham in turn repaid the favor by protecting Joseph.
All of that villain impact felt missing here. That level of impact wouldn’t really be possible in the “new guy every week” formula that SC follows, but its absence was definitely felt.
Oh and the villains in Stardust Crusaders don’t do anywhere near as many JoJo poses. The Pillar Men poses were so sexy.
Between Caesar, Lisa Lisa, Stroheim, SpeedWagon and badass Grandma Erin, Battle Tendency had a pretty fantastic good guy crew. Fortunately, with perhaps the exception of Avdol, the crew in Stardust Crusaders is not bad at all. It is just they aren’t used as well as they could be and to be perfectly honest, Joseph is a more enjoyable lead than his grandson.
I don’t have much to say here. Both anime have great soundtracks. The opening of Battle Tendency is legendary, but Stardust Crusader’s opening and ending are no slouches either.
All in all, Battle Tendency packed a stronger emotional punch. You cared about everything more and you always wanted the next episode. At the end of the day, the triumphs and losses of the character’s just carried all that much more weight.
Compare the death of Avdol to Caesar’s for example. When Avdol “died”, I was probably more sad about not being sad then I was actually sad. When Caesar died, it hurt. It was such a well done fight with an incredibly fitting end.
All in all, I don’t think Stardust Crusaders is a bad anime. It is actually very good and is probably among my favorites this year. It has great animation, a great soundtrack, wonderful visuals and a mostly, very likable cast. It might not meet the incredibly high bar set by its predecessor, but that is fine. I am also 92% sure that the second part of Stardust Crusaders will be significantly better if only because we can expect more DIO.