Content warning: Violence, blood, body horror, carceral violence
What’s it about? Jolyne Cujoh was an ordinary 17-year-old Floridian girl until her boyfriend hit a pedestrian with his car while they were out driving. Her worthless father, Jotaro, is off doing marine biology research in Africa and can’t come help her out. To add insult to injury, he sends her a locket that stabs her in the finger when she opens it. She throws it aside, but then something weird happens: she develops the power to turn her body into strings that she can control. Now, where did that locket go?
Jolyne, Jolyne, Jolyne, Jolyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyne…
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is back, baby! And with Jolyne, its first female protagonist, we have so much to talk about. I’ve been looking forward to Stone Ocean getting adapted ever since I first dipped my toe into the sea we called Jojo’s fandom. Not only did it star a female protagonist, but the kind of heroine I crave: equally capable of anger and silliness, and prone to vulgarity. I hadn’t met her yet, but I loved her, and knew she was destined to become my favorite Jojo.
Now that I can finally meet her, I love her all the more. While Stone Ocean tends to fall relatively low in popularity rankings, Jolyne has a fervent female fanbase, including both her Japanese voice actor, Ai Fairouz, and her English voice actor, Kira Buckland. It speaks volumes that she inspires such devotion that Fairouz cried onstage at the fan event where they announced her casting.
The first episode begins in media res, with Jolyne in her cell at the Green Dolphin State Prison shouting about how she wants to die. Not because of pain, not because of her incarceration, but because a male guard caught her masturbating. This is a wild way to start a series: frank discussion of a female protagonist’s sexuality and self-pleasure, framed in a non-exploitative way and not solely in relation to a male partner. Her embarrassment is rooted not in shame at the act itself, but at the violation of being seen in the midst of an intimate, vulnerable moment. In fact, for a 17-year-old kid, she does a lot to reassert ownership of her body in the midst of imprisonment, such as posing sexily to embarrass the female guards (but not for the camera) who are strip searching her. In this essay, I will
No, Caitlin, this is a premiere review. It is not time for a full analytical article, no matter how fascinating the dynamics are.
In a lot of ways, though, Jolyne is a regular girl who’s in over her head in a lot of ways. She’s not a badass brawler at the outset like many of her predecessors; she didn’t even have a Stand before she was pricked by the stone arrow. There’s pluses and minuses to this; she has a certain vulnerability that makes her more immediately relatable, and a lot of room for growth. Her biggest error was drinking underage and letting her shitty dirtbag boyfriend convince her to take the fall for him, the kind of mistake millions of teenagers make every day.
However, she’s the first of the Joestar line since Stands became a thing that didn’t develop one organically, while also being the first female protagonist of the franchise. While my friend, who is one of the biggest Jojo fans in the US, assures me it’s because Stone Ocean was meant to be an entry point to new fans who didn’t yet know the terminology and this would have been the case regardless of Jolyne’s gender, it’s not a great look that the first female protagonist is also the one who is the least in control of her own power at the outset. Still, by the end of the second episode, it becomes abundantly clear that when pushed into a corner, she is very much her father’s daughter.
There’s actually a lot about Stone Ocean that gives it feminist potential, even outside of Jolyne. The first episode calls out state violence and how vulnerable prisoners are in the face of it, particularly through Ermes, a Black-coded fellow prisoner who Jolyne meets on the bus over whom the guards single out and pull aside to assault. Jolyne’s Stand, which involves turning her body into strings, allows her to listen in and defend others, an allegory for no no no Caitlin stop we do not have time for this right now, file it away for later.
Anyway! The short version is that as of two episodes in, Stone Ocean is good. Real good. On top of all the usual goodness people come to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure for – action-packed, well-written episodes that can still surprise fans even in the sixth arc – there’s a ton of feminist potential and critique of the carceral state. If ever there was a time for AniFem readers to get into Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, this is it. It’s even deliberately made to be newbie friendly.