JoJo’s Bizarre Decapitated Head Cradling

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Dec 042012

The first arc of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has ended. While the whole thing didn’t quite have the same presence as the first three episodes, all in all it’s one of the best straight-up shounen fighting anime stories I’ve seen. The pacing was nigh-perfect, covering every expected beat in such a story without any unneeded chaff. If anything, one could argue that the climax came too soon and said fight was a bit rushed, but I’ll take “I wish this fight lasted more than half an episode” over “So why did it take three episodes for two dudes to finally throw a punch?” Leaving the audience wanting more is far superior to leaving the audience exhausted and/or bored.

The back-end of the first arc, where JoJo and this gang track down Dio in some remote coastal town, has some genuinely great moments. That fade-in to the closing song when Zeppeli confronted his fate was sublime. It’s as if Roundabout was created for that scene, and everything else in its history is merely a side effect of its need to exist for that moment of animation. The way the series rolled with its twists in history was pretty awesome as well. While I loved the actual flashback detailing the tragic fate of two fictional knights under the sway of Mary, Queen of Scots, what made that moment all the more perfect was how JoJo knew of these guys’ existence. This wasn’t some forgotten part of history, explaining why such men didn’t exist in real world history. The series went out of its way to have JoJo know of their tale, as this was something taught in history classes. Little moments like that which fully accept historical twists add to the flavor of the series. This isn’t a matter of secrets being withheld from the public, thus allowing for alternate histories to exist in the background. This is a matter of the world as a whole being different. It’s a relatively insignificant difference in the grand scheme of things, but its such touches that make the world of this story that much more interesting.

And I gotta admit, I wasn’t expecting that ending. I knew JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was a generational thing, with each arc revolving around a different member of the Joestar family, but I didn’t realize the first significant family member died, with his heir either being a baby left orphaned during his final battle with Dio or descended from said child. That adds an extra dimension to this generational conflict, since the family line is born out of the violence beget by JoJo’s rivalry with Dio. By his zombie minions killing that child’s mother in front of JoJo and Erina, it’s as if Dio gave birth to this line of heroes. Had Dio not gone so far as to turn people on board the ship into zombies, the line may have ended there with JoJo’s death. Given the fact that (spoiler) Dio comes back in a later story arc, you could say Dio sealed his fate with his arrogance. It’s a slow boil that won’t come to pass for another century, but there you go.

Also, there was decapitated head cradling. While I appreciate that tender moment between JoJo and Dio, where they both reflect on their relationship as the boat burns around them and they’re both condemned to a watery grave, it isn’t quite as awesome as the head cradling moment from the X movie. Dio was in full control of his fate. He could have chosen to strike at a later date, maybe someplace that isn’t quite as confined as a boat at sea. Maybe he would have succeeded if he wasn’t so impatient.

With X, Kamui and Fuuma never had control of their fate. The instant Kamui chose to be a Dragon of Heaven, the powers that be twisted fate so that Fuuma became a Dragon of Earth. He never had a choice in the matter. And once those roles were determined, Kamui and Fuuma were destined to fight to the death. One of them had to die, and regardless of how things played out it was gonna be pretty damn tragic. So when Kamui is crying and cradling Fuuma’s head, it has a bit more oomph to it. Someone’s head was gonna be cradled. That’s what fate wanted and that’s what fate was gonna get.

Dio didn’t have to become that tragic football.


Nov 302009

Looking at my list, 2001 was a pretty good year for action anime. We don’t even get this many action series over the course of a single year anymore, much less this many good ones in addition to the other bad-to-mediocre ones that came out as well.

10. Noir

Yeah, more than half of this should could be edited out and you’d be left with the same exact show. For every awesome gun fight you had minutes upon minutes of still shots and repetitive dialogue that served less to explain anything and more to pad out the run time. Despite all the needless bits, Noir managed to be a pretty damn good action series. It may be a bit too self-serious (hence why it’s at the bottom of this list) and ponderous over topics that don’t really deserve the pondering, but it isn’t stupid. But those moments of action are pretty sublime. I especially dig how the two girls’ styles juxtapose one another. Kirika is your John Woo two-fisted type while Mireille is more along the lines of your stoic action hero from older movies. It’s no Black Lagoon, but Noir knows its action movies well.

9. Hellsing

The first half of this series is damn near perfect. Everything leading up to the Valentine Brothers’ attack on Hellsing’s base, and the attack itself, is perfect horror/action shit. It lays down the characters, makes their motivations clear, and places them in a situation where we actually give a damn about the outcome. And to make it all the more awesome, there’s a genuine threat presented by the Brothers. Sure, Alucard goes all Shoggoth on us and shows that he’s way more powerful than we imagined, but until that revelation there was genuine tension in that storyline. Then the next story arc began and everything kinda tanked. I don’t hate that African vampire stuff as much as some people, but it doesn’t quite do it for me like the first half. It’s still pretty watchable, but nowhere near as great as the first half. Had the series maintained that level of awesomeness, Hellsing’d likely be much higher on this list.

8. s-CRY-ed

What I love about this series is how, in a world where people have all sorts of crazy super powers and stuff, the main dude’s power boils down to “I punch stuff really, really, really hard.” He’s able to use that super-punching to do all sorts of stunts, like super-leaping by punching the ground, but it all comes back to hitting stuff with his fist. That’s, like, so damn elegant a power that it’s beautiful. The actual series is pretty standard action anime stuff, with conspiracies and battles and rivalries and stuff, but it works pretty good. It’s stuff like this and Tiger and Bunny that Sunrise should do more often. Fuck that Gundam shit.

7. Shiawase Apartment’s Okojo-san

I feel weird including this one on my list since I haven’t seen it all. It has yet to be fully subbed and it likely won’t be finished anytime soon. But screw it, I love this show. It’s a comedy about a dude who has a pet ferret thing. Said ferret is a badass. In the wild, he tamed bears and made them into his lackeys. Now that he’s living in a domestic setting, he uses his magnificent martial powers to rule over his apartment building. But no one notices but the ferret and his hamster buddy who lives next door. Yeah, it’s a basic “animals talking to each other like they’re humans and the humans are unaware of what’s going on” show, except instead of having a cutesy mascot it has a mean, nasty thing with a bad attitude who likes to boss people around as the lead. It’s hilarious stuff.

6. Read or Die

60’s James Bond spy stuff mixed in with X-Men-styled super powers. Yeah man, this shit is awesome. And the master plan of the villain involves creating a song that will kill all of humanity when it’s broadcast across the globe from the villain’s flying satellite base. Awesome. Totally awesome. Still not sure how we got from this sort of pure, perfect action stuff to that horrendous, banal TV sequel. That’s the sort of thing even God can’t comprehend.