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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the most important and influential pieces of media that Japan has ever produced. When you look past the memes, the poses and the amazing rock references, you find that author Hirohiko Araki has crafted a series that celebrates and pushes storytelling to a whole new level in terms of thinking outside the box. And the influence of JoJo’s can be felt throughout a lot of different franchises over the years.
While the first two parts of JoJo’s, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, were quite good and showed how Araki progressed as a creator, especially compared to the work he did before coming up with JoJo’s, it is with the third part, Stardust Crusaders, that the man broke the mold and came up with some of the concepts that would define the franchise moving forward.
Therefore, Stardust Crusaders is to JoJo what Dragon Ball Z is to Dragon Ball: the moment that the series became a worldwide phenomenon and when a lot of the classic elements of both franchises were established. If you ask an average anime and manga fan who THE villain of JoJo is, they are going to think of this version of DIO. If you ask who them who THE JoJo is, they are going to think of his part’s protagonist, Jotaro Kujo.
It was the first part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to be adapted into OVAs, videogames, novels and a lot more, with the anime adaptation by David Productions of the mid-2010s cementing its place as one of the most iconic pieces of anime… but is it the best? It has gotten a lot of negative reviews in recent times due to some aspects we’re going to discuss today. And a lot more.
Here we are going to review a lot of the elements that make Stardust Crusaders one of the most important pieces of entertainment in JoJo’s and the entire anime industry, and also some of the valid criticisms that it has gotten in recent times. So let’s begin.
What Is Stardust Crusaders?
After almost one hundred years, the vampire antagonist of Phantom Blood, Dio Brando, now known as DIO, has risen from the depths of the ocean in possession of the body of Jonathan Joestar, and a new power: a Stand known as The World. This event sends a distress signal to all the Joestars due to a family connection with Jonathan’s body and, thus, they awaken their own Stands.
Amidst all of this, we see our protagonist for this part, teenager Jotaro Kujo, willingly in jail due to his Stand, Star Platinum, running amok and Jotaro being worried of what he could do. His mother, Holly, asks our protagonist’s grandfather (and protagonist of the previous part), Joseph Joestar, to help out with this situation.
Joseph reveals the nature of the Stands and how they work, plus the fact that DIO has come back. And after Holly falls ill due to her not being strong enough to control her Stand, Jotaro, Joseph, and a band of allies have to travel to Egypt to defeat DIO and end this century-long conflict once and for all.
I would go as far as saying that Stardust Crusaders has the strongest premise among all the JoJo parts, and I think this is mainly due to the work of Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency before it. Araki often writes every part as a standalone series, in a way that you can enjoy every storyline without needing to see or read what came before, but Stardust Crusaders benefits from the world that the previous two parts created and adds to the mythos.
A lot of people say that you should skip the first two parts and head to “the good stuff” in Stardust Crusaders, but I disagree: Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency add to the characters of Dio, Jonathan and their feud; the whole Brando-Joestar rivalry; the connection we have with Joseph; and how this part feels like a natural conclusion to everything we have seen in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure so far.
Of course, this part also adds the element of Stands, and we are going to talk in-depth about it in a moment. Stands take the strategic battles that Araki established in previous parts and takes them to a whole new level, feeling more like chess duels and challenges of mental fortitude than the classical anime proposal of “I’m just stronger than you”. I don’t mean to criticize other anime series that have that approach, but it’s something that I enjoy a lot with this series and Stardust Crusaders pushed those boundaries.
Araki has also stated that he meant to structure this part as an RPG videogame, with a party of characters travelling from one place to another, defeating Stand users sent by DIO and moving forward to their target in Egypt. I like this because it adds to the epic nature of Stardust Crusaders, which I feel that no part before or after has managed to capture: much like great stories such as The Lord of the Rings, you have this feeling of being with this party of heroes, going through all these locations and taking down the enemies.
This is also due to how strong the cast of characters are, and how they interact with one another. Araki already showed glimpses of what he could in terms of developing relationships in Battle Tendency through Joseph and Caesar Zeppeli, but here we see it taken to the next level. And while I agree that some of the Crusaders deserved more screen time (more on that later), the camaraderie and friendship that you see building up in this long journey helps making the finale all the more heartbreaking and emotional, which is of course the author’s goal.
It has become trendy to say that Stardust Crusaders is the worst part because of its pacing and while I have to agree, as a writer, that the pacing has its users, I never had any issues with it. Probably because I enjoy the cast of characters and felt that the Stand battles were always quite enjoyable, even if some of them could be described as filler, but not everything in a story has to “matter”–it has to be enjoyable, first and foremost.
Stardust Crusaders is all about the experience of the journey and the excitement of adventure, which is something that no other part has managed to capture. Most other parts are mainly situational, without much exploration of the world they are in, with the following part, Diamond is Unbreakable, being an exception, although on a much smaller scale within the town of Morioh. This adds to the epic scale of the storyline and serves to hype the final act to the stratosphere, when they finally reach their goal and confront DIO.
Therefore, when you factor in a very good premise, an exciting exploration of the world they are in, the introduction of one of the greatest battle systems of all time, a great cast of characters, a strong villain and the culmination of everything we’ve seen in previous parts… there is much to like about Stardust Crusaders.
Stand battles As A Concept
One of the biggest reasons why Stardust Crusaders is so known among anime fans is because it introduces the concept of Stands, which have become the standard JoJo battle system ever since. And to simplify what Stands are, we can say that they are representations of each user’s fighting spirit in the form of a ghost, a weapon or ability.
While Stands would become a lot more restrained and conditional in future parts (at least in most cases), in Stardust Crusaders we can see Araki starting to experiment with it, and I think it adds to why this concept is so good. Stands can turn every character into a potential threat, regardless of their gender, age, physical strength and so on, with the context, the setting and the use of their abilities making them all the more dangerous.
The Daniel J. D’Arby fight was a great example of this: the man is a professional at betting (and cheating, at that), so his Stand allows him to take the souls of those who are willing to bet it and lose in the process. During the entire battle with him, D’Arby doesn’t throw a single punch and is one of the finest confrontations in manga and anime history, with Jotaro having to rely on pure strategy, intelligence and sheer mental strength. Moments like this make JoJo’s such a phenomenal and creative story, and Stands play a big role in that regard.
I am one of those fans that wanted Hamon to stay as a secondary battle system, and while I understand both sides of the argument (that it should have stayed one way or another and that it wasn’t necessary since this is the last part where we see vampires, who were the beings to use Hamon against), I cannot deny that Stands are a much more complete and creative battle system, making things a lot more exciting and unexpected.
Stardust Crusaders benefits from this, and we see how Araki relished in this setup, constantly coming up with more and more ways to make things interesting. Definitely one of the biggest highlights of this part because it changed the entire franchise moving forward.
As I mentioned earlier, the epic nature of the journey of the Crusaders and the slow pacing that the story has leads us to spending a lot more time with the main cast, which I think works for the best. While some of these characters have received criticism, it is mostly due to the lack of exposure that they have or the extreme exposure that they get. So I wanted to analyze every character of the Crusaders and see what works and what doesn’t with all of them.
Jotaro Kujo is not only the protagonist of Stardust Crusaders, but there is an argument to be made that he is the face of the entire series. He is, along with Dio, the character that must people associate with the franchise and the one that has gotten the most adaptations, and the most representation in media and all over the world. In terms of popularity and worldwide recognition, he is the definitive JoJo.
Having said all that, Jotaro’s character in Stardust Crusaders has gotten a lot of criticism in recent years, with some being valid as him not having a lot of character development to more subjective ones as him being unlikeable. From my perspective, there is a lot more to Jotaro’s character and it is based around much more subtle writing.
First and foremost, character development amongst JoJo protagonists has always been inconsistent. While I can pinpoint Jonathan, Jolyne and Johnny as great examples of the characters growing throughout the story, others such as Josuke, Giorno and Jotaro himself stay consistent in their parts, albeit with some minor growth. Thing is a lot of people argue that development has to exist for the characters to be great, and that is true… for the most part.
Jotaro has a very clear personality: he is stoic, he is tough, he is prone to anger at times and he doesn’t express his emotions, which becomes quite consistent throughout the part. He also shows willingness to help others and those he cares about, like all the other JoJos. The thing that a lot of people complain about is that he doesn’t have any development, he is not very charismatic and fixes all his problems by punching with Star Platinum.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jotaro does grow throughout the part, but through more subtle ways. Based on what little background we get about his past, Jotaro doesn’t seem to have any friends and obviously has an absent father, which usually takes a huge toll on teenagers during their development. At first he shows little care about the DIO situation, but as the story progresses, he develops strong friendships with the Crusaders, has in his grandfather Joseph a strong father figure and his final battle with DIO highlights how much he cares for others. Hell, his final goodbye to Polnareff and holding unto the Crusaders photo is a testament to that, and an example of growth.
I also disagree with the claim he is basically an overpowered meathead, as some people say. Jotaro shows in several moments in the part that he can strategize, come up with solutions through quick thinking and by the time he reaches DIO he has earned a plethora of battle experience, which I think not even the vampire can stack to during that point in the story.
I think it’s fairly obvious to say that I like Jotaro. His stoic persona is a nice change of pace from traditional anime protagonists that are more extroverted or morally ambiguous, and he grows as a leader throughout the part. Plus, him being influenced by Araki’s love of Western movies is something that I enjoy quite a lot.
It’s interesting how Stardust Crusaders and its protagonists are both so misunderstood, but I think it adds as to why it has become such a controversial part in recent years.
As a lot of people know, Joseph was the protagonist of the previous part and now, fifty years later, he is the grandfather to Jotaro, the father of Holy and the leader of the Crusaders in their expedition to Egypt. And as far as his character goes… it’s complicated.
Look, Joseph is great here. He is charismatic, funny and adds a lot of extrovert energy to a group that doesn’t have a lot of that, bar Polnareff. He is the leader of the operation until the final act where Jotaro takes over and his intelligence and strategizing is still there to be seen, even if it isn’t to the level of Battle Tendency.
All well and good, although you can’t help but feel that Joseph is being underutilized for the most part. There are some plot arguments for that and some writing arguments for that: the plot arguments is that Joseph is older, Hamon is no longer the main battle system, which was his forte, and his Stand, Hermit Purple, is not the best suited for combat.
And the writing argument is… that he is no longer the main character.
I’m not saying that Joseph should outshine Jotaro. It would do the protagonist and the story a disservice. But I do think that Joseph could have done more and have a few victories on his own. Empress was a really good moment and callback to Battle Tendency, there is an argument to be made that the battle against The Sun Stand should have been his victory (even though the conclusion was hilarious) and I would even go as far as saying that the battle against the older D’Arby should have been won by him due to his background as a trickster and betting man.
On a more personal note, I love to see some glimpses of Joseph’s growth in this part when compared to his Battle Tendency self. His “final words” to Jotaro highlight how Caesar’s death still looms over him, telling his grandson to stay composed in this moment of extreme pressure and to not allow his anger to take over. That was a very powerful moment.
I understand Araki. This is Jotaro’s story and Joseph had an entire part where he beat four literal gods, so giving him even more victories could have been overkill. So, while I feel he was underutilized, the reasoning behind it is quite valid.
Jean Pierre Polnareff
There is a running joke that Polnareff is the real protagonist of Stardust Crusaders due to the amount of screen time that he has compared to the rest of the cast and that he has a much more obvious character arc, becoming a much more mature man and more willing to collaborate with others instead of being blinded by revenge. This is all well and good, but I don’t think he is the main character–he is the designated “Jobro” of the part and one of the best of the entire series, at that.
We meet Polnareff at the start of the Crusaders’ journey as one of DIO’s minions, but then we discover that he was mind-controlled and ends up joining them as gratitude for setting him free and in hopes of finding the man that abused and killed his sister. During most of the first half of the part, Polnareff acts very emotionally and selfishly, which ends up with the “death” of Avdol, setting in motion the growth and development of everybody’s favorite Frenchman (sorry, Zidane).
I personally think that Polnareff is one of the best characters in the entirety of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. This is saying a lot when you consider the amount of great characters that this series has, but Jean Pierre proves to have one of the best arcs in the franchise, grows through adversity and his resolve during the biggest challenges is there to be seen, particularly against J. Geil to avenge his sister and against Vanilla Ice to avenge Avdol and Iggy.
Is he also very prone to comic relief moments to the point that you feel that has been beaten to death? Yes. A lot. In fact, I think there is a bit too much of that during the second portion of the part, which we could have done without. But that doesn’t take away from the character, and I would argue that those moments of levity add to the scenes where he is all business.
Also, I personally love how both the manga and the anime depict Silver Chariot. Not only because of the awesome visuals and fighting style, but also because Chariot has a lot more personality and charisma than most Stands, which adds to Polnareff as a character and it makes a certain moment of part 5, Golden Wind, all the sadder (but we’ll talk about it when we get there).
Overall, Jean Pierre Polnareff is one of the strongest characters in the entire part and one of the biggest highlights in terms of writing, fighting prowess and characterization.
Now we are entering a gray area.
Muhammad Avdol is an Egyptian fortuneteller that happens to run into DIO, escapes, and seeks Joseph out, thus kick-starting the entire part. The first Stand in the entire franchise happens between Jotaro’s Star Platinum and Avdol’s Magician’s Red, and he is the one that names everybody’s Stands and he is the second in command for most of the journey.
And… that is pretty much it when it comes to Avdol’s character. He has a very powerful and cool Stand, he is the dependable one in the group and his martyr role with Polnareff is certainly very enjoyable, but Avdol has a lot of wasted potential. This is due to how Araki set the character up and then not knowing how to execute it.
One of the issues that has been brought up is how powerful Magician’s Red is and how the capacity that it has to create and manipulate flame could have solved most of the Crusaders’ battles, which is understandable, but that makes the character feel irrelevant in most fights because Araki doesn’t want a quick fix. I think this is one of the reasons that Stands become more restrained in later parts (even to the point of an exaggeration).
Of course, you can’t talk about Avdol without bringing up his “deaths”. Araki has stated that he wanted to kill one of the Crusaders during the path to Egypt to make things a lot more unpredictable (if Avdol is killed mid-way through the story, there is a greater chance of other Crusaders dying along the way), but bringing him back, underutilizing him and then killing him in such a crude way against Vanilla Ice, without having the chance to even fight, is something that feels like such a waste.
Araki has always been a little prone to this in most parts of JoJo’s, especially in the earlier ones. He tends to have characters in important roles that don’t fully live up to what they have to offer, and Avdol is a prime example of that. He doesn’t have a lot of shining moments and most of his best scenes involve him dying or interacting with Polnareff, and while I enjoy that relationship a lot, I don’t think it was enough.
Avdol got the ugliest hand in terms of writing, backstory, and characterization when it comes to the main cast of Stardust Crusaders. I would have actually enjoyed seeing him in future parts because I think he had the potential for a lot of different things, but between his Stand being too powerful and Araki never establishing what he wanted to do, this character never took off.
Kakyoin… is a weird one. He is the first-ever Stand enemy we see in the franchise, and he joins the Crusaders as a way to thank Jotaro for saving DIO from mind control. And while he is a fan favorite, and I personally like him a lot, he is a very weird case among JoJo characters.
The thing about Kakyoin is that he does a lot and very little at the same time. He is probably the most level-headed Crusader and, surprisingly enough, he is the one with the second-highest body count after Jotaro, but by the same token, you feel that he is not doing enough and often ends up making you feel frustrated.
I enjoy how Noriaki is calmer and more analytical than most characters in the franchise, not relying on being very flamboyant and over the top. For example, when Hol Horse “killed” Avdol, his resolve and calming presence played a big role in setting Polnareff down the right path to get his revenge. If it wasn’t for Kakyoin offering guidance, things would have played out a lot differently.
I would argue that Kakyoin lost a lot of spotlight after he was blinded by N’Doul and after he recovered. His return only had him lose in a videogame race against the younger D’Arby (which he should have won, in my perspective) and then dying against DIO in the final battle, discovering The World’s ability to stop time. Much like Avdol, it feels like very little.
Now, I understand that Araki likes to write tragic elements in JoJo and that is part of the reason that those moments hit you so hard: they are not perfectly timed, a lot of times they happen out of the blue and there are no final words or proper goodbyes. It is very human and real, but sometimes you want a little bit more and I often get that with Kakyoin.
His backstory definitely makes him even more tragic as he is one of the few Stand users that was born with one and failed to connect with others because they couldn’t see Hierophant Green, which was a reflection of his soul. Kakyoin getting friends for fifty days at age seventeen, only to die at the hands of an egomaniacal 120-year-old vampire, is something that hits you like a ton of bricks by the end of Stardust Crusaders. And the fact that his plan would have worked on almost everybody but DIO is very annoying.
The character of Kakyoin works, but I think there was room for greater exploration.
It is ironic that a dog had one of the best character arcs in Stardust Crusaders and had the least amount of screentime among the six main protagonists. That’s Araki for you, people.
Iggy started off as selfish, but you can kind of understand him as he was taken away by Joseph and Avdol, and thrown into a battle he had nothing to do with. He had to fight alongside strangers that were using him for this war, and yet he proved himself as a reliable ally. There is an argument to be made that defeating Petshop, one of DIO’s strongest and most reliable allies, was something that played a big role in the Crusaders’ victory.
There is also the fact that Iggy has a very charming characterization: he is selfish, but he is also prideful, lighthearted at times, and also a fully committed fighter when push comes to shove. This is shown against both Petshop and Vanilla Ice, pushing both enemies to their limits and proving how intelligent he can be in key moments.
I often think that Polnareff’s final words to Iggy, claiming that he finally started to like him, serve as the audience’s perception of this dog: how he started as unlikeable, and by the time of his death we were all saying that he was the best boy. Truly a very interesting character and how he was executed.
This is going to be a more general view. There are a lot of enemy Stand users, with this part being the one with the highest amount of them across the series. And while there is a wide variety of styles and approaches to things, there are also a lot of hits and misses.
Overall, I would say that this being the first batch of enemy Stand users, they are good. There are some that end up being a bit blunt and without much motivation beyond serving DIO, with this, sometimes working (Vanilla Ice) and other times not working (like with several foes in this part). However, one cannot deny that there is a severe lack of individuality when it comes to these enemies’ motivations and why they do the things they do.
Now, I’m not saying that these villains need to be sympathetic or extremely human–I just want a more powerful motivation. I often feel that Araki struggles with justifying DIO’s lackeys and why they serve him–we’re given throughout the part that he is very charismatic, but we don’t see this coming in full force other than the Hol Horse discussion and little else. This is a problem that Araki already had in Phantom Blood, with arguably Jack the Ripper being the exception (he just wanted more power to kill more women).
These people are giving their lives for a 120-year-old vampire with a God complex, so I expect a little more insight into what drives them. I feel that N’Doul is such a memorable character because of this: he is not only intelligent, and resourceful, he has a very interesting Stand and an added a cool element by being blind, but he also highlights that he serves DIO because he is evil and even bad people need a God of Evil. This is very interesting to look at DIO as the ultimate evil in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, thus driving people with similar characters traits to him.
I mention this because I feel that, other than motivation, most Stand battles with these enemies work. They are interesting, they are fun and they allow Araki to flex his creative muscles, which is why you end up with Stands that can transfer the pain that the user feels to a person in particular (Steely Dan), turning people into younger versions of themselves if they step on his shadow (Alessi) and even having a gorilla that can summon a ship (Strength). A lot of people might complain about the pacing, but there is no denying that the battles, from an individual standpoint, are pretty fun and, as the story progresses, Araki gets more and more creative.
Not every character is a winner here, and in most cases, their Stands are the protagonists rather than them, which is something that is a bit annoying from time to time. But I think it’s important to highlight the enemy Stand users that did work as characters.
The first one obviously has to be Hol Horse. Not only is he a very charismatic man that seems to be in it for the business and not actual loyalty to DIO, but he also has a very capable Stand in Emperor and the running encounters with the Crusaders allow him to shine a lot more, which is something that the other enemies, bar Enya, didn’t have in terms of screen time. Araki had the idea of making him a Crusader at a moment, but discarded it–It would have been interesting to see that play out.
I already mentioned the brilliance of the D’Arby brothers and how they manage to up the scales in a way that was fairly original at the time. Having our protagonists playing video games and betting to save their lives was a lot tenser and more exciting than what you would originally expect, which was a strong highlight of the series. The younger D’Arby does feel a bit redundant when compared to his brother, but I think he was still interesting for what he was, especially considering how he was defeated.
Petshop was one of the deadliest and most ruthless enemies in the entire series, to the point that I sometimes thought he was even eviler than DIO himself. Araki did a very smart thing by playing straight with his confrontation with Iggy: no humor and no lighthearted approach. It was all action and violence, with Iggy losing a leg and betting by the skin of his teeth, giving us one of the best battles in the franchise.
In fact, the contrast between the two characters was very enjoyable: Petshop was fully committed to DIO while Iggy felt he owed nothing to the Crusaders. It was a very nice contrast between them and it helped to raise the stakes.
Naturally, if there is one Stardust Crusaders villain that left his mark (other than DIO) it was definitely Vanilla Ice.
The most disturbing and fascinating part about Vanilla Ice is that, based on the information we were given in the story, he shouldn’t exist. Every Stand until that point was named after Tarot cards and the Egyptian gods… and then there is Ice and his dark and powerful Stand, Cream. From the get-go, his appearance, demeanor, and Stand make you feel that there is something weird with this guy, and during his battle with Iggy and Polnareff, we see him being completely unhinged once his loyalty to DIO is taken advantage of by them.
Vanilla Ice is a DIO fanatic, and that is shown in the very first scene when he sacrifices his life for him, only to be turned into a vampire. The OVAs that were made in the 90s added a bit to his unknown backstory, with DIO saying that he was an outcast due to his Stand, which could explain why Vanilla Ice is so loyal to him, and it would have been an interesting angle to explore.
Regardless, Ice ends up being one of the strongest threats to our heroes, killing Avdol and Iggy while leaving Polnareff severely hurt in the process. His resolve, determination, and bloodlust are unparalleled to any other DIO follower, and this battle, one of the finest in the franchise, ends up as one of the most disturbing and darkest in the entire series.
By and large, most villains here have this “Monster of the week” approach, but I think by and large get the job done, although a lack of proper motivations makes things feel a bit hollow. There are some characters that stand out, but I would argue that Araki gets better with this over time.
DIO is one of the most iconic villains in all of manga and anime, and he is quite likely the most popular and known character in the entire JoJo series. He is also the most influential: pretty much every single part from the original universe happens because of DIO, and his presence is felt throughout the part. It is easy to see why: regardless of the version of DIO you are watching, he is always cunning, intelligent, manipulative, revels in his evil and has no qualms about doing despicable things to further cement his position of power. A lot of people say he is mostly a cliché villain, but I would counter that by saying that he is a cliché villain done well.
Having said all that, DIO in Stardust Crusaders has shown growth, and I would even go as far as saying that it reflects on Araki’s improved writing skills (which we would also see in part 6, Stone Ocean, and part 7, Steel Ball Run, through Diego Brando). The Dio Brando of Phantom Blood was power-hungry, sadistic, egomaniacal and is very prone to anger and cowardly tactics when things don’t go his way. Stardust Crusaders DIO is… all that, but there are a lot more layers to him.
Part of this is due to the respect he found for Jonathan Joestar before taking his body because JoJo bested him regularly in Phantom Blood, thus proving to him that he wasn’t invincible, even with vampire abilities. And after one hundred years trapped in the depths of the ocean in a coffin, he also had time to reflect on his life, his plans and what he wanted to accomplish with a lot more care and precision. He also went nuts and developed a God complex, but who amongst us hasn’t gone through that at least once?
DIO in Stardust Crusaders is almost like a borderline deity. In Phantom Blood he was a power-hungry upstart that rejected his humanity; here he is viewed as an almost mythical figure due to how much time he has been alive and how much he has survived. I think it is also due to the fact that Araki, by the time of Stardust Crusaders, was moving away from vampires and the concept of the Pillar Men, so DIO stood out a lot more since he was already a threat without a Stand when compared to the rest of the users in the series.
Here we see a villain that is hyped from the very first episode as a monumental mountain to overcome, with the “Shadow DIO” scenes adding to his mystique and I would even argue that by the time that the Crusaders face DIO, he has an impossible challenge to accomplish in terms of living up to the expectation. Especially for those of us who already watched Phantom Blood and knew what they were up against.
Overall, I feel that DIO is one of those characters that you just can’t analyze in just one part; he is one of the few in the franchise that managed to showcase in three whole parts and that allowed Araki to explore him even further. Stardust Crusaders DIO is Dio in his prime, and he boasts such an imposing figure and legacy that serves as an antagonist fitting for this plot, even if he ends up a bit more “down to earth” once he faces off against the Crusaders.
Another element that I think is often ignored when analyzing DIO is how regularly he loses his mind when cornered. This happened all the way back in Phantom Blood when Jonathan beat him up when they were kids and Dio pulled out a knife–the exact same thing happened in his fight with Jotaro, resorting to cheating and blinding with his blood. It’s totally in-character, along with starting to curse and belittle Jotaro for being human, which goes to show how the “reject my humanity” angle from Phantom Blood is still latent within him, believing that being a vampire makes him inherently better.
DIO is the definitive JoJo villain and he proves quite a challenge during the final battle, which we are now going to focus on.
Jotaro vs DIO
It’s impossible to understand Stardust Crusaders without the final battle Jotaro and DIO. It is the final conclusion to the most important part of the entire franchise and, arguably, the only time where the protagonist and the main villain had a straightforward one-on-one battle. And it also serves to explain the similarities and key differences between both characters.
A common complaint in recent years, particularly since the anime adaptation, is that Jotaro winning the way he did was a writing and storytelling mess. That DIO had a stronger Stand and was able to regenerate as a vampire, thus having the upper hand over Jotaro. And he did: DIO had all the cards in his favor and had to defeat Jotaro.
Thing is, this is when Araki stepped in with his writing and made the battle not only one of physicality and wits, but, most importantly, of will and overcoming your fears.
DIO feared losing his position of strength, and this is shown in the way he didn’t face the Crusaders until he felt completely adjusted to this body due to it being that of a Hamon user, which went against his vampire essence. And due to the ton of defeats he suffered against Jonathan, the only mortal to actually corner him, the desire of ending the Joestar bloodline was very present, which came to be shown in his reaction to Jotaro moving in stopped time.
That moment right there is essential to understand this battle because it shows the complete difference in mentality between these two characters and why one won and the other lost. While DIO is actively trying not to lose and starts acting like a scared animal every time Jotaro does something, our protagonist is constantly trying to win, which is a fundamental difference in their characters.
The only time in the fight where DIO is going for the jugular is when he went insane after drinking Joseph’s blood and even then he tried to use a road roller to have a huge distance between him and Jotaro. Even at his most insane he had to play with his food instead of going for the kill. Yes, DIO likes to mess around with people (moving Polnareff around with his time stop ability is evidence of that), but this version of his also does it due to him being a lot more careful than in Phantom Blood because he doesn’t want to repeat the Jonathan scenario. I imagine that losing your entire body and spending a century in a coffin in the depths of the ocean due to one man can leave you fairly traumatized.
Jotaro has none of that. He wants to end DIO and his strategies, which range from stuffing his clothes with books to having Star Platinum stopping his heart from beating, are all focused for that sole purpose. His determination allows him to overcome the fear of facing DIO and dying, which keeps pushing forward to his victory.
DIO didn’t overcome his fear. Jotaro did.
Now, the whole “So it’s the same type of Stand as Star Platinum” has to be discussed. It’s a bit contrived, but Araki showed with the D’Arby brothers and in future parts that people with family ties can have similar Stands, so DIO having Jonathan’s body certainly influences in that regard. Plus, it thematically fits with the overarching theme of the story, with Jotaro slowly adapting to DIO’s abilities and countering them with his own tactics.
It’s not the best resolution, but I don’t think it is as far-fetched as some people claim it is.
This is one of the most iconic battles in anime and manga, and you can see why: it has iconic dialogue (which has been memed to death at this point), great battle sequences, great strategies and a lot of iconic moments that stay in your mind forever. Even if you don’t think much of JoJo or you have a rudimentary knowledge of the franchise, you know about this battle.
Perhaps one of my gripes is that this battle doesn’t feel very personal between both characters. Sure, it is the final resolution between the Joestar-Brando rivalry, but to Jotaro, DIO is just an evil vampire to kill, and to DIO, Jotaro is just another random Joestar he has to end. This would be a common theme in the next couple of parts, and while I understand that not every protagonist and main villain have to be connected on a deeper level, I feel that this battle needed that.
Regardless, I would say that this battle definitely lives up to the hype and feels very rewarding after watching the entire part.
As much as I like Stardust Crusaders, I cannot say that this is a part without problems. It has its fair share of issues, and while I don’t think it takes away too much from it, they are worth pointing out to have a much more complete perspective of the entire story.
As I mentioned before, I don’t have much of a problem with the pacing, but I can understand if it gets annoying for some people, particularly in the middle section, right after they reach Egypt. There are some battles you can do without, even if they are entertaining, because it drags the plot a lot and it feels way too long for its own good. I can understand why people could have a problem with this.
Another issue is the overreliance on Jotaro and Polnareff during the part. Look, I love these two characters and they steal the show for the vast majority of the story, but that came with the fact that Kakyoin, Joseph and Avdol don’t get a lot of spotlight. At least Kakyoin gets a couple of victories, but the other two don’t have much to work with in terms of fights, which ends up feeling a bit underwhelming in that regard.
The villains, for the most part, are uneventful, even if their battles are fun and interesting. What I mean by this is that the vast majority of them are disconnected from the plot and characters such as Alessi or Empress could be removed and the story would be exactly the same. Not every villain has to have major relevance in the plot, but I would have liked to have seen more cases like Hol Horse, who had his own agency and was shown more than once in Stardust Crusaders.
I also wasn’t a fan of Joseph being brought back to life. I know he is one of Araki’s favorite characters, but I think that cheapens the moment he shared with Jotaro in the battle with DIO, and considering the little role he has in the series moving forward, it doesn’t seem like a smart move. Having said, the moment afterwards was hilarious.
Why Is It The Most Popular JoJo Part?
A lot of people have asked over the years why the first adaptations of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, whether it was the OVAs of the 90s, the videogames and even the non-canon novels, were all based on Stardust Crusaders. Why not start from the beginning of the series with Phantom Blood? What makes this part so popular?
There are a couple of reasons. It features the most iconic JoJo in Jotaro, both in personality and actions, it features Stands for the first time, it has a wider cast of characters and it also shows the most iconic villain of the entire franchise in DIO. Plus, I would argue that the plot of Stardust Crusaders is easier to understand: there is a century-long feud with the vampire DIO, going to Egypt and defeat him is simple and easier to understand while other parts are a bit more complicated to digest as a premise.
The wider cast of characters allows for a lot more connections in the plot, and to have a lot more varied fighting scenes, which is something that Stardust Crusaders definitely excels at when compared to the previous parts. This adds to the appeal of the part.
Another factor is that it connects with the previous two parts without relying too much on them, so you can kind of digest Stardust Crusaders without reading or watching what happened before (but I don’t recommend it). Araki only superficially refers to the events of Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency only influences in terms of making you understand who Joseph is and what he has gone through (for example, in Battle Tendency why he uses Hamon and why he has a mechanical hand).
Overall, Stardust Crusaders is a major milestone in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and manga and anime as a whole. It completely changed the medium with one of the most creative battle systems in history, and it also pushed the series forward to a whole new level. And it is a celebration of the experience of travelling, and of building memories with friends that would last a lifetime and the eternal battle between good and evil.
A story that you need to read or watch at least once.