The Bizarre Case Of The Jojo’s Anime

I hate to say it, but I just ain’t sold on this Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure anime.

I’m a casual Jojo’s observer: I’ve seen Araki’s art around in places, and that’s about it. I’ve been interested in the franchise for a while, but the several-hundred volume monster epic that is the manga has put me off of getting into it, especially because every English translation of it is less than perfect, along with the fact that reading over one-hundred volumes of manga in Japanese is pretty impossible given my current reading level. Basically, I was hoping this anime would be a fine introduction to the franchise, and well… it’s not really doing it for me.

There’s the writing, for one. I realized Jojo’s probably blazed this trail when it first ran, but at this point a script composed simply of people declaring things loudly isn’t super compelling to me. It’s not particularly bad, and I imagine this style is part of the work’s appeal, but… it’s just not appealing to me very much. It could be because this drawn out style of dialogue is affecting the battles the worst. I imagine these fights are meant to be bizarre feats of super-natural strength, but the long-winded dialogue robs them of their momentum, and distracts from the spectacle. It’s a lot easier to do this sort of thing in the medium of comics, but in animation it simply doesn’t fly.

And that’s it: It’s not doing the thing good TV adaptations should do, which is adapting the work to jive with the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. Instead of following the manga dialogue more or less to the letter—which is what I assume they’re doing—they need to trim some fat while retaining the flavor of the dialogue.

That said, trimming the dialogue alone wouldn’t save the fights, because they are also rather static, as is the rest of the show. The series does have a slight filter of Araki-ish coolness sprinkled over it, but in the end the way things flow—or not flow, in this case—is just like a typical low-budget anime. Hell, they only do all those weird comic book effects and stuff to try to make up for the fact that the animation just isn’t very good. The idea is, you’re not watching an anime—it’s an animated comic book!

I’d almost be fine with what they’re doing stylistically, but it’s like I said above—it’s only a sprinkle of style, when the show needs to be doused in that aesthetic. If the show wants on-screen sound effects, it should go all the way, and have them pop up far more frequently than they do. Similarly, scenes with special lighting situations make an attempt to look like Araki’s color illustrations, but normal scenes have—as Subatomic Brainfreeze’s Dave said to me at A-Button on New Year’s Eve—“an empty cartoon look.” And that just isn’t nice to look at.

The consistent and competently rendered character artwork would partially save the show’s half-assed presentation, if not for the fact that it doesn’t resemble Araki’s artwork in the least. Sure, when one looks at the original artwork for the sections of the manga the TV show is on right now, he hasn’t really found the style that he’s known for just yet. The designs in these first two arcs are approximations of those early drawings, but something gets lost in the transition to the small screen, and I can only imagine that being the fault of the designer, as well as the artwork’s crossover to digital animation.

But you know? This is a Jojo’s anime, and one made in the brave year of 2013. I’m not sure about the fans, but I imagine casual observers of Jojo’s like myself have a very specific image of it in their head, and this show’s designs don’t match the look of the slick illustrations gracing show windows of Gucci stores in Tokyo and New York. I—and I assume many other beginners to the franchise—want to see these characters redone in Araki’s current, signature style. There’s no need to poorly mimic his artistic evolution in this anime. Funnily enough, the show’s kooky 3D CG openings are more in line with the kinds of designs I would like to see in the show.

It is at this point that I would like you to stop, and take a look back up at the above paragraph.

Gucci.

There’s big money in this franchise. Just recently there was a giant, completely-sold-out-in-the-first-few-days exhibition in Tokyo’s swanky Roppongi neighborhood that was all about Jojo’s artwork. Ads were everywhere. This franchise is something of a cultural institution. Did a lot of the people who went to that exhibition actually read Jojo’s? Probably not all of them, but a high budgeted, slick, and on-at-prime-time anime would be great gateway, right? Given how much money seems to be in this thing, I don’t see how they weren’t able to throw enough money at this project to make it perfect and come on at a time when people can see it in order to ride the momentum of everything else attached to the series and its creator. Sure it’s violent is weird. So are Tarantino films, and I’m pretty sure Japanese people like Kill Bill. And hey, they black the guts out anyway, so it’s not that bad.

The way I see it, this show is only really reaching the faithful, and even some of the faithful seem to be turning their nose up at it. Someone the on production side should have wanted to make a cartoon on the level of the franchise’s other baller crossovers, and given its time-slot and poor budget, the drive clearly wasn’t there. And that’s a shame. Jojo’s needs the royal treatment, and not some collection of half-assed visual effects used to mask the show’s feeble budget. At the moment, the Jojo’s anime has that late-night anime stink to it, and if your show only has ads up in places like Akiba, that’s understandable. But Jojo’s made its mark on Gucci and Roppongi. I think its anime adaptation could stand to do better.

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