Archives for February 2015

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 Phantom Blood Vol 1

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 Phantom Blood, Volume 1 by Hirohiko Araki

I read this volume without much background in this series other than knowing that it was a huge and long-running series in Japan, has a bit of a cult following in Japan, and the books that Viz had been releasing under the shonen jump line started midway through the series. This volume goes back to the earliest story arc in the series, kicking things off with the English nobility, bloodthirsty Aztec masks, and people beating the crap out of each other.

The story kicks off in old school shonen fashion, where a scantily clad woman is sacrificed to the wearer of a mysterious stone mask who proclaims that his accessory drinks the blood of the living. Bones from the mask pierce his skull, but he’s still alive and taking on even more blood sacrifices, not worried about staining his stylish leopard skin pelt cape because he has found the secret to eternal life!

The story then skips over to England, where an evil red-haired young man offers his dying father some medicine. Dio’s father tells him a story about how he accidentally saved the life of a nobleman named Joestar when he came across the wreckage of carriage he was intending to scavenge. Brando tells Dio to go to the Joestars when he becomes orphaned, and Dio does, thus starting the torture of poor young Jonathan Joestar. Dio is immediately adopted as a second son by the Joestar family, but since he is basically the spawn of Satan and Jonathan Joestar is like a friendly naive puppy, things do not go well with the new brothers.

Dio is basically a human form of a cancer, undermining the heir to the Joestar family whenever he gets a chance. It has been a long time since I’ve read a shonen manga this manly! There are speed lines and yelling on almost every page. Jonathan and Dio engage in fistfights and boxing matches, where one blow will end up knocking a half dozen teeth into the air. Towards the end of the book the legacy of the blood drinking Aztec mask is further explored, and Jonathan finally begins to get proof of Dio’s nefarious deeds. The art is really dynamic although the proportions are often a bit off. Often one of the muscular bodies of the main characters will look like it is supporting a shrunken head. If Rob Liebefeld and Tetsuo Hara of Fist of the North Star mashed up their styles you might end up with something like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, except Araki can actually draw feet. I’m sure the art gets much better in subsequent volumes, and even though it wasn’t always to my taste I couldn’t deny the effectiveness of the energy of the many battle scenes in the manga.

As a main character, Jonathan Joestar lets himself be taken advantage of for far too long, but he does manage to battle back as shonen heroes always do. The hardcover edition is really nicely designed, with color pages shifting to further tonal pages where the black and white art is enlivened by shades of orange. This volume ends on a cliffhanger, and I do want to know what happens next, as I assume it will involve more stone mask blood drinking and face punching. I can certainly see why this is such a long-running and popular series in Japan. Recommended for those who want a major dose of testosterone in their manly manga.

Black Rose Alice Vol 3

Black Rose Alice Volume 3 by Setona Mizushiro

I’m glad that Viz is bringing out this series now, because I never collected beyond the first couple volumes of After School Nightmare, which I really regret now. So I’m happy to be able to read another Setona Mizushiro series, and so far my expectations for a manga that is both captivating and weird have easily been met.

In the third volume of the series Alice and her vampire suitors have established a daily life revolving around tasty desserts, with occasional vampire feedings and some light jealous bickering here and there. The stakes for who will procreate with Alice are much higher though, as Leo’s afterlife is about to run out. Leo and Alice always have had a bit more of a natural friendship compared to the other vampires in the house, and now Leo’s courtship of Alice is kicked into high gear by the knowledge of his impending death. Alice likes Leo very much, but she isn’t sure if he’s the one vampire she wants to choose.

In the meantime, Leo strikes up an acquaintance with a novelist who has a terminal disease, and offers her some vampire aid in order to help her finish her last novel. There are obvious parallels between their situations, as the novelist wants to finish one last work, and Leo has to procreate with Alice or he’ll disappear forever. Maximilian and the twins are concerned about Leo, but he forbids them to tell Alice of his impending death, because he doesn’t want to influence her decision.

Maximilian is devastated when Leo calmly faces his own death, but Leo says that he wouldn’t do anything differently and forbids Maximilian from telling Alice the truth. The tonal shifts of this series are really interesting. Each volume seems to be expressing a different main emotion, and the third is a shift away from the kooky slice of life vampire reverse harem scenario that was unfolding in the second volume. There’s sadness and regret in this volume, along with an increasing urgency on the part of the vampires to proceed with their campaign to get Alice to choose them. All along, Mizushiro’s clear and delicate artwork mixes with the elements of body horror that unfold in the manga to create a general feeling of unease and surreality as the story continues. This has got to be one of the oddest shoujo series currently coming out, and it is rapidly becoming my favorite!