The next volume of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood has arrived. The first volume wasn’t too bad, but it didn’t really live up well to the moniker of “Bizarre Adventure.” At least, not until the final chapters of the book when things started picking up. With this second volume before us, how will things go down? Is it good?
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 Phantom Blood, Vol. 2 (Viz Media)
Written and Drawn by: Hirohiko Arakii
Translated By: Evan Galloway
So Dio putting on that stone mask last time around didn’t result in anything good as some might have hoped. Instead, he’s reborn as an unstoppable, near-immortal vampire and he’s out for blood (pun); he’s just slain Jojo’s father and is planning on killing Jojo next. Can our overly muscle-bound hero stop him? Even after that, a mysterious man with a top hat and a mission rolls into town, bringing with him a very unusual power.
As I said in my last review, the last volume of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure felt slow and unusual in the sense it didn’t really feel as bizarre as title and fans made it out to be. It was like a period drama with punching, as we witnessed the inner drama between the two “brothers” unfold. However, this volume does a complete one-eighty right off the bat with our main character now having to face down his evil adopted brother, who has become a vampire, and wants to become so powerful that he can rule the world. This is where things start really getting silly, but also great.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood Vol. 2 sees the story getting into full on zany and over the top mode, with a nice touch of horror and genuine creepiness (the first appearance of a “zombie” for instance). The whole idea of the story fully switching genres into this crazy battle series is a lot of fun, leading to moments like Dio’s attack on the police in the opening chapters or Jojo learning the secret art of breathing and rippling. The manga introduces new villains (vampire Jack the Ripper!), a new fighting style, has quite a few fights in general, and keeps the story constantly on the move. This all makes for a pretty crazy experience that ultimately makes for an engaging and fascinating experience, even when it’s trying to explain the details for how things work despite their goofiness. Sure, things do grind to a bit of halt during the fighting (which do go on and on) but the wild nature of the story and what is going on is a blast.
Character-wise, the cast is still fun to read about and follow. Jojo is really starting to grow into an enjoyable hero as he fights Dio and all of his vampire cohorts. While he is a bit of a generic, super good guy hero type (though he probably is the basis for a lot of modern Shonen style heroes) he is very rewarding to watch and see in action as he learns to fight using the odd powers of Hamon. Dio is sort of similar, becoming a villain who is just out to rule the world and get his revenge in terms of grand motivation. Despite his typical motivations however, Dio is still a very interesting character; every instance of him fighting the heroes, his overblown personality and ego, and even putting his plans into action are well done and engaging.
The only other important characters at this point are Speedwagon and Will Anthonio Zeppeli. Speedwagon, who appeared near the end of the last volume, is sort of a tagalong in this volume. He really doesn’t get to do much other than react to the events going on, comment on them, and/or just get hurt a bit. He feels like a waste at first, but as time goes on, it is apparent that he wants to improve and get better so he can help Jojo and Zeppeli fight the vampires (I’m sensing some good character development from him in the future). Speaking of which, this volume introduces Will Anthonio Zeppeli, the mentor and comrade of Jojo who teaches him the art of Hamon (which is a very odd power involving breathing, blood, and bringing out this life energy from within your body). He’s probably the most memorable and standout character of the series so far, being a top hat wearing baron who uses ripple-like powers that can smash rocks and melt vampires (while also drinking a glass of wine and not even spilling it). He’s a lot of fun to read about and also very sympathetic and with strong motivations, having direct ties to the Stone Mask transformed Dio.
Hirohiko Araki’s writing continues to hold up in this volume. While some fight scenes feel like they drag on for a couple of chapters, the pacing is fast and the confrontations are exciting and wild to watch unfold and each chapter keeps surprising you with a new twist or turn. One example: I was honestly not expecting Dio to suddenly have freezing powers out of nowhere. The dialogue is fine, if a bit goofy and stilted at points. The story structure is well constructed too and there’s really no bad transition from one scene to the next. The creativity liberties taken with vampires and the series’ own weird world history are pretty enjoyable and interesting to see as well. However, I would say the book does feel bloated at times. Sometimes the comic gets heavy on the exposition or narration at points to where it’s a bit ridiculous, like recapping a scene we’ve just read or explaining things we can perfectly see happening with our eyes (too much tell instead of show).
What hasn’t held up as well are some areas of Araki’s artwork. The anatomy on characters is starting to look worse than last time. The proportions on the male characters, especially Jojo, almost veer towards Liefeldian sizes with the massive muscles and foreshortening going on. The action suffers at times for this as well, looking rather awkward and silly with how people move. Luckily, that’s not always the case and action can look stylized or overblown enough for it to not matter and just be neat enough to look at. Honestly, the rest of the art besides the anatomy is well-drawn — there’s good attention to detail in the line work, creepy and nasty looking villains and lovely looking backgrounds and settings. Though like in the last review, I’ll say that if the artwork wasn’t working for you in the first volume, it’s not going to change much for you in this one either.
Is It Good?
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood, Vol. 2 is an entertaining continuation of the series from the last volume. Things have finally gone into the realms of the bizarre and the manga really feels like it is coming into its own now with its wild and over the top characters, fighting, and mythology. If you were waiting for that craziness to start or unsure about the manga, now is the perfect time jump into the series.
Jojo’s Bizare Adventure, the series in general, is available from Viz Media. The third and final volume of Phantom Blood is scheduled for release in early August in physical form, but is currently available in digital format. Part 2, Battle Tendency, just had its first volume released online, with the physical copy coming this fall. The third part of the series, Stardust Crusaders, is already available from Viz and is actually completed.