Ones of the most popular and memorable Japanese manga in the world is the action adventure, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Written and Illustrated by Hirohiko Araki since 1987, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure centers around the members of the Joestar family across multiple generations. Soon they discover that they must take down supernatural adversaries using the unique powers that they possess, known as Stands, with each arc following a descendant of the powerful family. But no matter when the arcs take place, each protagonist’s name can be abbreviated to the titular “JoJo.” Now, after decades of stories, the series is hotter than ever thanks to a new anime series.
Over the last few decades, the series gained distinctions for its flamboyance, original one-of-a-kind drawing style (Araki-Style as fans call it), intense battles, creative combat, and complex storyline. Consequently, JoJo has reshaped Japanese pop culture and inspired many manga, anime, and video games that have gone out and reached commercial success, such as the Fate and Persona series. But, how did JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure survive all these decades as a series?
Who Is Hirohiko Araki?
Son to an office worker and a stay-at-home mother, young Hirohiko found inspiration thanks to his younger identical twin sisters. The twin’s childish pranks and annoyances led him to find solace in his room. Which led Araki to spent time reading classic manga from the 70’s and his father’s collection of art books, influencing him to take up manga. In particular, French artist Paul Gauguin becoming a source of inspiration for Araki’s drawing style.
While his prep school friend praised his work, magazine editors rejected his submissions. With artists of his generation like Yudetamago and Masakazu Katsura making big splashes, Araki decided to find out why the editors rejected him.
After spending an all-nighter finishing off his submission, the anxious Araki traveled to Tokyo to meet these editors. But, after being intimidated by the size of the famous Shogakukan office building – the publishing house of Shonen Sunday – he took his submission to the smaller Shueisha building next door. Fortunately, for him, he met a rookie editor who looked at his work. And while his criticism towards his work was harsh, he felt that Araki’s work had potential, even worthy to be submitted for the prestigious Tezuka Awards in 1980. That submission was Poker Under Arms (Buso Poker), which won “Selected Work” runner-up at the Tezuka Awards. The Wild West one-shot is Araki’s first published work and his official debut as a mangaka.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – The Manga
After writing and illustrating several series, his next project – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – would become his masterpiece. The series was first serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1987 to 2004 before being transferred to the monthly seinen magazine Ultra Jump in 2005. And it has been publishing regularly in Japan ever since, getting multiple video game adaptations but no anime until very recently.
And although the series has been around since the ’80s, it was until 2005 that North American readers finally received an English-language version of the manga, thanks to Viz Media. However, JoJo had a very rocky time with the localization, thanks to copyright concerns (mainly Araki’s references to famous musicians), censorship (such as sexual scenes and extreme violence) and controversy (including complaints from some Egyptian Islamic fundamentalists). Consequently, Viz briefly ceased publication and cut many of those offending parts, altering much of what made the action adventure such a success. Although this might have discouraged other publications, Viz still continues publishing the manga, currently at the fourth arc, Diamond is Unbreakable.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – The Anime
JoJo‘s manga has over 95 million copies in print – making it one of the best-selling manga series in history – and Shueisha’s (publisher of Weekly Shonen Jump and Ultra Jump) second longest-running series. Yet for years, JoJo had somehow never received an anime adaption. This all changed when an OVA adaptation made its debut in the fall of 1993. Produced by A.P.P.P. (Another Push Pin Planning), the OVA covers the manga’s third arc – Stardust Crusader.
But, it was until 2012 that JoJo received an official anime TV show. The new anime went hand-in-hand with the series’ 25th anniversary and an upcoming Hirohiko Araki art exhibition. The series covered both Part 1: Phantom Blood and Part 2: Battle Tendency, with the second part set 49 years after Phantom Blood.
Throughout the series, viewers are introduced to various characters with names similar to rock musicians. For example, one of JoJo’s greatest enemies, Dio Brando, is named after one of the most talented artists in Heavy Metal history, the late Ronnie James Dio. Not only that, Dio’s surname is possibly referencing actor Marlon Brando. Another musical reference is the Zeppeli surname, which is a clear hint to the English rock legends, Led Zeppelin.
And that’s hardly the only Led Zeppelin reference in the series. The original stand name for Enrico Pucci‘s – main villain of Stone Ocean – Made in Heaven was actually Stairway to Heaven, based on the song of the same name by Led Zeppelin. But, the creators changed it to Made in Heaven, thea hit Queen single. Nevertheless, these aren’t the only big names in JoJo, artists such as Santana, AC/DC and Air Supply have also been mentioned in the action adventure series. But the band Yes might have the group Yes might have the biggest impact on JoJo currently.
The Power of Internet Memes
And while these references may have helped with the series popularity, it’s the series ending theme that has made JoJo a recent internet success, at least in meme terms. At the end of (almost) each episode, a sepia-toned freeze frame would appear with an excerpt of the song Roundabout by the band Yes, with an arrow that read “To Be Continued.” This type of cliffhanger is rarely scene in anime and in no time the scene spread like wildfire. With fans making memes and even YouTube videos of funny situations.
Did that viral hit bring even more fans to JoJo? Will they stick around when they see how wonderfully weird this action anime is? Only time will tell as we wait for possible news on another season of the anime adaptation.