Many years have passed since Jonathan Joestar stood up to the evil forces of Dio. Now, in the present, Joseph, Jonathan's grandson, lives with his grandmother Erina and has the occasional scuffle with a thug. But after the pair is informed that Erina's long lost friend Robert E. O. Speedwagon has been murdered, Joseph finds himself in the midst of an ongoing battle with the most powerful of foes: Santana, ACDC, Cars and Wham, four ancient warriors who have been resurrected by the Nazis for their own nefarious purposes!
Any patience you had with the flawed first arc will be rewarded handsomely.While Phantom Blood was dragged down by an extremely dull protagonist, an overly-evil villain, poor art, and a slow beginning, by the very first chapter Battle Tendency has already done away with half of this. BT picks up 50 years onwards from Phantom Blood, in the 1930s, and now follows the grandson of Jonathan Joestar, Joseph Joestar. While the two are dead ringers for each other in appearance, you would never mistake one for the other - they're polar opposites in terms of personality. Where Jonathan was noble, gentlemanly, and generically heroic, Joseph is brash, loud, and not afraid to pick a fight. On top of that, he's not just willing to fight dirty - fighting dirty is his defining character trait. Not that he is without a sense of honour, though - his reasoning for picking fights is always noble (well, almost), and does not hesitate to put himself in harm's way for a loved one. While this does, to some degree, make him sound like a standard idiot hero shonen protagonist, the key factor that sets Joseph apart from the ilk is that his attitude is misleading - he's incredibly smart and quick-witted, and always prepared. Joseph is a big fan of Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War", and it shows in his continued pragmatism in combat and his constant trickery.I touched upon this in my review of Phantom Blood, but what really stands out above all else in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure are the fights. Whereas most shonen series will rely on delaying the protagonist's appearance to increase plot tension, or using a convoluted string of powerups to justify the protagonist's ability to win, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is all about the tactics. The biggest strength in this is that the question ceases to be "who will win?", or "when will they win?", but "how will they win?". The problem with the Phantom Blood, however, was that while this sometimes happened, Jonathan wasn't the kind of character who would intentionally use deception, which highly limited what ways he could achieve victory. Joseph, however, is deception incarnate, and as a result Battle Tendency is truly able to shine. There really is no better representative of JJBA as a whole than Joseph Joestar.While JJBA is more driven more by fights and characters than by plot, Battle Tendency is nonetheless an improvement on the first arc in the plot department. In the very first chapter, things immediately escalate with the discovery of an ancient man inside a stone pillar... surrounded by dozens of copies of the vampire-making stone mask from Phantom Blood. "Oh, shit" is the appropriate reaction here. What's more, the man inside the pillar? He's not quite dead. Nor is he quite the only one of his kind.Another interesting point about how this arc compares to the first is that, in spite of the name "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure", the first arc really wasn't much of an adventure. After all, the bulk of the plot is divided up into three locations in Victorian England, and the setting in general feels very claustrophobic. But Battle Tendency truly lives up to this title. It begins in New York, but the discovery of the Pillar Men and his need for Hamon/Ripple training ends up leading him to travelling to numerous different countries. While the first took after vampire horror more than anything, Battle Tendency follows more in the footsteps of Indiana Jones movies than anything else.While it is easy to ramble at length about what makes Joseph far and away one of the best characters in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure as a whole, he is far from the only good character in this arc. Erina, Straits, and Speedwagon from the first arc are all still present, with the latter ironically being more useful in his old age than he ever was in Phantom Blood. But the real stars here are the new additions. Joseph gains allies in two Ripple users who are both his senior - Lisa-Lisa, the master of a school of the Ripple in Italy, and her disciple, Caesar Zeppeli, the grandson of Jonathan's master. Caesar is definitely the standout here - while he isn't quite an amazing character in his own right, his aloof and cultured nature is a direct opposite to Joseph's, and the two clash wonderfully.On the opposite side of things, we have the Pillar Men. These three serve as the main rivals to the Ripple warriors: Wham, ACDC, and Cars. Cars is the leader of the three, and is one of the few things I fault about this series - his motive and overall personality are quite generic for a villain. While Dio was also overly evil, he was extremely fun about it. Cars doesn't quite match up - however, he doesn't need to all that much, because the real rivalry here is between Joseph and Wham. Ironically, Wham is the lowest Pillar Man in terms of Hierarchy, serving behind their leader, and his right hand-man, the strange and disturbing ACDC, and yet he's by far the most prominent of the three. Though all of the Pillar Men, like Cars, lack any value for life as most humans would, Battle Tendency makes use of him not being human. He has his own moral compass, revolving around the honour of battle. Wham values the honour of the fight above all else, making an interesting parallel to Joseph in the process. Though their powers are generic - the use of the powers of Wind, Fire, and Light respectively - in true JJBA fashion, they still manage to make inventive use of them.Yet another thing JoJo 2 has improved upon is the art. Though it's still very rough around the edges, having some awkward muscle structures and overly thick lines in places, it's a firm improvement - and at it's best, it's downright eye-candy.With all this having been said, it's hasn't completely patched up what mistakes Phantom Blood made - it still contains one key fault from the first that would not be fix'd until the third arc. Joseph is almost as much of a camera-hog as Jonathan, in that the vast majority of the fights revolve around him, which limits how good Caesar and Lisa-Lisa can be, especially the latter, as Caesar's interactions with Joseph do allow him enough screentime. Similarly, it helps greatly that unlike Jonathan, Joseph is a protagonist worth giving the spotlight to 90% of the time. Due to these two factors, it is a slight improvement, it hasn't fixed the problem.However, this is merely a small scratch on an otherwise shiny diamond - it's hard to care in the face of how incredibly fun JoJo's Bizarre Adventure 2 actually is. Joseph alone is enough to carry this arc, but a more dynamic story, a better all-round cast, and much more focus on the intelligent action that is JJBA's raison d'etre rounds Battle Tendency out as one of the greatest highlights in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.Final Words: An improvement in every way. Arguably the best arc JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has to offer.Story/Plot: 8/10.Characters: 9/10.Art: 8/10.Overall: 9/10.For fans of: Fist of the North Star, Toriko.
In Dungeons & Dragons, there's a really fun experience of trying to come up with the most ridiculous and outlandish things for your characters to do, things which you shouldn't be expected to be able to do, but (assuming you have a fun-loving Dungeon Master) if you roll a natural 20 on your d20 then your character automatically succeeds in doing anyway. Those are the best, most memorable moments in D&D. I bring this up because the unpredictability and ingenuity of some of the characters' actions in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure creates that same sensation in me as those types of D&D sessions, where I'm both impressed and laughing along at the weird and one-of-a-kind nature of these events. Let's look at some of these events through the lens of a D&D game: "I break all the bones in my body and squeeze in the cracks of a vent." "Roll for it." [Natural 20] "You successfully octopus yourself into the vents." "I disguise myself as one of the female workers and walk past the guards to enter the compound." "Roll for it." [Natural 1] "Yea...the guards don't believe you for a second." "I lift my fingernails and push my veins out from underneath them." "Roll for it." [Natural 20] "You can now freely manipulate the veins coming from your fingers." "Using my hair to pull back the crossbow string, I fire my own severed head at a crowd." "Roll for it." [Natural 20] "You are able to kill several people as a living crossbow bolt." One of the aspects which makes Part 2 more entertaining than Part 1 is that Chaotic Neutral characters like JoJo are much more captivating and unpredictable than Lawful Good characters like JoJo (a.k.a. Joseph and Jonathan). It's also fun seeing the focus on tactics and predicting the opponents' moves, though I'm not sure how I feel about JoJo's genius tactical ability being portrayed by him calling out what people will say before they say it. A recurring theme is the idea of honor among warriors and respecting your opponent if they fought a good fight. To that end, we see JoJo expressing respect for a Nazi, crying at a Nazi's death, and having Nazis be prominent allies. They're still portrayed as comically vile (see Stroheim's introduction in ch. 8), so I think their role in the story is meant to show how the threat of the pillar men far transcends any rifts among humanity. The problem with that though is that JoJo also expresses respect for several of the pillar men, so it just comes across like he has no sense of the weight of what's happening. He'll respect and mourn the deaths of anybody who fights with "honor," as though this were all a game. As though mass murder didn't make people worthy of disrespect ("Well, they didn't mass murder me," he probably thinks to himself). The artwork is both good and kinda awkward--the poses specifically. The author really likes drawing contorted wrists, elbows bent backward, and joints generally not functioning properly. This leads to the characters constantly looking like they're bodybuilders or models posing for a photo shoot or they're marionettes hanging limply off of strings.
Story- The story begins in America, but doesn't stay there for long. In fact it doesn't take long for Joseph Joestar to get involved in a mess that all started with his gradfather. The pillar men become involved in the story and become the driving goal for the main character and its awesome. And its an adventure that goes all over Europe. Art- Compared to the very beginning of Phantom Blood, the author has improved, especially with the backgrounds. All those nice little details! Characters- One of the problems with Phantom Blood was that the mains, Dio and Jonathan, were foil characters for each other, created to bring out the other character, which can be a bit too simple and easy when writing characters. Joseph on the other hand is what many others will say is a huge improvement in comparison to Jonathan, for a number of reasons. One, Jonathan's story felt too linear, getting from point a to point b, whereas Joseph has more freedom in his adventure, in that his choices are more free compared to Jonathan's. Two, Joseph feels more unrestrained, more hot-headed, more daring, and a good trickster on top of that. Joseph is just simply awsome when he outsmarts his opponents. And its not just with him but I also love Ceasar, Stroheim, and also LisaLisa. A good cast of characters helps the flow of the story a lot. In the end, for the time being anyway, I gotta say Battle Tendency is my favorite story arc right now, although I'm very curious about Stone Ocean. For those who read through Phantom Blood, your patience will pay off as you get into the awesomeness known as Battle Tendency!
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