Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 3
GNs 4-5 - Stardust Crusaders
After crossing into Pakistan, Jotaro and his companions stop in a town that turns out to be the lair of Enyaba, who is still seething over the death of her son Centerfold. After managing to outwit her, the gang heads to the Red Sea, with a brief stopover in the desert, where they finally manage to make landfall in Egypt. But it's no easy feat – with Stand users loyal to Dio abounding, Jotaro, Joseph, Polnareff, and Kakyoin have their work cut out for them each step of the way, and even reaching Egypt is no guarantee that Holly's life will be saved as time runs short.
It's sometimes easy to forget that JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a shounen manga rather than a seinen one – it's so extreme in so many ways that it feels like a more comfortable fit for an older demographic, at least in terms of what makes it into English translation. The fourth and fifth volumes of part three of the overarching series, however, make for a good reminder: they delve more into comedy by way of potty humor and just have a generally lighter air, even as Jotaro and the gang encounter an entire city of the dead hellbent on their destruction.
The story picks up in Pakistan, where the group stops to spend the night. They end up in what looks like a prosperous enough city, albeit one covered in fog. Little do they know, that fog is ominous in a Jack the Ripper's London sense – it's part of the trap that the next Stand holder they'll face is laying for them. That Stand user is Enyaba, Centerfold's grieving mother. We all know that grief gets expressed in a variety of ways, and Enyaba's chosen expression is burning rage: she will destroy the men who killed her precious baby. She's a lot smarter than some of the previous villains Jotaro's crew has faced before – no emptied out minibars for her; she's taken great care in laying her pernicious trap. That Jotaro is still able to figure her out is more a measure of his status as the hero than her inability to function as a frightening bad guy, because she takes her methods very seriously. The way her Stand functions makes the trap particularly frightening in a horror film sense, something Araki mentions he was going for with this arc. It also is appropriate for her possible namesake, the new age pop singer Enya, whose haunting vocals were ubiquitous at student-choreographed dance recitals for at least a decade. It's that “haunting” quality that's important here, and Araki uses it well overall before breaking it to indulge in some gross-out humor.
The idea that Polnareff, who has earlier expressed his dislike of the squat toilet, has to lick one clean as part of Enyaba's revenge doesn't entirely fit with the rest of the story arc, but it does mark the advent of general grossness within the story. That's not a bad thing, especially since it helps to alleviate some of the tension of these two volumes, but it is worth noting that these are the most disgusting of the JoJo's books thus far. Along with toilet cleaning via tongue, there's also a couple of poopy diaper gags, poop eating, and some of the grosser facial mutilations of the series, which comes with a warning for dog lovers. If you have a queasy stomach, all of this is a definite issue, although it's certainly nothing worse than anything that aired in, for example, Ren and Stimpy.
There's also a slight decrease in the physical threat levels of the Stand users that Jotaro's group encounters, or should I say, a decrease in their perceived threat level. Enyaba is an old woman, and the holder of the Death Stand is similarly physically unimpressive. While this does work with the previously stated horror themes that Araki is trying to emulate, it also does help to lighten the mood to a degree, particularly with the Death user, whose actual powers are terrifying in the way that they effectively trap their victims. The fight against the user of the Sun card also falls into the category of “less intimidating,” but this one is less Araki playing with tropes and more gives the impression that he wanted to squeeze one more Stand user in before the group made it through Abu Dhabi.
Probably the two most interesting Stands that Jotaro and company face off against are the Lovers and Death. The Lovers, wielded by the humorously named Dan of Steel, which I interpret to be a “Man of Steel” joke, at first seems as innocuous as its name would imply, but its ability to infiltrate the human brain can be read as symbolic of how emotions can also creep up on you and make you behave contrary to how you otherwise would. The give and take aspect of Dan's Stand also functions as a facet of the emotional engagement a couple has with each other – that hurting Dan actually harms the person he's activating his Stand on is an interesting way to express that without getting into ideas of abusive relationships. Death is also a Stand that acts on the brain, using it against its owner as it toys with the idea of nightmares and our own perceived inability to do anything about them while they're ongoing. This makes the fight against Judgement and its wielder, a woman named Midler, presumably after actress Bette Midler, something of a letdown, since it's much more typical in comparison to both Death and the Lovers.
With the conclusion of volume five, Jotaro, Joseph, and the rest of the crew have finally made it to Egypt, where Dio awaits. We know that it's taken them much longer to get there than they had originally planned, so Holly's time is definitely running out. Now that the road trip is nearly over, it will be interesting to see how Araki ups the stakes for our heroes, especially since as time goes on Joseph has been acting more and more like the young man he was in Part Two of the series. That means that the team is stronger than ever – something Dio not only likely knows, but is also certainly going to use against them as they draw closer to his lair.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Some great Stands used in creative ways, the group is growing stronger and more cohesive, breathlessly exhilarating pace
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