Bringing Things to a Close in “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean”

When “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind” received its TV adaption, it took the world by storm; to this day, edits of protagonist Giorno Giovanna’s theme still make the rounds. So that begs the question — whatever happened to its following part, “Stone Ocean”?

After watching the whole series, up to its very end, I can say it doesn’t seem to be a matter of quality. “Stone Ocean” is flawed — certainly less polished than “Golden Wind” — but as a whole, it’s an excellent end of an era in television.

“Stone Ocean” is the sixth part in the legendary manga/anime “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” which follows the Joestar family in a multi-generational feud with brother-turned-vampire-turned-time god DIO. Set in Florida in 2011, this part’s JoJo is Jolyne Cujoh, estranged daughter of legendary time-stopping Stand user Jotaro Kujo. Jolyne finds herself in a 15-year prison sentence (after being framed for a hit-and-run) and quickly awakens Stone Free, a Stand with which she can unravel her body into string. When her father’s Stand and memories are stolen by a follower of DIO, she takes it upon herself to save her father, break out of prison, and put an end to the thief’s grand machinations.

To start, the sound is expectedly top-notch. David Production’s sound design team maintains an absolutely impeccable and satisfying soundscape, certainly for the Stands but for the world as a whole as well. Composer Yugo Kanno naturally brings his A-game throughout the part, but shines with a delightfully powerful theme for Jolyne — evoking Wonder Woman’s theme, previous JoJo themes, and Stone Free’s string ability by emphasizing guitar and violin. Father Enrico Pucci, the follower of DIO who stole Jotaro’s memory, also receives a wonderfully imposing, almost holy motif to match his personality, priesthood, and worship of DIO. I suppose it makes sense that in a series in which half the names are references to classic bands, the music remains stellar.

The animation quality, though, is somewhat disappointing. Although largely excellent, “Stone Ocean” has the dubious honor of following up the exceptionally animated “Golden Wind,” which expertly brought author Araki Hirohiko’s eccentric style to life. “Stone Ocean,” compared to the dynamism of the previous part, can fall flat, particularly with some clunky integrations of CG — for example, Narancia Ghirga’s Aerosmith in “Golden Wind” compared to Johngalli A.’s Manhattan Transfer in “Stone Ocean.”

That’s not to say there aren’t moments of excellent animation, though. The fight between Weather Report, fresh off recovering his memories as Wes Bluemarine (birth name Domenico Pucci — it’s complicated), is immaculate and has some neat usages of black-and-white and aspect ratio changes. The art direction and attention to detail remain extraordinary, though some of the female character designs feel a bit oversexualized compared to the more androgynous looks of the manga. It seems pretty clear that Netflix rushed the production of “Stone Ocean” in addition to crippling its popularity with the “batch” release schedule.

It’s all appropriately, well, bizarre, but the genuine characters and their interactions always manage to ground the audience.

Thankfully, other parts of the show didn’t suffer to the same degree. The story, for example, is top-notch. The relatively early inclusion of Pucci allows him more time to be an active, driving threat, providing an overarching plot interspersed with unprecedentedly creative Stand battles that never overstay their welcome. It’s a tried-and-true tactic by Araki, but here it works especially well.

Once we get to the finale, too, the story shifts into high gear. We fight through DIO’s sons and their Stands Bohemian Rhapsody, Sky High, and Underworld; a final showdown between Weather Report and Pucci (whose shared backstory is way too complicated to summarize but heartbreakingly absurd); Pucci’s gravity-inverting C-Moon; and finally Made in Heaven. It’s all appropriately, well, bizarre, but the genuine characters and their interactions always manage to ground the audience. 

Let’s talk about the characters, for which “Stone Ocean” is a delight. All are delightfully portrayed by their respective voice actors for a story with such high stakes. One notable difference from previous Stand-related parts is that although the cast is large (including vengeance-driven Ermes, purpose-searching plankton colony Foo Fighters, prison-born child Emporio, enigmatic Weather Report, and bluntly obsessed Anasui), Jolyne’s immediate group is usually three allies or less. This means that Jolyne gets much more time to shine, especially compared to the often-sidelined Giorno and his more support-role Gold Experience.

With each encounter we get to see her irreverent, delinquent personality and intimately see her strengthening physically, emotionally, and mentally, channeling the virtuous spirit of her father and the Joestars that came before. Stone Free is an inspired choice for her Stand, as we see her mature in her use of its abilities — from using it to eavesdrop, to assembling a humanoid Stand with which to fight, to creating Mobius strips to counteract C-Moon’s inversion ability. Outside of battle, too, it’s wonderful to see her grow beyond her initial immaturities, rising far above the man who put her in jail when we see him again. It’s remarkable to get such an nuanced, unabashedly powerful, and respectfully-portrayed female main character from an industry infamous for trivializing women.

Other characters also get their chance to shine, particularly Ermes near the beginning as she avenges her sister, Foo Fighters in the middle as they find themselves as a person, Weather Report toward the last third as he confronts Pucci, and especially Emporio at the end. 

It’s remarkable to get such an nuanced, unabashedly powerful, and respectfully-portrayed female main character from an industry infamous for trivializing women.

We’ve kind of tiptoed around talking about the ending, and there’s good reason for that; Pucci finally completes the Heaven Plan, acquiring Made in Heaven, whose power of time acceleration allows him to blitz right through Anasui, Ermes, and even Jotaro before finishing off Jolyne as she sacrifices herself to save Emporio, at this point close as siblings. Emporio becomes the only one to survive Pucci’s onslaught as Made in Heaven accelerates time until the universe ends, and is reborn without the Joestars. 

The only blemish in Pucci’s new world is Emporio, who survived, and manages to use Pucci’s hubris—and Weather Report’s stand—to finally beat him into nonexistence. This moment is incredibly powerful, as we see the culmination of all of his dead friends’ spirits and determination in this small child whose mother was killed by Pucci so long ago, elevated by the inclusion of Jotaro’s theme and a sound effect for Part 1 and 2’s Hamon. 

The following scene where the universe resets once more and Emporio reunites with a new universe’s versions of Anasui, Ermes, and Jolyne (Irene)—all now freed of the curses of their previous lives, but with none of the memories that only Emporio carries—is so incredibly bittersweet. It’s wonderful to see our beloved characters alive again, but difficult to accept that although so similar, their “originals” are still dead. It’s tragic to see Emporio choke out his name, sobbing, as he’s invited to hitch a ride with Irene.

Yet when the final freeze frame appears with “Roundabout” playing, and the credits roll with a minimalist portrayal of all six parts, it’s so profoundly satisfying. Roundabout, the song that Araki listened to when writing “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” that was used in the first credits of the first part of JoJo’s, returned to see off a conclusion to a monumental piece of fiction. Truly a roundabout journey.

JoJo’s has become almost an inside joke, a meme, something with a reputation that precedes it by a mile. Genuinely, though, I cannot recommend the series enough, and “Stone Ocean,” despite its flaws, is a perfect example of the highest highs it may offer.