In the universe of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the acclaimed anime adaptation of Hirohiko Araki’s long-running supernatural action adventure manga series, the Joestar family are the undisputed heroes. A family of superhumanly gifted martial artists, philanthropists, mafia dons, and marine biologists spanning over six-plus generations, the Joestars are framed as an unambiguous collective force for good — battling serial killers, megalomaniacal vampires, and all sorts of fiendish adversaries as they attempt to set right their respective corners of the world.
But the Joestar clan is not exempt from anime’s long collective history of bad fathers. Similar to the likes of Dragon Ball’s Goku, Hunter x Hunter’s Ging Freecss, or Fullmetal Alchemist’s Van Hohenheim, the Joestars boast their own fair share of absentee or negligent fathers, with no less than five members of the Joestar extended family having been either sired out of careless infidelity or through the convoluted machinations of DIO, the family’s longtime nemesis.
But in the initial 12 episodes of Stone Ocean, the fifth season of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime series which premiered on Netflix earlier this week, the impact of a strained relationship between absent father and child is a driving force. When Jotaro Kujo is first seen in the second season of the anime, Stardust Crusaders, he’s introduced as a foul-mouthed ne’er do well in a leather jacket prone to getting into fights and cursing out his mother. In Stone Ocean, his daughter, Jolyne Cujoh, is not that much different than how Jotaro was around her age: a troubled teenager with a history of theft and joyriding whose delinquent behavior is only further exacerbated by her father’s absence.
When Jolyne first meets her father shortly after being incarcerated at Green Dolphin Street Prison, her immediate reaction is disgust; attacking a guard at the risk of solitary confinement rather than even speaking to him. Though it’s implied that Jotaro’s absence in Jolyne’s life was in part motivated by a desire to protect her, it’s not a great look considering Jotaro himself grew up without his own father present throughout most of his life. And in the absence of any explanation while she was growing up, Jolyne can’t help but look at her father with contempt, while Jotaro can’t help but come across as emotionally cold and distant. In spite of all the growth Jotaro has undergone in the 22 years since the events of Stardust Crusaders and Stone Ocean, he’s still earned the title of bad dad. But while Josuke Higashikata, the protagonist of Diamond is Unbreakable, more or less let his elderly father Joseph Joestar off the hook in exchange for never contacting his mother Tomoko again, Stone Ocean forces Jotaro and his daughter to work together in order to survive and confront the assorted emotional baggage brought about through Jotaro’s neglect as a parent. It’s a fascinating encounter that puts into stark relief how persistently poor parenting and a habit for keeping secrets runs throughout the Joestar family and how consistently it comes back to undermine their best intentions.
Despite her animosity for him, Jolyne has to work together with her father when the pair are ambushed by Johngalli A, a former disciple of DIO who orchestrated Jolyne’s imprisonment in order to draw out Jotaro. And though she’s steely during their attempted escape, Jolyne clearly yearns for Jotaro’s affection and approval. It’s here their combat abilities form a bridge neither could with words: Jotaro is wounded and caught off-guard by a second assailant, Palesnake, while moving to Jolyne from an attack by Johngalli. Using her Stand abilities, Jolyne is able to defeat Johngalli and by all appearances save her father’s life, though she’s unable to stop Palesnake from achieving his real objective of stealing Jotaro’s soul and Stand ability. Faced with the opportunity to escape to freedom on her own, Jolyne instead chooses to stay behind at the prison and face the consequences of her attempted jailbreak in order to find a way to restore Jotaro’s soul and consciousness back to his body. It’s a dramatic turning point for the series to confront the bad blood between two Joestar family members, with Jolyne not so much forgiving Jotaro, but nonetheless acknowledging that nothing can be made right between the two of them if she abandons him to his death. In spite of his faults, Jotaro does care about and love Jolyne in his own way, and Jolyne reciprocates that love by resolving to make him whole again.
Stone Ocean doesn’t shy away from showing what the potential of a more healthy relationship with her dad lets Jolyne do. She quickly grows accustomed to her newfound powers as a Stand User, becoming more confident and calm under pressure while attempting to track down the true identity of Palesnake and save her father. Spurred by her goal of reconciling with her father, Jolyne grows into a heroic and resilient protagonist not unlike her relatives in the Joestar Family line. If Jolyne is able to save her father’s soul and return it to his body, there may yet be hope for her and Jotaro to formally reconcile and embody a healthier example for the Joestar family going forward. At the very least, it could afford them the chance to actually seek out family therapy — something that honestly the whole Joestar clan could probably benefit from.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean is available to stream on Netflix.