Despite Netflix’s absolutely horrid production schedule, marketing and release of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, the season ended up being one of the series’ best.
Adapting the sixth part of the Hirohiko Araki‘s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga, Stone Ocean follows, Jolyne Cujoh, the daughter of Stardust Crusaders‘ protagonist Jotaro Kujo. After a terrible car crash, Jolyne is wrongfully convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Oncthrown in Green Dolphin State Prison, she learns of a larger plot to draw out her father and use the Joestar bloodline to continue the dreams of their greatest enemy, DIO.
This plan is led by DIO’s closest “friend,” Enrico Pucci, a priest who desires to achieve Heaven as described by DIO. Upon defeating Jotaro Kujo and stealing his soul, Jolyne must save her father while preventing Pucci’s ascension.
Along the way, Jolyne meets many fellow inmates with similar grievances.
Despite the similarities to Jean Pierre Polnareff’s revenge arc in Stardust Crusaders, Ermes’ feels more fleshed out. That narrative strength comes from an extended backstory and how the writing of the source of her anguish. Sports Maxx is pure evil, but not just for his murder. As each part has progressed the characters’ Stand powers, and the ones they face, better represent them. Limp Bizkit’s zombification ability showcases how Ermes’ need for revenge won’t singularly dissipate the pain over Maxx’s actions.
Every other member of the main cast receives similarly compelling development. Whether it be the mystery surrounding Weather Report’s memory loss, Foo Fighters’ struggle with their sense of self Emporio or Anasui’s desire for genuine attachment, each character’s struggle carries similar weight. This is the first part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure where every member of the main cast had a compelling story.
Pucci is no exception to this. Easily the most complex antagonist of the series thus far, Pucci’s motivations and relationship with DIO make him as understandable as he is dangerous. White Snake is also the least offensively powerful of any main antagonist Stand in the series. This allows Pucci’s intelligence to shine. Similarly to Diamond is Unbreakable‘s Yoshikage Kira, he succeeds almost as often as the heroes do. Jolyne and Pucci’s fates feel entwined, as if every moment pushes both of them closer to their goals.
David Production always knocks it out of the park with their adaptation of Araki’s manga, and that remains the case with Stone Ocean. Despite its rocky start due to Netflix rushing the initial production, the episodes released in 2022 are some of the best in the series. The final stretch of nine episodes, adapting the arcs “Heavy Weather”, “C-Moon” and “Made in Heaven” were animated excellently. The work of series chief director Kenichi Suzuki (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Cells at Work!), director Toshiyuki Kato (Diamond is Unbreakable, Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan) and the rest of the team at David Production is truly outstanding.
Yugo Kanno also returns as the composer for Stone Ocean. While it’s obvious he didn’t have as much time to craft the score as he did with Golden Wind, his compositions for the main character’s themes easily match, if not exceed his work from previous seasons.
One of the most difficult aspects of adapting Araki’s work is his unique art style. Yet, character designer Masanori Shino (Black Lagoon, No Guns Life), art director Keito Watanabe (Sword Art Online: Alicization, Digimon Adventure), Stand Designer Shun’ichi Ishimoto (Diamond is Unbreakable, Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan) and sub-character designer Kei Tsuchiya () once again pulled off what many thought was impossible.
However, the most underrated part of the crew is director of photography Kazuhiro Yamada (Al no Idenshi, Death Note), who is responsible for the gorgeous rainbow light refraction effect during Pucci’s Made in Heaven awakening.
With Netflix licensing Stone Ocean came the release of the English dub alongside the Japanese broadcast. That also brought its own set of challenges for the cast and crew behind it as they had to cast, record and edit the dub before each batch release. To meet that schedule, Bang Zoom brought in its largest crew yet, with the amazing talents of Tony Oliver (Diamond is Unbreakable, Golden Wind), Bill Millsap (Tokyo 24th Ward, ODDTAXI) and Courtney Sanford (Kuroko’s Basketball, D4DJ First Mix) handling the ADR direction.
Every member of the English cast was exceptional.
Kira Buckland, who had previously voiced Reimi Sugimoto in the series’ fourth part, Diamond is Unbreakable, had dreamed of playing Stone Ocean protagonist Jolyne Cujoh for years. She was so vocal about this dream casting that when she revealed that it had come true, the fan response exploded in positivity. Not only is her performance filled with charm, but she especially excels in the more dramatic moments. Buckland’s scenes with Matthew Mercer’s Jotaro Kujo, Stephen Fu‘s (The Case Study of Vanitas, Talentless Nana) Weather Report and Casey Mongillo‘s (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tribe Nine) Emporio Alniño where she voiced Jolyne’s empathy are where she shined the brightest.
However, she isn’t the only star of this show. Stephen Fu has nailed nearly every role he’s gotten in the past year, and Weather is no exception. One of the biggest challenges for a voice actor are the quiet characters that aren’t as expressive. Fu’s subdued early performance as Weather creates this softness that lines up so well with the characterization. His delivery contrasts well with the bluntness of Buckland’s Jolyne and Howard Wang‘s (SK8 the Infinity, Engage Kiss) Narciso Anasui.
That similarity is also why Wang and Buckland are so much fun when on screen together. Their characters’ loud personalities created a chemistry I never expected. Anasui’s lusting over Jolyne is definitely disgusting, but his genuineness, and the way Wang portrays it, forms one of the most interesting characters in the season.
Brittany Lauda‘s (Akudama Drive, Dr. Stone) Foo Fighters or F.F. is the complete opposite of Fu’s Weather. Another character designed around identity discovery, F.F. is particularly loose with their words. Lauda’s take on the plankton-possessed corpse bring some of Stone Ocean‘s funniest moments, while still pulling at the heartstrings when necessary.
Casey Mongillo has turned out so many amazing performances over the last few years that it comes as no surprise that this remained the case with Emporio. The character’s narrative importance diverted my expectations. Due to how much the story centered around Emporio, Mongillo managed to craft what may be his best performance since his role as Shinji Ekari in Netflix’s Evangelion dub.
What truly surprised me was Tiana Comacho‘s (RWBY: Ice Queendom, 86) Ermes Costello. While more of a fun secondary character in the first third of the series, the Limp Bizkit arc showed Comacho’s talent. It’s always exciting to see a less well-known voice actor take on such a heavy role, but Comacho was born to play Ermes. Ermes’ English dialogue including Spanish, particularly slang, allowed allowed Tiana Comacho’s performance to sound authentic in a manner that isn’t present in the original Japanese performance.
The English dub of JoJo’s has always nailed its villains, and Yong Yea‘s (Lupin the 3rd, Thermae Romae Novae) Father Enrico Pucci is the latest to join that collective of instantly memorable voices. Pucci has the most depth of any main antagonist in the anime thus far, allowing Yea to flesh out the characters’ weaknesses and make him appear more human than any prior antagonist, His deep, almost operatic, sounding voice commanded power in every scene he was in. Thus, when that façade starts to crack in the final stretch of episodes, Yea presents Pucci’s vulnerability with a shaky, nearly hopeless sounding voice. This contrasts so well with Pucci’s religious background, being the prison’s priest.
The English cast of Stone Ocean is easily the best of any season of the show, but a large part of that is due to how layered Stone Ocean writing and production was compared to prior seasons. It excels in all the same areas Golden Wind‘s did for this exact reason. While I wish the production quality was more consistent, Stone Ocean was still a satisfying conclusion to this series. I’m excited to see what changes are made in the inevitable Japanese blue ray release.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean is available to watch subbed and dubbed on Netflix.