Welcome! This will be the first in a series of posts I call “Anime Greats”. There’s a few anime that sit in a weird place in my life; while they’re popular, I’ve met very few fellow fans of the series or none at all. That being said, I’ll do my public duty and give it a bit of exposure.
For those who don’t know about the JoJo, it’s difficult for me to describe due to the variations based on where you start reading. It’s a series done by the legendary mangaka Hirohiko Araki, who many of the current big shots look up to. The best way to get an introduction is to take the title at face value. Every character has the Japanese syllables for “JoJo” or something which sounds similar. Also, from Parts 3-8 of the series, certain people can manifest their inner persona into what’s known as a “Stand”, which gives them special powers. The “Adventure” part of the series can vary wildly. Part 3 involves a trip from Japan to Cairo, Part 4 encompasses a town, and Part 6 involves a prison complex and the surrounding areas.
It’s been a good 4-5 years since I first learned what JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is. I have to confess that I was introduced in the worst way many of the fans consider possible; the Stardust Crusaders OVA. I regret nothing though, because I loved every minute of it (not to mention I got to feel the suspense of learning DIO’s power without spoilers). It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I buckled down and read the manga, and understood how much I was missing.
The characters mostly have distinct personalities and often drawn with flamboyant poses (as seen in the title image), which gives each character their own experience. As the series goes on, the main characters even stray away from the usual heroic traits and fight for their own reasons.For instance, Iggy the Boston Terrier is strong and independent, and difficult to control unless someone gives him his favorite treat; coffee flavored chewing gum.
The anime adaptation which is currently running has one of the most devoted animation houses I’ve seen. It’s clear that every detail receives the attention it deserves, down to the minute details of opening scenes. The consensus is that the TLC for the adaptation adds to the impact the original story has. The series is finally seeing more popularity in the West, in part to releases working around the numerous copyright issues. Several characters and almost every Stand is named after a major band or song.
Unlike many of the major series running today, JoJo rarely depends on characters getting stronger to advance the manga. Instead it becomes a battle of wits between the enemy’s abilities and what the main characters can do. This varies wildly from simply pummeling someone with punches to taking psychic pictures by smashing cameras to bringing characters in images (stop signs/Mickey Mouse/etc.) to life. Even with these unique powers, it’s a battle of information, with the enemies hiding their precise limitations to survive.
JoJo currently has a moderately small, but relaxed fandom. My personal favorite watering hole for talking about the series is on /r/StardustCrusaders on Reddit. While some groups will foam at the mouth if an animation error or a plot hole is spotted, the JoJo community tends to poke fun at the problem and possibly make a meme out of it. For instance, the recent reveal of the Part 4 villain and his stand, and the obviously outsourced work that was used:
Araki has been known to live in the moment when he writes the series, and rarely plans ahead for the story, which has caused him to overlook character arcs and other subplots that he had planned. The phrase “Araki forgot.” is usually enough to satisfy curiosity when an issue in the story with no change of resolution happens. Finally, I’d be doing the community a disservice without mentioning the infamous “Duwang” translation of Part 4. The story goes that the translation was done by a Chinese fan for an English class school project. The scanlations eventually made their way to the internet, and a legend was born.
The series has stayed strong for nearly 30 years now (the anniversary will be this New Year’s) for good reason. Araki has managed to keep it interesting and bring fresh ideas, creating unique characters, expanding his audience and even experimenting with new art styles midway through a story. Nobody knows how long the series will continue, and it doesn’t help that we’re almost certain the creator is immortal, as seen below. In any case, this series has a well deserved spot in the history of manga and comic art as a whole.