JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 38 of
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind ?
How would you rate episode 39 of
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind ?
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind concludes on a note that I wouldn't dare describe as either a bang or a whimper. It's more like a rolling stone, tumbling down without any particular aim or direction; whatever keeps that pesky moss off of its jagged yet beautiful surface. If I may open this review with the classic "Which JoJo series is your favorite?" question, then my answer probably wouldn't be as certain as it was a few months ago. Golden Wind has easily had the highest highs, and that counts for a lot, but the tempo has been all over the place and I'm wrestling with a lot of stuff I like and a lot that I don't.
To wrap up the last episode's unfinished business, Giorno defeats Diavolo, whose ending is unusual for a final villain. Gold Experience Requiem locks him in a mind loop where he experiences death over and over again on repeat, each fatality projecting something petty and unremarkable, like being stabbed by drug addicts or suffering a lucid autopsy. The show is extremely unclear about what actually happens to his physical presence. Trish senses that he's still around, but Giorno assures her that he will never escape infinite death.
The truly unusual choice that this season makes comes after Diavolo's defeat, where we quietly sink ourselves into a long flashback, detailing the events shortly before Team Bucciarati met Giorno Giovanna as they encounter a man named Scolippi, wielder of 'Rolling Stones.' Scolippi is a sculptor with a Jesus-like crown of thorns, and we're introduced to him as a potential villain who is accused of murdering a florist's daughter. However, he's just a young man burdened with visions of people's demise. Rolling Stones takes on the shape of a person dying, such as Bruno being punctured through the chest, but it can also offer that same person a peaceful death as an alternative if it ever touches them. This flashback operates like a normal Stand-battle that could have occurred at any point in the series, with Mista doing everything in his power to keep the stone from touching Bruno.
The obvious core theme here is "fate," and not in the usual Shonen Jump sense of heroes defying premonition and carving their own destiny. We already know that Bruno is going to die exactly as Rolling Stones envisioned, and so Mista's determination to save him from the more immediate and humane death speaks to people's very messy relationship to mortality. Logically, we all know we're going to die someday, but it's difficult for us to truly behave as if it's prewritten. We could scratch our chins and opine about whether Bruno should have died peacefully or not at the expense of the adventure that followed, but that's one of those questions that's more interesting to ask than to answer.
Much more compelling to me is the meta element of fate and how it applies to artists and storytellers. Scolippi has an anecdote about the famous renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, who believed that the statues he made already existed within the marble before he ever touched them with his chisel. His role as an artist was simply to make that marble's destiny come true. That's always been an irony I've found fascinating about stories. Do characters truly have agency? Do authors? I don't know to what degree that people might consider myself an artist. I personally envision these reviews as works of art—not in a boastful way, but in a simple "anything can be art" kind of way—and I relate to the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with creation. Some days I feel like I've done a bad job, and other days I'm really proud of myself and feel like I'm doing something that I was put on this earth to do. My belief is that I've succeeded at self-expression when it feels like I never even had a say in the matter; when the words I write don't come from inside of me, but from the air around me.
This ending feels out of step with the rest of Golden Wind, but I don't doubt that Hirokio Araki was feeling something beyond our understanding when he wrote it. I would not have pegged fate as a major theme of Part Five, but it appears that destiny has chosen itself in the final hour. Very narcissistic of destiny, if you ask me. As a meditation on mortality and art, the emotional fabric is pretty vivid. Most stories don't have the balls to say "Nah, fate is real and it sucks and you just have to deal with it." The problem is how poorly it flows with everything that came before it. This flashback is introduced so that it can create a full circle moment with Rolling Stones present during the conclusion to the Diavolo fight. If we were to wax philosophical about the narrative application of set-up and pay-off, then generally speaking it's more satisfying for the set-up to be established earlier and more organically. Then again, that's the opinion of an audience member who's still looking at this story as a series of choices made by a man, arguing on behalf of an idyllic fantasy to be impressed by him.
When I first began this batch of JoJo reviews, I made a joke about looking forward to making some Godfather references in the near future. That comment was low-hanging fruit, but I was honestly surprised by how few opportunities to make it come true during the course of the Italian mobster anime epic. At long last, during the post-credits scene no less, Golden Wind finally gives us the most Godfather-y Godfather reference to ever Godfather. I don't think Giorno has any daughters, let alone any of marrying age, but you get the gist. This is another example where weak story construction does the ending a disservice. I don't find Giorno as boring as most people seem to, but if he had demonstrated even a smidge more charisma over the course of the season I think his new position as Don Vito Corleone would have hit much harder. When the Rolling Stones flashback ends we see Scolippi monologuing about the difficult road Team Bucciarati has ahead of them, and I get the impression that we're suppose to take some comfort in the knowledge that Giorno is waiting for them around the next corner. Ultimately, Giorno becoming the new boss of Passione was never as important to the audience as kicking Diavolo out.
And I believe that may very well be the problem keeping this season from its full potential. When the show was about Team Bucciarati and the secondary antagonists, it came alive in a way that no other JoJo before it could dream. Its ugliness felt so honest, and it shined a beautiful new spotlight on the well-trodden themes of love and friendship. While I'm certain there are layers of discussions to be had about how it pigeonholes its most explicitly gay characters into villainous roles, I think it's worth remarking how gayness is uniformly as signifier of humanity in this show. The audience is being given a chance to say "Oh, they love each other. They're like us." The heroes and villains were all born of the same soil, which is what makes them all so gosh darn incredible to watch. Giorno and Diavolo don't feel like they're coming from that same emotional place at all, however, and their legendary battle between obvious good and obvious evil isn't developed enough to serve as a counterbalance to the rest of the cast.
It's been an interesting ride, to say the least. I really believe that Golden Wind is one of the absolute best stories about the darkened hearts of criminals. Even at its most violent and cutthroat, it still manages to be touching and heartfelt. You could swear memes off for life and still find a soul unlike anything you've ever seen before within JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and that's a characteristic that only becomes more true with each passing season, as its iconic weirdness evolves into something so loud yet unmistakably sincere.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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