JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a long-running shonen/seinen manga series by author Hirohiko Araki, telling the tale of the heroic Joestar family and their battle against evil across the centuries. Jonathan Joestar gave his life fighting his foster brother Dio Brando, and then Joseph defeated the Pillar Men before the combat system was totally overhauled.
JoJo famously rebooted its combat system with Stands, starting in the Stardust Crusaders story arc. Some Stand battles are typical shonen fare, such as Avdol's and Polnareff's battle or Josuke tangling with the explosive Kira Yoshikage, but many other Stand battles involve laying traps and using cunning games to outwit the Joestar heroes. The JoJo villains fight dirty, as it should be.
JoJo Villains & The Element Of Surprise
Shonen battle anime series often involve a sheer clash of wills and contests of brute strength, with some cunning tricks or resourceful techniques thrown in to keep the readers guessing and surprise them during the fight. Often, it's the underdog shonen hero who must rely on tricks to win against a stronger foe, such as Edward Elric fighting the shadowy Pride or Uzumaki Naruto inventing new jutsu on the fly to battle the Akatsuki. In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, it was the "Phantom Blood" and -- to a lesser degree -- the "Battle Tendency" fights that involved sheer power vs. power. When Stands entered the picture, the battle system changed in more ways than one.
Not all, but many villainous Stand users, especially those in Stardust Crusaders, fought Jotaro's heroic team not with power vs. power battles, but tricks and traps, luring Jotaro's group into their intended doom time and again. The villains would use a Stand well suited for a certain terrain type, for example, or the enemy Stand users sneakily use their Stands to augment a game of chance where they have all the advantages. An example includes villains such as Daniel J. D'Arby, who uses his Osiris Stand and cheating to win in games of chance.
Enemy Stand users might even convert an entire town into a trap as Enya the crone did, create a false electrical socket like Bast or even use shadows to fight, such as Polpo when he fought Giorno's Gold Experience Stand with his own Stand, Black Sabbath. In each of these fight scenes, the hero was put at a disadvantage, and they had to think their way out of rigged battles, which discouraged simple power vs. power battles. Although this "monster of the week" strategy may seem a bit tedious at first, the sheer variety of enemy Stand users and their abilities made up for it, all the way through the "Stone Ocean" story arc.
How JoJo Villains Subvert Shonen Conventions
The villains of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure use this "trap of the week" strategy not only to challenge the heroes on their own terms but also to subvert shonen expectations about how heroes and villains fight one another. Generally, it's the villain who has superior firepower, forcing the underdog hero to get resourceful and win in unexpected ways. JoJo reverses that paradigm, turning a beloved shonen trope on its head. Now it's the heroes who are powerful and the villains who have to get creative to win.
Jotaro Kujo is powerful with his Star Platinum Stand, and in power vs. power battles, he can overwhelm most foes in any story arc, which would make for a poor narrative. So, villains such as Daniel J. D'Arby, Oyanagi Ken, Foo Fighters and Polpo lay traps to turn the battlefield to their advantage and nullify the hero's strength somewhat. Daniel D'Arby could never beat Jotaro in melee combat, so he used gambling and soul-stealing to fight back, while the antihero Kishibe Rohan was outfoxed by Ken, who used rock-paper-scissors and his Boy II Man Stand to get the edge, among many other examples. They fight like shonen heroes, aside from their reliance on laying traps while waiting for the actual heroes to come closer.
The protagonists of JoJo grow relatively little in power since they begin their story arcs with formidable Stands, including Star Platinum, Crazy Diamond and Gold Experience. That makes them more like villains, who tend to begin the story with all the power they need, and that prompts their enemies to lay cunning traps and force the heroes to fight them on their own terms. It's a fascinating and refreshing reversal of roles while also encouraging clever battles that aren't purely power vs. power. In that way, JoJo has one of shonen's finest combat systems of all, even if it relies heavily on so many monsters of the week.