Part 1: Phantom Blood
The beginning of this series is, in fact, bizarre. We immediately open to a human sacrifice that activates the strange powers of a stone mask crafted by the Aztecs. The narrative jumps forward to the 1800s with a man name Brando on his deathbed. He tells his son, Dio, to go to a man named Joestar who owes him a favor and will take Dio in. He vows not to tell Dio why Joestar owes him this favor, but tells the reader instead. Years ago, Joestar believed Brando was saving him after a carriage crash, rather than noticing Brando was robbing him. Dio swears to surpass his father’s station and beguile the Joestars into giving him their family fortune. The first act in this plan is to usurp the true heir, Jonathan, who everyone calls JoJo. Dio proceeds to make JoJo’s life miserable. After witnessing some of Dio’s worst deeds, we flash forward again, seven years this time. Dio and JoJo are about to graduate college, JoJo with a degree in archaeology. He’s been secretly studying the ancient Aztec mask that now belongs to his father. Dio and JoJo are somehow frienemies, but secretly Dio is still plotting to nap the Joestar fortune, and it’s up to JoJo to get to the bottom of it and thwart Dio’s plans, which also include this mysterious mask.
After getting past the fairly rough beginning, this story was strangely alluring, and I can see why it's popular. After finishing this first volume, I immediately wanted to pick up volume two to see where the cliffhanger went. I can't put my finger exactly on what makes this so interesting. Dio is a horrible person because he is made to be that way, but next to him, JoJo is arguably bland. He starts off pretty weak and unable to defend himself or the ones he loves, and he is suddenly strong after we flash forward seven years. I'm not sure what happened in those seven years to make him strong and incredibly lucky, but when we come out of that with the two of them as adults, he is suddenly protagonist material.
Araki was heavily influenced by French artists and the fashion industry, so his characters are extremely stylized as the peak of the male condition in physique and features, and are often drawn posing like fashion models. He pays particular attention to what his characters wear in his illustrations. The action sequences in this volume are not the easiest to follow, but Araki does well with facial expressions and detailed backgrounds.
Some content warnings: The human sacrifice happens on page within the first few panels, and within the first 30 pages, there is the hint of attempted rape. There is also quite a bit of blood and violence on page. These things together gives it the teen plus rating from VIZ.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability Level: Grades 10-12
Publisher: VIZ Media
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
ISBN: 9781421578798 (Hardcover)
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: High School, Manga, Supernatural
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