Today let's celebrate those times when utter lunacy wins out in the end, and JoJo's adventures earn their bizarre title!
Hello all, and welcome back to Why It Works! I’ve been greatly enjoying this season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and I feel like Golden Wind’s combination of a tight mafia plot, ensemble cast, and increasingly creative stands is poising it to be one of the show’s strongest arcs yet. And yet, in spite of all this arc’s clear strengths, there has been one specific element of this story that’s kept me raising my eyebrow. JoJo is a bizarre show at the best of times - I mean, it’s baked into the name, that’s kind of what you’re here for. But there’s a difference between “I can’t believe they pulled that off!” and “no, seriously, I refuse to believe they pulled that off,” and I think that difference is exemplified by one power specifically: Giorno’s absurd Golden Wind.
From the hamon ripples onward, JoJo powers have been increasing in complexity and flexibility all throughout this series' run. But Giorno’s Golden Wind seems to easily eclipse all prior powers possessed by JoJo heroes, with its theoretically parsable “I can change objects into animals” also stretching to encompass sub-specialties like “anything that attacks my Stand has its attack reflected back,” “objects I change into creatures will attempt to reunite with their owners,” "I can accelerate natural growth to make things die," “inorganic matter can be turned into organic ‘cubes’ to heal anything,” etc etc etc. If Giorno’s power were plotted on one of those five-pointed ability graphs, the graph would turn into a tiger and eat your face. Giorno successfully wished for more wishes, and now has the power to have many powers.
That said, Giorno’s Stand is far from the first time JoJo’s machinations have rode preposterous narrative invention over the suspension of disbelief rainbow. The show is a perpetual negotiation of earned suspense, known tactical variables, and spectacular lunacy, and sometimes the lunacy just completely overruns those other two pillars. So with that circuitous introduction out of the way, let’s get down to the meat of this topic - celebrating those times when JoJo pulled crap so absurd, so out of left field, and so convoluted that it rode straight round “that’s the stupidest thing ever” and right back into “stupid awesome, I mean.” After all, nobody can say you’ve jumped the shark if you actually punched it instead.
In the beginning, Araki’s ability to create utterly ridiculous narrative solutions was somewhat hampered by the relatively straightforward nature of hamon energy. The hamon’s fundamental promise is basically just “if you control your breathing, you can use a kind of chi to enhance your strength or send energy through objects,” which is flexible, but not particularly ridiculous. Fortunately, Araki was still able to use even this limited power for some truly absurd, “wait-the-manual-never-said-anything-about-this” nonsense. Who can forget Master Zeppeli’s heroic “leaves are planes now, deal with it,” or Joseph’s equally ridiculous “icicles can be a rope if I say so.” And in terms of sheer “what is even happening,” it would be some time before the Stand era topped a floating head shooting laser beams out of its eyes, or an ancient being turning his hand into a killer squirrel. JoJo has been writing rules just to break them ever since its first adventures.
But if the era of hamon was peppered with occasionally jolts of lunacy, the era of Stands has practically reveled in it. You’d think simply giving his heroes spectral avatars with diverse combat abilities would be enough for Araki, but no. Having thoroughly established things like “Star Platinum’s powers are its speed and physical strength,” Araki still can’t help but pencil in occasional extras like “also its fingers can extend really far and fast” and “hold up, Star Platinum can DRINK GHOSTS.” And even in the course of Dio’s climactic battle, a critical turn arrives when… we learn Jotaro was carrying a whole library of magazines under his coat, just in case he needed to block some knives. But hey, I guess those also double as reading material, so maybe wearing a knife-blocking magazine suit is just common sense.
Compared to what surrounded it, Diamond is Unbreakable could possibly be seen as a brief rest from the insanity, with stands like Josuke’s Shining Diamond possessing flexibility, but also clear limitations. In fact, the crux of Diamond is Unbreakable’s final battle rested specifically on Shining Diamond’s one established tactical feint - using its “repaired objects will return to their owner” clause to turn a shard of glass into a deadly weapon. But the seeds of Giorno’s lunacy were clearly sewn when Araki realized he could kill a cat, then introduce a plant with magic powers and the soul of that cat, without anyone telling him that’s not allowed.
And the results are what we see today - stands with the power to turn a motorcycle into a fake hand and then into a piranha, all so you can trick the nefarious psychic baby of your new boss into releasing a magic turtle bus. JoJo’s sillier fights might not make any sense, but if they result in sentences like that last one, how can you even be mad about it? While the show’s genuinely tactically coherent battles tend to be its most thrilling, I have plenty of fondness as well for those fights that make you simply sigh in disbelief. Keep on crossing that line, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I’ll be laughing and cheering all along the way.
Let me know all your own favorite over-the-top, suspension of disbelief-smashing JoJo moments in the comments!
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