Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 3
GN 2 - Stardust Crusaders (GNs 2-3)
As Jotaro, his grandfather Joseph, and the rest of the crew continue their voyage from Japan to Egypt, Dio's minions are in no way content to let them slip by without a fight. Repeatedly attacked by Stand users of all stripes, the two JoJos will not only have to contend with the threat of traitors, either witting or not, and much more mundane threats, such as sharks or street crowds in India. One thing's for sure – this is not going to be an easy journey, and Jotaro's going to have to pull out all the stops to make certain they get where they're headed.
Hirohiko Araki comments in these volumes that he wanted Stardust Crusaders, the third arc of his ongoing JoJo's Bizarre Adventure saga, to feel like a road trip movie. At this point he's succeeding well enough that the storyline might as well be called Jotaro's Epic Roadtrip - having left Japan to find Dio and the kidnapped Holly, Jotaro, his grandfather (and star of Battle Tendency) Joseph, schoolmate Kakyoin, and the Stand users Polnareff and Avdol are on their way to Egypt. Rather than flying commercial, however, they take a boat from Hong Kong to Singapore, and then will go by either bus or rail to India, at which point they'll drive to Pakistan. It's a whirlwind tour of the worst the Far and Middle East of the 1980s have to offer, and there are some clear signs that this particular arc did in fact originate in what we can term “the bad old days.” Largely this is seen when the gang is in India – Araki's depiction of Indian cities is strikingly insensitive, and we perhaps should not hold our breath for when the story moves to Pakistan.
That said, the story itself is still exciting and engaging. Interestingly enough, Jotaro himself doesn't feature as much as you might expect. In part this is because the character with the most motivation for these two volumes is Frenchman Polnareff. Years ago his sister was killed by someone he now realizes was a Stand user, a man with two left hands. (Is this a reference to the film The Princess Bride? The Tom Petty cameo indicates that it might be, as Araki is fond of pop culture references.) Polnareff is certain that this fiend must be working with Dio now, and he's determined to find and kill him – even if it means sacrificing Jotaro's quest or his own life. What's particularly noteworthy about this is that Polnareff's attitude changes as his plotline goes on; when it begins, he's insistent that this is his fight and he's going to get the man (later revealed to be named Centerfold) all on his own. Later events, however, serve to make him see that his blind determination is just plain blind. He's essentially running off half-cocked with no clear plan beyond “kill the bastard,” and that's a dangerous way to approach someone like Centerfold, an unpredictable killer with an unknown Stand. It's worth sacrificing time with Jotaro to see Araki make his point about teamwork and its importance in a much less maudlin way than manga typically approaches the idea, and the lesson Polnareff learns is likely to form a central point in upcoming battles. The very fact that Dio is currently using the first JoJo's body, Joseph's father Jonathan Joestar, may be important to this; it's because of the Joestar blood that Dio can find Jotaro and Joseph, so it stands to reason that the living Joestars can somehow use that same connection to their advantage further down the line.
In the same vein of looking ahead, these volumes also introduce an unnamed girl to the story. She starts as a stowaway on the ship from Hong Kong, and once she's part of the gang, they can't seem to get rid of her. Her age appears to be somewhat uncertain (although her crush on Jotaro is not), and she represents a vulnerability that they could do without. As of now she's not a Stand user, although it would not be surprising to see that change in the future, and both her age and her lack of supernatural powers make her the weakest link. Jotaro is not about to let her die or be injured, and that's something that could easily be used against him. There's also a parallel between her and Jotaro and Joseph and Caesar in the previous arc – ultimately Caesar's protection of Joseph cost him his life. Will the same hold true for Jotaro and this girl? Or is the real parallel with Kakyoin, Jotaro's schoolmate who may still be vulnerable to Dio's control?
As always, a large part of the series' fun comes from the way that Araki plays fast and loose with anatomy and the abilities of the human body, supernatural powers notwithstanding. Both of these things lead to a story that is full of amazing fight scenes, and while the battle between Polnareff and the Devil Stand user is good, involving an evil doll and a new reason never to hide under the bed, the fights against Centerfold are particularly striking. The disconnect between what's really happening and what people see is very nicely done, and the fact that the good guys have to really work to figure out how to defeat him makes it one of the most rewarding battles in the series thus far. The newly revealed fact that Stands can take physical forms is another good addition to the fight landscape, and it really feels like Araki is hitting his stride with how he wants the overall saga to play out.
As with previous Jojonium editions, Viz's release of these two volumes has color pages (both full and partial) and commentary from Araki which tend to be insightful about his goals for the series. The covers do unfortunately show fingerprints very clearly, which is a blow to collectors, and they can get a bit stiff in the binding when you're trying to fully open the book for reading. The only odd note in the translation is Jotaro's catchphrase “good grief.” While it does show that he's a much nicer, emotionally softer guy than he appears, it also makes him sound like a badass Charlie Brown, which can be distracting.
Stardust Crusaders is moving right along at a good clip despite its roadtrip structure. It may be taking our heroes a long time to get to their destination, but the action and drama ensures that it's a trip it'll be worth taking.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Story is consistently engaging, Polnareff's arc is good, battles are exciting, nice parallels to Part 2
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