Reviewby Nick Creamer,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc
Having bested all manner of treacherous Stand users on their journey, Jotaro and his companions have finally arrived in Egypt. But before they can face Dio and end their task, they'll have to face a second wave of adversaries, fighting femme fatales and high-stakes gamblers and even a cursed sword on their way to their nemeses' lair. But even when they arrive, will they truly be up to the task of defeating Dio, the man who survived a hundred years in the belly of the sea? What tricks does he still have waiting, and what is the true nature of his terrifying Stand? Tune in to find out in one more rip-roaring installment of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
When we last left our heroes, they'd just arrived on the shores of Egypt, escaping the literal jaws of defeat in order to finally save Jotaro's mother. The journey there had been a lengthy and sometimes inconsistent one, with their various adventures indeed being plenty bizarre, but not always all that exciting. With a whole second half of further Stand-users to come, it would have been easy for Egypt Arc to fall into a slow decline, miring itself in disposable enemies and losing the sense of energy and danger that's so very necessary to the JoJo brand.
But who would be fool enough to count any Jojo out? In contrast to Stardust Crusader's first half, Egypt Arc rallies as triumphantly as any of its absurd protagonists, bringing all the increased wackiness and improved animation of Stardust Crusaders to the level of drama and excitement that made JoJo's first season so captivating. Egypt Arc is JoJo in peak condition, as memorable and engaging an adventure as you could hope for. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is back.
This renewed energy starts with the fights, which on the whole offer far more consistent rewards than Stardust Crusaders' earlier battles. Though the first two thirds of this season maintain Stardust Crusaders' usual monster-of-the-week format (having run out of tarot-themed enemies, Dio now resorts to employing Stand users named after Egyptian gods), the individual battles are both more dynamic and more coherently constructed. Many early Stardust Crusaders' fights felt simply wacky, and featured solutions that didn't emerge naturally from the variables introduced (I can vividly remember the ship captain orangutan being defeated because… apparently Star Platinum can extend his own fingers?). This time, there's a real sense of internal “rules” to each of the fights, with solutions emerging naturally from either clever play by the Jojos or some fatal flaw in the villain's plan. Wackiness for its own sake is rarely exciting, and when a show relies on totally nonsensical solutions, you lose investment over time. Egypt Arc restores the audience's trust in the fights, once again provoking constant questions of “how will they possibly get out of this one?”
These more intelligently constructed fights don't just result in more engaging action and drama - they also make JoJo's humor more effective, as well. Stardust Crusaders' first half had plenty of outright gags, but it often felt like more of an overt, slapstick comedy than JoJo's first season. In contrast, Egypt Arc regains the key sense of contrast between the high-stakes danger and ridiculous, melodramatic execution. This is an important shift - not only does this make JoJo's humor feel more natural and unique, it also just improves the pacing, as the show can be very funny and very exciting at the exact same time. Not every fight is equally exciting, and in fact some sections of this season still really drag (mainly when the show relies too heavily on its simplistic humor, as in the regrettable baby Polnareff arc), but overall Egypt Arc marks a strong return to form for the series story-wise.
The cast of Stardust Crusaders also step up their game in this second half, with the heightened drama offering more opportunities for everyone to shine not just as buffoons, but as sorta-maybe-heroes. They're still a bunch of stupid jerks, but they're lovable jerks, and the better-constructed fights mean even characters like the one-note Jotaro Kujo can carry scenes (his personality, “stoic teen smartass,” is put to great use in a series of bluff-based Stand battles). And the new crusader, Iggy the Dog, makes a strong impression across these episodes, somehow managing to act as the most dignified member of the party even when he's fighting a friggin' bird. You fear for these characters, even as you're laughing at the absurdity of the bird fight, or Kakyoin playing a kart-racing game for his soul.
JoJo's visual aesthetic remains strong throughout this arc, combining the improved animation of Stardust Crusaders with some of the compositional flair and eye for engaging color work that made season one such a treat. There are lots of absurd expressions, a strong mix of dramatic angles and fully animated fights, and even some creative uses of CG. The camera will spin across a desert to frame the heroes from within a ring in the sand, or circle up a set of stairs to arrive at a menacing coffin, making great use of the perspective shifts traditional animation simply can't afford. Not to be outdone, the traditional hand-drawn material also possesses a striking number of visual highlights, including shots like a gorgeous forest of Kakyoin's Hierophant Green threads, or a vivid shot of light piercing the broken walls of Dio's hideout. There are even some bizarre unexpected gifts, like the sing-along ending created specifically for one particularly ridiculous pair of opponents.
Speaking of music, the soundtrack this time is also a step up from Stardust Crusaders' first half. JoJo features a diverse array of dramatic tracks heavy on the strings and synths, but its lighter moments are matched equally well by music that's actually timed to complement the jokes and pratfalls. There's even an unexpected salsa track for when Joseph and Avdol find themselves trapped in an impromptu dance routine (and yes, that makes sense in context). While Egypt Arc's opening song is a step down from the earlier openings (the conceit of including all prior OP singers is cute, but the end result just comes out busy and tuneless), the choice of Pat Metheny's “Last Train Home” for the ending is a surprisingly effective cooldown after an episode of high-stakes adventure.
Overall, Egypt Arc represents a welcome return to form for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, washing away the inconsistent taste of Stardust Crusaders' first half with a series of compelling fights and some top-notch execution. The show's animation still isn't the most consistent, and not all the fights are winners, but the highlights include some of the best battles the show has ever seen. It's good to have you back, JoJo. I hope you stick around.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Features some of the most well-designed and entertaining JoJo battles so far, matched with strong execution on the visual and musical fronts.
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