JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has become a cult phenomenon in the world of anime. The first three parts have aired on Adult Swim's Toonami block, which is currently broadcasting Part 4. Part 5, still airing in Japan, is drawing crowds on Crunchyroll, and recently won the Best Character Design award at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards. Viz, meanwhile, is publishing the original manga. Part 3's protagonist Jotaro Kujo and antagonist Dio Brando are playable in the Jump Force video game. Robert Rodriguez mentioned at Crunchyroll Expo 2018 that JoJo is the anime he's most interested in adapting into a movie after Battle Angel Alita. JoJo memes are so common online that the question "Is this a JoJo reference?" has become a meme in and of itself.
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There's good reason for the series' popularity. It's extremely entertaining and imaginative; but at the same time, it's also understandable if new viewers are intimidated by it. With over 132 episodes of anime as of this writing and even more manga, it's a significant time investment. Luckily, though, each part has new characters and a different style and tone, allowing a few potential jumping-on points. As for where the best place to start watching the JoJo anime, that will depend on what you're interested in, as each part has its ups and downs, and not everyone enjoys every one. Here, then, is our guide to the five-part anime thus far and what newcomers need to know about each.
'PHANTOM BLOOD' IS THE BEGINNING (BUT A LITTLE ROUGH)
If you want the full JoJo experience, starting at the beginning is the way to go, but be aware of what you're getting into. Phantom Blood, which is Part 1 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, is a quick watch; it is only nine episodes long and it certainly has its charms. Dio Brando is an instant classic villain; he's so ridiculously evil, he kicks a dog in the first episode and only escalates from there. Supporting characters like Robert EO Speedwagon also make an impression and prove important in future parts. The animation is striking, and both the opening theme ("Sono Chi no Sadame") and the ending theme ("Roundabout" by Yes, the first of many English rock ending themes) are equally amazing.
The thing with Phantom Blood is that, while it certainly has its "bizarre" elements, it's not as wildly creative as later parts. It's a Victorian gothic horror tale that's too campy to be truly scary, but also isn't quite as purposefully funny as the series would later become. Jonathan Joestar makes for a fairly bland protagonist, and while the action is fun and directed with a flair for the dramatic, the style is also atypical of what it would evolve into, using a "Hamon" magic system that's since been abandoned. Part 1 is worth watching, but also the most skippable JoJo content.
'BATTLE TENDENCY' IS AN UNDERRATED GEM
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 2, Battle Tendency, takes up the remaining 17 episodes of the anime's first season. Coming right after the often-skipped Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency also sometimes gets overlooked, due to carrying over aspects of Part 1 (mainly Hamon) that are quickly abandoned afterward. That said, fans of action-adventure anime are advised to watch Part 2, which is a blast.
Joseph Joestar, the grandson of Jonathan, is a much more fun main character, who stays important in Parts 3 and 4. The bromance between him and fellow Hamon user Caesar Zeppelli is sweet, and trainer Lisa Lisa makes for the series' first interesting female character. The villains -- the ancient Pillar Men -- are a wild and intimidating threat. Set in the 1930s, there's also a fun Indiana Jones vibe to everything. The only aspect of Part 2 which could really rub some the wrong way is that the heroes end up making a temporary alliance with Nazis, though it's still clear in every other circumstance that Joseph would destroy said Nazis.
'STARDUST CRUSADERS' IS PEAK JOJO
Part 3, Stardust Crusaders, is the longest part of JoJo thus far, taking up two whole seasons, and it is by far the most iconic part of the series. It's this part in which the show abandons Hamon in favor of "Stands," powerful invisible creatures that can basically be described as "soul Pokemon." It's also this part where the series evolves into more of an ensemble. Jotaro Kujo is a more aloof protagonist than past JoJos, but he's balanced wonderfully by his companions (four humans and a dog, who also has a Stand because... reasons).
Dio makes his grand return as the villain, and our heroes have to travel from Japan to Egypt in order to defeat him once and for all. This is probably the most "Shonen Jump" part, with drawn-out fights and not the same snappiness of the first two parts. Also, be sure to watch in Japanese, as this is the part where the English translations really start dramatically changing names to avoid trademark lawsuits from the various musicians characters are named for.
'DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE' IS SUPER CHILL
After the intense race-against-the-clock action of Stardust Crusaders, Diamond is Unbreakable goes in a completely different direction. Part 4 is a more relaxed JoJo, a suburban slice-of-life comedy. Josuke Higashikata is a chiller, friendlier JoJo than past protagonists; even his Stand power is based in healing rather than destruction. Much of the series is just him making friends around town and exploring various wacky supernatural mysteries.
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Of course, there is a Big Bad lurking around Morioh, and all the material regarding the villain Yoshikage Kira is top-notch insanity. Another great character introduced here is Kishibe Rohan, a manga artist who's basically creator Hirohiko Araki's self-insert character. The art direction takes a fresh turn, with more stylized colors. Background on Stands and the Joestar family is helpful but not necessary for enjoying Part 4.
'GOLDEN WIND' IS GREAT (BUT NOT FOR NEWCOMERS)
Part 5, Golden Wind, is still in the process of airing. It's another wild shift in tone, going for a darker gangster drama. So far, it has met no small measure of acclaim, handling heavier character development while still upping JoJo's trademark craziness.
However, Golden Wind is also not designed with newcomers in mind at all. This might be the part where watching Phantom Blood beforehand is most helpful, given that Giorno Giovanna's origins lie in the weird dichotomy between Jonathan and Dio. This is one for the dedicated fans, but for those fans, it's quite the treat.