JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 7: Steel Ball Run review
This part was great, one of the best of the series. Not a "masterpiece" as some people like to say, but still, it was amazing in its peak moments. If you are into JoJo, I highly recommend reading it, since the anime adaptation for this one may take many years to come out. Anyways, the rest of my review is full of spoilers, so be careful.
This part's premise is without a doubt one of the most creative. While other anime are mostly only in Japan or fictional worlds, JoJo once again recognizes other places in the real world and represents them properly, this time
in the late 19th century USA, which is settling for the western cowboy story that is given to us. However, since it's a battle-seinen manga it will drag you into a lot of fights, and this part has some weak ones (Boom Boom Family) and the beginning is awful. Yet, the final fight (against Valentine) is amazing and will probably be the best in the series when animated. I also loved Disco.
Being the first part in a new universe, the elements brought here are some of the most interesting, like the holy corpse and the spin technique, a great complement to the stand battles that SBR also has. The story being focused on two main characters opens room for more characterization, and the protagonist here really has depth and development (one of the few in the series to have something like this), as we see him growing from a cocky brat that thinks too much of himself just because he is good at horse racing to a humble, kind (and traumatized) professional jockey that cares about his friends and family.
Talking so greatly about the story, the score I gave to this manga seems lower than deserved. Well, that's because it has a lot of flaws, and I left it all later on.
Once again, the art of the most recent JoJo series is great and unique as it always were, althought Stone Ocean's art was better. The character design is one of the most creative, wheter it's Johnny's cowboy style and hair shaped as devil horns, Oyecomova's Dia de Los Muertos design or Wekapipo's waffle-shaped hair, and so it goes. The different parts from the west to east of the USA are also very detailed and certainly gives this manga a reason to be outstanding, and also the diversity we have in the characters. A thing that I like about JoJo is that it's one of the few series to aknowledge the existence of other ethnicities and cultures, here having Oyecomova, Sandman and Pocoloco as examples. If you pick other manga or anime they'll probably show only white-skinned people and represent all americans as blonde people with blue eyes, as if it was a an european country.
Here is where things start to go down. This part has a lot of characters besides the main group and the villains, each one of them with their very own storyline, mostly unsolved when it ends.
Starting with the main characters, I already mentioned Johnny, this part's protagonist. People love to trash on him for being "selfish" while Valentine is "selfless", and I disagree. He might not have ambitious goals like "being the number one" "reaching the top" or whatever, but that makes him and most JoJo protagonists more realistic. His story is about surviving and evolving as a person while protecting the ones he cares about, the same as it was with Joseph, Josuke and specially Jonathan, his original universe counterpart, and none of them are selfish for that.
As for the other main character, Gyro is funny, entertaining and determined, being a great mentor to Johnny, yet his arc is a total dumpster fire. Unlike Johnny, he wants to win the race and has a reason for that, that being that he needs it to save someone's life. Basically he comes from a noble, wealthy family of executioners whose job is treated as honorable (besides this position never being a good one, take Ilyn Payne from the medieval-based A Song of Ice and Fire for example) and we have to see his father shit-talking about it A FUCKING LOT, and it's basically cutting people's heads off it's nothing to be proud for, I've seen other monarchic stories with contexts like this Zeppeli's family but this is too forced to the point that is ridiculous. It worsens when we hear about Marco, a 9-year-old boy who is a servant at a noble man's house and when this guy conspires against the king, the fucking POLICE and state intelligence somehow states that the poor boy somehow took part in the conspiracy and sentences him to be executed by Gyro. This isn't just a plothole, it's a massive crater. First, why the hell would they care about a plebeian child's life so much they would wait months for Gyro to win a race on the other side of the world to see if they kill him or not? Why would they accuse a child of conspiracy, and if he somehow was actually guilty, would they pardon a traitor of the state just because a guy won a race in the USA? All of this absurdity is brought up a lot in this part which is also full of absurds, but the problem is that this one is treated SERIOUSLY with Gregorio's babbling about the "honor" of killing a child. Basically, Gregorio and Marco are some of the worst characters in this part and they ruin Gyro's character. If he was an almost no backstory ally such as Kakyoin or Mamezuku he would be better, or if he was at least given a better backstory.
The third main character of this story is Diego Brando, a counterpart of Dio. While Dio was fun to watch but still was a weak, generic villain whose goals were the same of a cancer cell (conquering just because of conquering), Diego outstands as the best reread character from the original universe in SBR. He still resembles Dio and still is an antagonist, but his goals and personality are reasonable and so are his relations with other characters such as Hot Pants. All of this makes the character more realistic, a thing that Dio never was, even if the guy can turn into a dinosaur and eat rocks.
Hot Pants is the same, one of the best original characters this part gave us. Besides the ones in part 6, women in JoJo are usually represented as weak, clingy and or powerless, and with her it seems that it finally changes, even if it's just one time. Although she has less screentime than deserved, her scenes are amazing and she is great in the fight she protagonizes. She is paired with Diego and it's one of the few official couples in JoJo that doesn't feel forced, they are their own characters and don't need to clinge on each other to have a personality, still, they are great together.
Returning to the bad characters, Lucy was a terrible counterpart of Erina besides being more relevant than her. After the failed attempt of making her a main character she sticks in the part to be a damsel in distress, also being molested and drawn naked a lot besides being 14 years old (Really, Araki?), she may not be hateful, but it's terrible how she is treated by the story. A shame, because if she was good we would have the first badass non-stand user in Jojo since part 4 (well she actually has as stand, but she just never uses it).
For the others, Wekapipo took a brief role, but it was still nice to see him fighting and his relation with Gyro. Pocoloco and Norisuke also appeared too few times, and it's strange if you think that they were the ones who won the race in the end. And Sandman, I expected WAY MORE of him. He was the first character we saw in this part and new universe, he had more reasons to win than the rest and was determined to cross the whole country on foot for it. Yet, his character takes a 180º and decides to work for Valentine, god knows why. Also his name is not Soundman.
The main villain Valentine, besides suffering some retcon since the beginning, he was a good, participative antagonist. He had good motivations, mostly, but still was hypocritical and perverse, but yeah, he is the villain after all. Not my favorite, but definitely one of the best antagonists of the series. However, his personality and motivations are ruined by the end, when this character who is supposed to care about his country and do everything for it decides it would be nice to give an unlimited power source to a man he thinks is a lunatic, just because he wants to get revenge on Johnny.
Story Part 2 - The awful ending
As I said, we have a lot of character arcs and no closure for most of them. Yeah they have to die at some point, but the way it is done makes you wonder what was the point, like Wekapipo's case. There is also Hot Pants that is thrown off a train and we never see a final scene of her, not even a body, and Pocoloco, winner of the GODDAMN RACE THIS PART IS ABOUT, who never appears again nor have any conclusion to his story. Gyro's arc also ends like a joke, with the boy he died to save said to be "later he died from a cold". This is something I would expect to see in shows like South Park, for instance, and not in the end of an amazing manga. For the "father dillema" that takes a role in this part, while George Joestar's story had a conclusion with him asking for forgiveness for what he made his son endure and being forgiven later on, Gregorio Zeppeli never appears again, he suffers zero consequences for all the shit he has done to his son and that's it.
It pains me that Araki could've done a proper conclusion to all of this, but instead he decides to surrender himself to fanservice and squeezed the terribly placed, nonsense arc of High Voltage, the worst part of SBR. Starting with Valentine throwing out his character by bringing the AU Diego to this universe, this arc gives a fight that makes you question what are you reading. I mean, the main villain died but battles are still happening? And for what? AU Diego takes out Johnny just to be defeated by fucking Lucy Steel. This entire arc was an unnecessary nonsense and trashed the original Diego and Valentine's characters, just so you could have some Dio and The World fanservice. I REALLY hope it gets cut off when animated.
Is the ending good? Yeah, if you just consider Johnny, Gyro and Valentine. It could have ended with Valentine as the actual final fight and a closure later on, but that's just my opinion. I loved a lot of things from this part and hated some others, but I liked it and would read it again. It sucks that only Johnny and Lucy survived out of the main characters, I pesonally loved Diego and Hot Pants and wished to see more of them, but yeah, the best version of Dio couldn't make it.
I think I said it all. People like this part and they have every reason to do it, I recommend it to people who have seen the previous parts, because it's really great, being the last good part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.