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.
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…
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.”
Shokugeki no Soma: An Overanalysis
More Expository Nonsense
LynLynSays Nominated Me For The Liebster Award!