Shinmaru: … Hol Horse!! You can’t deny that he secretly has Joestar blood flowing through his veins given his expert application of the Joestars’ most famous battle tactic. Only the Joestars themselves could see it coming, which is why Jotaro and Joseph were able to get the jump on Hol Horse. See, it all makes sense!
A good follow-up to last week’s stakes raising episode. Like I wrote last week, I like the idea of Stand users teaming up to fight when their powers complement each other. J. Geil/Centerfold and Hol Horse provoking Polnareff to fight them on their terms and picking him off when he’s separated from the others is basically the ideal way to fight. (This is how most Stand users approach things from now on, except without the advantage of multiple Stand users attacking at once.) I also like that their downfall comes from getting too confident and pressing the attack solo rather than coordinating another ambush. One could see why it would be beneficial to attack when Polnareff and Kakyoin are weak and confused, but the numbers eventually work to their advantage. Way to provide the blueprint to victory, villains!
But it is a clever solution like the best JoJo battles. That’s what I appreciate about this series: It’s both sides knowing their strengths and weaknesses and using their brains to put themselves in the optimal situation to beat/slice/roast/etc. the hell out of each other. Also, when attacking your enemy involves kicking sand at a kid’s face, you know you’re watching a good battle.
One small thing I enjoyed this episode is how it visually sets up the reappearance of Centerfold after Kakyoin and Polnareff initially escape in the truck. Polnareff rips off the rearview mirror, half out of anger and frustration and half out of suspicion since he knows that Centerfold appears in mirrors before going in for the kill. That sets up the idea that Centerfold is lurking around somewhere and that Polnareff and Kakyoin need to keep a sharp eye out. Then Kakyoin susses out how Centerfold appears in mirrors and the camera swoops around and emphasizes the sunlight and the truck’s reflective surfaces to further hammer home the idea that Centerfold is waiting somewhere. It’s subtle, but also obvious enough that people can catch it and think, “Oh yeah, Centerfold is coming. Where’s he gonna be?” And then there he is, right on the steering wheel. Again, just a small thing, but it’s a nice touch.
Hold on, I want to talk more about why Hol Horse is the best. In an alternate universe, Hol Horse would be the biggest underdog and the greatest hero. He knows exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are and accepts them without complaint. He doesn’t make a big deal about needing a partner to unleash his own potential; in fact, he thrives on it and doesn’t upstage his partner for his own glory. Hol Horse is out there actively setting up a prime battlefield for Centerfold while talking mad shit to Polnareff and Kakyoin. He has all the confidence in the world in his best buddy (who just happens to be a gross, child-killing maniac, but never mind). In another world, Hol Horse would blossom as the sidekick of someone way more powerful than him. Of course, this isn’t another world, so Hol Horse is a slimy asshole who uses women to influence his own escape so that he’ll live to fight another day. Just like our American cowboys!
Scamp: Did you see the Dutch absolutely tear apart the Spanish? With flying dutchmen leaping through the skies for spectacular diving headers and all of that. I was never that big on tiki taka anyway…wait, what? Oh right, anime.
I liked a lot of the shit-talking done in this episode, and indeed in Stardust Crusaders in general. Kakyoin and Polnareff alternating their best “my name is Inigo Montoya” impression as they reveal that they have figured out the trick. It’s very silly altogether but works great in the professional wrestling world that is Jojo’s. Even the villain got into it. He was not as colourful as the suck ma balls puppet or you’re lower than a cockroach dick that was rero rero rero rero rero, but he still got stuck into his villain role. Mind you I’m with Shinmaru in that Hol Horse was better because he was less conventional a generic evil shit-talker in that he’s honestly just kind of a wuss. Wish he got a little more screentime, but we could probably do with speeding things up a bit anyway.
On a more general note, I’ve seen people asking how they should get into the Jojo’s franchise (and that franchises page on this site could do with some updating on that note). People are asking can they just jump into Stardust Crusaders without watching anything previous. To which people have been saying yes you can. Read a quick wiki then jump straight in. And it’s certainly doable. But why would you tell anyone to do that? That’s like saying yes you can skip the sex and just jump straight into the part where you have to change the sheets you just had the sweaty sex all over. Yeah you could skip Battle Tendency, but why would you want to skip the actual great part of the franchise so far? Real talk: I enjoyed Phantom Blood more than I’m enjoying Stardust Crusaders, while Battle Tendency isn’t even a competition.
I just don’t think the monster of the week formula Stardust Crusaders is using works. I’m not feeling any of the character interactions. The constant nagging issue of none of these scenes having much tension or sufficient stakes riding on them means I’m not invested in their outcomes. OK sure Avdol died but he’s Avdol so who cares. The show is at its best with the nonsense shit-talking and generally being very silly and funny. It works best as a comedy, not as a monster-of-the-week shounen formula. Sorry Shinmaru, and I’m aware I’m raining on this parade, but Battle Tendency > Phantom Blood > Stardust Crusaders so far. It hurts me to say this, but I’m just not enjoying Stardust Crusaders that much.