A Man Possessed…
Some point last year I found myself invested in anime and manga again. I started collecting One Piece, I marathoned through Cowboy Bebop, Kill la Kill and Gurren Lagann in quick succession and generally got back into enjoying the ridiculous nature that comes with the whole thing.
However in September, I found myself seeing all these in jokes to do with a series called JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. A bunch of ripped men shouting at each other and some dude called Speedwagon. Curious, I started watching the anime adaptation and became obsessed with the whole thing. Then, as you do with any continuing TV series, you eventually catch up and left with nothing to really do, except wait for it to come back every Friday. Or, if you’re like me, you catch up just as it goes off air for their mid-season break and dive straight into the manga it came from.
Well here I am, a little ways into Part Five, Vento Aureo and I’m going to gush about the absolute belter of a story that is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
The thing that JoJo’s author, Hirohiko Araki, does to you almost instantly, is convince you to just go along with it. Don’t question anything and accept that the reality within the pages and the show just makes sense. If you try to apply logic to any of it – regardless of the fantastical things that happen – you’ll just begin to spiral into a nightmare hole.
That’s what I love most about the series. It never takes into account how your mind works, just how Araki wants to see it play out. Sometimes it feels like he’s just written up that on the spot and rolled with himself, but in the end it weirdly works out for the better. Yes, the dog just loves to chew on coffee chewing gum and of course Baron Zeppeli will make razors out of wine to hurl at a now zombie-vampire-thing that was Jack the Ripper.
So, what is JoJo? Starting in 1986, following Jonathan Joestar and his evil adopted brother, Dio Brando it still continues to this very day, with Part Eight, JoJolion.
Each part brings a new ‘JoJo’ and a whole new dynamic to them. I enjoy it for the same reason I continue to enjoy Doctor Who in a way. Each JoJo has a roundabout way of getting back to the original point of the original character, Jonathan. They’re all these very heroic characters, that value honour and justice above all. While Jonathan is a straight up generic hero, his descendants each have their own twists. Joseph is cocky, while his grandson, Jotaro, is very stoic and calm.
While the series continues to introduce and explore new protagonists each time, it never feels like I’ve ventured too far away from the characters I initially became obsessed with. It’s always that stomach or chest filling moment when you see a character show compassion towards an enemy or another character, just as Jonathan did with Dio in his final moments.
Though the anime is always a joy to watch, reading and absorbing the manga’s art is truly a pleasure. We see Araki’s art evolve throughout each part and at times, it’s just breath taking. In Part Four, Diamond is Unbreakable, a scene depicts Josuke (the JoJo of this arc) riding a motorbike and almost crashing into a pram, only to disassemble it with his ‘Stand’ – a magical being that has unique powers to each user – and put it back together in a few seconds. It’s just so intricate and detailed and even though there’s barely any words on the actual page, I spent a long time just gazing into it.
As the series progressed, it did move away from the original concept of fighting. I guess fake martial arts, taught by an Italian man only goes so far. In Parts One and Two (Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency), Jonathan and Joseph both use ‘Hamon’ (literally translated, Ripple) which is taught to Jonathan by Baron William Zeppeli and Joseph trains with Zeppeli’s descendant, Caesar, with the mysterious Lisa Lisa. By controlling their breathing, they can conduct energy – almost like electricity – through their body and objects to vanquish vampires, zombies or a whole host of dangers.
While I miss the physical aspect of Hamon and the crazy stretches Araki would go to, to make it even more useful than the previous chapter or page, in Part Three, Stardust Crusaders, we’re introduced to ‘Stands’.
This is where JoJo finally gets away with whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Stands can literally do or can’t do anything the plot needs them to, either to drum up anticipation or drama, or in most cases, just seem downright rad.
It’s from Stardust Crusaders onwards, that entire battles might never even properly involve the user. For instance, Jotaro – Part Three’s JoJo – has an insanely powerful stand, Star Platinum and it does almost all the work for him. But you never care, because it’s so spectacular to see this (if you manage to find the colour pages) magical, purple ghost man assault a villain or thing with a million punches while screaming “ORA ORA ORA” and Jotaro touching the brim of his cap or bleeding profusely in a cool way.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is what I needed in my life, really. Remember when you were younger and watched Dragonball Z and it’d just one up itself over and over? Now imagine that on a some kind of scale you can’t actually comprehend, because the rules never make sense but are always logical when suddenly introduced. It’s that aspect of JoJo that keeps me coming back; the fact that I’ll never truly know what is actually going to happen. While the main plotlines of each part are usually quite easy to follow, it’s the added layers of things happening and how they occur that just gets me every time.
Like in Vento Aureo, Giorno – technically Dio’s son, but conceived while Dio was in possession of Jonathan’s body – wants to become a gangster to rid the town of drug trafficking and is initiated by having to keep a lighter lit for 24 hours. It’s just stuff like that and how they go about it that’s just massively fascinating to me.
You’ve probably noticed that Araki uses a lot of band names or musical influences to name his characters (JoJo is derived from The Beatles song, Get Back and a restaurant). It’s actually one of the reasons the series has struggled to get published in the west, as it flat out uses song or band names. I took a peek at some of the characters in JoJolion out of curiosity and there’s a stand based on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Take a gander at the comparison below:
If we were talking favourite parts, so far it’s Diamond is Unbreakable, the fourth part, that is my favourite outing for JoJo. It’s a much more light hearted affair, with a sinister twist from the main antagonist.
It’s almost like a weird take on Twin Peaks or something along those lines. Set in a small town, it follows the illegitimate son of Joseph Joestar, Josuke, who has the Stand, Crazy Diamond – which as mentioned before, can revert objects to their original state, but can also heal and alter people and other objects – and his friends, as they try and solve a few mysteries and a murder of a ghost.
I think the reason I love it the most out of what I’ve consumed so far is the fact that it takes the same formula as seen before and fits it into something new. We still get the energetic fights, copious amounts of body horror, gore and general violence, but it’s done through the warped glass of what Araki thinks is a ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery.
Want to get started with this Bizarre Adventure?
If you’re curious to see how all this unfolds, I’d actually recommend watching the anime. While it’s never the same as reading the original material, it’s actually a faithful adaptation with the only changes really being a condensed way of going through Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency and some artistic changes to fit in the overall style they’re going with in that particular part or season.
However, if you want to read the manga, it’s not as simple as buying a copy from Waterstones or Amazon. While volumes of Part Three are available online, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has only recently started being properly translated and published overseas. Part one will be available in hardback editions from February 2015, presumably followed by part two.
If you’d like the other method, you can ‘acquire’ it online through other means. Fans online have done a fantastic job of translating and be sure to check out the Duwang translations for their fabulous English skills.
Whether it’s enjoying Speedwagon’s terrified explanations of the absurdities going on in front of him; Joseph guessing what a foe might say next to stun them; Jotaro wearing a modified school uniform throughout his entire life; Josuke punching suspicious spaghetti or Gio talking to a massively morbid, gross man in prison, or maybe some characters have taken the time to just pose so elegantly in a very serious fashion, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is something I could talk about (and do, much to my house mates’ dismay) and soon, you might just see some more coming right at you.
All images and video are taken from the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Wiki or uploaded by fans. This article is non-profit. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is property of Hirokiko Araki, David Productions, Tokyo MX and Viz Media. Please support the official release.Tweet