Stone Ocean is the fifth season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and covers the sixth part of the original manga story written by Hirohiko Araki (thanks to the first season containing Parts 1 and 2) For those unfamiliar JoJo’s is an odd series not just because, as the title suggests, it can get quite bizarre but also that it’s split into parts each set in new locations, time periods and with a new central protagonist along with a mostly new cast. Since the third part all the stories have featured “Stands”, personifications of character’s powers that exist as a separate entity visible only to other Stand Users. Throughout the course of the series so far some Stands have more than lived up to the “Bizarre” moniker that makes up part of the series title with extremely imaginative powers and even more imaginative ways for our lead characters to get out of them.
Stone Ocean is set in 2011 at Green Dolphin Street Prison in Florida and our lead protagonist is Jolyne Cujoh, daughter of Part 3’s protagonist Jotaro Kujo. She ends up in prison due to being involved in a hit and run with the car driven by her boyfriend but it’s soon established that locking her away was actually the plan of a mastermind located in the prison who wished to draw Jotaro to him so he can use his Stand abilities to steal his memories and find out ‘a key piece of information’, to be as vague as I can. Jotaro intentionally sneaks a piece of a Stand-creating arrow that has been a fixture of the series and Jolyne gets stabbed by it, giving her Stand powers but the arrow piece goes missing and several other female inmates end up with Stand powers. Then the man who is after the Kujo/Cujoh family also creates some Stand users and before you know it we’re in familiar territory as Jolyne soon gathers together some allies and spends an episode or two episodes battling a new Stand user and overcoming their often odd abilities.
Jolyne starts off quite timid and scared but it doesn’t take long for her to gain self-confidence and soon she’s adapting to the harsh nature of prison life and the even harsher world of Stand battles. She’s a very fun character that’s easy to root for, quite the tomboy but in a good way. Most of these twelve episodes take place in the female wing of the prison, meaning nearly the entire cast are female which is a refreshing change compared to the previous five parts and quite forward thinking for something originally written in 2000-2003, especially given it’s a shonen story, a sub-genre packed to the brim with powerful male leads with female sidekicks or powerless love interests.
Thanks to the manga series being so far ahead, these adaptations haven’t suffered at all from the perils of filler, each manga chapter gets adapted with care and attention without overstaying their welcome, and I’m happy to report Stone Ocean also gets the same care. The series also keeps up David Production’s top class animation as well, especially during some of the fight sequences which often vary between suitably weird and unpleasantly gory. A battle against a Stand user who can create a dome of total vacuum was especially well handled, as was the rather odd finale sequence that I won’t spoil here.
I’ve been saying “allies” and “Stand User” because as per usual with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, author Hirohiko Araki has named characters and Stands directly after bands, which is fine with the looser copyright laws in Japan but for us here in the West causes issues, so if you watch subtitled you’ll hear a character referred to as “Foo Fighters” but the subtitles with read “F.F.”, or the lead villain’s Stand is called “White Snake” but the subtitles read “Pale Snake”. Even Jolyne’s Stand is called “Stone Free” but the subtitles read “Stone Ocean”. I think the oddest case is a character named “Weather Report” who is changed to “Weather Forecast”; not only is a character named Weather Report weird but I would’ve thought you’d be able to get away with a character named after a regular feature of the news without drawing attention to the band of the same name, but there you go.
The opening theme is “Stone Ocean” by Ichigo while the ending theme continues the anime’s streak of Western songs from the time period the part is set in (apart from the first two parts which were set in Victorian London and the late 1930s respectively) by having “Distant Dreamer” by Duffy close out the episodes. Both the Japanese and English audio are available for all episodes, and from what I hear, the English dub isn’t bad at all, though for something as over-the-top and weird as this, I find the Japanese voice cast do a better job of screaming “What?!” in a variety of amusing ways, personally…
The first twelve episodes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean continue the anime’s streak of well paced manga adaptations with great animation and a lack of worry about featuring some of the more … well, bizarre or gory scenes featured in the original story. Jolyne is a fun character to follow, quickly hardening due to her time behind bars and soon standing up for herself with her newfound powers and is surrounded by an equally interesting cast. If JoJo’s strange blend of action, humour and “how on Earth will they get out of this weird Stand’s powers?!” cliffhangers have appealed in the past or sound good now, then you can’t go wrong with Stone Ocean.