Diving into the action-packed world of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, “Stone Ocean Part 1” unravels protagonist Jolyne Cujoh’s (Ai Fairouz/Kira Buckland) misfortunes in prison as she fights against a sinister agenda threatening her entire bloodline. Released internationally on Netflix on December 1, the 12 episodes-series is a larger adaptation of Hirohiko Araki’s popular manga series, which features multiple parts and main characters. This newest season distinguishes JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure from other anime series through its empowering female cast, creative world building, and unique animation. Caution: spoilers ahead.
“Stone Ocean” defies the mold of its male-centric predecessors by challenging the representation of women in Japanese media. Anime often depicts women through the male-gaze; female characters are typically objectified for fanservice, either through oversexualization or being characterized as demure and submissive. However, “Stone Ocean” approaches its female characters with tact. Both Jolyne and her confidant Ermes Costello (Mutsumi Tamura/Tiana Camacho) are characterized by strength and independence: they are bold, confident, assertive, and unafraid to defy authority. Jolyne’s initial character arc specifically features her growth from being overly reliant on her boyfriend to subsequently abandoning their toxic and controlling relationship. Through this presentation of characters, the show actively works to contradict the existing definition of how women in anime “should be.”
Another aspect of the show that circumvents tropes is its ingenious world-building. “Stone Ocean” not only explores the potential of the characters’ abilities, but also creates more sophisticated and exciting fighting mechanics. A notable example of this is Weather Forecast (Yuichiro Umehara/Stephen Fu), one of Jolyne’s allies who possesses the ability to control weather. By creating atmospheric layers around him and greatly increasing air resistance, Weather can deflect projectiles as a form of defense. Additionally, his ‘atmospheric shield’ can set any object that has entered its range on fire through aerodynamic friction. The specificity of his abilities and inclusion of scientific reasoning help develop more engaging plots and nuanced progressions in fights. With nearly all the characters receiving a similarly thoroughly-developed skill set, JoJo’s mechanics and conflicts become much more compelling compared to other superpower-based shows that tend to leave abilities as unexplained plot devices. For example, other shows might have their characters inexplicably conjure storms and lightning, requiring viewers to suspend their disbelief due how unrealistic it is. As a result, watchers might not be as invested in a fight simply because of the lack of thinking they need to do about it. However, “Stone Ocean” forces audiences to fully engage in the logical reasoning behind its complex fights, allowing for a more stimulating experience.
“Stone Ocean” also excels in its smooth transitions from 2D and 3D animation styles and color palettes. While the use of 3D animation—done with 3D models rather than being drawn by hand—was most likely to reduce the labor and stress for the animation studio, it was still implemented in an extremely artistic and masterful way. The 3D models used were all extremely detailed and served to make parts of the animation and certain characters’ movements appear more realistic. Additionally, the visual disorientation of switching from 2D to 3D almost seems like an intentional move to add more depth to fights. Through switching between animation styles and color palettes, the show creates a separate perspective for audiences to view the fight between within, conveying that it has reached a new level of intensity and complexity. By not following conventional animation standards, “Stone Ocean” gains room to offer audiences a more immersive and dynamic experience.
Overall, “Stone Ocean Part 1” receives a 4.5/5 for its high quality and presentation; not only did it successfully build from the legacy of the series’ previous parts, but also made the show more enjoyable by incorporating more creativity and depth.