16 volumes (complete)
Here we are at Stardust Crusaders, the third part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. It follows Jotaro Kujo, the grandson of Battle Tendency’s Joseph Joestar, who also tags along for the ride. Dio Brando, the sworn enemy of Jonathan Joestar, has risen from the grave once again
due to a plot hole, because Erina totally took his reinforced coffin at the end of Phantom Blood. Dio’s rebirth brings with it the development of Stands — spiritual manifestations of psychic powers — among the Joestars, including Jotaro’s mother, Holly, who is in danger because her Stand is slowly killing her. Jotaro, Joseph and Joseph’s friend, Mohammed Avdol, embark on a long journey to Cairo, where Dio is hanging out, so that they can kick Dio’s ass and save Holly.
Stardust Crusaders is the most well known of all the JoJo arcs. It’s also where, I think, Araki’s ability as an artist catches up with his ability as a writer. Stardust Crusaders’ art starts off solid (if occasionally blocky) and gets quite good by the end. There’s a great level of detail in the settings, the character designs are cool, the layouts for the battles are more clever than before, and on and on. Lots of improvements, big and small, to the art that make it that much better than Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency. After a certain point, I’d probably pause a few times per volume just to admire a particularly well-drawn scene. Araki came a long way from Phantom Blood. (To be fair, it probably helps that I read the Viz release rather than crappy scans.)
It also introduces a concept that shifted a ton of things in the manga: Stands. Yes, the Ripple is out for the most part (Joseph uses it a bit, but not much), and Stands are the new hot shit. As I wrote mere sentences ago, Stands are the manifestation of one’s psychic abilities (Araki made them spiritual entities because he wanted a visually interesting way to draw psychic powers), but more importantly than that, they are a vehicle for Araki to turn the story into anything he wants at any given moment.
(Note: There will be minor spoilers in this post. There are precious few big twists to spoil in Stardust Crusaders, but I won’t be writing about any of that.)