REVIEW: ‘Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo’ Episode 17: “Baby Face”
Disclaimer: This review contains references to sexual assault. If you’re sensitive to this subject, you might want to avoid this review and the episode itself by extension.
In the aftermath of the Grateful Dead and Beach Boy fight, the train to Venice has been left out of commission and Team Bucciarati must find another way to reach their destination. They’re able to sneak the turtle into someone’s truck, but after some hijinks involving Sex Pistols, the truck crashes and they’re stuck in a parking lot trying to figure out how they’re going to get to Venice. Meanwhile, a new enemy stand user named Melone encounters a female passenger and starts trying to analyze her so he can create a homunculus capable of taking out Team Bucciarati.
Before going any deeper with the review, it’d probably be best to address some of the more disturbing implications of Baby Face’s abilities. Mostly, the fact that in order to create the homunculus, the stand must use a woman’s DNA, likely through forced impregnation. While the anime doesn’t show anything happening to the victim and even implies that nothing sexual took place at all, the manga makes this less clear and even implies that she was raped. Even with the anime removing anything that could cause anyone to interpret the scene as sexual assault, the concept of forced impregnation still brings up some very questionable implications and I honestly can’t blame anyone for finding the concept disturbing.
The portrayal of sexual assault in anime has been a huge point of contention within the community for a while. Shows like Sword Art Online and more recently Goblin Slayer sparked a ton of discourse about the subject due to their lack of tact in handling such a traumatic event and using it for cheap shock value. As far as this particular scene is concerned, it’s still pretty cringe-worthy, even with the anime’s attempt to remove any sexual context. The fact that Melone collects the woman’s DNA without her consent and then she’s left unconscious after the process is enough to raise a few red flags, and the whole forced impregnation deal doesn’t help matters either. Even as someone who isn’t triggered by depictions of sexual assault, I thought the scene was super uncomfortable and almost hard to watch. While it could have been worse given how the anime went out of its way to show the victim wasn’t raped, the implications of sexual assault are still prominent enough that I’d recommend anyone who’s sensitive to those subjects skip this episode.
On to something a lot less heavy, if “Grateful Dead’s” main issue was that it dragged on for too long, then “Baby Face” suffers from the exact opposite problem of being too rushed. A lot of banter between Team Bucciarati was cut from the manga and the actual fight itself felt like it went by too fast. The best example I can think of is during the scene where the gang is contemplating how they’re going to reach their next destination. In the manga, there was a lot more time spent deliberating on how they’re going to steal a car without getting caught and even a humorous reaction to Giorno’s absolutely absurd idea to steal a hundred cars — which is still the funniest of Giorno’s ridiculous plans — but a lot of that has been trimmed down in the anime since he just turns all the cars into frogs before anyone can react to the absurdity of his plan. They even cut the scene of Narancia and Mista chasing the frogs in the background, which would’ve been a cute touch to give the scene a little character.
This isn’t to say the episode is completely void of any comedic edge, since there are still quite a few highlights. Giorno declaring that he’s going to steal a hundred cars is still hilarious even without the reaction, and Bruno’s overdramatic reaction to Trish asking where she’s going to use the bathroom got a good chuckle out of me.
As far as the fight itself is concerned, it also suffers from being incredibly rushed. Conceptually, the idea of pitting two stands with opposite abilities against each other, in this case, Gold Experience’s ability to give life to inanimate objects and Baby Face’s ability to turn living beings into objects, should lend itself well to an interesting fight. There could’ve been an interesting dynamic with how the two abilities play off each other, but the fight is so short that it really isn’t explored all that much. It’s over as soon as it begins and therefore doesn’t leave much of an impact. This is especially frustrating considering how the “Grateful Dead” arc dragged on for an episode longer than it needed to and that time could’ve been spent fleshing out the Baby Face fight. At least “Grateful Dead” ended on a high note to make the slog worth it instead of leaving me disappointed at all the missed potential. Vento Aureo has had a huge problem with pacing lately and I really hope these recent episodes were just flukes and not indicative of the quality of later episodes.
Featured Image: Jojo Animation
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