JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – The ’93 OVA

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What a spooky shadow. Chew!


It’s astonishing to think how JoJo is something you can keep going back to. Strange, funny, or just plain bad as it might be at times, not only is it impossible to stop watching or reading, but it even makes fans want to go back for more. Even now, it’s hard not to enjoy the 1993 OVA adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. This review is about the six episodes released from 1993 to 1994, following close behind the conclusion of the manga in 1992.



The first thing that a review of the old OVA might be expected to mention is the quality of the art and animation; and the verdict is that it’s good for its time. It’s fluid enough, and the hand-drawn frames won’t be caught with bad proportions when paused. This bears mention because it’s not an achievement that has been held on to by every studio in the present. Over the course of six episodes perhaps only one or two frames are only slightly out of proportion; in fact, given the fact that this is JoJo, perhaps this is really a disservice to the source material. The animation is disappointing in that sense because it’s good, if not exactly on level of detail of a Ghibli movie. The art chooses to remain largely faithful to the manga; and unlike the more recent anime, the lines on characters’ faces are gone, and Joseph has blond hair. Their bodies look less cartoonish – no tyres on their arms, for one thing. The gore is somewhat muted, but they didn’t pull punches in a few scenes. One particular sequence, which begins the series and is used as the opening, is completely original: it shows the ancient ritual where the stone mask is used – the same mask that features in the manga, and in the later anime.



This brings us to the plot and how it works as an adaptation. Briefly put, changes have been made, some of them rather significant. The six episodes focus entirely on the action in Egypt, and there are no expository flashbacks other than the opening to explain to new viewers who the characters are or why they are on their journey. No one even stops to explain what a Stand is. The plot takes off with the Speedwagon helicopter landing in Egypt, and Joseph’s conversation with the men serves for an introduction to the story. Everything is streamlined, wisely enough, to leave us with six episodes, most of which are about the climactic battle. Given how short the series is, every character gets their fair share of screen time; and Jotaro, the hero of Stardust Crusaders, is placed front and center as he should be. Sometimes the brevity works quite well, such as when Joseph uses Hamon and it looks like just another ability of his Stand. Some things play out very differently from the original story, so even if the exposition is a little lacking, it’s worth it for both old and new audiences to try out the OVA. The pacing is quite good throughout, and that’s very important with a story like this; suspense is allowed to build without boredom, and things are never too fast or too slow.



What would a complete newcomer to the franchise take away from the OVA? Well, if the question is whether they’re missing anything, then one has to point out that the OVA chooses to skip Parts 1 and 2 of JoJo altogether, plunging into the series where the narrative style changes. The additional shortening of the story to a few incidents from just ‘Egypt Arc’ is still enough to make the viewer familiar with all the characters, and build up the antagonist as a powerful villain. It’s also different enough to make those new to JoJo want to get into it, and see how the original story went. Just how different is something they’ll have to find out for themselves. Part 3 wasn’t that bizarre anyway, so it shouldn’t put off new fans.


All the bazaar men by the Nile


This leaves us with the actual plot to discuss, which entails a criticism of JoJo itself. A young man dressed in black is on a journey to Cairo to confront an evil that has threatened his family for generations. Joined by his grandfather, a Japanese schoolboy, a dog, a Frenchman with an unusual fashion sense and a temper, and Mohammed Avdol, Jotaro has to face Dio, who has returned from the dead. Abrupt as the beginning of this bizarre adventure is, it’s interesting enough to pull you in, and the first two episodes play out in the best way that the plot can in JoJo – the enemy attacks and is counter-attacked, until the hero finds a way out of the hopeless situation. Episode 3, interestingly enough, gives him a similar role. It’s enough to show us everything we like about Jotaro – his grit, his steely nerves, and even that edge that we like to laugh at.


Hail to you, Chariot.


The villain may be charged with being slightly cliched – flambuoyant and sneering, he still works well as a foil to the other characters, especially the somewhat stoic hero. His motives, it goes without saying, are vague and therefore uninteresting – something about ruling the world, probably. Thanks to the power of his Stand and the way he’s held in awe by his minions, however, he’s still rather compelling. Among the heroes, Kakyoin in particular shines when he’s on-screen. Joseph, it might be added, is never seen shouting his catchphrases – irreparable as the loss might be, the plot gains another degree of seriousness thanks to this omission.


Tanka torakku da!


The music by someone called Marco d’Ambrosio is pretty good, and here’s some nice trivia: the credits tell us that the assistant sound design involved Skywalker Sound, a ‘division of Lucas Arts Ltd’.  The English release, by Super Techno Arts, is a satisfactory dub, and together with a level-headed portrayal of the action, it does a lot in toning down the more absurd aspects of JoJo, making it palatable for new audiences in particular (no Engrish and only one Ora Ora). With a coherent plot, well-drawn backgrounds, obvious respect for the source work, and instantly likeable characters, the Stardust Crusaders OVA remains a rite of passage for fans of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and among such rites it takes a high seat – one ‘with the power to rule the world’.


Sucheto Nath

Sucheto is a literature student with a great writing ability and a love for original (salty) content creation on Facebook. His work is literary and in-depth, and will make anyone totally absorbed in the topic he's discussing. He blogs at The Whisperer in Kolkata, and loves writing in general.