After reading the first volume of Diamond Is Unbreakable, it felt like a disservice on my part to just skip over Part 3 of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It is considered to be a huge fan favorite and honestly, from what little I read a while back, it was pretty decent. As such, let’s get to it. Stardust Crusaders Vol. 1: is it good?
According to Viz Media’s official description online:
The beginning of the Stardust Crusaders Arc! A fiendish villain once thought to be dead has resurfaced and become even more powerful! To fight this evil, the aging Joseph Joestar enlists the help of his hot-blooded grandson, Jotaro Kujo. Together they embark on a perilous adventure that will take them around the world!
I have to say, the first volume of Stardust Crusaders is probably the best start to any of the first volumes I’ve seen in the franchise so far. The story really clicks right away with the mystery surrounding our new lead’s powers while reintroducing an old threat. Speaking of which, the stakes feel much higher and much more personal than before. Dio was the villain in Part 1, but it’s clear now that he’s much more dangerous than ever before. Even though none of our characters have that personal connection like Jonathan had, Dio’s influence still hits them all in very personal ways. There’s plenty of time spent building up our characters and the situations they get into as well, instead of feeling like we’re rushing from plot point to plot point. This all comes together as a first volume that hooks you right from the beginning.
Character-wise, I feel the manga clicks a little stronger than the previous part of the series as well. I find myself liking our new lead, Jotaro Kuji, right away… almost. The manga opens with a page of his past, growing up with his mom and having a normal childhood, showing he was once a normal kid. Then we see him in the present, grumpier, more easily frustrated and ticked off about things. He’s got an almost punk vibe to him, with police officers bringing up the fact that he got into fights with other delinquents. He mouths off at his mom a lot as well, helping with his unpleasantness that really sets him apart from previous protagonists.
However, despite his bad attitude, Jotaro isn’t really a terrible person either. When not understanding what his Stand is, he sees it as a danger and wants to protect others by staying locked up. When a villain possesses an innocent, he figures out a solution to avoid hurting them. When his mom, who he continuously rags on for being so smothering, gets into danger, he immediately wants to get in on the action to save her. Even when two villains try to kill him, he sees they’re under the influence of Dio and saves them both because he recognizes they were doing things against their will. Jotaro, despite his rough exterior and attitude, is a very noble hero, one I ended up liking more than others.
Beyond Jotaro, we have many other characters joining the action, including a returning Joseph Joestar from Battle Tendency. He’s much older now given how many decades have passed, but his tendency for heroism remains. He is more than eager to avenge his grandfather’s murder and put an end to this evil legacy that looms over his family. While his powers are weaker than the others, he has a partial mentor role and helps guide Jotaro on the right path towards becoming a hero. He is no longer as crafty as he once was, but we see more of that as the manga goes on.
The other characters are less developed but still good for what they are. There’s Avdol, a good friend of Joseph who had a run in with Dio in the past. He’s a second mentor figure, having much better control of his Stand and able to better teach Jotaro how to use his own. Noriaki Kakyoin and Jean Pierre Polnareff are both former villains turned good guys after removing Dio’s influence on them. Kakyoin is kind of boring at this point, but Jean Pierre stands out quite a bit with a strong personality. He has a very noble, honorous heart, fighting our heroes fairly and with dignity. He never takes cheap shots, is incredibly polite, and is just nice all around despite being under Dio’s control. This personality shines through to the end, making our leads want to save him due to just how good he is.
Lastly, we have Dio and Holly Kujo. Dio is barely in the volume, mostly staying in the shadows and letting his minions do his work. However, his ever growing presence casts a shadow over the entire book, making him more threatening and intimidating than ever. Holly, however, is just a damsel in distress. She’s the mother of Jotaro and, outside of just constantly worrying and acting much younger than she is, is just used as a victim to get Jotaro motivated to take on Dio while giving Joseph angst and worry. While I don’t see her being the type of character to get in on the fights, the writing feels so dated around Holly. Plus, given how everything was proceeding it, her getting hurt and slowly starting to die wasn’t really needed. There was already plenty of motivation for our heroes to chase Dio down to begin with.
With Stardust Crusaders, Jojo creator Hirohiko Araki decided to change things up immensely with bringing in Stands. Stands are powerful apparitions created by one’s own life energy that “stand” next to you. They manifest in all different kinds of ways, allowing for some wild moves, looks, and fights. You hurt them, you hurt their user. It’s a very interesting concept and, having read a bit of Diamond Is Unbreakable, it’s used to its fullest. This is when the franchise seems to really kick into high gear and deliver some of the most bonkers, crazy, and “bizarre” action we’ve seen. While I’m sad to see Hamon get put on the backburner, the change does allow for the creator to really flex his creative muscles in ways that only this direction could provide.
And then we come to the artwork, which continues its ever ongoing evolution. While I’ll definitely say Araki has some difficulty with anatomy and poses with rubber spines and bones, his art still remains as dynamic as it has ever been. The action is amazingly over the top and wild to see play out, no matter how gruesome and vicious it gets. The addition of Stands into the franchise brings about wild new ways to depict action and combat. It makes for some amazing fights, such as Jotaro fighting Kakyoin. Things can be a bit too crowded and the occasional flipping the book around to look at the page does interrupt the storytelling more than it should on occasion. Still, despite some odd, sexualized poses for some women in pretty serious story moments, the art is continuing to improve and look better with each passing arc.
Is It Good?
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 3: Stardust Crusaders Vol. 1 is an excellent start for a new part of the series, easily the best I’ve read. While it has some dated writing and tropes in places, it lays down a solid foundation for a roller coaster of a story, fun characters, new ideas that really help define what the series is known for today, and crazy artwork that’s a sight to be seen. If you’re a fan of the series and have somehow not read this one, you may want to finally give it a shot.