JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Episode 14

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Recap: Jojo and Speedwagon head to Rome to meet Ceasar Zeppeli, but it seems they’re too late to prevent the other Pillar Men from awakening…

Iro’s Thoughts:
The real plot of the Battle Tendency arc starts this episode, with there being two main takeaways: first, we are introduced (perhaps belatedly, considering he was front and center in the OP sequence) to Caesar Zeppeli, grandson of Phantom Blood’s Will Antonio Zeppeli. He too is a master of the Ripple, and Speedwagon plans to have Jojo get the training he desperately needs to put up a fight against the Pillar Men. Secondly, we have the Pillar Men themselves, awakening from their slumber and effortlessly murdering a bunch of Nazi scientists. That BEST IN THE WORLD GERMAN SCIENCE didn’t help much, did it? At any rate, the trio continues the tradition of all important characters being named after classic western rock, being called Wham, Cars, and most egregiously, AC/DC. But hey, who are we to question ancient Aztec super-vampire naming conventions? Maybe those were perfectly acceptable names 2000 years ago!

The highlight this week is probably the spar between Joseph and Caesar, who fight in the manner all shonen heroes and their rivals must fight when they first meet. Since it seems the rather punchy Overdrives from Phantom Blood were too plain, the theme this arc is going to be transferring Ripple through various items; Caesar uses soapy water for this purpose, shooting bubbles from his hands like a goddamn Pokemon. Joseph mulls on coming up with his own crazy named attack throughout the episode, and we’ll be seeing that next week as our heroes try to take revenge for the bit Nazi character. Seriously, never take out the picture of your girl if there’s the slightest possibility anything will go wrong. It’s a fucking death sentence.

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Gee’s Thoughts:
And so with this episode, we finally get to meat Caesar “CAESAAAAAAAAR” Zeppeli, grandson of the great Will A. Zeppeli, the man who gave his life for Jonathan Joestar. What Caesar lacks in mustaches and high pitched whooping, he makes up for in swag and arrogance. Things start off pretty rocky between the brash Joseph and the arrogant Caesar, resulting in a rather ludicrous fight involving pigeons and bubbles, but as with everything in Jojo, it’s all in good fun, at least for the audience anyways. Still, the two are clearly destined to become the greatest bromance of the Joestar legacy, so I’m sure fighting some evil ancient vampires and enduring half a dozen near-death experiences every episode will help bring them together.

Speaking of evil ancient vampires, surprise! The Pillar Men awaken, killing a bunch of Nazis while the coolest Aztec rap theme song plays in the background. Anyone who didn’t see this coming should feel ashamed. The Pillar Men, gloriously named Wham, Cars, and AC/DC, wreak havoc on the innocent(?) Nazis and go on to proclaim their superiority to the human race. All of this so far is par for the course for Jojo villains, but unlike Straits and Dio, these three truly are superior to humanity in every way. There’s no way around it and the show will beat you over the head with this concept until you’re sick of it. However, unlike Dio’s straight-up assholery or Straits’ selfish evil, the Pillar Men are a little different. Whereas the other two were quite content to  pursue their own self-centered goals, the Pillar Men actually treat each other with respect, even going as far as expressing humility to each other. Whether this makes them less frightening or even moreso is up to you.

Once again, just like with Santana’s introduction, we are teased before we get to see the real fight itself. A shame, but I’ll be damned if the Roundabout transition this episode wasn’t fucking awesome. I look forward to seeing Joseph and Caesar deal with not just one, but three imposing villains.

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Zigg’s Thoughts:
After a somewhat lacklustre episode last week, JoJo comes roaring back to produce the silliest, funniest episode of the Battle Tendency run so far. It’s a pretty major event plotwise too, as we’re introduced to characters that I suspect will come to define this second arc. On the side of the heroes we have Caesar Zeppeli, or as I’ve known him up to this point ‘that fabulous Native American who keeps showing up in the OP’.  The seeds of this were pretty clearly planted when the Baron spoke of his long left behind son, but I’m very pleased to see that Caesar isn’t just Will Zeppeli, and is in fact about as far away from him as you could hope.  Whereas Zeppeli the elder was a sophisticated, classy, wine drinking gentleman, this younger incarnation is a brash, cocky ladies man, supremely full of himself.

This makes for a an interestingly different dynamic with JoJo. Whereas Will was a respected teacher and mentor figure to Jonathan, Caesar and Joseph are much more obviously direct rivals, and while the ‘allies who are constantly fighting’ is about the oldest, hoariest trope in the big book of shonen cliches, the show’s supercharged silliness makes it a lot of fun to watch. JoJo’s completely ridiculous attempt to disrupt Caesar’s date using Ripple-reinforced spaghetti is only one-upped by their fight in the square, which approaches self-parodic levels of silliness.  Caesar steals every scene he appears in (his flamboyant sitting down being an obvious highlight) and it looks as if he’ll make a good foil to JoJo. I fully expect them to gradually realise they’re more similar than they think, all the while arguing like old housewives.

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Oh right, the plot. The shift back to European soil restores a little of the old world charm that lent atmosphere to Phantom Blood and after a few episodes of deserts and underground facilities it’s a pleasure to be hanging out by fountains and cruising past the Coliseum. Also a pleasure is the return of Speedwagon to active duty. His experimentation on the still-alive Santana is no doubt well intentioned but will likely end how these things always do – with a breakout and massive destruction (especially since it’s shown in this episode that the more powerful Pillar Men can resist ultraviolet light to a limited extent).

If there’s one thing which rings a little uncomfortable in this episode, it’s Caesar and JoJo casually hanging out with a Nazi. Caesar makes the salient point that as an Italian, he’s technically allied with the Germans right now, but it’s still a little off putting to me.  While there’s a good story to be told about how the Nazis were people too, I’m not sure I trust something as dumb as JoJo to tell it, and the show functions far better with them as mindless engines of destruction. (Iro’s Note: There’s no time to fight Nazis when ancient Aztec super-vampires are on the loose!) Fortunately, all my fears were assuaged when Mark (what sort of German is named Mark?) takes out a picture of his girlfriend, thus guaranteeing he’s going to die horribly. And he does!

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Finally, there’s the issue of the new Pillar Men, who are pretty much exactly what I wanted from villains after the somewhat lacklustre Santana. Firstly, they’re named Wham, Cars and AC/DC, which is so mindbogglingly stupid/awesome I’m in awe.  They dress like ancient Mexican bondage slaves.  And most importantly, there’s no learning curve with these guys – unlike Santana once they wake up they’re totally in control, smart and clued up. They’re also a whole level of magnitude more powerful – Wham takes down the entire guard in impressively gruesome fashion, and AC/DC cuts Mark in half just by walking through him. It’s clear we’ve once again stepped up in power. There’s also the very first allusion to the mysterious red gem which has appeared prominently in the OP and ED – it’s needed to complete a special stone mask, although we have no idea what this will achieve yet. With Caesar and JoJo ready to take on the fearsome trio (and probably get their butts handed to them) next week can’t come fast enough.

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