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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES: December 7, 2012 - April 5, 2013
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

When I look at an anime series in depth, there are going to be spoilers. If at any time during this review you are interested in watching the show you are reading about, please stop immediately and begin watching.

The second arc of the first season of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure introduces us to Joseph Joestar, the grandson of previous protagonist Jonathan Joestar. He's a hot-blooded youth with a violent temper, living in New York, and he has a "tendency" to "battle" people over the most inane of things. The story begins with his wallet being stolen by a street thief named Smokey, but Joseph soon takes the thief's side after seeing the how the New York police force abuses its power in order to discriminate. For an unexplained reason, our new JoJo also has the ability to use the Hamon powers his grandfather could use and utilizes them in a hilarious battle involving an ice-cold bottle of Coca Cola. Smokey apologizes for attempting to steal JoJo's wallet, and the two become friends. They've got this sort of Henry Jones and Short Round kind of dynamic, I guess.

In the preceding fifty years, Robert E.O. Speedwagon has become very rich and very influential. On the surface, his Speedwagon Foundation serves to advance medical research and environmental conservation efforts... but on a more secretive level, it serves to research the stone mask that caused such chaos in the first story arc. At the start, on an archaeological dig, Speedwagon and his team discover a man encased in stone and dozens of the very mask they feared lining the walls of a cavern. Upon discovering this, Speedwagon calls Straizo, head of the cult specializing in Hamon that helped train Jonathan. Straizo, on the other hand, has decided to no longer follow what is right and has been corrupted by the promise of eternal youth and power. He attacks Speedwagon and uses his blood to essentially make himself like Dio did in the first season: a super zombie/vampire with fabulous hair.

The very first major battle is astonishingly good. Before even given a chance to vampire his way to an easy victory, Straizo has an entire drum of Tommy Gun ammunition emptied into him by Joseph, and we immediately get a feel for how the series' tone has changed. Where Phantom Blood was a send-up but played it quietly, Battle Tendency goes all out deranged just because. Joseph jumps into every battle scenario without even so much as a plan, bumbles his way to a victory, then pretends he planned it. But then again, getting to see Joseph develop and hone his skills really is the difference between something like this and Fist of the North Star, where our main protagonist has always been powerful and we never once fear for his ability to pull through a fight.

After Straizo is dealt with, we're introduced to these stone people — or, the Pillar Men. Santviento, Esi Desi, Wamuu, and Kars. I think these are all pretty obvious... Santana, AC-DC, Wham! and Cars. The Pillar Men are the beings that came before, zombie vampires with exceptional combat prowess and the purest example of that Greek Adonis beauty. They have speed, strength, and powers that make Dio look like your regular run-of-the-mill white bedsheet scary ghost halloween costume. After the first Pillar Man is laid waste to, Joseph meets a man named Caesar, descendant of Will A. Zepelli. Caesar and Joseph start off as enemies but bond over a mutual hatred of the Pillar Men. After a run-in with the super vampires, Caesar and Joseph realize their powers to be inefficient so they seek training with a Hamon coach named Lisa Lisa.

After there, it gets so good that I don't want to spoil any more of it. It almost gets sort of biblical, and I like that. It's got stuff.

The Pillar Men are the perfect type of villain for this kind of arc — they're seeming invincible and yet, the humans manage to pull through and defeat them in the end, despite all odds. They are enemies that develop and strengthen over time just like our heroes, and that means this game of catch-up where Joseph, Caesar. and Lisa Lisa can never quite reach the same level as the Pillar Men even through mass exertion of effort. Yet, even when faced with a battle against an ultimate being at the pinnacle of evolution, there's always a method of achieving victory, you've just got to think really hard about how.

Once again, the show's stunning humour continues to shine. Rather than accepting itself as a piss-take of shonen and therefore not being required to follow any sort of logic, the long-winded and ridiculous explanations it gives for how things work are music to my ears regardless. The minutest details as to how trick-shots and moves are pulled off are simply delightful. I'm always on the edge of my seat waiting for the next inherently hilarious and "bizarre" reasoning for what's happening.

I think the main villain's hand transforming into a squirrel was perhaps the best part. Ooh, I think I just reeled you in with that one. Go watch the show already. Battle Tendency ends, as all good stories do, with an American man having a swear up at a Japanese man because he's prejudiced. A glorious way to end the season and ties it in beautifully with the subsequent season, "Stardust Crusaders". I'm a good ways off finishing that one yet, though.

Would I recommend Battle Tendency? Why, certainly I would. However, I'm not on board with most JoJo fans to consider Battle Tendency to be better than Phantom Blood. I've always been a fan for darker stories, and while Battle Tendency is a more upbeat and hilarious season by comparison, the twisted darkness of Phantom Blood makes it stand out just that little bit more in my opinion. Having to compare Phantom Blood to Battle Tendency, though, it's so ultimately a wasted effort — when both seasons are as good as they are, does it even matter which one is better when they both deserve a watch?

Joseph Joestar warms our hearts with his childish stupidity and makes Battle Tendency a damn good time. It still contains that quality fighting and sense of futility that Phantom Blood has but dilutes it just a little with a solid laugh here and there. Oh, and it still has muscled and intensely attractive long-haired men, so it has everything, really.

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