Manga Review: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood Volume One (Print Edition)

Prior to reading this volume, I had read a preview of this volume in the September 1, 2014 edition of the Weekly Shonen Jump digital manga anthology as well as a digital review copy of this release back in September 2014. This review will touch on the content of the manga, as well as what to expect from the print release.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood Volume One
Written by: Hirohiko Araki
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: February 24, 2015

The story begins by explaining about a stone mask and about how a tribe of the Aztecs tried to take over the world by using the power of the mask; the mask is able to bestow eternal life and the power to dominate. But this tribe abruptly disappeared, and now only ruins are left behind.

This volume focuses on two characters: Jonathan Joestar (who goes by JoJo) and Dio Brando. They live in and around London in 1880. Dio’s father is dying, and he asks his son to mail a letter and to go to the address on the envelope. 12 years earlier, Dio’s father had found a carriage in a ravine and thought everyone was dead. He discovers a baby is alive, and that the baby’s father is still alive after he takes the man’s belongings. The man is JoJo’s father, and he believes that Dio’s father was saving him. Because of this, Joestar believes he owes Dio’s father a favor.

After Dio’s father dies, we see that he’s not that caring of a son as he spits on his father’s grave and heads to live with the Joestars. We see that JoJo and Dio are as different as night and day. While JoJo is a polite gentleman, Dio is cruel and manipulative. Dio decides to psychologically torture JoJo until he breaks so Dio can inherit the Joestar fortune. It’s also established both in the flashback of the carriage accident and when Dio arrives at the Joestar house that the Joestars have the stone mask in their possession. It had been unearthed, and JoJo’s mother had bought it.

Over the course of this volume, we see Dio has no qualms when it comes to animal cruelty, assault and battery, sexual harassment, attempted murder, and murder if these actions will help him achieve his goals. By the end of the volume, Dio became a villain that I loved to hate.

I felt really bad for JoJo in the early chapters as Dio was inflicting his psychological torture. And I really felt bad when JoJo’s own father would scold him and compare him to Dio. But there were two heartbreaking scenes that especially made me feel bad for JoJo. The first is when JoJo makes a friend in Erina and falls in love with her, but Dio comes along and destroys everything by forcing Erina to kiss him and to make her ashamed of facing JoJo afterwards. The other is when Dio does something that causes the death of JoJo’s dog, Danny. Those two things took away the two things that brought JoJo some shred of happiness while he has to deal with Dio’s torture. These acts also illustrated just how much of an asshole Dio is and how low he’ll stoop in order to get what he wants.

About halfway through the volume, the story jumps ahead in time seven years. JoJo and Dio have gone to the same college and play together on the rugby team. At first, it appears they’re getting along better. However, as an inner monologue of Dio’s shows, he hasn’t changed a bit. Dio is graduating at the top of his law class, while JoJo is graduating after studying archeology. JoJo begins using his archeological knowledge to study the stone mask and believes he’s the only one who knows how it works. Little does he know that Dio also knows. This becomes important in the story that ultimately concludes this volume.

When it comes to the visuals in the manga, there are occasional panels that show people being stabbed or impaled. Fortunately, they aren’t the major focus of the volume. However, there are a number of action sequences where JoJo and Dio get into fist fights. But I have to say that the fist fight scenes are not only exciting to read, they’re also amazing to look at from a visual standpoint. I could tell that Araki went to some effort when drawing these scenes.

I enjoyed reading the story in this print version just as much as I did when I read the digital version a few months back. In some respects, I think I liked reading this print edition more because I have an easier time reading physical books than I do digital versions. I could also tell a lot easier just how crisp the artwork looks in this volume, and it felt like more of the art was “jumping out at me” than it did when I was reading the digital copy on my computer screen.

The actual content in this print version is identical to what I saw in the digital version. A lot of the volume is in black and white, although there are a few pages in color. The prologue that explains about the Aztecs and the stone mask is completely in color. The beginning of the actual story, as well as the first few pages after the timeskip, also have some color in them. What grabbed me about the beginning of the actual story and the beginning of the timeskip is the fact that the color used is rather minimal, and to me, helped to evoke a feeling that I was actually observing characters and events from the 1800’s.

Both editions also include a brief interview with Hirohiko Araki, the author of the manga. He talks about the challenges he had when writing the character of Joe Joestar and the changes Joe went through physically during the timeskip in the story. This feature was much easier for me to read in the print version than it was in the digital copy due to the small type that was used on that page.

Also of note for this release is the fact that VIZ Media has released it as a hardcover book instead of a paperback. I think the hardcover adds to the appeal of this release, and it also proves just how important VIZ feels this release is. While this increases the price for the volume, I think it would be worth it to fans of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure who have been wanting to own the early part of the series in their manga collection.

If you enjoy manga set in a historical time period and featuring supernatural elements, then you might enjoy reading JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I would recommend that manga readers should try to at least read the first volume of this series due to how much of a classic that it’s become over the years.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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