Reviewby Nick Creamer,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Episodes 1-24 Streaming
One hundred years ago, Jonathan Joestar defeated the evil Dio, sacrificing himself to prevent Dio's vampiric powers from terrorizing the world. Today, Jonathan's great-great grandson Jotaro Kujo sits in prison, embracing a self-imposed isolation in order to contain a power he doesn't understand. Disrupted from his peace by his grandfather Joseph, Jotaro learns he has no time to sulk, for as it turns out, the tales of Dio's demise were greatly exaggerated. Now Jotaro and his friends must use their mysterious Stand powers to make their way to Egypt, surviving countless attacks as they fight to end the reign of Dio once and for all.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has always been a very silly show. Its first season featured vampires with laser eyes, cyborg nazis, and killer squirrels, among many, many other absurd things. It owned that silliness - in the world of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, all those absurd choices are both part of the fun and legitimately engaging dramatic devices. The bizarreness may come and go by the episode, but its title is never false advertising. And establishing the context of the first season is important, because Stardust Crusaders is ultimately even more ridiculous than its predecessor.
Picking up a generation after the show's second arc, Stardust Crusaders introduces us to a new JoJo, Jotaro Kujo, and follows him and his companions on a winding adventure across Asia as they seek to save Jotaro's mother, Holly. Holly is suffering from the side effects of Stardust Crusaders' biggest contribution to the series - the Stands. In contrast to the vaguely defined Hamon ripple powers that fueled the first season's drama, Stands make no excuses for their overtly magical qualities - they're essentially bizarre avatars the various characters can summon, who end up doing most of the fighting for them. Jotaro's Stand “Star Platinum” has super speed and super strength, Joseph Joestar (who is now anime's best grandpa) can use “Hermit Purple” to take spirit photographs, etc. These Stands open the field to virtually any conceivable dramatic conflict, ranging from Stands that attack you in your dreams to Stands that can only appear in mirrors.
The Stands aid greatly in adding a diversity of conflict, comedy, and even genre affectation to Stardust Crusaders. Where Phantom Blood was influenced by gothic horror and Battle Tendency by classic adventure serials, Stardust Crusaders seems most heavily influenced by mangaka Hirohiko Araki's love of schlocky horror movies. Stardust Crusaders' shot framing, storytelling priorities, and choice of enemies all lean heavily in this new direction. From evil dolls to killer cars and phantom ships, Stardust Crusaders draws from a long tradition of absurd horror movie villains, using the Stand conceit to free itself from the need for antagonists that make even the tiniest amount of sense.
This heightened absurdity isn't limited to the villains - whereas JoJo's first season's comedy generally acted as a mere supplement to its action, this time, the comedy takes center stage. Stardust Crusaders is essentially one long, silly road trip, and its highlights tend to be single moments of absurd comedy - French hero Polnareff giving a backrub to the old lady who's sworn to kill him, Jotaro's classmate Kakyoin staring menacingly at an evil baby, or even just Joseph Joestar hamming it up with a dramatic “OHHHH NOOO!” whenever anything ridiculous happens. Less focused on maintaining breakneck dramatic pacing, Stardust Crusaders tends to exist in a comfortable, silly neutral - a rambling, episodic journey with a bunch of endearing idiots.
These new priorities come at a cost, unfortunately. While JoJo's first two arcs matched their absurdity with a legitimate narrative momentum, Stardust Crusaders is significantly lacking in both consistent dramatic stakes and narrative progression. It follows a fairly strict monster-of-the-week format, and combining this with the generally distant overarching threat means individual episodes often end up feeling inconsequential. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that Stardust Crusaders' fights often just aren't that compellingly constructed. Though the show is full of creative villains, the ways the heroes defeat them often come across as cheap shortcuts. Jotaro in particularly regularly defeats his enemies simply by being much stronger than them, or by briefly exploiting powers we didn't even know he had. In JoJo's first season, the conflicts were often resolved in ridiculous ways, but those resolutions tended to obey the general rules of Hamon ripple energy. In Stardust Crusaders, the dramatic appeal of wondering what the heroes will do next is significantly dampened, because the resolutions very often don't come across as clever or creative.
On the aesthetic front, Stardust Crusaders still has a wonderful, distinctive visual style, with dramatic on-screen lettering and bold colors amplifying the sense of this being a comic brought to life. The character designs are as bold and larger-than-life as the story itself, and their very expressive faces make for many great visual gags. The show is still fairly limited in its animation, but has stepped it up for key sequences, and some of the standout fights are definite animation showcases. Unfortunately, this increase in actual animation seems to have been matched by a lessening of the creativity the first season used to get around its own limited budget. There are fewer wild color shifts this season, and the show's diminished need to make every shot count seems to have resulted in fewer dynamic compositions. It's unfortunate that the show's increased animation has led to a tradeoff in dynamicism, but fortunately, a few of the later episodes demonstrate both solid animation and creative, purposeful framing. And knocking Stardust Crusaders' visual style as “slightly less engaging than the first season” isn't a particularly biting criticism - relative flair aside, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure remains one of the most stylish and visually unique shows out there.
Stardust Crusaders' musical score is likewise a bit of a step down from the first season, featuring less genre range and generally sticking to a variety of ominous strings, keys, and horns. This works well enough in matching the show's horror movie tone, and takes an understandable back seat to the show's energetic sound effects and over-the-top vocal performances. No dubstep squirrels this time, but the music gets the job done.
Overall, Stardust Crusaders is a step down from its predecessor in a few key ways, but still maintains JoJo's signature appeal. It's funny, creative, and full of style, and its sequel couldn't come soon enough.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Maintains its predecessor's wacky appeal while upping the humor and animation quality; new horror-movie influences provide ample fodder for entertaining weekly adventures.
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