The Winter 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders - Battle in Egypt
Jojo has returned, and it's… well, it's pretty much the same as it was the last time. We last left the Jojos as they were approaching Cairo, crossing one last desert before reaching their final confrontation with Dio. They're still stuck in that desert now, though they've recently acquired some new “help.” This episode starts off with a helicopter from the ever-helpful Speedwagon Foundation flying down to drop off Iggy, a dog Stand user who's apparently here to avenge all the many dogs that have fallen in the course of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. The gang also learn that Dio has assembled a group of nine more mysterious antagonists to thwart his foes, and then are swiftly attacked by what seems to be the first of these new menaces - a blind Stand user whose Stand can attack remotely by taking the form of water and attacking anything it hears. What will our heroes do next?! Tune in next time to find out!
Yeah, it's really hard to talk about Jojo's Bizarre Adventure without slipping into that adventure serial voice. Ever since the early episodes of Stardust Crusaders, the show has settled into a comfortable neutral where each episode features the gang pulling off some silly gags before Trouble Strikes, and then, after a little dire peril, one of the Jojos figures out some clever or not-so-clever solution to the puzzle the new enemy's presented. The introduction of nine new enemies makes it seem disappointingly likely that this season will also follow the monster-of-the-week formula established by Stardust Crusaders’ first half, but after two seasons of that, I've learned not to raise my Jojo expectations too high. It's comfort food, and though it lacks the narrative momentum and invention of Battle Tendency, it's still an enjoyable watch.
Jojo's aesthetics remain as distinctive as ever, with its bold, detailed designs somewhat making up for the lack of strong animation. Jojo takes “comic book brought to life” almost to a fault, as this adaptation seems to go practically panel-by-panel in its storytelling. The few visual setpieces of this episode were largely focused on using CG to jump from one perspective to that of a character far away by zooming over CG dunes - a fair enough trick, but not something I'd take over well-animated fight choreography. Fortunately, Jojo's usual dramatic shifts in color palette and theatrical split frames are still in attendance as well. Stardust Crusaders is back, and looking like it'll continue in both the strengths and weaknesses of the first season.
Incidentally, though the new opening song feels far too busy and tuneless for my liking, I'm a big fan of the new ending. It's certainly a shift from the energy of Roundabout and Walk Like an Egyptian, but my favorite part of Roundabout was how well it was suited for those fade-in endings that made moments like Dio's discovery of the mask and Zeppeli striding into battle so iconic. Hopefully we'll have some dramatic finales that make the most of it!
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Battle in Egypt is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 4I've been waiting almost a full year for this moment and it finally happened: Iggy Pop has joined the Stardust Crusaders. Really, the Egypt Arc of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure has some of the best moments in Jotaro's story, from Iggy to D'arby to The World itself, whose seemingly unbeatable existence is foreshadowed by the season's new OP theme. But it all starts with the formation of an alliance with the "world's most powerful stand user" (in his own opinion,) a hideous little Boston Terrier named Iggy with "personality problems." He's addicted to chewing gum, chewing people's hair, and farting on them. He's sort of a misanthropic scrooge-dog who is simply too prideful to join Dio's team and enjoys making the Stardust Crusaders pamper his little puppy keister as they journey across Egypt. His presence adds enormously to the five-man crusader team, and makes for some of the most enjoyable content in an already enjoyable story. It took this "shitty little dog" (Polnareff's words, not mine,) a long time to show up and he won't be in the show for too long, but he lights up the experience whenever he's around.
The rest of the episode that isn't all about Iggy (heresy) is standard Stardust Crusader fare, and honestly less exciting than normal for this series as the team exposits between Stand fights about how the game has changed. There are nine more Stand users to defeat, but only one more card in the Tarot! Is that last card Dio or not? Who are these other nine Stand users? Well, it's all speculation at this point, and there's definitely more exposition in this episode than battling, so it's not as strong a return to form as this season premiere could have been. They're finally in Egypt, and they finally have their full six-man (dog) team together, but the fight to save the Joestar line is really only beginning.
The other most notable thing about this episode is the torch-passing of opening and ending themes. The new opening theme is intentionally more subdued than before, hearkening the approach of Dio and his incomparable Stand, as well as a darker change in tone for the story as the Crusaders' lives are put in greater peril than they ever have been before. (We even see shades of the greater danger in this episode, as Kakyoin suffers a potentially devastating injury. That's happened many times before of course, but it's treated with more gravity this time...maybe he's not getting out of this pinch in one piece.) The new ED theme is frustrating because why get rid of "Walk Like an Egyptian" right when the crusaders have arrived in Egypt? It seems unjust, but on further reflection, the melancholy jazz of the new closer, "Last Train Home" by the Pat Metheny Group, is more tonally appropriate to cap the number of downer episodes this second half will contain compared to the relatively zero downer episodes of the first half. We're entering a darker Jojo's "World," but hopefully the journey won't be any less fun.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders - Battle in Egypt is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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