Gabbing Geek Manga Review: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood Part 1

So, I’ve heard some stuff about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.  From what I have been able to learn prior to reading any of it, despite the title, the book actaully follows multiple generations in the Joestar family as they fight evil supernatural forces.  For myself, I got the first part of the first story, Phantom Blood, where the original JoJo has to deal with a vampire who was a pretty bad dude before he even became a vampire.

After a short prologue showing how a stone mask was used by the Aztecs during some pretty freaky human sacrifices (yes, freaky even by the standards of human sacrifices), we cut to 19th century England where a poor boy named Dio Brando is being told by his no-good father to get himself over to the Joestar estate where Lord George Joestar will take care of him due to Joestar mistakenly believing the elder Brando once saved Joestar’s life after a nasty carriage accident.  The dying Brando tells his surly son that the boy needs to somehow ingratiate himself to Lord Joestar in order to somehow disinherit Lord Joestar’s son Jonathan and gain the Joestar fortune for the Brando family.

How does that work exactly?  To be honest, there are many times as I read this where I wondered how any of this was supposed to work, but I chalk part of it up to creator Hirohiko Araki maybe not knowing what Victorian-era England was like aside from some broad stereotypes.

Anyway, Dio is a chip of the old block as he is also a rather rotten human being, and when he meets young Jonathan “JoJo” Joestar, he immediately calls the boy a dirty imbecile and gives JoJo’s beloved dog Danny a solid kick to the head, and then somehow does not get in any sort of trouble for this.  Furthermore, Dio’s apparently perfect table manners get JoJo in trouble with Lord Joestar for not being as perfect as Dio’s.

That’s the sort of stuff that confused me.  Dio and JoJo get into a friendly boxing match, and somehow that wins all the boys in the neighborhood over to Dio’s side because Dio knows how to box.  But these were presumably JoJo’s friends for a long time, and it isn’t exactly a hidden thing when Dio almost gouges JoJo’s eye out during the match.  Likewise, JoJo has a thing for a neighbor girl named Erina, so Dio decides to forcibly kiss her in front of many witnesses, and then slap her around when he spots her washing her mouth out with muddy water…and this is somehow acceptable behavior for the other boys?  And when Dio tells the boys he’s just met that JoJo, someone they have known for years, that JoJo is a tattletale, somehow they believe that?  I don’t get it.

That is, at first, basically Dio’s plan:  psychologically torture JoJo by isolating him from anyone and everyone JoJo would consider a friend until JoJo becomes a hollow shell of a man.  The thing is, JoJo is made of much sterner and stronger stuff, and while Dio may be able to beat JoJo on many levels as kids, the two grow up into massive hunks of muscle (seriously, these are big guys), and JoJo’s innate goodness and nobility do have the ability to win him allies when he needs them while Dio resorts to more and more sneaky behavior.

And then the stone mask comes into play.  It…does things.

Baffling characters actions aside, I really dug this.  JoJo and Dio are a good pair of opposing forces, and that’s before Dio figures out what the mask does.  Araki’s work really makes the reader hate Dio while sympathizing with JoJo, even if the methods Dio uses at first seem a little unbelievable.  There’s a reason something that seems this crazy and over-the-top has such a fan following, and it’s probably because it is so crazy and over-the-top.  9 out of 10 Aztec masks that should have been left alone.

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