JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki is scientifically the best manga of all time, and thanks to David Production, it is now also, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by the scientific method, the best anime of all time too!
So far, five chapters of the manga have been animated; Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency, Stardust Crusaders, Diamond is Unbreakable and Golden Wind. Each part, separated by oceans and generations, follows a member of the indomitable Joestar family, Jonathan, Joseph, Jotaro, Josuke and Giorno, connected not just by their blood, but by their pure hearts and iron wills that will never allow evil to prosper in this world.
Though they are all amazing in their own right, one stands proud at the top (and now the obligatory Stand joke is out of the way). Let’s burn some bridges and give the JoJo anime parts their objective rankings! SPOILERS AHEAD.
5. Stardust Crusaders
Good grief. This part might be the crowd favourite because of the memes, but as good as they are, it is kind of hard to ignore the obvious shortcomings of Stardust Crusaders. Being the longest part, it has the most disappointing episodes of any chapter, just by virtue of having more episodes, and it also suffers from its revolving door of weak villains.
Since it’s the most typically-tropey-shounen-esque part of the manga, the format is the same every episode; the gang runs upon a new enemy Stand user, who usually doesn’t have much of a personality beyond “God I love DIO,” they defeat them, and we never see them again. Rinse and repeat, except for Hol Horse who is great.
The supporting cast is also a lot weaker than other parts, like, can you tell me a single interesting thing about Avdol? Probably not. I don’t wanna just bash on Crusaders though, it has one of the best JoBros of the series with Polnareff, and even though it has some of the worst Stand battles, like Wheel of Fortune, towards the end it has some truly iconic and heart-pounding fights, such as Vanilla Ice and of course, DIO’s World.
The second half of the show really shows what JoJo is all about, and what the Crusaders embody, the beauty of humanity, and how even regular people can overcome an inhuman force like DIO if they band together and fight like hell in order to protect what they love. If SC is as great as it is, and is STILL the worst JoJo has to offer, that’s a testament to how good this series is.
4. Battle Tendency
The very next thing you’re going to say is “no way, Battle Tendency should be way higher!” It’s not that this chapter isn’t fun and enjoyable, because it certainly is thanks to Joseph’s cheeky personality, it just has the least to actually do with JoJo’s overall themes in the grand scheme. It’s only tangentially linked to the Joestar’s never-ending battle against the legacy of their arch-nemesis DIO, and because of that it almost feels like a filler arc. That said, it ranks here because it’s just fun.
Having a consistent cast of villains with the Pillar Men makes for far more interesting fights than Part 3’s Stand battles, as we see how the fighters, both heroes and villains, evolve and change their strategies through the many conflicts they have. When Caesar updates his Bubble Launcher attack, it puts Wham on the back foot for the first time in the show, and the fight is elevated by the history of their previous battle, something that’s hard to get with Stardust Crusaders’ format. Just Wham on his own is a more dynamic and interesting character than (almost) every villain in Part 3 put together.
Joseph is also one of the most entertaining JoJo protagonists, with his quick wit and sharp tongue, adept at roasting villains like he was spittin’ Hamon. No matter what Joseph is doing, he’s fun to watch, and seeing the comically ridiculous tricks he uses to outsmart his opponents, with a good amount of luck, all while taunting them with his signature bants, never gets old.
3. Phantom Blood
You thought this would be at the bottom, didn’t you!? But it was here, at the third spot! Oof, even Speedwagon is sick of that joke. No more Part 1 memes now, I promise. Truthfully, Phantom Blood remains so high because of its two main characters, none of the other parts can measure up to the rivalry, the history, the dichotomy of Jonathan and Dio. Their dynamic is best realised by the Dale Carnegie quote, that Araki placed in a volume of the Phantom Blood manga.
“Two men look out from prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw stars.”
The anime makes this relationship clear in the first fantastic three episodes, some of the best David Pro have done. Jonathan’s good heart makes him naïve, but he always remains hopeful and optimistic, and seeks the good in every situation and person he comes across; he sees the stars. Dio is wickedly smart and talented, and he works harder than rich, pampered aristocrats like Jonathan at every turn. He is perhaps more deserving of Jonathan’s life than Jonathan is, but fate ordained that he lives in poverty, cursing himself for sharing the same blood as his worthless excuse of a drunkard father.
But when Dio is given the second chance, the Joestars inviting him into their home, he could change, he could learn from such a noble family, and realise his potential for the betterment of the people around him, like Jonathan seeks to, but all he sees is the mud. He perceives Jonathan to be looking down on him, and insists that he, Dio, must take what he feels the world owes him by force. Dio rejecting his humanity with the Stone Mask is another way of him rejecting fate, as opposed to Jonathan, who embraces his destiny to destroy evil wherever it lurks. Part 1 loves its literary references, especially in the episode that quotes William Makepeace Thackeray, during a scene that demonstrates another central theme of JoJo’s.
“To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best.”
This quote comes in after a very important character sacrifices themselves so that Jonathan may live. No great victory in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure comes without personal sacrifice, but as the characters frequently show us, as long as we hold on to our uniquely human traits, love most of all, the sacrifices are worth it. Dio loved nothing, and lost nothing in his pursuit of power, but Jonathan lost his family, friends, and eventually his own life, in order to do the just thing and stop his brother, so the losses were not wasted. At the end of their time together, Jonathan expresses that he feels an odd warmth for Dio, they are still brothers after all, and the two of them even respect each other despite their fierce opposition. This relationship between hero and villain has yet to be matched in the animated JoJo parts.
2. Diamond is Unbreakable
Shine on, you crazy diamond. If there is one chapter of JoJo that exemplifies the power of love like no other, it’s this one. The change in format this time is the most drastic yet, as this section eschews the globe-trotting, fist-flying action of Part 3, for a slice-of-life/murder mystery/action show. Of course, there are still sick fights with even sicker Stand beatdowns, but DiU has much more of a focus on the everyday mundanities of small-town life.
The entire story this time takes place in the tiny town of Morioh, but beneath the happy exterior, the town’s dignity and honour have been stolen by a monster named Kira: a serial killer who just wants to live a quiet life. It’s Kira’s belief that luck is simply on his side; his killing spree has gone uninterrupted for 15 years, he is uncatchable, due to the fact that he has made himself entirely unremarkable. His entire life he has worked hard to be completely average, to fly under everyone’s radar, to simply live in tranquillity and peace, while he steals the lives of others to fulfil his carnal desires. Part 4 is about a town coming together, challenging adversity, and saving the place they call home.
This is why when Josuke and the gang defeat an enemy, they don’t kill them; their message of love is passed on to the people they fight, and in turn their former adversaries become allies. The Stand users they fight aren’t one-note baddies like in the previous part, they’re just regular people living in Morioh. They’re not evil, they’ve simply got their own hangups like everybody else. Maybe they’re unsuccessful in romance, they just need some cash, or they want to help their family.
Part 4 is what happens when real people acquire Stands. And it’s because they’re real people, people scared of a serial killer in their town like anyone would be, that the moments when the characters steel their resolve, or make a sacrifice for the town, are the moments that DiU shines the brightest. The opening theme of the show says it best: “Let the voice of love take you higher.”
This chapter ranks so highly because of how effectively Araki conveys the central theme in every aspect of the work, especially with the Stand powers representing the worst and best aspects of a character’s personality (contrast Kira’s power to tear apart anything ie. the town, with Josuke’s ability to heal anything, and put things back together). It might still be a fantasy story about spirits that fight other spirits with wacky clothes and anatomically impossible poses, but the down-to-Earth, realistic nature is what makes this chapter of the anime stand out.
1. Golden Wind
We have arrived at the truth. Part 5, Vento Aureo, combines the brutal, life-or-death fights and stakes of Stardust Crusaders, with the complex characterisation of the heroes and villains, and the thematic depth, of Diamond is Unbreakable. A culmination of some of JoJo’s best traits; Araki’s sadistic genius at writing savage Stand battles, but also his soft heart for writing believable and sympathetic characters on both sides. This is reflected in the main character Giorno too, who is often unfairly labelled as ‘boring.’ Being the son of Jonathan and DIO, he has the unwavering morals and sense of shining justice as Jonathan, but the cruelty and self-serving ethics of DIO.
Golden Wind is pretty much identical to Part 3 in the narrative structure, but the fights are more entertaining because the villains have motivations that are as well thought out as the heroes. This is especially apparent in one of the best fights in the entire anime, the Grateful Dead train battle. Prosciutto and Pesci are essentially mirroring Bucciarati and Mista in this fight. Prosciutto might be the villain, but he still inspires confidence and drive in his timid underling Pesci, like Bucciarati with his gang, and in this fight it’s Prosciutto who makes the heroic sacrifice for their cause, placing his absolute trust in Pesci succeeding.
It’s almost tragic whenever the Bucci Gang must fight Prosciutto and the other members of La Squadra, because they both want the same thing; both teams want to kill the mysterious leader of the Southern Italian mafia to which they both belong. La Squadra wants to kill the leader of Passione as revenge for murdering their comrades, and the Bucci Gang want to kill the leader because their righteous, golden hearts cannot abide by the organisation that they belong to selling drugs to children. The difference is that Bucciarati and Giorno don’t believe in taking shortcuts, as their enemies do. The gang will reach the boss by earning his trust, getting close to him, and then striking, which is why they must fight his would-be allies.
That theme by the way, of not taking shortcuts to achieve your goals, is everywhere in Part 5. It’s what the main villain Diavolo’s Stand does. Skips the hard part, to get right to the results. Diavolo believes that, as he often says, he is chosen by fate itself, fate’s champion! Fate has given him a Stand that will never allow him to lose, to never experience the lows of life, only the highs, a Stand that will enable him to stand at the apex of creation! How fitting though, that Diavolo, Italian for ‘Devil,’ should be challenged by the son of DIO, ‘God.’ Giorno and Bucciarati’s gang have the resolve to oppose fate itself, even when fate is set in Rolling Stones.
Golden Wind says that fate is immovable, unchangeable. At first blush, this chapter might seem a sad statement that we can’t change our fate after all. But… It also says that fate rewards righteous ambitions, effort, and sacrifice. Three things that make up Giorno’s gang in Part 5. This chapter ranks at the pinnacle of the JoJo anime seasons because of combining the best fights the series has done so far, with the thoughtful writing that makes you feel for the characters regardless of how bizarre they are.