Now that’s what I’m talking about. I loved this episode. This is the part of the story where I went from being lukewarm on Stardust Crusaders to being way more into it. Funny how a fight where the protagonist actually seems in legit danger will do that. This battle is also notable for introducing some things that shape the way Stardust Crusaders (and JoJo in general, actually) evolves from here on out. It’s fun!
The first thing of note is of course the almighty JoJo Formula. What is it? I’m glad you asked, even if you didn’t and I’m talking to myself right now! Most (but not all) battles in JoJo keep to a certain progression:
1. Protagonist gets ambushed by a Stand user
2. Protagonist tries to figure out what enemy’s power is; they get their ass beaten HARD while doing so
3. Sudden epiphany when the protagonist gets beat the hell up in such a way that they finally realize the nature of the enemy’s power
4. Protagonist turns things around with a nifty strategy that allows them to get the upper hand
5. BLOOD AND GORE
Simple, but effective! You get story progression and such, but this is the way many arcs in JoJo unfold, particularly in Stardust Crusaders, which is basically a boss rush in manga/anime form. You’d think this would get boring eventually, and in less capable hands, you’d probably be correct. But there’s a reason JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has endured so long; it’s in large part due to the other JoJo Thing introduced in this episode: really weird, esoteric powers.
Up to this point, despite the at the time innovative way of manifesting them (superpowered punch ghosts!), the powers in Stardust Crusaders haven’t been that crazy. Star Platinum punches things hard and fast. Hermit Purple takes pictures of stuff. Magician’s Red shoots fire. Silver Chariot pokes things with a sword. Hierophant Green is probably the weirdest of the heroes since it can control people and such, but it’s main attack is regular ol’ projectiles. The enemies have been a killer bug, a sea monster, and a ghost ship; strange, but not Weird.
Then Polnareff gets attacked by a killer doll armed with a razor, a saw and a spear and that is fueled by pure hatred. Hi there! It’s such a strange condition: the user has to be harmed by the target such that he can feel enough rage to pay back with blood and vengeance. One would think that would become counterproductive at some point, but that is probably part of the thrill. This is definitely the strangest power so far. It’s the point where I think Hirohiko Araki felt that people had gotten used enough to the idea of Stands where it would be OK to unleash weirder stuff. Then he never stopped for like 20+ years.
Not coincidentally, this is also the most fun fight so far, though I suppose it’s an abbreviated version of the typical formula. It’s not as if Polnareff has much to figure out — it’s a doll that wants to cut him up. It makes up for that by not getting beat up in like five seconds. Danger is usually more dangerous when the heroes are actually put into danger rather than saying “Wow, that sure was dangerous!” after the fact.
The clear progression of the battle helps a lot, too. Polnareff gets an easy win at first and becomes overconfident. He’s attacked again and trapped when his guard is down. Then he has to use his wits and surroundings to find a way to win. This isn’t the greatest battle in Stardust Crusaders by a longshot, but it builds and concludes in a satisfying way because the hero has to work to survive. That’s what makes a battle fun: the struggle. If a character can just punch everything to death in a few seconds, then what’s the fun in that? It gets boring eventually. That’s also why it’s so great that the allies get a much bigger role in Stardust Crusaders and other JoJo arcs. We don’t expect them to be like ORA ORA ORA and win instantly, or else they would lead the group. There’s more leeway for them to struggle. (That said, Jotaro doesn’t get to instawin battles much from here on out, either.)
P.S. FACE CHOPPING
Scamp: Why thanks for that nice piece of face-chopping Shinmaru. I wasn’t sure what had happened to that man’s face what with all the censorship. Perhaps the dolls had just tied a big bow around his head and made him look a bit silly. What I find interesting is the devil tarot card can’t attack someone unless he develops a serious grudge against someone. Apparently there are 2 ways he can develop a grudge. Either the person attacked and maimed him, as was the case with Polnareff, or he could give shitty roomservice. That’s the only explanation I can think of for why he got his face chopped off.
This episode is definitely an improvement on the previous ones mostly because the fight itself was interesting and crazy at the same time. Shinmaru has already covered the basic reasons, but what I rather liked was there was a kinda nasty edge to this one with all the testicle references. It practically became a running theme, ending with a man with pristine balls and a destroyed body. It’s kinda fucked up. A true gentlemen never destroys his enemies manly area. He can turn the rest of his body inside out but you dare not mess with the bollocks.
Shinmaru covered most of the rest of the episode, so I want to give a little mention to what Singapore’s degrading national stereotype is. It’s apparently that you have very strict laws on littering. All things considered, if that’s the worst stereotype your nation has, then you’re not doing too bad. If the Stardust Crusaders popped up in Ireland the streets would be littered with drunks and the fields littered with more drunks except this time they’re drunks fucking sheep and eating potatoes or sometimes the other way around. Singapore has strict littering laws. That, and a lion doing the longest spit-take ever. I think you’re doing all right on the stereotype stage.