And it’s that it’s all about the power of kindness. Which isn’t uncommon at all for shounen manga--if anything, it’s a staple of it--but I think it’s really unique and refreshing when it’s wrapped in a pulpy horror story that’s as eighties as a story set in the Victorian era can get. The sheer ridiculous and utterly shameless pulpiness, plus a great sense of adventure, is a large part of why I love it to begin with, but add some heart at the center of it and I get something even more out of it.
Jonathan’s weapon is his kindness. It’s his fists and ripple abilities as well, of course, but it’s his kindness that’s his greatest, and it’s one he didn’t just happen to acquire at birth. It was one that had to be taught to him (in the manga) by his own dog--a simple, yet meaningful lesson he took to heart and ended up being the driving force of his philosophy. It’s one that’s gradually sharpened with time, even in spite of the rough trials and tribulations he’s faced with (in direct contrast to Dio, whose malice is only sharpened over time).
His kindness is what defeats Speedwagon and his crew. He beats them up pretty good to begin with, but that isn’t what defeats them--it’s when he tells them the reason he doesn’t kill or injure them fatally is because he realizes they likely have lives, families, and loved ones of their own. It impresses Speedwagon so much he completely turns away from his life of crime. Likewise with Blueford; he got a good fight in, but it’s Jonathan listening to Blueford’s own words and stopping his own attack just as Blueford is about to strike that “defeats” him and purifies his soul. Even with Dio (...ignoring that he’d later regain his status as villain in part 3), Jonathan’s final, final battle with him doesn’t even end in a fight, but embracing the guy who ruined his life. And Dio’s hilariously helpless against Jonathan’s pure selflessness.
Jonathan’s kindness doesn’t give him a happy ending--in fact, it’s what leads to his very demise--but that ultimately isn’t what matters in the end. His kindness was able to grant a restless soul a chance for peace at last, inspire Speedwagon to follow suit and share his generosity with the world, and give Erina the courage to keep on living even after she lost him.
Jonathan is the hero of his story not through his brawn, but through the strength of his heart. And for a story that advertises itself as this musclebound, gory adventure, that’s pretty awesome. And I love it for that.