JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has always gotten away with how ridiculous and inherently insane it is on one thing: pure commitment to itself. That unbridled commitment to its core concepts and the extreme level of detail to the bizarre makes every single page utterly compelling, demanding you to suspend you disbelief because why not believe that something so insane could happen when it is this fun?
That commitment is why Jonathan’s climactic battle with Dio’s decapitated head on a zombie filled cruise liner inferno is so damn good. For all its intricate little details, the declaration fueled dialogue and the sheer passion that flows through every panel, Araki’s Phantom Blood is a masterstroke clearly on accident.
This third volume concludes the Phantom Blood arc of the series and it does beg the question, was this how this series was originally intended to conclude or did Araki plan it to span generations? I think that given later plot holes that occur, it is obvious this was the originally intended ending of the manga and it is interesting when viewed from that perspective.
In terms of coming full circle, the story of Jonathan and Dio and the bonds between them comes to a cathartic resolution as both men seemingly die in the inferno and ultimately rest at the bottom of the sea after an epic confrontation. The volume closes with the narrator commenting that the world will never know of the battles Jonathan fought and the lives that he saved, but his life was not in vain. Unfortunately if you read on further in the series, Araki undoes this resolution to mixed results, but had this been this true end, it would’ve been a genuinely satisfying conclusion to the series.
I find it interesting the way in which Jonathan declares during that final conflict that he has come to view Dio as not only his friend but also a true brother. From the very beginning of Phantom Blood, Dio wanted to destroy JoJo’s life because he simply couldn’t understand why someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth gets off having such a good life and being such a good person. That critical character trait of Jonathan is what perfectly counteracts Dio’s spite, hatred and anger at a world he feels has done him wrong.
The intertwining fates of both men has been compelling to watch unfold and the ways in which these two embody the Yin and Yang of the universe of JoJo is something that sets the stage for all future events in the series. Jonathan is an inherently good man, who has not been corrupted by his wealth, instead choosing to spread his goodness with the world around him. Dio on the other hand has been corrupted by his innate bad lot in life, choosing only to share his hatred and pain with the rest of the world. Yet you get the sense that both of these characters truly care for one another by the conclusion of Phantom Blood. When Dio realizes that Jonathan has died the look on his face is not of relief or elation but instead of sorrow and regret. This blood feud didn’t need to come to this, but the differences between these two and the lives they had led in parallel to one another has forged a destiny for each man that will forever be stained in blood.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood is an excellent self contained story of two men who take separate paths in life, one choosing to walk in the light and the other in the shadows. Araki’s Phantom Blood remains one of the strongest parts of the decades long manga and even if it was completely an accident and regardless of what comes after, it is still one of the best stories told in Shonen Jump’s nearly 50 year long history.