(Note: for the purposes of consistency and convenience, these reviews will rely on the original Stand names instead of their altered names).
David Production are certainly no slouches when it comes to their project. In addition to working on Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On from 2016-2018, this year alone sees them taking on three different big projects. In addition to the latest adaptation of the hit soccer manga Captain Tsubasa, they also had a popular hit this past summer with their adaptation of the manga series Cells At Work. And now it’s time for the third of these projects, with DavidPro’s latest installment of the adaptation that made them a household name: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. After nearly two years of waiting since the end of Diamond is Unbreakable, it’s finally time to dive into the fifth story arc of the beloved franchise: Golden Wind.
The setting is Naples, Italy, 2 years after the end of Diamond. We’re introduced to our protagonist of this arc, Giorno Giovanna, roaming the streets, chatting it up with the locals, and pickpocketing whatever he can. His grifting often takes place around the airport, where he bumps into a very familiar face: part 4’s Koichi Hirose, sent here on a mission from Jotaro to track down an individual named “Haruno Shiobana,” believed to be the son of who else but DIO. Koichi unfortunately ends up getting scammed out of his suitcase by Giorno, and despite his best efforts, he escapes before he can get it back. He ends up learning about Giorno through some nearby security officers, which solidifies in his mind that he is, in fact, the Haruno Shiobana that Koichi’s looking for. Meanwhile, Giorno finds himself confronted by a mobster named Leaky Eye Luca, who’s pissed that he hasn’t received any payments from Giorno for working his turf. Their confrontation ends with Giorno using the power of his Stand, Gold Experience, to redirect a fatal blow back onto Luca and killing him.
Following this confrontation, Giorno goes about his business until Koichi runs into him yet again. Another conflict ensues, once again ending with Giorno getting away as he takes a ride on a cable car away from the madness. However, he finds himself confronted yet again by a stranger inquiring about Leaky Eye Luca, and when the truth about their fight is revealed, the stranger starts a fight with Giorno. He reveals himself as Bruno Bucciarati, a member of a mob organization called Passione, of which Luca was also a member, and he also shows off his own Stand power: Sticky Fingers (named after the Rolling Stones album that featured “Brown Sugar” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking“), allowing him to warp in and out of tangible space using zippers. Giorno gains the upper hand momentarily, but Bruno manages to escape, forcing him to track him down. He escapes and hides himself among a group of random civilians, but Giorno manages to root him out, and the fight ultimately comes its end as Giorno decides not to kill Bruno. Instead, he plans to join Passione and become a mob boss himself as a way of clearing the streets of corruption.
Bruno sets up a meeting between Giorno and Polpo, a capo representing Passione’s boss (the boss likes being as anonymous as possible). The meeting takes place in a prison cell where he’s serving a 15-year sentence, choosing to give orders from his cell. During the meeting, Polpo lays out that he needs recruits that can be trusted, and so he gives Giorno a test: hold on to a lighter for 24 hours and make sure the flame does not go out at all. As soon as he gets out of the prison, Giorno heads back to his dorm room and sets up the lighter in a safe place where it won’t be disturbed. Unfortunately, an unexpected visitor arrives, as Koichi shows up looking for his passport to get out of town. Giorno manages to get the lighter back in his direct possession without being seen, but as he heads back out, a janitor splashes him with water that extinguishes the flame. He reignites the lighter, but Giorno finds the situation suspicious, only to have those suspicions confirmed when a Stand suddenly appears, killing the janitor with an arrow before setting its sights on Giorno.
Naturally, a great deal of hype has been building up to Golden Wind’s premiere since its proper announcement, and there’s a lot that can be discussed within these first 3 episodes about setting the stage for the season. The best place to start is with the art style, seeing an expected radical change from the aesthetics of the previous season. Golden Wind can best be described as a hybrid of the past two arcs, combining the saturated pop-art color palette of Part 4 with the angular, heavily accentuated physicality of Part 3. While there haven’t been any ‘90s-style grotesquely muscular beefcakes so far, the character models have thick bold outlines and sketched lines that accentuate their various physical features, especially with their eyes. This is possibly one of the truest representations of Araki’s art style yet, and this is combined with some greatly improved animation and effects in the fight scenes. The show’s editing style still skews heavily towards superimposing characters’ faces overtop the action to highlight the intensity of everything.
Our protagonist, Giorno, is already established as quite a morally complex character from the start. His backstory involves a great deal of parental neglect and child abuse (we are talking DIO’s kid here), and his experiences taught him to look at people in ways that accurately judge their character as being good or bad. A fateful encounter with a mobster in particular drove him to respect them as the real heroes that clean the streets of corruption where other legal forces often fail to do so, and these influences combine into an interesting character to follow, as he doesn’t seek to actively harm anyone, even saying that he’s never used his Stand power in a directly offensive manner.
Speaking of Stand powers, Giorno’s Stand also helps reinforce his characterization. As we see throughout the episodes, Gold Experience’s predominant use is to imbue inanimate objects with organic life, choosing to give life rather than try to take it away. The Luca fight shows that it additionally returns any inflicted damage on affected entities back to the attacker, with the ending shot of this fight looking particularly painful. The uses of this Stand are particularly flexible, as we see multiple times throughout these first three episodes, with the most prominent unique usage being in the fight with Bruno. The fight itself is particularly tense and stressful, conveyed best by the infamous scene of Bruno licking Giorno’s nervous sweat, and seeing him try to navigate Sticky Fingers’ zipper is as nerve-wracking as always. The big highlight comes when Gold Experience lands a hit that overloads Bruno’s consciousness and knock it out of his body. This is followed by another *hard* hit to his physical form, and the editing slows down to show every frame of the hit, making sure the full force of the impact is felt. All of this is accompanied by the usual fantastic sound design that the series is known for by now, with Gold Experience’s punches conveying the same kind of bombastic electronic pulsations that characterized The World’s time stops. Bruno’s zippers are also heavily accentuated, with several sharp punches of zipping in the mix when his power is used.
Part of what makes that one particular punch so great is how it works as excellent visual storytelling. Not only is it satisfying to see on a purely visceral level, but that show becomes a plot point later on. When Giorno is trying to track down Bruno’s location, he finds that he’s hidden in the body of a young teen. To do this, he transforms Bruno’s knocked-out tooth into a fly that chases down the correct body, showing off the kind of dense puzzle logic that characterizes the franchise’s fights. Moments like this are what make these battles endlessly engaging to watch. In addition, the music hits the right amount of suspense in these scenes, with a recurring emphasis on mid-pitched operatic vocals which are a microtone apart and drone on for an uncomfortable length of time, calling to mind the Star Gate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey (humorous, considering the very first page of the manga has a line of dialogue referencing the film itself).
In another great moment of visual storytelling, there’s Giorno’s meeting with Polpo in the prison cell. The scene is framed rather sinisterly: Giorno walks in a dark room to see a brightly lit cell cut off by a glass window. It looks suspiciously empty, but then Polpo himself morphs into the space, with his grotesque large form having morphed into the bed before revealing himself. There’s a lot of really excellent shot composition and lighting at play: we get several shots of Polpo’s cell as Giorno talks to him, with the room placed off-center showing us the darkened entrance that he came in through. There’s a very deliberate contrast between the brightly lit room and the darkened prison cell, and this is emphasized further by Polpo’s sheer imposing presence casting an intimidating shadow on Giorno, which foreshadows the appearance of the Stand at the end of episode 3.
If there’s one thing to be acknowledged as a potential criticism so far, it’s that the story gets more to the point at the beginning than previous seasons. More specifically, the opening events of the story are written and paced in a way that suggests you should already be familiar with previous stories. This is most evident when we start off with Giorno roaming the streets of Naples, as we get a few scenes obscuring his face from view before we see him more properly, minus any sort of identifiable name assigned to him. This intro is actually an added moment here, as the original manga opens on Koichi’s arrival at the airport and his explanation of the mission he’s been assigned. The show is usually good about filling viewers in on enough of the needed backstory details that they have a good grounding to work from, but the only real moment we get so far is when Jotaro explains his history with DIO to Koichi, which is kind of a neat scene as we get to see him with the picture of the Stardust Crusaders (also highlighting the evolution of art styles). They don’t even do the typical bit where a character highlights how the main protagonist’s name can be shortened to “JoJo,” presumably expecting you to just know by this point. This is likely a natural consequence of the nature of the story as a whole, given that (VERY MINOR SPOILER) a heavy amount of the 3rd act is dependent on knowing key plot points from parts 3 and 4, but that’s a ways away.
The last thing to touch on for now should be the opening and endings, always some of the most anticipated aspects of a new JoJo season. The newest OP in particular, “Fighting Gold,” drew a great deal of attention as it united the forces of Coda (“Bloody Stream” from Battle Tendency) and the songwriters behind one of the most iconic anime themes of all time: “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” from Neon Genesis Evangelion. With that pedigree at play, it’s no surprise that the song is an appropriately sweeping jam, full of hard-edged guitars and epic violins, functioning as an appropriately epic rock opera. The visuals are also on-point, and while I won’t attempt a Mother’s Basement-style breakdown, it’s interesting to note that its visual motif is most akin to Part 2, transitioning heavily back and forth between the normal character models and colorful stylized silhouettes. As for the ending theme, the pop song of choice this time around is… “Freek’n You” by the R&B group Jodeci, certainly an unexpected choice as most were speculating on something like “Gangsta’s Paradise” to fill this slot. It’s not a particularly bad song, but what lets it down a bit is the rather bland visuals, simply showing the characters and Stands panning in front of a disco ball-esque background. It’s not as interesting and dynamic as the end credits sequences for past seasons, especially when it has to follow up on Part 4. Aside from that, these first three episodes of Golden Wind set the stage excellently for what’s sure to be another intense and wild ride through the world of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
New episodes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind premiere every Friday at 1:05 PM and can be streamed exclusively on Crunchyroll.