Starting with a flashback from his training under Tonpeti in Tibet, 1863, Zeppeli remembers the last stages of his training when he was once more given a chance to turn back as he prepares to face off against Tarkus. Remembering how his death would be to free a injured lion revealed to be Jonathan.
However while it would seem that Zeppeli could hold his own against Tarkus he fails to take into account that Tarkus would use the chain against him, preventing him from using the Ripple and tearing him in two.
In death though, Zeppeli decides to pass on his lifeforce onto Jonathan in order to heal and provide him with the much needed boost he needed in order to defeat Tarkus. With this done Jonathan, Speedwagon, and Poco crowd around Zeppeli in his last moments with Jonathan confiding how he would be lost without him but Zeppeli insisting that he go on, revealing that while he abandoned his family in pursuit of the Stone Mask the hope he’s found in him leaves him with no regrets.
Having paid their respects to Zeppeli, the party of three advance upon the township fearing that Dio has already striked but find that there’s still some time, and furthermore their ranks strengthened by three of Zeppeli’s old friends. His master Tonpeti and fellow apprentices Dire and Straizo who reveal that Zeppeli had called upon them to help, the former finding that Zeppeli had already met his fate. At this point however, Dio is revealed to be holding Poco’s sister hostage.
Continuing from this in the following episode, Dio offers Peggy the choice of joining him in immortality, offering her eternal youth in order to preserve her youthful beauty but has the offer spat back in his face as she curses him. As such Dio sets one of his henchmen, Doobie upon her but Jonathan’s group manages to arrive just in time to save her, Jonathan using the ripple to set turn Doobie’s snakes against him.
With Peggy saved, Jonathan’s group then move on to face Dio whom goes on to confide his intent not to have beaten him himself and Jonathan his intent to destroy him and the evil he represents. But before Jonathan can face off against him, Dire steps forward in his place wishing to avenge Zeppeli, and while he fails to take into account the measures that Dio already takes against the ripple, he proves that he’s not invincible by sending a ripple infused rose through his eye and giving Jonathan the confidence to take him on with Luck & Pluck. At the same time Tonpeti and Straizo hold off the undead horde created by Dio.
Soon after this Jonathan finally faces off with Dio with some early success as he takes advantage of the blow done by Dire to sever his right arm, however Dio quickly turns the tables by freezing Luck & Pluck and gripping his carotid artery, threatening to turn him into a vampire if he so much as moves. Despite this though, Dio fails to defeat Jonathan when he has the chance and to realise that he had placed himself in a position that would allow him to defrost Luck & Pluck.
This however proves not to be enough as Dio affirms that human potential is limited and Jonathan otherwise as he sets his hand ablaze as they clash. Even so though, Jonathan only narrowly manages to defeat Dio and laments the way things had turned out for the youth they had shared.
A great way to conclude this arc for the most part, the climactic battle between Jonathan and Dio was pretty awesome and at the same time kind of imaginative and the new characters weren’t so bad either. And before that, even if Zeppeli’s death was a little underwhelming it served nicely to fulfill something that the story really needed at this point.
That being a much needed power up for Jonathan that he needed if he was going to fight on equal footing with Dio, and with the battle itself merely hours in series away there were only a few ways that this could happen without seeming like an asspull. Furthermore Zeppeli passing on his dying will sits nicely with the idea that had been passed on with George Joestar. In the end I thought that what came out of it was great but Zeppeli’s death itself was a little underwhelming, after all the build up in the previous episode he gets defeated in such a brutal and underhanded manner. The suddenness was befitting but I still can’t shake that aspect of it.
After that I didn’t exactly mind more characters being brought in either, Tonpeti, Dire, and Straizo may have come into the story just as it was reaching its climax and didn’t exactly do much as Dire was quickly killed off and the others delegated to taking out the fodder. However their characters still managed to leave a fairly strong impression and it makes sense that Zeppeli would call in some friends for something like this instead of running in alone, I only wish that there had been a bit more for them to do before the climactic battle. If anything did feel unnecessary however, I thought that they laid on how evil Dio is a little too heavily. He’s already proven himself to be a megalomaniac with a god complex and no regard to human life, but was watching him mess with a mother like that really necessary?
Needless to say though, the climactic duel between Jonathan and Dio was great. It contained quite a few last second twists that almost exceeded my suspension of belief, or at least made me think that they were a little excessive, but through that the fight stayed unpredictable and intense. More than anything the nature of these twists was interesting in that they relied more on the resourcefulness of the characters than anything else, forcing the characters to think on their feet and take advantage of their surroundings over just throwing whatever tricks that they had up their sleeves at each other. In all it provided the fight with a somewhat original flare.