Fifty years after the events of the first part of the story, Robert E. O. Speedwagon meets Straizo on an expedition to some ruins in Central America believed to be related to the origins of the stone mask, finding many masks as well as a man embedded in a pillar.
Not dead just yet, though I may as well have been.
New Opening Theme:
“BLOODY STREAM” by Coda.
At the same time in New York, a young pickpocket known as Smokey snatches a wallet and finds himself accosted by a racist cop when the owner of the wallet shows up and stands up for him, the young Joseph Joestar who had just emigrated from England. Using his natural skill with the Ripple, Joseph takes the cops down with a bottle of coke but upon realising just what he did makes a run for it with Smokey. In Central America at this point however, Speedwagon reveals to Straizo that the man in the pillar is very much alive and wants him to destroy him.
In response to this Straizo asks after Joseph and leads Speedwagon to recall how Joseph had saved him from some hijackers, of how he had feigned ignorance but had confided that he and his grandmother are the only family he knows, and as such he would do anything to protect them. With his suspicions confirmed, Straizo then strikes down Speedwagon, uses the stone mask to regain his youth as a vampire, and go after Joseph before he becomes a threat. Back in New York, Joseph catches up with his grandmother Erina who invites Smokey to join them, and on the cab ride over there Smokey learns more about the Joestars, that Joseph’s father had died in the war, and that they had come to America to meet up with Speedwagon.
At the restaurant though, Smokey finds himself harassed by another patron, and so with full backing from his grandmother so long as he doesn’t inconvenience the other customers, Joseph stands up for Smokey once more and predicts what he would do right down to the words he would say next. This customer however is revealed to be a subordinate of a friend of Speedwagon who has come to them with some unfortunate news, that Speedwagon is believed to have been murdered by Straizo. Joseph however is pissed that someone would scare his grandmother like this by spouting the news in front of her.
Having ran into and deduced his identity towards the end of the last episode, Joseph kicks off the next one by hitting Straizo with a barrage of gunfire but finds the vampire for the miraculously unharmed. In response to this Straizo declares his unwillingness to make the same mistake Dio did by not killing his grandfather when he had the chance and attempts to do so with a similar ability, but finds his attempt thwarted when Joseph makes use of a mirror against it. Even so however, Joseph’s Ripple proves useless against Straizo’s ceremonial scarf which acts to disperse the Ripple, and so he tries to blow him to bits before making a run for it with Smokey.
While seeming cowardly, in truth this was to lure Straizo away from any onlookers but this fails when he takes a young reporter hostage before pursuing them, threatening to kill her if he doesn’t face him head on. To this Joseph once more feigns ignorance only to have Straizo call his bluff by pulling teeth, and as such he rushes in but not without a plan, where by using ripple infused shot glasses and a well-placed guess as to where Straizo will strike he is able to reflect his beams, opening the way to hit him with the Ripple. Before Straizo plunges into the Hudson River however, Joseph grabs him and demands to know why he threw Speedwagon’s body in the river.
To which Straizo responds by warning him of the man in the pillar and what his awakening will represent before channeling the Ripple within his own body, content with having regained his youth for a moment as opposed to withering away with age. Following this Joseph has to deal with the reporter that Straizo had taken hostage and is not to happy about being insulted before he decides to make his way to Mexico. At this point in Mexico however, a Nazi officer, Stroheim investigating the man in the pillar is revealed to have found Speedwagon and saved his life in order to question him about Straizo, the Joestars, and the man in the pillar. Despite his warnings though, Stroheim sets about trying to awake the man in the pillar.
New Ending Theme:
I must be kind of behind by this point but I have really been looking forward to this arc, Joseph makes for a fun protagonist to follow and the setting has just the right amount of eccentricity. Balancing out events and things usually associated with this time frame with the series’ own crazy story rather nicely.
First and foremost, I must note that I really like Joseph’s character and the role he takes as the protagonist. From the honourable and earnest Jonathan, Joseph takes a much more eccentric approach and seems to carry a certain flare with him everywhere he goes. Using his wits to stay one step ahead of his opponents. However beneath that guise of immaturity Joseph is someone who cares dearly for those close to him, and is someone who will go to any length for them even if he initially feigns ignorance or disinterest. In fact that characteristic and what it generally leads to from him is one of the things that I really like about him, he’s a protagonist who uses his head and doesn’t care what he has to do to keep those close to him safe.
Moving on from that I also like the atmosphere that this arc carries with it, Phantom Blood was a Victorian Horror strongly centred around the conflict between Jonathan and Dio but the latter can’t quite be said for this. The setting has already underwent a great change by shifting to 1930s New York and it won’t just stop there, with Joseph’s adventure taking him to Mexico and Italy, so to say the least it won’t be as static as Victorian Britain was. As things stand in these episodes though, Straizo’s sudden turn was kind of surprising but considering how vain he is somewhat understandable. Beyond that Araki also seems to have had fun throwing in random things usually associated with this era alongside his own quirky plot.
Which in itself should also be interesting, with through the Pillar Men the origins of the stone masks and the vampirism that they induce will be focused on and we should get some answers regarding their origins. All being interesting things that weren’t exactly touched upon or that the last arc had space for. Alongside this the Ripple too should be something that will get some better focus compared to the rough job that was in the previous arc. The only problem is that if it goes into this it might just be reaching the limits of these aspects of the story, but in the end we all know how Araki dealt with that.