With this, we’ve finally caught up to Viz’s original release of the series. That arc, “Stardust Crusaders,” showed “Jojo’s” finally hitting its stride and cast a shadow over the deluxe edition releases of the first two parts of this title. “Battle Tendency” has been on an upward trajectory over the course of its four volumes, and with this fourth volume it’s easy to see how mangaka Hirohiko Araki was able to kick things into high gear for what came after. I mean, this is the kind of story where Joseph Joestar has to take down evil vampire Wamuu in a chariot race, but needs to grab the sledgehammer hanging from a pillar in order to have the edge in the fight. He’s able to do that after pulling one of his dirty tricks at the start, but this doesn’t faze the vampire. No, Wamuu just grabs THE PILLAR instead! This isn’t even the craziest thing that happens in their battle. At one point, Wamuu realizes that he was a fool to rely on his sight because he could see, and then… Well, it’s probably best that you read this volume to get the full effect.
Though the battle with Wamuu is great stuff, things get a little shakier in the final showdown between Joseph and Kars with the life of the former’s trainer/secret mother Lisa Lisa on the line. Joseph displays some real cleverness in his tactics as he fights this superior foe, but it all drags on after a while. Particularly when Kars keeps displaying new “final forms” to come back for one more round after our protagonist keeps taking him down. Toss in the fact that Lisa Lisa is both made out to be someone who can handle herself and a victim in need of saving, and having Stroheim and his Nazi buddies show up to help turn the tide and the series is on some very wobbly legs as it manages to stick the landing in spite of itself. Making “Jojo’s” into a generational saga was probably the smartest move Araki made in his development of the series. He was able to move past these issues in one chapter as the volume closes out on Joseph heading off to Japan to kick off “Stardust Crusaders.” I’m honestly tempted to go back and re-read it after all this. I mean, I’ve got to do something until Viz gets around to releasing “Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable” in print.