Warning: Spoilers for the JJBA: Stone Ocean episodes 25-26One Stone Ocean arc has had Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fans worried as to how it would be adapted due to countless references and mentions of copyrighted characters, and now that the episodes are released, it’s clear exactly how they managed to avoid getting into legal trouble: by being exceptionally cautious.
In the Stone Ocean manga’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (now “Bohemian Ecstatic”) arc, the Stand of a character known as Ungalo, a son of Dio, is capable of bringing to life fictional characters and can do so from an incredible distance away. As a result, fictional characters start becoming real and enacting their stories in reality–and due to the story being set in Orlando at that time, that definitely includes bringing up some major theme park characters like Mickey Mouse. The manga used original takes on the fairy tales which Disney draws from for its films, creating unique interpretations of Snow White and Pinocchio, among others, but featured some copyrighted characters like Spider-Man in cameos.
While the original Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean manga didn’t do anything wrong by Japanese copyright law, international copyright and especially American copyright law can be far more strict. Fans had speculated about possible approaches, but the law is really too complicated for many of the suggestions. In the end, the anime wound up omitting one of the most famed lines of dialog in the series about Mickey Mouse and was very careful not to imply or suggest that these fairy tales had anything to do with Disney. Some copyrighted characters did get to appear still: Astroboy, Mazinger Z, and Tetsujin 28 are shown flying by at one point. The series also took advantage of the fact that Warner Bros. was a contributing studio for the project and gave shout-outs to Tweety Bird and DC Comics’ Batman, although both are exclusively discussed while remaining off-screen. Peter Pan’s appearance in the manga was also replaced by an original version of Aladdin.
Jojo’s Bizarre Copyright Woes
It’s known that the manga itself already faced some censorship during this arc. For the manga, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure creator Hirohiko Araki wanted Mickey Mouse to appear in full, but instead, only his tail is visible, although he is mentioned by name several times. In the anime, Mickey’s role was dropped entirely, and the roles of Pinocchio and Snow White’s seven dwarves were expanded a bit to take his place. While it’s not the most elegant solution, the anime did effectively eliminate all the legal problems this would’ve caused, while taking advantage of the works that it could get away with featuring in cameos, which helped it to feel like all fictional characters, and not just the handful of fairy tale figures from before the existence of copyright. Additionally, the way it was done has “futureproofed” the series; should someday the rights change and Stone Ocean loses the ability to mention Batman and Tweety, those lines can simply be rerecorded or altered without significantly impacting the episode.
While fans may be disappointed by what was removed, the story is ultimately no worse off for the loss, and the way it’s been handled ensures that this two-part episode of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure won’t wind up as lost media due to something as simple as silly cameos.
The final episodes of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean are now streaming on Netflix.