How Stands Changed JoJo for the Better

As one of the most influential manga and anime series of all time, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a pioneer of the shounen genre. Its third and most popular part, Stardust Crusaders, is an endearing road trip story that follows an ensemble of memorable characters as they encounter enemies in a monster-of-the-week type formula. Part Three introduces the Stand; a supernatural, psychic entity that is meant to embody the user’s willpower and fighting spirit.  Anyone can be a Stand user, regardless of age, race, ability, or even species, and that is what makes JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders so compelling to watch, and why the rest of the series stays fresh and interesting. Not only does this expand the possibility for representation of different identities and characters in the series, but it adds intrigue and themes of paranoia to the central plot of the story.

Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency have their respective JoJo’s training in an ancient form of martial arts that harnesses the sun in order to defeat vampires. When Stands replace Hamon as the primary form of combat, the series is fundamentally changed from able-bodied, musclebound men punching one another to enemies concealing their identities. There’s also an extremely purple musclebound Stand ORAORAORA-ing them into oblivion.

Part Three lulls the audience into a false sense of security. While Dio and the Pillar Men made broad declarations about their right to rule over humanity, the enemies of Part Three creep in the shadows of lands that are foreign and unfamiliar to the protagonists. The fear of the unknown presented in Part Three has continued into the rest of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, particularly perfecting itself in Part Four’s villain, whose murderous Stand leaves no traces of his victims’ bodies, making the search for him seem impossible.

One of the coolest aspects of Part Two is Joseph’s internal monologues and trickery; he manages to craft the most obscure and intricate schemes to get himself out of the obstacles that his bare brawn could not overcome. The characters of Stardust are unsure of their enemies’ strengths and weakness, sometimes not even knowing who their enemy is, so they must form new strategies in addition to reading their opponents. The crusaders learn to never underestimate their enemies, and in the case of Jotaro, to never give away the slightest hint of emotional distress. Each Stand has its own set of powers and rules, making it impossible to use the same game plan to win more than once. You can most definitely not punch the Sun, and I mean, you can punch a baby Stand user, but it is best not to.

The addition of Stands also opens up avenues for representation by rendering the biological basis for a character’s physical strength meaningless in comparison to their willpower, wit, and determination.  Though Stardust Crusaders is still a long-way from the powerful women of Part Six, Stone Ocean, it opens up previously unavailable doors for  women, minorities, and people with disabilities.  While Lisa Lisa is an enjoyable character, ultimately, she does not have the complexity or nuance of a character like Jolyne. She is sexualized and often shown as less powerful than Joseph, despite being his teacher. In comparison, Jolyne has the power of her Stand, enabling her to navigate through the treacheries of prison, and her passions and desires are framed as her own. Up until the addition of Stands, women and people of color served more as accessories to the plot and the Joestar destiny, rather than being active forces in the story.

While the shift in Part Three might seem drastic or jarring at first, Stands are the natural progression of the series’ expansion, and are indicative of the creativity and endless possibilities that makes JoJoJoJoStardust Crusaders is the beginning of a new bizarre adventure, unfolding into many more. The series’ continued growth is enough to make you Stand Proud.