Genre: Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2015
Source: Viz Media Monthly Subscription
Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.
Overall, this first entry has vampires, English nobility, growing-up-together rivalry, betrayal, and a magic system that just keeps escalating. Fun in a way that completely lives up to its name.
Content warnings: Bullying, physical violence, harm against animals
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a fantasy family saga about the Joestar family. Our first Joestar is Jonathan, a British aristocrat whose father takes in Dio, a bit of a street urchin on dire straits. However, not much is as it seems as Dio bullies Jonathan and tries to tear the Joestar family apart.
The art sure is something. There’s movement often at the expense of any understanding of human anatomy. The poses are amazing, and there is nothing heterosexual to be found here. I also really enjoyed the development between Jonathan’s and Dio’s rivalry, especially as its revealed that one has several layers of ulterior motives. It’s fun, it’s wild, and the adventure begins in earnest.
Content warnings: Body horror, gore, arson
Dio becomes a vampire and it’s the main event of this volume. Actually, that’s a lie, Jonathan meets mentor Will Antonio Zepelli and a new friend in the form of Speedwagon. Together, they work together to master hamon energy, which is apparently effective against vampires. But it’s not just vampires, as Dio has also sired spirits which prove formidable foes against Jonathan and friends.
The action continues to be over-the-top, and the one liners are amazing (my personal favorite being “Speedwagon withdraws coolly”). Dio becomes an even more formidable foe, amazing an army of vampires and other undead. The stakes remain personal but keep escalating. I love how it’s still zoomed in on the treachery of Dio, without spending too much time on the fate of the world at large.
Content warnings: Body horror, dismemberment, gore, arson
The final volume takes us from one action set piece to another. The number of overdrives become hard to keep track of, and the rules around Hamon change a bit to fit the specific fight, but it works because it’s so earnest and sincere.
This volume also runs a little long, mostly because of the number of threads to tie together. The ominous energy permeating from the final frames, which I won’t spoil, definitely foreshadows more epic battles to come.
Phantom Blood works as an introduction to the rules and world-building of this manga classic, with its grounding in the real world with some very strange artistic licenses that work together to bring something wonderful.