The Problem With The Team Of JoJo Part 6: Stone Ocean
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They often say that a team is as strong as its weakest link, but I will go even further and say that a team is as strong as the connections and relationships between the members. This is particularly true in fiction where readers and fictions are not only drawn to teams due to the individual characters, but also due to how they interact with one another. This is a key element that makes the story move forward in a much more compelling manner.
Character relationships and progressions are traits of storytelling that Hirohiko Araki, creator of the legendary manga and anime series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, has improved at throughout the years. From a supporting cast that was mostly underwhelming in the first couple of parts (Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency), Araki has managed to create teams that feel engaging, likeable and appealing on many different levels.
Then you have the Stone Ocean gang.
What I’m about to say in this article is not a comment on how I think these characters are bad–in fact, I like them a lot. Heck, I did an article on Jolyne Cujoh, explaining why she is a great example of a female protagonist done right. However, there are some elements that afflict this team from a storytelling perspective and I wanted to address them here because I think there are some interesting points that are worth exploring.
First of all, What is the Stone Ocean Gang?
For those that don’t know, this is the plot of Stone Ocean: Jolyne Cujoh, daughter of marine biologist Jotaro Kujo, is framed for murder and sent to a prison in Florida, which turns out to be a conspiracy by some Dio Brando fanatics, a vampire that was murdered by Jotaro many years ago, to take his father’s memories. This leads Jolyne to save his father and, with the friends she makes along the way, stop the man that is trying to execute Dio’s lifelong plan.
This is the plot of the story, and this leads us to knowing Jolyne, her friends and the antagonists. And while Stone Ocean as a whole is a very compelling story that I feel can be a bit underrated when compared to other parts in JoJo, I also think that part of that perception is due to the underwhelming nature of their team.
After such likeable and united teams such as the Stardust Crusaders, the Morioh Gang and the ones from Golden Wind, this team does feel like a step down in quality. Not because of the characters themselves, but rather how they relate to one another and the dynamics within said team.
The early episodes show Jolyne teaming up with fellow prisoner Ermes Costello and a living plankton organism known as Foo Fighters (who takes the form of a female, and by all intents and purposes acts as one), giving us a bit of a girly trio to take down the bad guys in prison. That’s all well and good, but as the story progresses, everybody in the cast has their shining moments, but the dynamics between them is often lacking.
That is why I’m going to analyze every character individually, and see where they failed in terms of connecting with the rest of the gang. As I mentioned before, I’m not going to count Jolyne because I already wrote an entire article about her, so let’s begin with Ermes.
Ermes is one of the first characters Jolyne interacts with in the entire part. From the get-go we see her helping our main protagonist, and she eventually teams up with Jolyne as she discovers her own Stand, Kiss, which can create duplicates of things through stickers, while we also learn that she got into this jail to kill the mobster that took the life of her older sister, Gloria.
A very solid motivation with a great twist (Ermes never backs down from the path of revenge) and a strong personality that relies on her temper and willingness to go over the line, Ermes is by all intents and purposes Jolyne’s “Josister”, following the tradition of the likes of Caesar Zeppeli, Jean Pierre Polnareff, Hirose Koichi and Bruno Bucciarati. That’s all well and good with Jolyne since Ermes is the one that spends the most time with her during Stone Ocean, developing a friendship, loyalty and a degree of kinship with this part’s JoJo, but… that’s about it.
The thing that fails with Ermes, in my view, is the fact that we don’t get to learn about her desire for revenge until we get to that arc, which is most likely due to the fact that Araki thought about it right there and then instead of having it planned. It’s understandable, but it doesn’t hit you the same way as Polnareff’s desire to avenger her sister in Stardust Crusaders and the road of growth he goes through in the process. Ermes has her entire revenge arc in a couple of episodes and then only stays as a backup for Jolyne.
There is nothing wrong in having a secondary character as a secondary character, but Ermes definitely stays in the background after the Limp Bizkit arc. Comparing this to what Polnareff, Koichi and Bruno did in the final arcs, and you end up wanting a bit more from her. It’s true that her Stand couldn’t do much against Enrico Pucci in terms of powers, but JoJo has always been about creative ways of fighting your opponent and I think Araki didn’t know what else to do with the character afterwards.
I like Ermes. I think she was a great complement to Jolyne and a great teammate, but between this arc of progress for her character after her main storyline and not really interacting with other characters (she shares a bit with Foo Fighters, but mainly when Jolyne is around), you feel that she could have been handled a bit better.
If I ended up feeling a bit lacking with Ermes, I feel the other way around with Foo Fighters. I would even go as far as saying that she (or it or they or whatever pronoun you want to use to describe the character) is one of Araki’s best ever characters.
Foo Fighters was created by Pucci to protect the discs he was taking from people, and she ended up fighting Jolyne and Ermes to what seemed to be a fight to the death. Jolyne defeats her and saves her life, arguing that Foo Fighters was not evil, but rather trying to protect her intellect and her newfound life, which eventually led to the latter joining forces with our protagonists.
I would describe Foo Fighters as the team’s core member and the most connected after Jolyne (which is not saying much, considering that most of these characters don’t engage too much between them). She shows a lot of compassion, commitment and willingness to help everybody, which is something that is shown in her final moments as she saves Narciso Anasui.
Her death is one of the most powerful moments in the series: plankton that not only gained intellect and a life, but also a soul. She died with a smile in her face and after giving everything for Jolyne, who helped her to find meaning in her existence. It’s such a powerful statement about the human soul, and everything it represents, which I found so beautiful and compelling.
She is definitely one of the highlights in this part, although she doesn’t have a lot of battles and I would have loved to see more interactions with other characters like she did with Anasui, but I would also argue that she is one of the best-written protagonists in Stone Ocean.
Emporio introduces Jolyne to two of her new allies, Weather Report, and, of course, the protagonist of this section, Narciso Anasui. A man that went to jail after murdering her girlfriend for cheating on him and the man that she was unfaithful with, Anasui was for all intents and purposes a broken individual with no desire for living, but Jolyne’s resolve and determination inspired him to keep going and also made him fall in love with her.
Anasui adds a lot of chaotic energy to the group. He is not really a good guy, but someone with a dubious sense of morality that joins their team because it suits his needs and desires for Jolyne. That’s great because it could lead to a lot of potential dynamics, but other than being a jerk to Foo Fighters, we don’t see much of that morally gray angle in display during the part.
While his interactions with Jolyne are always a delight and I enjoyed his team-up with Weather Report near the final third of the storyline, I think that Anasui joined a bit too late in the story and we don’t get to see that disturbing, murderous side of his at full display before going into the redemption arc he finally had against Pucci. Plus, while he has interactions with some members of the team, I still think that his relationship with Weather is not fully developed, thus making his final words about him feel a bit forced.
His “relationship” with Jolyne is both pure and disturbing, which defines Anasui particularly well. At first it seems like him treating Jolyne as property, but as the story progresses you see that he truly does care for her and it adds to his layers as a character as it shows that he can feel in a very intense manner. It was a great move from Araki, in my perspective.
Much like the other characters, I think Anasui is a very strong character, has a very clear arc and his use of his Stand, Diver Down, is some of my favorites in the series, but I also believe he joined the part way too late and that neglected his development to some degree. However, I would argue that he is the most developed secondary character after Foo Fighters.
The interesting element of this part is how most members of the Stone Ocean Gang have become fan favorites, particularly after the anime adaption, but one of the most celebrated is Weather Report, who, ironically enough, is the one with less screen time and storylines. Okay, it adds to the mystery we eventually discover about the character, but is no less ironic.
Weather Report is a prisoner that happens to have his memories stolen by Pucci and doesn’t remember anything about his past life. His Stand can manipulate the weather, which leads to some of the weirdest moments in the history of the series and that’s saying a lot. And as we discover that he is the twin brother of the main antagonist of the part, Enrico Pucci, things escalate further and further.
This is a character that has a strong, stoic personality, a tragic backstory and a great Stand, which leads to an absolutely amazing final confrontation with Pucci. Like most characters in this part, I think Weather Report is a great work made by Araki, but I also think that, much like Anasui, he joins a bit too late in the story.
He has his opening arc with Jolyne, and then we don’t see much of Weather until the Bohemian Rhapsody battle, quickly kick starting his past with Pucci. We don’t see much of Weather Report before finding out the truth about his past, which is a byproduct of the story being so centered around the character of Jolyne (understandable because she is the protagonist).
His death is definitely painful and tragic, but I love the contrast of him dying in peace, surrounded by friends, while his twin brother died begging for mercy and suffering even more at the hands of Emporio. And speaking of that little guy…
Emporio is one of the key players in the story, helping Jolyne from within the prison in several points of Stone Ocean, introducing Weather Report and Anasui to her, and of course being the one that gave the final blow to Pucci. But beyond that… there isn’t much else to Emporio, which is a shame because I happen to like the general concept of his character.
In general terms, Emporio is the kid that was born in prison and never got to see the outside world. His mom was killed by Pucci, and while he wants to avenge her, he is frightened and doesn’t know how to do it, which is understandable because he is a kid. So he teams up with Jolyne to take down Pucci, but he is mostly there to spill information for our protagonists and to work as a prop rather than as a character.
I happen to enjoy his older sister/younger brother relationship with Jolyne, but we don’t see him interact much with the rest of the gang. I loved how he used Weather Report’s Stand to kill Pucci, but since he doesn’t have any connection to Weather beyond being circumstantial allies, it does feel just a little bit off.
The thing about Emporio’s final fate is that his connection with the other characters not named Jolyne is not there, so him missing the whole crew, while logical because he is a kid thrown into really messed up situations, doesn’t hit you the same way if you analyze a bit. This doesn’t mean that the Stone Ocean ending didn’t move me, but I’m analyzing this as a critic and as a fellow writer, not just as a reader and a viewer.
So I think Emporio doesn’t feel like a fully fleshed out character, and feels like the least developed out of the entire crew.
I debated myself on whether I should add Jotaro or not, but he does play a major role across the story, whether it’s active or not, so I decided to add him because it also allows me to analyze the development of the most iconic character in the entire franchise.
By and large, Jotaro was pretty much JoJo’s Superman. He was one of the strongest Stand users and, after killing Dio in Stardust Crusaders, he had to constantly search for the arrows that granted Stand abilities, losing friends and partners along the way. All of this puts a strain on his marriage and his relationship with his daughter, Jolyne, which ends up with Pucci taking his discs and him being a husk of a man for the vast majority of Stone Ocean.
Jotaro’s life is arguably one of the most tragic in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and here we finally get to see the outcome of everything he’s gone through. He has such a huge responsibility that he is willing to give away his happiness and life with his family, leading Jolyne to borderline hate him, so they can be safe. It shows how far Jotaro has come since that introduction in the prison in Stardust Crusaders when he was just 17 years old, and the road he has taken as a man.
In terms of his character in Stone Ocean, there isn’t much to explore. This Jotaro in this part relies heavily on what we already know of him from previous storylines, so this is more of a natural progression. I do enjoy those little moments where he shows care and interest to Jolyne, highlighting how much she means to him.
He doesn’t interact much with the rest of the gang, but I think this is understandable with his character because he was out of commission for most of the storyline.
A Great Set Of Characters… Just Not A Great Team
The gang from Stone Ocean has a lot of compelling characters and their arcs are definitely enjoyable, but the lack of interactions and teamwork from them leads you to feeling a bit unsatisfied. There are not many battles where they get to work together, and there are very few interactions between all of them. In fact, they never happen to be all in the same room at the same time.
It’s a different dynamic to previous parts, and I think it takes away from this part, with some characters such as Weather Report, Anasui or Emporio needing a bit more screen time to be fleshed out in a more effective manner. They all have moments to shine, but I think it doesn’t work in the best possible way.
However, this was still a highly enjoyable part and these characters deserve a lot of appreciation for the things that did work.