Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Prequel
Yummy, another dose of magical combat from the Joe-star family, always welcome. In this case it's a prequel to the earlier OAV release. Although, as such, it has some systemic problems.
The story concerns the Joe-star family, easily identifiable because they all have star shaped birthmarks. They've also got themselves in a rather, well, bizarre, predicament. The thing is they're starting to develop super-powers, although fairly novel ones. This has the young warrior of the family fairly freaked out, so he's exiled himself to a jail cell and refused to leave it...despite the terror of his cellmates.
His grandfather manages to force him out, with the help of another powered individual, and gives him the whole story. The Joe-star family has become deeply linked to a powerful force of evil. It's the existence of this man that awakens the power in them. And this individual, plus his cronies, also threatens the lives of everything they hold dear. Well, the Joe-star family aren't really philosophers, but they are plenty tough. And thus the decisions is made to, well, go and kill him. Along the way enemies threated and allies are made for the fight that is to come. At the same time Jojo must master his own magic and learn how to fight others with similar powers.
The first thing I should mention is that you've got to really like fighting anime to enjoy this one. At the end of the day it is well and truly focused around super-powered musclemen attempting to kill and maim one another. If you want subtle character interaction and lots of dialog you should move on. Although, since this was another asian region DVD, at least it means the very average translation didn't bug me too much.
But the good news is it's a really cool example of the genre. While the characters are shallow and artificial they have a very strong sense of style and personality. It's like a fighting game where you can tell a lot from the design and look of the character, rather than the words or actions. And backing this up is the really good mechanics behind how the magic works. In this world various people have a `stand', a sort of super-powered spiritual body, that grants them power. Stands can have a wide variety of powers, may work with the user or independant of him and may even have completely non-physical powers. As such combat is as much about tactics, and discovering the uses and limits of a stand, as raw power. What this means is that combats are cool, complex and intelligent. They're also good fun to watch.
It's not all clear sailing however. Since this is a prequel it has certain problems. The first one is that, without knowing the OAV series, this might be a bit slow moving at the start and ultimately unsatisfying at the end. After all, it's putting the pieces in place for the more impressive OAV story, rather than being the focus itself. Unfortunately, if you do now the OAV series, then you know how a lot of this is going to turn out, which also removes some of the excitement. It does fill in some gaps in the story however. It's still good fun in any case, but really the best way to use this material is to see it before having seen the original material, which can be sort of tricky.
The production is fairly impressive, although at times so complex it can't be animated smoothly. The character designs look like a fighting game, the stands look brilliant and the effects are quite impressive. It's got good detail, a wide palette and good coloring and the fights are impressive in imagination, staging and motion. It's also got some quite `spooky' moments which are good fun. The design is incredibly solid, suggesting a lot of depth which is no doubt borrowed from the source manga. The voices are good but not called on to do much. The sound is good quality but the music didn't stand out that much.
None of my sources have a review (yet) for this title.