Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 2
GN 2 - Battle Tendency
Jojo and Speedwagon have traveled to Italy to meet Zeppeli's grandson Caesar, but this generation of Hamon masters isn't quite as willing to train inexperienced foreigners as his grandfather...and Jojo's not great at endearing himself to others, further complicating the issue. Things take a turn for the violent, however, when Caesar's German friend takes them to the secret lair of three of the pillar men, setting off a battle between the ancient creatures, Jojo, and Caesar. Jojo's got a month to get his hamon up to par before the pillar men kill him, so Caesar takes him to Venice, where Lisa Lisa, the beautiful and deadly hamon master, might teach them...if they're lucky.
One thing you can say about Hirohiko Araki's Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: there is never a dull moment. Battle Tendency, the second part in the ongoing megaseries, is less urgent than Phantom Blood, but that actually isn't a bad thing – it allows for more humor and insanity while still allowing us to get attached to the characters, making this book a fun ride overall.
When last we saw Jojo, he and Speedwagon had just arrived in Rome, looking to meet the latest generation of Zeppelis, Caesar, a young university student who isn't impressed by Jojo's swagger and lack of proper hamon training. It doesn't really matter to him that Jojo took out a pillar man on his own – as far as Caesar is concerned, Jojo's a big braggart with the charm of an enraged weasel. It's hard to fault him, even as we the readers know that the threat of the pillar men is really one that has to be taken care of as soon as possible – Joseph Joestar is a cocky, headstrong young man with none of the reserve or charm of Jonathan Joestar. But he still has the Joestars' good heart, buried under bluster though it may be, and ultimately he wins over Caesar by proving that he will do anything to protect others – even ride off in a mine cart with a deranged ancient villain.
Plot aside, this volume is one of the more interesting simply for some of the characters in it. This is the book that introduces the series' first strong female character, a term I use here to mean both that she has a strong will and personality and that she can kick some serious ass. Lisa Lisa, Araki says in his closing remarks, was unusual when the series was first serialized in 1988, because up to that point, most female characters in shounen manga were meant to evoke the “dream girl” or “perfect woman” stereotypes – more like Erina in the first part of the series. Lisa Lisa is neither of those things, although by the standards of the series she still is very beautiful. She's an older woman who takes no crap from anyone, rebuffing Jojo's advances (and those of others) and barely agreeing to take the boys on for training. Sort of a combination of the cold beauty and the mysterious old teacher tropes, Lisa Lisa really doesn't appear to care whether or not Jojo succeeds in his attempts to learn how to use hamon, though she isn't upset when he does master a skill. She's in this for her job rather than for the guy, which is something of a landmark in the shounen action genre.
The three pillar men are interesting as well, in part for their names: Esidisi, Wamuu, and Kars all appear to be references to bands of the 1970s and 80s, AC/DC, Wham, and the Cars, which certainly lightens the mood a bit. They're drawn in Araki's trademark ludicrous style, with more muscles than the human body can reasonably contain, arms and legs that seem to extend to fill the amount of space in the panels, and strangely lovely faces. At least one of them also appears to be severely underclothed, although at times it looks as if he might be wearing tight pants; either way, it's a test of our suspension of disbelief that we never see their genitals. Regardless, the pillar men are a mix of human and inhuman, able to be tempted by their pride but generally cold and single minded. They contrast nicely with this incarnation of Jojo himself, who is impetuous and fueled solely by his feelings. They also appear unaware of their emotional weakness, something Jojo is easily able to exploit, since pride is something he understands very well. It feels like Caesar will be at more of a disadvantage against these three, with his more intellectual approach to fighting and life.
As with the previous Battle Tendency volume, this book contains a rather more sympathetic cast of Nazi characters than we usually get in English-translated manga. They play a small role here, with one of them delivering that most classic of death-flag lines, “I just got engaged! We're going to marry when I get home!” but their fairly neutral depiction may still be unsettling for some readers. Of course, this apparent neutrality is offset by the fact that we know what they want to use the pillar men's powers for, but it's still something to be aware of.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is always filled to the brim with insanity, crazy physical feats, and over-the-top characters. This volume is no exception, and it really is a lot of fun. The art is enough to make your eyes spin at times as characters routinely defy not just gravity but also anatomy, and Araki's artwork really is very line-heavy, making some images hard to discern, but he's getting better at drawing women and there are enough shounen action landmarks in here to make it interesting as a historical work as well as a good story. The final pages show what may be the weirdest battle result yet, so hold on to your hats and get ready to ride the Jojo Express on another crazy ride.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B-
+ Nonstop crazy action, some interesting shounen genre landmarks. Araki's women are starting to look more female, Jojo and the pillar men make great foes.
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