We’re getting towards the end of the 5th part of Jojo’s Bizarre adventure, and for the life of me I still don’t think I have a real grasp of what it is Giorno Giovanna’s stand actually does.
I’ve always been drawn to superpowers and special abilities in fiction, as most nerds have. Superheroes, wizards and Jedi. These extraordinary powers create limitless opportunity for unique storytelling. Not just that though, it’s seeing how the writers can continue to write around these imposed abilities with their limitations and come up with creative ways to have them evolve and grow.
When it comes to anime, some writers take their own created power sets far more seriously than others. Which can both be either a great aspect, or a detriment to their story, depending on how seriously they take themselves.
Stands Breathed new life into Jojo
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has always been a series I’ve struggled to get a grasp on how seriously writer Hirohiko Araki wants me to take it. When the third part; Stardust Crusaders started, stands were introduced to the franchise, and forever changed the style of the series.
When they first showed up, stands seemed to have pretty simple abilities for the most part. High speed and precision, manipulation of and control of sand, being a big boat… As the show continued on, there was a sense of escalation, and true to the show’s name, stand abilities became more complex, maybe even convoluted.
Even as far in as Part 5 though, some characters still had relatively simple stand powers. Bucciarati’s ability to put zippers on things is pretty easy to follow. But then we have stands like Girono’s Golden Experience and the villain; Diavolo’s King Crimson. Let me explain where I’m coming from?
So, Giorno’s stand can grant life to inanimate objects, and if those creatures are attacked, the damage is returned to the attacker. Okay, but then if the stand physically attacks someone, they have an outer body experience and are unable to defend themselves properly? But then Giorno realises he can replace lost body parts with his stand and becomes the de facto medic of the team. But wait, wouldn’t replaced parts become immune to damage in battle, and wouldn’t it only be a temporary fix rather than a permanent one?
As the show went on, I became less clear about what Giorno’s powers actually did. And don’t even get me started on how the hell King Crimson works, because I barely understand it myself.
My point is, despite my minor frustrations regarding the abilities of these character’s powers, I’ve never been bored.
Understanding abilities can connect us more
Some anime, ones that have a very strong grasp on their characters powers and limits can make the setting feel more alive. Not just that, as a viewer, I feel a stronger connection to the characters when I better understand their limitations. Thus I feel all the more invested when I see them overcome these limitations.
It’s why My Hero Academia is such a good series. Most of the characters have very defined abilities at their introduction, and their growth throughout the series is a personal one rather than a series of arbitrary transformations or power-ups.
Characters become stronger because of their ingenuity and creativity, able to find new ways of utilising their powers. I mean that’s Deku’s entire arc, slowly learning how to harness his inherited power. And the entire point of Mirio Togata, who shows up in the final episode of season 3.
He’s a person shown to have what many would describe as a useless quirk. And yet, through hard work and a creative mind, he makes the absolute most of it to become an amazing hero in training. It makes the characters feel more human, and thus easier to connect to as a viewer.
While I believe all this strongly, it’s not always necessary for a series to be entertaining or engaging.
It just needs to feel honest to the setting
Look at how much I talk about Dragon Ball one this blog, and that show scarcely makes a lick of sense in its powers and consistency. And while there are certainly fans obsessed with power scaling and pointing out the exact power multiplies of transformation, it ultimately doesn’t matter at all.
Because everything that happens in the show feels organic to the characters and the world in which they inhabit. A character gets mad, their hair changes colour and suddenly they’re more powerful. How much more powerful? As powerful as the narrative requires. And then that boost in power will eventually become pointless as the narrative dictates too.
It’s a totally different approach to having powers and abilities, but the shows are equally entertaining, exciting and engaging. Naruto was pretty great well after they discarded any semblance of logic to the ninja magic that the early series went to such painstaking lengths to establish. I didn’t mind because I’d come to like the characters and the action was exciting.
They just used those early rules to get me on the hook. Which is a big factor in getting my interest in the first place.
It’s why I bounce off the vast majority of isekai shows I try to watch. While the powers in shows like Dragon Ball are only consistent when it suits the narrative, they feel organic to the world.
They’re natural and a part of the character, in a way most isekai certainly do not by their very nature. So many of them gamify the experience to the point of it literally being a menu based system or computer voice giving them pointers. It’s unnatural by its definition and is difficult for me to connect with.
Jojo walks a fine line
The stands in Jojo feel like they belong in their weird and eccentric world, but there is an inconsistency from character to character when it comes to how seriously the writer treats the scope of their abilities.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, in Golden Wind; Mista, Bucciarati and Narancia all have easily established stands, whose powers seem well defined and follow rules. Most of the time. But then we get Girono, Diavolo and Trish, whose stands seem to do whatever the hell they need to do given the current situation.
Maybe there is a solid line in the mangaka’s head as to what they can and can’t do, but that limit is never explicitly established in the show itself. And while this comes as a minor annoyance to me, it never ruins the experience.
While powers never have to make logical or consistent sense, because as long as they stay true to the tone and style of the show they’re in, it’s easy to forgive and forget how nonsensical it can be. Because in the end, you know what kind of show you’re watching and can just roll with the punches.
And besides, this late in the series, there’s no way Giano’s stand could get even more weird powers stacked on top of it to confuse me even more… right…?