It might sound dumb to write a review for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders - Battle in Egypt when I've already link written a review about the first half of the 2014-2015 adaptation of the arc. Why not just cover both of them with one review? Well, because not only are the two split into two different seasons on the site, but because I think that there's a marked shift about halfway through Stardust Crusaders that lends itself to critiquing the two halves separately.

The way I described the first half of Stardust Crusaders is that it "takes one step forward, one step back, and two steps sideways." In other words, the series went through a massive shift at this point that resulted in some growing pains. It's only after the characters arrive in Egypt that Stardust Crusaders really starts hitting its stride. The first half planted the seeds for the new direction the series took, but the second half is when JoJo truly becomes JoJo.

Battle in Egypt suffers from many of the same issues that the second half does in that it's a very episodic show. However, in the first half, many of the fights were a single episode, with a few broken into two parts. This made the individual episodes feel less important and the longer episodes drag. While some of this remains in the second half, due to either Araki getting better at writing Stand-based fights or David Productions figuring out the sweet spot for pacing, those issues are mainly alleviated. All but one of the fights in this half are split into two episodes (barring the final battles) and feel like they all deserve the time they get.

The battles themselves also begin getting more creative in this part. In the first half, many fights felt like they boiled down to which person's punchghost could fight better. While there were a few interesting concepts, many still boiled down to a straight fight in the end. In the second half, that Stands and fights start to get a bit more varied, and many enemy Stands in this half can't be directly beaten by the protagonist's Stands. This half features, for example, a sword that possesses whoever holds it, a comic book that can see the future, and a game of poker with souls as the wager. Ironically, while many of these Stands in are weaker on paper, they're implemented in ways that make them more interesting. In addition, the Stand users themselves have more personality and are more interesting as characters. The result is that the season as a whole feels more fun.

Despite feeling more fun, the stakes of this season also feel higher. In the first season, fights felt like inconvenient pit stops as characters traveled from place to place. Once they arrive in Egypt, however, that changes. They've reached their destination, and now it's just a matter of finding where Dio is hiding. The villains aren't random lackeys sent against them, but Dio's final line of defense, and the Stand names switching from tarot cards to Egyptian gods (and then later musical references, which would go on to become the standard) reflects that. The frivolity is majorly stripped from the final 9-11 episodes, making it feel like the climax lasts roughly a third to half of the season. And, of course, these final battles start having consequences.

This is not to say that this second season of Stardust Crusaders doesn't add any new problems the first season didn't have. There's a big one in the case of how it handles its characters. The group is split up for most of the encounters, leading to some characters getting sidelined in favor of more focus on Polnareff, whose character arc had already concluded near the end of the previous half. By the end of the show, it could just as easily be called "Polnareff's Bizarre Adventure," and whether or not it gets tedious depends entirely on how much you like Polnareff as a character. What's worse is that this imbalance in character focus leads to many characters being absent. Joseph remains largely a supporting character, Avdol is lucky to get that much, and Kakyoin is flat-out absent for the majority of the season, and even when he returns he never gets a fight where he has a victory. And then there's Iggy, a dog who joins the main team but is ultimately just obnoxious and irrelevant. Beyond the initial battle in which he's introduced, he exists primarily to be grumpy and fart in Polnareff's face until he gets a few moments in the final battles.

The final point that really needs bringing up is the climax, which is one of the most iconic in anime and manga history. As mentioned before, it takes up almost a full quarter of Stardust Crusaders, and is well worth it. It is at this point in the show that the levity almost entirely drops out in favor of creative fights with incredibly high stakes. Up to this point, the main cast had had tough fights where they were injured, but in the climax they start to become more grievous, and since they've reached the final battles, there's no time to let them heal. You truly get a sense you didn't before that death is a very real possibility.

Then there's the final battle with Dio, consisting of a chase through Cairo at night. This is the battle that the long, exhausting journey in the previous 44 episodes in the series has been building up to. In fact, this is not just the culmination of Stardust Crusaders, but of Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency as well, as Jonathan's fight against Dio has been passed on to his ancestors in Joseph and Jotaro. Without giving the details of the fight away, the payoff is ultimately very satisfying.

Overall, Stardust Crusaders as a whole ends up feeling like it creates a conclusion to a trilogy of arcs, and simultaneously plants the seeds for what JoJo ends up becoming in the future. It has plenty of issues, mostly in the pacing, and it often feels lacking in creativity when compared to the arcs that surround it. However, the finale really makes up for a lot of its flaws, and if you like earlier JoJo arcs, Stardust Crusaders ends up feeling like it has the most epic scale of "old JoJo." It's not necessarily the best arc, and there are good arguments that it's actually the weakest, but as the bridge between the older and newer (or at least middle) arcs, it feels like it's probably the most iconic. Will you like it? Who knows? JoJo is hard to rank from anything other than a subjective standpoint because it's so weird and dumb and because the different arcs themselves are so varied. It's JoJo. You either like it or you don't. And whether or not I recommend this arc specifically is going to be irrelevant because if you've reached this point you've probably watched the first two arcs already and have formed your own opinion. Especially since this is a review of specifically the second half of Stardust Crusaders, and if you're planning on jumping into the second half of the third arc of a franchise I think it's safe to say you're doing something wrong.

As for a rating, though? Well...that's still going to be somewhat subjective. I think this is one of the weaker arcs, but I think it's also one of the most important and foundational arcs, and it's worth giving credit for that. Also, it gets way better in this second half and the ending is great. JoJo's always going to be a case of figuring out whether the strengths balance the flaws for you, and in my opinion, the more prominent weaknesses in Stardust Crusaders are balanced by better strengths. Four stars.

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