Annotated Anime: Stardust Crusaders episodes 28-33


Asking the important questions

It's been a while since we last checked in with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, but the fun thing about this kind of story is that not a lot of plot movement happens from week to week. The true character of the series really only unfolds over the course of the arc itself, which is one of the interesting ironies about these types of fighting stories. More often than not, who wins a fight isn't as important as what the fight itself reveals about the characters, and their roles in the story at large.

And for what it's worth, the last few tangles reveal quite a bit.

After the last few scheming and plotting-intensive fights, we get a respite from what could be less charitably called "gimmickry" with a good ol' knock-down-drag-out fight, involving Anubis, a Stand so powerful it has no master, manifesting as a sword that memorizes all its opponents' techniques. 

The real treat of the fight isn't so much the cleverness of Anubis (he's just a sword, really), but that he gives both Jotaro and Polnareff their toughest engagements  to date (though Polnareff quickly sets a new record in the following episodes). Jotaro even performs two classic fight-show moves, the "shirahadori" sword-stopping technique, and that thing heroes do when they pull a sword further into their guts to trap the blade. It's classic stuff, and keeping in mind JoJo's' age, it's possibly among the first times that's been depicted, as well.

The other thing we're reminded of is that JoJo's never forgets to lighten up. Humor is part and parcel of this bizarre adventure, and the show always undercuts the moments when it's supposed to be at its most self-serious, no matter what it takes.

Even if what it takes is some blatantly crass - so crass it borders on offensive, really - joking about, and in episodes 30 and 31, the poor victims are old Joseph and his best friend Avdol. We're all familiar with Joseph the joker, and even in his grumpy old man phase he's always been  a funny guy. No problems there. Instead, the true victim is Avdol, who's always been supportive and for the most part stoic. When magnetized by Bast, the Stand of some femme fatale named "Mariah", unfortunately, the antics the pair get up to to stop her make me feel really sorry for the master of Magician's Red.

Even if the two won in rather dramatic fashion, the ordeal they went through would cement the fight as the sort of thing two men never speak of again.

The next fight, though, is a trial all its own, and Polnareff gets his due as the star for the duration. He encounters Set, a shadow-based Stand under the control of Alessi, a weird guy who...well, likes to murder children. And Set can "de-age" any target whose shadow he can touch. Naturally, Polnareff catches the brunt of the attack, getting Benjamin Button'd all the way to seven or eight, with an equally childish stand to boot.

Things take an even heavier turn as the childish Polareff gets taken in by a lovely stranger, who is also de-aged by Set...back to the fetus stage. And to think that many hardcore JoJo's fans regard Stardust Crusaders as a tad bit rote compared to later story arcs.

All things considered, I actually find the material a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps it's because I'm a new uncle and am thus oversensitive, but violence involving children feels like a line that should only be crossed earnestly, and Stardust Crusaders plays it up for laughs. I can't deny that it's entertaining, but there's an undercurrent of "I like it but it's wrong" that I can't quite shake, and that I haven't felt the same for other parts of the JoJo's saga. I suppose it could just be left at, "it's odd", and move on.

Another odd observation is how far the show bends over backwards to preserve Jotaro's essential aura of coolness, even down to making him a deadly machine, with or without a Stand, or even a proper age. It's hard to imagine a seven-year old sending a grown man flying with a single punch, but I guess I could concede that if anyone can do it, Jotaro could.

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures



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