JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Episode 20

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Recap:
Caesar and Wham fight to the death.

Iro’s Thoughts:
The OP sequence and Caesar’s constant mentioning of Grandpa Zeppeli pretty much spelled it right out: Caesar dies, and he dies after we get a look at his tragic backstory. Put simply, daddy abandoned him to travel the world in search of a way to defeat the Pillar Men, and was done in by their very traps as he saved Caesar. Of course, the silliness of a man abandoning his multiple children to learn the Ripple in Venice – a day’s train ride away from Naples – is played for full gravitas in-context.

The highlight here is of course, the fight, which *gasp* actually has movement, unlike the veritable slideshow that was Joseph’s fight with ACDC. Wham has been built up as the strongest fighter among the three Pillar Men, and he demonstrates his ancient Aztec superpowers over wind to full effect, shielding himself from direct sunlight via water vapor. We also get a nice callback to Phantom Blood, with Caesar’s Bubble Cutter attack referencing Will A. Zeppeli’s pew-pew-pew wine buzz-saws from episode 4. It all adds up to a fun sequence where the two fling projectiles at each other from across the hotel lobby, utterly smashing up the place.

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On the other hand, this brings up an issue I tend to have with shonen battle manga as a whole, wherein the heroes come up with clever, effective plans to defeat the villains, only to be defeated thanks to (perhaps arguably, in this particular case) bullshit reasons. While it is a legitimate tactic to ratchet up the tension, JJBA only gets more egregious with this as things progress. Expect it often in Stardust Crusaders.

A hilariously dramatic ballad plays over the rest of the episode as Lisa Lisa and Joseph mourn their fallen friend. If they only cried for him, or only decided to renew their resolve, the scene wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful. The juxtaposition of them trying to keep composed only to fail and burst into tears makes the entire sequence. JJBA rarely goes for genuine drama, so it’s nice to see it pull it off properly when it counts.

CAAAEEEESSSAAAAAAAAR!

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Zigg’s Thoughts:
It’s been pretty obvious to anyone with a brain in their head that Caesar was going to die at some point – one look at JoJo wearing his bandanna in the OP tells you that. The real question is whether he’d be able to go out in style and, fortunately, this episode is able to let him do just that. An epic fight with Wham and a surprisingly touching death scene combine to make for the best episode of JoJo in ages.

I’ll highlight my few issues with the episode to begin with, just to get them out of the way. My major one is to do with Caesar’s father, and how I simply don’t buy the ‘he abandoned you to protect you’ shtick the story seems to want us to find inspiring. He abandoned five kids, the oldest of whom was 10! Wasn’t there some way to combine your ripple training with looking after your family, or at the very least leave them in good hands? It renders the whole ‘Zeppeli bloodline’ motivation rather farcical, and I personally think it would have been better if they had concentrated solely on the Barone.  There’s also the point I raised last week – you know the Pillar Men are in the house, so why not just knock massive holes in all the walls?

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But really, all of this is just nitpicking around the edges of a hugely enjoyable episode. Not going to lie – a lot of this is the fact that David Production evidently found a fiver wedged behind the sofa somewhere and decided they could afford to splash out on the animation budget. The sheer pleasure of a fight that actually moves also serves to highlight that JoJo still has some great battle choreography. Wham’s initial appearance is a great gambit, one that’s doubly unexpected because it’s in daylight and we aren’t made aware he’s arrived until this moment.  His ludicrous water-vapour cloaking device is just plausible enough to let your brain suspend your disbelief and nicely subverts our expectations of Caesar’s safety.

The fight itself meanwhile is short, well paced and satisfyingly brutal. Aside from the character movement the animation bump is notable in the large scale destruction the two wreak around them, something which makes the fight seem far more dramatic than recent efforts.  Caesar’s Ripple Laser Beam…thing is an inspired piece of lunacy that has the added bonus of briefly giving the show disco lighting to match its disco posing. I like that it’s Caesar’s own arrogance that undoes him in the end and that it hinges on a mechanic that actually makes perfect sense, but also one you probably wouldn’t have considered if it hadn’t been bought up. Wham comes out pretty well too, establishing himself as a far more interesting, noble villain while simultaneously demonstrating his impressive power.

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Caesar’s death is exactly what it deserves to be – a powerful, memorable scene, one that’s exactly the right mix of hamminess and sorrow. His dying monologue is a pretty strong speech, and while death by giant, cross shaped block comes dangerously close to slapstick, the show somehow gets away with it. JoJo and Lisa Lisa’s arrival and subsequent mourning is also exceptionally strong and in some ways the best part of the episode.

For me there’s one killer moment here, the moment where JoJo points out that Lisa Lisa has put her cigarette in her mouth the wrong way round. It’s a brilliant moment of clarity and role reversal – the distraught JoJo showing he’s still razor sharp, and the seemingly unshakeable Lisa Lisa revealing a crack in her cold facade.  The two of them weeping while blood oozes from  under the stone and the sun shines in is a rare moment of genuine beauty and bitter sadness in a show that’s more often concerned with sillier matters. It’s the stories that manage to be both funny and painful though, that hit the greatest heights. With this episode, JoJo took a meaningful step towards that goal.

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Gee’s Thoughts:
CAESAAAAAAAAR

If you had not caught on immediately, whether due to the name of the episode, the OP, or the fact that Caesar is a goddamn Zeppeli, Joseph loses his bro and comrade, Caesar Zeppeli in an exciting and dramatic battle with the immortal Aztec vampire, Wham. (And yes, this is indeed the scene that the “CAESAAAAAAAAR” tag is referencing) Of course, like any proper shonen, we get to learn about Zeppeli’s er…’tragic’ backstory. One that could have easily been avoided had Araki, when writing Battle Tendency, realized that Naples and Venice are pretty close to each other. Still, it gives us the tragic Zeppeli gravitas we need in this fight and if it’s good enough for Caesar, it’s good enough for me.

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As the others have said, it appears David Production were saving their hilariously limited budget for this fight, as we get to see how dynamic and exciting a Jojo fight can be when in fully animated glory. Caesar’s creative usage of the Ripple displays the trademark zaniness that Jojo brings to the table. At the same time though, it is Caesar’s shonen sidekick arrogance that dooms him. It seems that often in battle manga, as Iro said, heroes often are forced to come up with these ludicrously complex plans, only to be defeated by some inane bullshit pulled by the villain. Sure, it would be boring if the heroes won in a similar manner, but man, it really sucks that in the grand scheme of things, Caesar dies for nothing. However, we get to see that compared to the likes of Dio and AC/DC, Wham is a noble demon of sorts, while unable to sympathize with weak beings like humans, can respect their efforts and struggles.

Of course, that doesn’t make his manly sacrifice any less emotionally gripping. If there’s one thing that makes Jojo so special, it’s the way it so easily balances zaniness and hilarious absurdity with tragedy and drama. It straddles the line so closely that somehow, you just know when you’re supposed to laugh, and when you’re supposed to shed manly tears. Caesar’s overly dramatic, hammy, blatantly symbolic, but beautiful death falls in the latter category.

CAESAAAAAAAAR

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3 thoughts on “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Episode 20

  1. Is there a canon reason that this issue can’t be resolved by gratuitous amounts of German Science? Considering that there’s a lot more bits of Caesar around to turn into a cyborg than there was for Stroheim, robot Caesar doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.

    • He was already dead even before he got crushed. Also, they’re not exactly on premises of a Nazi base like they were back in Mexico.

    • While I agree with Iro’s explanation, let’s not kid ourselves here. Caesar’s permanently dead because it’s convenient for the plot, just like Stroheim being a Nazi cyborg is necessary for the narrative…er…somehow…

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