The globe trotting adventure of Battle Tendency became the template for the absolute insanity of future parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Stardust Crusaders was meant to feel like a continuation of plot threads from Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency. While it definitely has some great moments, Stardust Crusaders, particularly the anime adaptation by David Productions, feels bloated and elongated at times. Spoilers for Stardust Crusaders ahead.
Stardust Crusaders begins with DIO’s coffin from Phantom Blood being raised from the ocean, with the vampire still alive inside it. Joseph Joestar quickly learns of DIO’s return through the awakening of a new ability known as a Stand. He quickly heads to Japan to enlist the help of his grandson, Jotaro Kujo. They soon discover that Joseph’s daughter, Holly, has been given a Stand that is too powerful for her to control. Together with Jotaro’s classmate Noriaki Kakyoin, fortune teller Muhammad Avdol, suave Frenchman Jean Pierre Polnareff and the Boston Terrier Iggy, they head to Egypt to defeat DIO and save Holly.
For most of Stardust Crusaders, the only interesting characters are Polnareff and Joseph. Polnareff initially joined the group to get revenge on the user of the Hanged Man Stand for killing his sister. This personal motivation leads Polnareff to fit more of a protagonist role within the first half of the story. Joseph heavily benefits from his characterization in Battle Tendency, as he is basically the same character, just with 40 more years of experience.Kakyoin and Avdol suffer from a lack of proper motivation due to them disappearing for long periods of time over the course of the show. I get that Kakyoin wants to save Holly because of his attraction to her, but that is not enough for me.
Despite being the actual protagonist, Jotaro is mainly a blank slate throughout most of the season. However, because of his lack of characterization, his blunt demeanor allows him to shine in the more strategic fights near the end of the part. It seems that JoJo’s creator, Hirohiko Araki, did not figure out how to properly write a character like Jotaro until his game of Poker with Daniel D’Arby. Jotaro’s consistent straight face leads his opponents to constantly second guess their actions, always ending in their defeat. It is a shame this concept did not come into effect earlier in the show, as Jotaro could have easily been the best character in Stardust Crusaders if his writing was more consistent.
Stardust Crusaders is one of the most popular parts of JoJo’s due to its introduction of Stands. A Stand is the manifestation of one’s warrior spirit (or soul in later parts) that stands beside its user in batttle. Unlike Hamon, a Stand can be anything Araki wants it to be. This allows for many unique fights throughout the rest of the series.
However, for most of the first half of Stardust Crusaders, the Stand battles can feel bland and uneventful. That is not to say there are no good fights in the first 24 episodes, like Star Platinum vs Hierophant Green, the fight against Death 13 and the battle against Hanged Man and the Emperor. Luckily, the second half of Stardust Crusaders does not suffer from this issue as much. The second half is full of unique fights, with some of the best ones relying entirely on strategy. The more minor stand battles, such as the ones against N’Doul and Geb, Daniel D’Arby and Osiris, Pet Shop and Horus and Terrence D’Arby and Atum, are riveting and contain some brilliant character moments. That is not to say the last 24 episodes did not feature more straightforward fights like in Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency. Fights like the ones against Anubis and Alessi showed off the strength and power of the users fighting, while remaining interesting due to the uniqueness of the enemy Stands.
The real standout fights in Stardust Crusaders are the fights against Vanilla Ice and DIO. Vanilla Ice’s nearly unstoppable space destroying Stand, Cream, instantly takes out Avdol, immediately setting the stakes for Polnareff and Iggy’s fight against DIO’s most loyal servant. The absurd power Cream wields, combined with Vanilla Ice’s vampirism, creates the most intense fight in Stardust Crusaders.
With that said, the fight against DIO is iconic. The final fight of Stardust Crusaders, the one the whole part had been building toward, does not disappoint. The four remaining members of the Crusaders all employ different strategies to tackle DIO. Kakyoin finally gets real time to shine, only for him to get donuted by DIO, immediately presenting the immense power of DIO’s Stand, The World. The intense battle between Jotaro and DIO explores some of the more unique uses of JoJo’s straightforward stands. Jotaro stopping his heart with Star Platinum to make DIO believe he was dead is the most metal thing I have seen in JoJo’s (outside of Metallica at least).
The fight is full of bizarre moments that have been memed to oblivion, like DIO dropping a road roller on Jotaro and then punching it a million times. DIO’s defeat feels earned, and while I would have liked him to have more of a presence in earlier episodes of Stardust Crusaders, this final battle kept me on the edge of my seat. David Productions brought the fight to life perfectly through their animation.
The dub for Stardust Crusaders is filled with great voice talent. Matthew Mercer brings this cold intimidating demeanor to Jotaro, Richard Epcar and Doug Ehroltz are hilarious as Joseph and Polnareff. Kyle Hebert sounds almost too intelligent as Kakyoin and Chris Tergliafera’s powerful voice gives Avdol this intensity that sells his experience. Even some of the more minor character voices, such as Imari Williams as Hol Horse and Jalen Kassel as Vanilla Ice stood out. However, the star of the show is definitely Patrick Seitz as DIO. Seitz stole the show as Dio in Phantom Blood and is just as great in Stardust Crusaders. ADR director Tony Oliver (Gurren Lagann) helped the cast do these characters justice. However, as great as the cast is, some of the translations, especially that of the “Engrish” lines from the original Japanese audio, fall incredibly flat. Luckily this only happens a handful of times.
Stardust Crusaders is a more formulaic villain-of-the-week story that suffers from David Productions decision to adapt every single fight in full. Its 48-episode run overstays its welcome at times and would have likely improved if it was only 39-episodes long like Diamond is Unbreakable and Golden Wind. Stardust Crusaders is an entertaining adventure with fun characters and a creative magic system. I just wish the writing was better.