In recent years, anime has grown to become a popular medium to Western audiences. First arriving in the 1960s through shows like Astro Boy, Speed Racer, and Gigantor, anime cemented its foothold in the late ’80s/early ’90s. With the arrival of the anime film Akira and shows such as Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, the medium of Japanese animation has come to grip the world of pop culture. Of course, while certain shows rise up to the forefront of Western audiences right away, some shows or manga (Japanese comics books) find themselves not as well-known. This can happen to those works that maybe didn’t have quite the same broad appeal or perhaps run into a situation where their adaptation or translation might prove problematic. In this case, I’m talking about a work that is still on-going as a manga and finally received an anime series in 2012. The subject of this entry is the always odd but very engaging JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Created as a manga first in 1986 by Hirohiko Araki, the series unfolds over the decades, following members of the Joestar family who finds themselves having to battle great evil with the use of supernatural powers. The series begins in 1880s England with Jonathan Joestar, a rich young gentlemen who gains himself an enemy in the form of Dio Brando. Though Dio initially schemes to claim the Joestar fortune, his greed gets set higher when he gains vampiric powers. The rivalry that unfolds between Jonathan and Dio turns out to be the starting point for the overarching story, as this first clash plants the seeds for further battles throughout the ages. From there, the story follows different members of the Joestar family at different points in time. The second story arc, for example, is set in the 1930s and is centered around the rude but clever Joseph Joestar. Meanwhile, the series’ third story arc takes place in 1980s Japan, with the stoic delinquint Jotaro Kujo as its protagonist. No matter what the time or the protagonist, however, they are all linked together by the Joestar blood and its seeming destiny to challenge powerful, supernatural threats to our world.
To say that this series is bizarre would be a fitting description. All of the members of the Joestar family are shown as being supreme heroes, rising up to face down any challenge, no matter how extreme or weird the threat. From vampires to ancient apex predators to mystical martial artists, the show runs the gamut but manages to channel it all within its particular brand of magic. Along with that, the series finds new ways to escalate the stakes and powers over the course of its journey, starting from warriors who channel sunlight through proper breathing to the series’ signature element in later arcs: the Stands, embodiments of certain abilities summoned by their users. However, the thing which really helps to solidify this series is its style. Characters are drawn in a realistic style, but given impossible and clashing colors. Action is accompanied by unique onomatopoeia and poses that can range from ridiculous to almost impossible, with the onomatopoeia even featured in the anime. There are even a fair share of characters whose names are inspired by musicians or musical groups, including such characters as Robert E.O. Speedwagon and Captain Tenille. The result is a style that is off-kilter but always thrilling and even a bit ludicrous at points. All of this can be chalked up to creator Hirohiko Araki.
For his creation, Hirohiko brought a lot to the table for this bizarre mixture. Its artistry came from Hirohiko wanting to do a classical style with modern elements layered onto it. As such, he drew inspiration from classical paintings along with modern art and shading techniques. As for the poses, names, and numerous monsters and mystical tricks, those came from his own love for heavy metal music and horror movies. In fact, the poses themselves were inspired by his study of Renaissance artist Michelangelo’s sculptures. The result is a fascinating stew pot of influences, from classic art to modern horror, that remains a hit in Japan to this day.
The series is one of the best-selling titles for Shonen Jump (a popular manga magazine) and the manga’s influence is still felt in Japanese pop culture, with numerous anime shows and pop idol performers referencing its over-the-top action and iconic poses (known as JoJo-dachi in Japan, which means “JoJo standing”). Unfortunately, the series is still not as well-known to Western audiences due to potential rights issues stemming from the use of names of real-life musicians or bands, but it has started to be noticed. Fighting games based upon the franchise have begun to work their way over, and Crunchyroll (a website which streams anime) offers the anime series among its many programs. Along with that, Viz Media has begun printing the manga in English, beginning with the first story arc. Perhaps now people will find the remarkable that lays within the bizarre.
If you’re looking to check out a weird series like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Crunchyroll currently carries the anime adaptation, which at this time covers through the third story arc. The manga can also be found in stores, currently covering the first arc with the second arc being released in Fall 2015 at the time of this post.