The second part of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures, dubbed “Battle Tendency,” is being published for the first time here in America. Is it good?
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written and drawn by: Hirohiko Araki
Translated by: Evan Galloway
The year is 1938 and it has been several decades after the deaths of Jonathan Joestar and Dio at sea. The Joestar family continued on, but now, all that’s left is Erina and her grandson/Hamon inheritor, Joseph Joestar. As they move into New York and start getting acclimated, over in Mexico an older Speedwagon is called by an old acquaintance to check out a temple. There, several stone masks like the ones that turned Dio in an unstoppable vampire are located, along with a mysterious and powerful looking individual stuck in a pillar of stone and flesh. From here on out, Joseph will be brought into a new and dangerous world, just like his grandfather was so many decades ago.
Probably the strongest thing Battle Tendency Vol. 1 has going for it is that it is fast moving. The first volume of Phantom Blood was slow going and it took a very long time for the “Bizarre Adventure” part of the title to kick in. Battle Tendency, however, does not wait around and immediately gets going. The first two chapters pretty much introduce our new main character and what he is like, the current status quo for the surviving characters, builds off the first storyline by reintroducing the mask and vampires, and kicks off the first major conflict and villain. And even after that, the story remains very fast-paced as the fight scenes go on, new villains are introduced, and big surprises happen. This easily makes this one of the more exciting volumes of the series and a great way to get Part 2 off on the right foot.
Hirohiko Araki’s writing isn’t too bad either, and improved in some areas. The manga really toned it down with the narration and exposition, rather letting the characters and artwork do most of the talking. This is probably because most of the explanation for everything was handled in the first part of the series, but the significant decrease was still much appreciated and the concepts/fighting techniques continued to expand and develop. While the pacing is still very fast, the manga still knows when to slow down just enough to let a moment happen and take a pause in the action. Also, the change in time period really works to the benefit of the series, allowing for crazier situations and locations for the action and characters to be involved in (Nazis somehow just fit pretty well into the insanity of the manga).
There is plenty to like in the artwork as well (but also some problems, which I’ll get to). Araki still has a great eye for detail with the amazing looking locations and areas the characters end up in (really like the Pillar Man’s room and New York). The action, while still having some of those wonkier elements due to the body physique of a character, still has a lot of intensity and excitement to it. The attacks and movements are wild and exaggerated in the way characters punch, use Hamon, or their own body parts to fight, leading to visually silly but memorable fight scenes (the fight scene in the desert for instance). Plus, the art is really good at depicting creepy, nasty imagery, like when vampires reform after being blown up or how the Pillar Man eats and enters its victims. Just a really memorable and stunning looking volume in some regards.
There are two things that hurt the first volume of Part 2: Battle Tendency. Regarding the characters, sans Joseph (who, while looking similar to Jonathan and has his heart, is much different with his more brash attitude and short temper), none of these supporting characters leave much of impression. Erina seems more confident and strong-willed than when we last left her, but she doesn’t really do anything in the book. Speedwagon is mostly there for exposition, and Smokey just provides some narration and does nothing. The villains fare slightly better and are more memorable in what they do (Santviento makes a strong first impression), but they don’t offer much in personality.
However, the real big problem lays in the artwork. While there is plenty to like, the characters really do not look good. Ignoring the questionable depictions of the Irish cops, Mexicans, and other races (which can be a whole other issue for some); the body proportions are still horrible. The musculature on these characters and the way they contort their bodies are terrible, the foreshortening and depiction of depth looks bad (like how in one page, Joseph’s leg is half the length of motorcycle), and the action looks jarring at points despite its strengths. It’s just so ugly looking that no matter how good the style may be or fits the tone of the book, it can really take you out of the experience at times.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency Vol. 1 kicks this new portion of the series off on the right foot. The story is faster paced, the crazy antics and fighting are even more stunning and amazing to behold, and the writing seems much better this time. However, the supporting cast isn’t all that great at the moment and the artwork’s ability to depict the characters is downright bad at points. These areas hurt the volume, but the excitement and adventure presented here are able to keep this manga’s head above water. I look forward to the next volume of this storyline and see what new insanity awaits.