JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind – Episode 21 – “The Mystery of Emperor Crimson”

Twenty-First Century Anonymous Man.

As our heroes wait around outside the church for Bucciarati to return, Giorno begins to sense the movement of the ladybug brooch. At the same time, he begins to notice something strange about the events surrounding him, with the group’s various discussions seemingly skipping ahead by noticeable intervals. He finally decides to charge ahead into the church, calling Bucciarati to warn him of what’s about to happen. Following the cliffhanger of last week, Bucciarati attempts to escape from King Crimson’s lethal attack, but Crimson’s powers activate yet again. In a vast cosmic space, the boss is able to see the trajectory of Bucciarati’s attack, dodging around it and skipping across time to the point where Bruno finishes his attack, following up with a viciously fatal chop through his body.

The boss, having taken our hero out of his way, closes in on Trish in order to kill her, but he is caught off guard by Giorno’s brooch, which suddenly sucks him in and transforms into a clone of Coco Jumbo. Prior to the battle, he infused the turtle’s cells into the brooch, giving Bucciarati a moment of relief as he zips open the floor and sends the turtle clone into the sewers. The capo, beaten and bloodied within a centimeter of his own life, attempts to use what strength he has left to carry Trish and attempt to escape the church, but they get suddenly cut off by King Crimson. Bucciarati initiates an attack and briefly manages to hit, but Crimson initiates another time skip, predicting our hero’s next attack. As he dodges out of the way, however, Bucciarati reveals that his intent was not to attack the boss, but rather the pillar next to him, and he succeeds in opening up an escape route out of the basement.

Soon after, Giorno manages to find Trish and Bruno, with the latter still bleeding out severely from his two major wounds. He attempts to use Gold Experience to heal the two, but his efforts see to be for naught as the surrounding zippers fade away, including the one holding Trish’s severed hand in place. As King Crimson attempts to sneak up on them, Giorno feels Bruno’s spirit telling him to warn the others about what has transpired. Suddenly, Bruno awakens much to Giorno’s shock before he alerts the others, reuniting as they escape the building. As the gang reaches the boat, Abbacchio angrily demands to know what transpired within the church, and Bruno obliges, informing them of the boss’ true intentions and his betrayal of their leader. He intends to find a way to kill the boss, letting the group know that, should they choose to follow in his footsteps, they would become traitors to the organization. Fugo cannot deal with these events, choosing not to follow along, while Abbacchio and Mista agree to go along. Additionally, while all of this is happening, Giorno is suspicious of how Bucciarati has survived, not being able to sense a pulse or any bloodflow within him. Narancia feels an extreme sense of emotional torment over this situation, but he eventually feels a sort of kinship with Trish given similarities between their own lives, chasing after the boat and rejoining our heroes as the episode ends… but not before a brief stinger where unseen assailants are heard making plans to hunt down the traitors.

There’s quite a bit to unpack with this episode, especially with the gripping drama that things close out on, but it’s best to start by continuing the discussion of King Crimson’s powers. As things get deeper into this first conflict with the boss, his abilities are shown off with a bit more clarity (well, as much clarity as we can expect at this point). I was quite curious as to how they would visualize King Crimson’s powers since this is a synchronous medium that can add more detail than a series of still images potentially could, and this also had the capabilities of clearing up his infamously confusing techniques. Arguably the biggest source of contention here is in regards to the *phrasing* of how King Crimson works. Looking at it in the episode, it might seem straightforward enough: the Stand has the ability to skip across time, dodging out of harm’s way and getting ahead of his enemies while anticipating their every move. However, looking up the character’s powers in various contexts from the source manga to multiple wiki sites, there’s a lot of rewordings of this ability’s description, with various references to “erasing time” and “negating causes, leaving only effects.” It can get a bit overwhelming for those wanting a straightforward answer, especially considering that it’s another time manipulation Stand that seems tangentially related to Dio’s World (stick a pin in that for later).

An excerpt from the manga describing King Crimson’s power, just for one example of how it’s been explained.

The episode itself actually does a solid job visualizing King Crimson’s powers in a way that make sense, adapting the visual ideas from the manga while taking advantage of the unique characteristics of animation. Much like the source material, when King Crimson activates, the Stand and its target are sucked into this cosmic void separate from the normal flow of time, allowing him to see the path of his enemy’s actions and work around them. The manga illustrates this with multiple drawings of the trapped enemy showing off each action beat in a manner influenced by Marcel Duchamp’s famous painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 seen below:

The core of this is preserved visually, but we see the flow of the actions between points, with a hazy reddish silhouette of Sticky Fingers showing the path of its actions. As events flow in and out of this void, there is a heavy amount of flickering static as even the music begins to skip and cut in and out of the mix. There’s also a tendency for Sticky Fingers to be visualized with a second visual layer as it stands in place, subtly misaligning with the tangible Stand and creating a double in the same red shades combined with some bits of faded blue. The corruption of the scenes where Bucciarati and Sticky Fingers are victims of King Crimson show that David Production is in top form with this adaptation, creating an amazingly unnerving effect similar to if one were to watch this episode off of an old VHS-taped recording that was only half-functioning. It also creates an almost subtle visual callback to Bucciarati’s first encounter with Giorno, when Gold Experience made his consciousness go berserk, disassociating him from the physical reality.

The themes of loyalty and resolve are presented at their most bare-bones during the closing moments of the episode, as a myriad of emotions rise to the surface once our heroes escape the church. One of the more fascinating aspects of the episode’s fallout is understood when you consider where this all lies in the overall plot progression. The group has just come off of a series of seemingly non-stop battles with the various members of the Hitman Team (6 in total, 4 of them happening in this cour alone), all motivated by a desire to betray the boss and take Trish for themselves. Following their near-death encounter with the boss, our heroes themselves are now in the same position as the enemies they have defeated: a traitor to Passione, working to defeat the boss and keep Trish out of his hands. It’s a deeply interesting reversal of roles, raising many thematically important questions about how far one’s loyalty can go before personal integrity has to take over.

The question then extends to the group themselves and their loyalty to each other. With all the battles they’ve been up to lately, along with the various moments of goofy shenanigans in between all the intensity, it’s clear that the bonds between themselves are quite important. This becomes most evident with Narancia, who becomes the surprise emotional hook of these scenes, constantly crying from scene to scene while massively unsure of how to proceed. The breaking point for him comes upon the realization that he sees similarities between his own life struggles and those of Trish, namely a sense of betrayal and abandonment by those who are supposed to be closest to them. The dialogue is not subtle about this in the slightest, but it works well in showing just how much these gangsters need each other.

Look at his sad face! I just wanna give him a big hug and tell him everything will be all right.

However, then there’s the matter of Fugo’s departure from the group, which speaks to a rather notable angle regarding the themes presenting. When reading into the development of the story, you can find statements from Araki revealing that this was quite a departure from his original plans. Initially, he was going to keep Fugo in the story and reveal him as a spy working for the boss, eventually forcing a battle between him and Giorno where Fugo would have been killed. However, Araki was in a tough emotional state at the time that prevented him from writing such a dark turn of events. In his own words:

“There was one part in this fifth series I absolutely had to delete though. An episode I couldn’t write at all. In my head, the story went that between Mista, Narancia, Fugo and Abbacchio, there would be a spy working for the boss and betray Giorno and Bucciarati. At first I had decided this traitor to be Fugo, but I couldn’t do it. My state of mind was so dark that the stories I wrote were becoming more and more evil, but in my heart I was starting to hate this behavior as time passed. Also, my heart broke just thinking about how Bucciarati would feel. I absolutely can’t understand betrayal from a trusted friend and this is why just thinking about it physically hurt me. I would have accepted any criticism saying that I “hadn’t had the guts to do it” as an author, but I assure you I couldn’t write that episode no matter what. Maybe Giorno would have had to kill Fugo then and I’m sure this would have given a really bad impression to my youngest readers.”

While there’s a bit more to the statements than that, I felt it was important to post that whole segment here so that the emotional stress of the situation really sinks in for anyone reading. The knowledge of the above quotations adds a more potent emotional gut punch to the group’s ultimate decision and Fugo’s departure, as it becomes clear that this was all deeply personal for Araki when writing this. Now that their decision is made, it’s time for the second half of the story to start next week, as the group must now find a way to beat the boss while fending off further attackers.

New episodes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind premiere every Friday and can be streamed exclusively on Crunchyroll.

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