The last thing I wrote on here was in October. A lot of things happened between then and now and a lot of things have changed in my life for better and for worse. But that doesn’t matter because I’m writing on here again! Woo!
So just to get back into the swing of blogging again, I’m going to just take a look back at these last three months and try to give some of my impressions on the things I’ve been watching and playing. There’s been a new Star Wars movie, an entire Fall anime season, and a bunch of really cool games that are just crying out for me to analyze and criticize for thoughts, chuckles, and happy-times.
So hopefully I can get back into the swing of things and maybe get out of my blerch enough to start writing a little more consistently. Because God knows I have a lot of stuff to talk about from the last six months, holy crap.
My greatest strength is probably talking to people. I love getting to know new people and learning about them. My greatest weakness: Pringles.
If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else who would you be, and what would you do?
Probably Donald Trump so that I could give myself thirty-million-dollars and sabotage his presidential campagin from the inside.WHOA I’M GETTING TOPICAL SOMEONE STOP ME BEFORE I SAY SOMETHING ELSE POLITICAL HERE HAVE A GIF
Do you do a crazy dance when no one is looking?
No, I do a crazy dance when everyone is looking.I also double dip my GIFs.
What’s your favorite day of the year?
The first day that actually gets above 50 degrees Fahrenheit so I can open my windows. I like that day, what ever date it happens to fall on.
Something you secretly enjoy?
Well if I told you it wouldn’t be a secret now would it!I don’t actually keep secrets about things I like. I feel like there should be no such thing as a “guilty pleasure.” If you like it, own it!
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Put it right in the bank and pay myself a salary out of it. Probably get a couple degrees. And go on a trip around the world. And move to someplace that isn’t Ohio. Unless it’s like a $5 scratcher, in which case, iunno, probably get an Almond Joy or something.
Shark diving, bungee jumping, or sky diving?
Uh…. Do I have to? Do I have to?Really?
Shark diving, I guess, because of my crippling fear of falling from large heights. And if I went shark diving, maybe the sharks could confirm my nagging suspicion that I am actually Aquaman.
What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to?
Writing and publishing fiction. I really want to give it a shot at some point, but I’m way too busy and also terrified. I’m good with people reading stuff on here, because that’s like expository-opinion-stuff
If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
2010, to tell my younger self that he’s being a jackass.
What’s your favorite food?
General Tso’s Chicken. I can’t find a good Chinese place to deliver to my house though. The best I can get comes kinda soggy and the pieces of broccoli look tiny, wet mops.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
And now for Abysmal…
What is your favorite genre of music?
I listen to everything from 90’s alt rock to trashy contemporary J-pop to 70’s country to funking disco.I hate this question. Everyone asks this question and I can never answer it!
What is your favorite manga that you are currently reading?
The only manga that I am currently reading is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 5. So that one I guess?First two questions: nailed it. 😀
I’m always down for music and manga suggestions though!
Dogs or cats?
Dogs. Dogs love you. Dogs relate to you. Every cat that I have ever met thought of me as an automatic stroking machine and/or a food dispenser. I felt used and dirty. Dogs 100%.
Favorite type of food?
The kind that Umaru-chan eats.
What character from any form of media or print do you relate the most with?
If you could chill with any fictional character, who would it be?
Yukimura Tooru from Aoharu x Machinegun.
He’s just so cute.
I mean look at this shit.
If you could chill with any non-fictional human, who would it be?
He’s just so cute.
I mean look at this shit.
Preferred gaming platform? If you don’t game, why do you hate fun?
PC. It’s what I grew up on, it’s what I know. I play fighting games on the keyboard. I play driving games on the keyboard. My ability to play Rocket League spiked once I went home, bought it, and fiddled with my keyboard layout.
Physical or digital print?
Well, it depends. Digital print is great when they make your textbooks cost half as much. But if it’s a book I think is important and I care about, I like to mark it up and make notes in a physical copy. And it’s just easier for me to remember “about-four-fifths-through” versus page numbers or remembering a searchable sentence like “Eating food is hard sometimes” or “A well-lubricated shaft is key.”
If you had to memorize one book, and that’s the only one you could ever “read” again (lets just say they all burned in a fire by way of tyrannical government, for a loose example not based off of anything at all,) what would it be?
The giant green book on my shelf labeled “The Complete Works of Shakespeare.” Cause FUCK YO RULES.
You just got nominated for an award! What are you going to do next?!Maybe maintain my blog for once HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAiamtrash.
So there we have it. Once again, go check out Marvelously Mismatched and Abysmal. They are beautiful human beings and waited far too long for me to answer their thingy-things.
And thanks for sticking around here, letting me be intermittently smart at you. I’ll try to be back in full force in the next few weeks, but I make no promises. Real life is kind of a dick.
Also I honestly don’t have any more nomination questions in me right now, so, sorry Abysmal but
It’s been a bit since I wrote something without pictures or GIF’s or general sparkles and confetti all around. I think it’s time I get into a more serious issue that’s been on my mind for the past few weeks. Don’t worry, the butts and weeb trash will be back soon ❤
Until then, I want to talk a little bit about an issue I see especially in the “video game community” and gaming content on the internet. Starting at the beginning: I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this blog for a while and, occasionally, what I want to do with my life. As far as life, one of my big options as of right now is game design and games criticism. I’ve always loved games and I think that they deserve to be taken seriously as a narrative medium and as an aspect of culture. That leads into this blog: I want to try and do some more serious critical content on here. The thing is, I’m not sure what criticism actually looks like. Here’s what I mean:
In 2004, Kieron Gillen wrote a piece called The New Games Journalism that has informed pretty much every piece of writing about video games for the past ten years. His concluding advice to games journalists, his “new dogma to drive around the intellectual motorway:
1) The worth of gaming lies in the gamer not the game.
2) Write travel journalism to Imaginary Places.”
I think, in many ways, these have become core values of games journalism, and “YouTuber” review content in particular. What these two ideas seem to suggest are that 1) a meaningful review of a game has to talk about player experience, which is entirely subjective and 2) that video games are essentially taking the players on a journey to another world, and a potential-player should be exposed to some of what that world is like. One of the more problematic effects of this is what I see as a strange blending of review and criticism.
According to most definitions I’ve been able to find, review is inherently consumer-oriented. It discusses measurable characteristics of a thing and tells the audience whether or not they will get enough use or enjoyment out of this particular thing to justify its asking price. Criticism, on the other hand, engages with the meat and potatoes of a thing: how it works, why it works, what it says about the people that created it and the society it exists in. Criticism engages with big ideas. A central assumption of real criticism is that the object of that criticism (a book, a movie, a game, you name it) is important. It is important enough and meaningful enough to examine closely and put in the context of the human experience. Bottom line: these words are not interchangeable. They do not refer to the same thing. A “games journalist,” “games reviewer,” and “games critic” are three different things. They have different goals and use different means to achieve them.
When it comes to games, most reviews that I see on the internet consist of a set of parts:
1) Introduction to the game: Why the review is worth your attention.
2) Technical details: graphics, controls, etc.
3) Qualitative judgement: Was it “fun?” Was it interesting? How did the reviewer feel when playing it?
4) Conclusion: usually consists of “buy it/don’t buy it”
5) Obligatory numerical score: x/10, x%, some collection of stars, tomatoes, or human thumbs.
I think this kind of structure is pretty typical of a game review. At the end of the day, it has internalized the idea of a game’s meaning lying in the player and not the game itself. I have some issues with that idea.
Number one, to say that the meaning of the game is in the gamer is like saying the worth of a book is in the reader: true but only helpful to a point. Yes, games as an interactive and dynamic medium are unlike traditional media in many important ways, but at the end of the day they are controlled. Games have set boundaries, rules, and are designed to be experienced in particular ways. Even if the game is “broken” or even just modified in some way, it is still limited by the engine and the basic code of the game. Games are not, and should not be, open experiences for people to play around in without any restriction: those would be toys. Beautiful, interesting, magnificent toys, perhaps, but still toys. Games are inherently limited by their mechanics and design. How a player engages with the game is extremely important, but to say the game itself has no worth outside of the gamer is to diminish the role of the designer in creating cogent, compelling experiences that gamers want to play. It would be ridiculous to try to engage with a book based solely on how it made the reader “feel,” over actually looking at the text.
Number two, it makes review look more like criticism without actually opening games up to serious criticism. The structure I described earlier engages with ideas, to a point. But it is entirely consumer-oriented. The bottom line is not “What does this mean?” but rather “Is this worth my money?” Which is important and necessary. Games are commodities and it makes sense to talk about them in terms of whether their quality justifies the cost. However, I think that there is a serious expectation among some sections of the gaming community that all things written about video games be written from that perspective.
Something that is not consumer-oriented, something that engages with video games in terms of feminist theory, representation, Christian theology, or anything else, is usually criminally under-viewed or subject to outright hostility. If there is a high-profile space for serious games criticism that sees high traffic and audience engagement, please show it to me because that is all I want in life.
Let’s get back to NGJ. For Gillen, New Games Journalism seems to be at its best when “you’ll be interested in it even if you [don’t] give a fuck about videogames.” You know who writes stuff like that, whether you agree with her or not? Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency. You know what she gets for it? Death threats. And claims that she isn’t a “real gamer” so she doesn’t have the right to talk about video games. Even if that’s true, who cares? What does it matter? Why do some people seem to think that being their definition of a proper “gamer” is a prerequisite for being able to engage with video games at all? Some of them are just fools and children, but this kind of territorial mindset is disturbingly commonplace among some gamers. To me, it would be amazing if someone who didn’t give a fuck about games started talking about games as important aspects of culture and society. Because that would mean that the war was finally. fucking. over. It would mean that there are people recognizing the importance of video games as cultural artifacts without being personally invested in them. I may hate the Great Gatsby, but I recognize that it’s important. I think most abstract expressionist painting is ugly, but I recognize that it has meaning and reflects something important about humanity.
The difference between review and criticism is, to me, that criticism only happens to serious media. And there is a lot of good games criticism out there. But, I think that so much emphasis is placed on games by developers and gamers as a consumable product that we are fighting ourselves on the front of video games as art. Because there is a very real element in gaming culture that is hostile to critical content if it violates their basic values of “the-customer-is-always-right” and “free-expression-means-freedom-from-disapproval.”
If we want the world to take video games seriously, we, the “hardcore” gamers that love them and cherish them, have to take them seriously ourselves. Sometimes, that means finding faults. Sometimes, that means looking at things that might make us uncomfortable. Sometimes, that means listening to other people’s bullshit and responding like reasonable adults. Sometimes, it means having disagreements but still respecting each other as people who just want what’s best for the industry, for games, and for players. If we want to hold the ground that we’ve gained in the past ten years in the fight for recognition, we need to start building more spaces for games criticism. We need to bring out our fine-grain tools and and ask deeper questions than “Does it suck?” Games are important. They have meaning. They can tell us about our world and about ourselves. Consumer-oriented reviews are legitimate and important, but games are more than just a ratio of hours-of-enjoyable-gameplay-to-pricetag.
Back to my question about what to do with this blog: I have found myself drafting a lot of posts that are just simple “Here’s a thing that I like and why.” I don’t want this blog to be about that. I’d like to go a little deeper, actually analyse things and look at how their parts come together to make a whole. I think that I’ve been limiting myself for no good reason. I mean, I’m only really writing this for myself and the occasional blip of WordPress traffic (that sweet sweet WordPress traffic…). This post may have been a little bit heavy and a little bit rushed, but I really think that this is an important issue worth talking about. So hopefully, you let me be smart at you and read this far. If you did, you’re a rock star.
I’m sure that plenty of you might disagree with any of the things I mention in this post, or anywhere else on this blog. If you do, let’s talk about it! I’m not the final word on any of this shit. If you let me be smart at you, then I’m gonna let you be smart at me. It’s only fair.
And so I promise, my next post will be thoughtful, well-considered, and dignified.
This isn’t exactly the kind of smart/dumb/critical/third-person writing I have usually done on this site. For the past few weeks, I have had to deal with a number of issues in my home, personal, and financial life. In addition to meaning I have less time and energy to write on this blog (which I absolutely love doing,) these problems have also led me to quit my rinky-dink on-campus sales job where I made a whopping 10% commission and no base pay. In the few months I’ve been there, I have made around $100. I loved the environment and everybody there but a quick cost-benefit analysis told me that I had to go.
You could ask, quite reasonably, why I’m writing about this stuff here. Well, apart from the old It’s-my-blog-and-I-do-what-I-want stance, I wanted to take time to level with you guys who read my posts regularly about why I haven’t been very consistent about when I have new content ready. More importantly, I wanted to level with myself in a kinda-public space where I can be kinda-held accountable for what I say and do. And I felt like I wanted to churn out a quick blog post to make myself feel validated.
Big point: I really want to write more. And I would prefer to write about things that matter to me that I have something original/meaningful to say. I have some ideas and drafts churning around and hopefully I can turn those into full posts pretty soon. I also have a third LiebsterAward to do from MarvelouslyMismatched, and I may do one of those “blogger challenge” things. So I have stuff coming down the pipeline! In the meantime, I just wanted to check in and tell you lovely internet people about why I haven’t been smart at you as often as I’d like.
And clocking in at just under 400 words, this post is shameless filler. And that’s okay.
PS If you guys have things you’d like to see me write about or just general suggestions/tips and tricks, why not shoot me a comment? C’mon, you know you wanna…
FLCL (pronounced “Fuli-Kuli” and usually seen as “Fooly-Cooly) is about fifteen years old. Anything that can be said about it has probably already been said somewhere else. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really don’t need my recommendation. You just need to watch it. It’s six episodes clocking in at about two hours in total. You have no excuse.
The reason I bring it up is because I think found a new favorite. Maybe a new favorite anime, maybe a new favorite show-in-general, maybe a new favorite thing ever made.
To some, the non-stop high-energy occasionally-incomprehensible nonsense of a show like Fooly-Cooly might be a bit too much to swallow. But by the end of the first episode, I knew that this was going to be exactly what I wanted out of an anime.
I don’t want to go into the details of the plot of FLCL, because there are too many to even begin with. I don’t want to talk about the art direction and animation, beautiful and frenetic though it is. I don’t even want to talk about how every character serves a purpose, has a unique personality, and develops in a compelling and interesting way. Instead, I wanted to talk about one overarching theme, and only one: ordinary life.
The protagonist, a 12-year-old boy named Noata, says of his suburban home town, “Nothing amazing ever happens here.” The show trying and, in a way, failing to prove that statement wrong is something that goes on in the background of every episode of FLCL. It motivates the plot, hanging in the air of every scene, especially the really crazy ones (which is basically all of them)
The most interesting thing about this isn’t just that Naota begins and ends the show believing that nothing amazing ever happens in his hometown, but that he spends the entire middle of the show with its robot-fighting-head-exploding-alien-fighting-flying-vespa nonsense *also* believing that nothing amazing ever happens in his hometown. That seems like a really interesting way to think about FLCL: that everything that happens *has* to be ordinary, otherwise it wouldn’t happen. It adds a level of depth to the depiction of Naota’s adolescent mindset. He’s convinced himself, basically, that he’s the most responsible and intelligent human in the world and his town is the worst place ever and nothing cool ever happens. That sounds exactly like me at 12. It sounds like most people at 12. I’m not sure where to go with this, but this whole idea that Naota is forcing himself to see everything that happens to him as ordinary by definition seems to make everything about FLCL mesh a little bit better. And if everyone is engaging in this fantasy, then this coming-of-age story gets a new wrinkle.
Maybe that’s really how everyone grows up, by learning to see the absurdities of the world around them as normal. Mamimi, Haruko, Naota, his father, and his grandfather all represent different stages of young adulthood. Naota is getting hit with the jarring, world-shattering truth that he won’t be a kid forever, so he tries to be the best little adult he can be. Mamimi is the natural extension of that mindset. After losing a serious love, she is consumed by loneliness and tries to compensate by forming one-sided relationships with persons, animals, and objects. Maybe she was once like Noata, desperate to grow up before she was ready. Haruko is a possible development from Mamimi’s situation. She’s rebellious and self-determined. She knows herself and her own desires. She isn’t beholden to anyone or anybody. Someone like Mamimi, desperate to love and be loved, can certainly react in a way that embraces solitude and self-reliance over interpersonal attachments. Haruko is a representation of youth: individualism to the point of carelessness. Naota’s father and grandfather, through their dialogue and particularly Naota’s father’s sexual attraction to Haruko, represent adulthood trying to recapture youth.
And that’s really interesting to me, because if these characters represent different steps in human growth, then it just highlights how we all engage in the same kind of mental gymnastics that Naota does when he suggests that nothing out of the ordinary happens in his town filled with alien-hunters, space-pirates-and-police, flying Vespas and TV-headed robots. Just like Mamimi and Naota, we are all desperate to grow up. Just like Haruko and Naota’s dad, we are all desperate to become kids again. And maybe that’s the weirdest thing of all.
I’m not sure that I can nominate anymore people for this award right now, just because I haven’t been at this for long enough to have a really big list of cool small-scale bloggers. When I do, maybe I’ll come back and add more. I have a list already made on my previous Liebster post that I will add to as I find cool people. Either way, here’s my answers to the eleven questions from Abysmal!
What made you start blogging?
I asked this question to the people I nominated as well. It was also the first question.
… oh dear…
I started blogging because I wanted a place to collect my expository bullcrap about video game politics and anime and then, somehow, it just became an anime blog? I wanted a place where I could write what I wanted to write and barf out my feelings about media. A lot of my meatspace friends get a little irritated when I constantly overanalyse everything and end up talking forever without letting them get a word in edgewise. (I call that “being smart at someone.” That’s where the name comes from.) I decided I would try to be smart at the internet just to see what stuck.
And I guess, in the future, if I want someone to give me money for putting words together, I just thought it might be cool if I could say “Hey, look at these dumb and smart things I’ve written over the years.”
What is your favorite book of all time and why?
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. I love everything Pratchett ever wrote, but Small Gods has a really cheerful kind of cynicism that can’t be explained. It’s a book about religion and political intrigue, told from the perspective of a young initiate and the talking turtle that used to be God. That should be enough for anyone.
That answer may change by tomorrow. I’m really bad at that question.
Coke or Pepsi?
Pepsi, but really I just drink whatever happens to be in my fridge or at the vending machine.
Do you write anything outside of blogging?I write papers for school. I’m working on a paper right now about medieval history and how Assassin’s Creed is just really dumb and kind of racist to present at a conference. Sometimes I’ll write fan-fiction or just fiction-fiction. Most of my writing for the past month and a half has been for this blog, though.
Are you in a career/what is your ideal career?I’m still in college, so I wouldn’t say I’m in a career. My ideal career would be something where I could make people laugh and make people think and wear a black t-shirt and jeans everyday. I’m not entirely sure on the details yet, but I’m working on it.
What is your favorite genre to listen to while writing, if any?J-Pop and anime OPs/EDs. I like GARNiDELiA and Ayumi Hamasaki. I guess in general, I like anything with a lot of energy and buzz. I can’t listen to slow music like jazz or classical when I’m writing. Writing isn’t something I can do while I relax: it’s a lot of work to make a blog post as good as it can be and it takes a lot of energy out of me.
Favorite series (of anything)?
Anime: Kill la Kill
Live Action: Parks and Recreation
Have you ever learned or tried to learn a second language?I have tried and am still trying! One of my super long-term before-I-die goals is to be fluent in a bunch of languages. Also, if I wanted to go to graduate school, some kind of non-English language proficiency would be helpful. I took a semester and a half of Spanish before switching to Japanese like a proper weeb. I’m trying to keep up with Spanish once in a while, but I’m mainly trying to learn at least a little bit of French and Japanese. I don’t think I’m going to get anywhere very soon but I really haven’t got much better to do in my free time.
But for real, I’m not going to say for fear of the judging eyes of the internet.
And because I honestly can’t think of one…
Favorite bad piece of media/literature (so bad its good)?
Some of the absolute garbage licensed Star Trek novels of the past forty years. Also, I cherish Adam West’s Batman. It was a simpler time, for simpler folk, the nineteen-sixties. When a man can put clown make up on over a full mustache and stand in front of a television camera, something has gone terribly right.
Do you prefer immersing yourself in something or keeping an outsider’s perspective?
This is deep. Real deep, man.I don’t think that it can be reduced to an either-or statement. I prefer to take things on their own terms. “Does it follow its own rules?” That’s my basic premise when I talk about games or anime or TV. But things don’t exist in a vacuum. Keeping with the theme of analyzing media, shows and books and movies influence each other in different and complex ways. It’s important to understand how they relate to one another. Context is the thing, I suppose. I always want to make sure everything is understood in the right context, whatever perspective you take.
And there you have it. My second shot at one of these things.
I’m tempted to nominate Abysmal again just to keep this crazy train on it’s tracks but I’m not going to be that guy. Abysmal is an awesome blog, crazy smart, and crazy funny. If you like anything I’ve written even a little bit, go check out Abysmal, and I promise it will be as good or better.
Let me preface this with a statement: I love JoJo. I think it’s fun and delightful and interesting and just balls-to-the-wall crazy enough to keep me coming back for more. But… But… But the Stardust Crusaders finale disappointed me.
With the general acceptance that this comes from a place of warm affection and love, like it always does, let’s start tearing this beloved 20+ year old story to bloody shreds!
1. The Buildup
JoJo has so much deus-ex machina you guys. So much. For the first four-fifths of the series, Joseph and his Merry Band of Fuckwits manage to defeat every enemy they come across without any real consequences. A few examples?
Hierophant Green: Jotaro goes oraora and wins.
Tower of Gray: Kakyoin gets gud and wins.
Dark Blue Moon: Jotaro invents a new power on the fly and wins.
Silver Chariot: Avdol (basically) invents a new power on the fly and wins.
Strength: Jotaro gives a mini-lecture on biological determinism and oraoras the lolicon orangutan to death. (Favorite sentence I’ve ever written so far, by the way!)
Yellow Temperance: Jotaro almost doesn’t solve a problem via oraora but then has to oraora him to death because he was an idiot.
The Sun: Everyone was an idiot until they weren’t.
Judgement: Avdol comes back and wins because reasons.
Don’t get me wrong: I loved the entire arc, bullshit and all. It never took itself too seriously or pretended that it wasn’t ridiculous. After all, it’s not called Jotaro’s Remarkable, If Somewhat Underwhelming, Tour Of South Asia and the Middle East. It’s a Bizarre Adventure! The deus-ex machina was always clear. It never felt really out of place. It felt like a part of the world. It felt like one of the laws of JoJo nature: let bad stuff happen until ORAORAORAORAORAORA.
2. The Final Fight
The fight against Vanilla Ice seemed to suggest that things were going to be different in the run up to the finale. The ruthlessness of Vanilla Ice was supposed to be just a taste of what we could expect from Dio.
There weren’t going to be any more easy answers after Avdol and Iggy died. The group, and the through them, the viewer, lost more in the one fight against Vanilla Ice than in the rest of the arc combined.
The build-up to the actual confrontation with Dio was perfect. It showed us exactly how Dio operated. The longer it went, the more mysterious Dio became. And then, Dio kills Kakyoin, but in the process, Kakyoin figures out the secret behind his Stand: Dio can stop time. And Old Man Joseph manages to figure it out in time to tell Jotaro.
Dio kills Joseph (sort-of) and then he and Jotaro duke it out for two episodes. A bunch of stuff happens that I’m going to gloss over for now because ROAD ROLLER DA.
3. The Final FINAL Fight
Up to this point, JoJo had me bought and paid for. On some level, I knew about ROAD ROLLER DA, but I had completely forgotten about ROAD ROLLER DA. My brain glitched for a couple seconds and then I was *captivated* by ROAD ROLLER DA. This one attack said more about Dio than the entire first arc: He’s still freakin’ crazy, but a hundred years of hibernation at the bottom of the sea and the time he spent building his small army of Stand-users gave him a ruthless practicality. He’s no longer mutating creepy zombies to throw at the good-guys or taking women and children from their homes just to toy with them.
He knows that he’s damn near invincible, but not quite there yet. He’s seen what Jotaro has done up to this point in the fight and knows not to underestimate him. So what does he do? DROPS A FUCKING LITERAL STEAMROLLER ON TOP OF HIM. That’s not overkill: that’s common sense! Star Platinum has deus-ex machina-ed every fight he was put into just by becoming RANDOMLY MORE AWESOME. Dio’s already seen that happen, first hand, and decided that Jotaro’s not gonna catch him monologuing. He does what anyone would do in his position; he stops time and goes to squish him like an insect!
This is what makes Dio so dangerous in Part 3: the lengths to which he’s willing to go to defeat his enemies and gain power. And also make sure he doesn’t spend another hundred years at the bottom of the ocean.
4. DIO Dies I Guess?
Then, and you can see it coming, there was the Bullshit. It was exciting and satisfying, in the moment. But after letting it settle for a month or so, it… it all happened too fast. Like when you eat through the entire can of Pringles without looking, even though you know it’s technically three servings of Pringles in that can, and suddenly you realize you missed the opportunity to savor the salt and the crunch of each crisp? Then you look into the can and see the three broken pieces and the dust of crumbs, and all you can think of is what might have been? That’s my feeling, looking back at the ending of Stardust Crusaders.
Through the entire fight, Jotaro and Dio had been fighting each other not just with their fists but with their minds, both making bold moves and counter-moves. Then after the ROAD ROLLER DA, it feels like Araki didn’t know how to amp it up properly. It’s revealed that Jotaro stopped time at the end of Dio’s limit and then ends up standing behind him, ready to punch the shit out of him.
This was where the finale started to lose me. Really? Jotaro… can just… can just fucking do that HE CAN JUST… FUCKING STOP TIME TOO? REALLY? This is never foreshadowed! This is never even indicated in anyway, subtle or overt! Star Finger, I could handle. I can handle Random-New-Power-Syndrome in the first few episodes. But in the Final Episode of the Series? No. Not even a little bit.
I suppose the fact that Jotaro can move in stopped time might have been a clue, but come on, He goes from moving a little bit, to being able to last a few seconds, to STOPPING TIME HIMSELF? With enough accuracy to escape from underneath a steamroller at quite literally the last possible second? With none of the internal monologues that LITTER every scene in JoJo? This is a little much for me. Waiting to see what rabbit they pull out of their hat to get out of Random Sticky Situation #5 is fine. But after all the build up and the suspense and the emotion they threw into the last four episodes of the season? I was holding out for something really spectacular. And I don’t mean to say that it didn’t feel awesome to watch the first time, because it was. But at the end of the day, it was just another rabbit in Jotaro’s weird hat-that-is-also-his-hair.
And then… it happened.
The fight didn’t end there. The fight ends, outside of stopped time, with Dio all healed up and ready to go. And they have a QUICK DRAW.
A. QUICK. DRAW.
Is that supposed to be character development? Is Jotaro’s decision not to immediately oraora the vampire monster that HE’S BEEN HUNTING FOR WEEKS AND KILLED ALL HIS FRIENDS into a thin paste supposed to mean he has developed a ham-fisted overly saccharine sense of pseudo-honor like his square of a great-great grandfather? And is this supposed to be… good?
The time for posturing passed around the time Avdol got disintegrated and Iggy got kicked to death and Kakyoin got his guts punched out and Joseph “Second-JoJo-Is-Best-JoJo” Joestar got DRAINED DRY for Dio to go all Next-Level Vampire!
I wanted serious character development. I wanted Jotaro to use the wits that we know he has to outsmart Dio: to get him to let his guard down and then punch him until he cannot be punched anymore.
What I got was a swift jab to the inner thigh. And then he just exploded.
It’s like Jotaro just found the big red button that says “DO NOT PRESS” and then hit it.
Add eight minutes of epilogue and some Second JoJo being Best JoJo, and that’s Stardust Crusaders, folks.
5. “You Really Pissed Me Off.”
The entire appeal of the last fight for me was that, for once, punching didn’t work.
PUNCHING DIDN’T WORK.
Punching actually made things WORSE.
Dio expected punching and used Star Platinum’s barrage to launch himself back to Joseph, so he could drain his blood.
And punching is basically Star Platinum’s only thing.
How Jotaro dealt with this obstacle was super compelling to me.
As someone who hadn’t read the manga and was experiencing the story for the first time, I was excited to see how this was going to end.
But then… then… punching just… works again?
All things being equal ten minutes earlier in the episode, this same situation would have made Jotaro a bloody smear on the pavement. We were all there. We saw how fast The World was and how a direct assault would never work against it. But then, the fight ends… with a direct assault.
It almost makes me feel bad for Dio! Jotaro got time stopping powers right before he was crushed by the steamroller because reasons, breaks Dio’s legs, then says killing him then and there would leave a “bad taste in his mouth.” He wants a fair fight.
WHEN DID DIO EVER GIVE ANYONE A FAIR FIGHT?
He didn’t give Kakyoin or Joseph fair fights. He didn’t give Jotaro a fair fight, either! But for some reason, Jotaro picks the exact moment when everything is going his way for no good reason to get stupid.
First JoJo did that turn-the-other-cheek-you’re-still-my-stepbrother-honor-until-the-end nonsense and look what happened? Dio stole his body and used it to kill and manipulate countless people! And Jotaro’s modus operandi the entire series has been “ORAORAORA I’m sorry I can’t hear you over the sound of my fists hitting your face ORAORAORA.” And then he waits until he’s hovering over Dio, able to crush him like a grape, to decide that that’s not his style anymore.
We don’t even get the satisfaction of a final rush attack, bringing to bear all the pent up feelings of justified rage that the show has been nurturing in us. All Jotaro does is hit Dio in his no-no spot so he blows up. And all the investment and emotional build-up of the past three episodes is blown up with him.
Even though it is established that the only way to kill a vampire is to destroy their brain.
And Jotaro hit him in the leg.
While Dio had his guard up.
And we have seen Dio handle more decisive attacks than that in the same episode.
The rest of the finale was great. It was the best way that the characters could have been sent off, going their separate ways but swearing to remember, and the story felt complete. But it felt rushed. Forced. Like there wasn’t enough time to write the actual ending, so it had to end up as just another Joestar magic trick instead of a really satisfying victory for Jotaro. It was as if he went through the whole fight, only to have his winning moves handed to him from on-high. He didn’t win through his own skill or ability or even in a way consistent with his own character: he won because he was the good guy. Punching really hard didn’t work on The World…
…until it did.
So when Jotaro says “There’s a reason for your defeat, DIO. One simple reason. You pissed me off…”
…Perhaps what he means is “There’s a reason for your defeat, DIO. One simple reason. The pound of pressure-sensitive explosives you must have kept hidden inside your left leg.”