JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE
It's the holiday season and Calling Manga Island celebrates a year of articles, this being the 26th bi-weekly column. It's been a great year here on the Island and it also marks the release of a manga that has been topping the charts as one of my most anticipated manga of the year, "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure" by Hirohiko Araki. Since I started Calling Manga Island with one of my favorite Viz titles of all time, I thought it would be a nice to review a manga I have been wanting to see come to the US for years. From Editor's choice titles to the new, cool and affordable "Shonen Jump" line, it's a good year to be a manga fan.
I first heard about "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure" years ago when searching for information about the creator and other shonen comics such as "Fist of the North Star." When I took a trip to Italy in 2001, I was blown away by the fact that every newsstand had copies of "Jojo's." and that they seemed to be well into the series. I was wishing that my grandfather had taught me more Italian so I could go buy all the issues there. I bought the games and lamented that the cool cel-shaded Capcom game wasn't released in the US. I bought the first releases of the JoJo's discs from Super Techno arts, and waited for the entire series to be released and now, finally, Viz has decided to give fans what they are clamoring for.
Viz's edition of "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure" actually starts in the middle of the Japanese series, with an eight-page prologue to the world of the Joestar family and their previous adventures. This introduction, along with the explanation that this volume started as the end of volume twelve in Japan was created by Hirohiko for this publication. Viz's reasoning appears to be that this version is the one that most people know from the video games and the anime that have been brought over to the US. This is probably a wise decision, for Viz, but I do hope that this series takes off so we can get the first 12 volumes released as well, or perhaps a "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Beginnings," separate series that runs concurrently.
This particular series introduces a new wrinkle to the Joestar family's supernatural past. In the form of the spiritual force beings known as Stands. Each person blessed (or cursed) by a Stand manifests it in a different form, some are humanoid while others have animal or more unearthly shapes altogether. Jotaro Kujo (the newest of his lineage to be nicknamed JoJo) ins unnerved by the manifestation of his Stand and it takes his Grandfather Joseph Joestar with the help of another Stand wielder to break him out of his self imposed imprisonment and teach him the ways of his newfound powers. It seems that the evil Dio, a supernatural vampire, has once more been unleashed upon the world. The Joestar family has been linked by fate to Dio dating back one hundred years to 1888 and Jonathon Joestar, Jotaro's great-grandfather. Dio was thought to have been put to rest when Jonathan Joestar made the ultimate sacrifice, drowning to take Dio's evil down with him. Once the Joestar family and their accomplices discover that Dio somehow walks among them, they also come to the realization that Jotaro's mother Holly is rejecting her Stand, causing her to become gravely ill. From here it is up to The Joestar family, Avdol and the other Stand users on the side of good to find and destroy Dio and his minions, to save Jotaro's mother and Joseph's daughter. Thus a new bizarre adventure and struggle is born to the Joestar family.
I am a big fan of Hiohiko Araki's "Baoh" put out in Viz's early days and released on DVD. Its classic 80s revenge shounen manga and anime with the fun and violence ration cranked way up. Although it is dated, it is still one I pop in for some light anime viewing or crazy background stuff when I am writing. Araki has a knack for this kind of escapist storytelling and "JoJo's" shows this more than anything.
The art in "JoJo's" is much cleaner than some of Araki's other works but his penchant for extreme characters poses, special effects, and dense panels is always present. Araki also seems to relish in really tough looking guy characters with really really odd clothes. A mixture of theatrical almost glam rock or stage show style mixed with thrift store hipness (and in the case of Polnareff) the occasional super 80s mullet, or long shaggy rock star hair is the norm for this particular run of "JoJo's." Take our main character Jotaro for example: Japanese gang style coat and pants - check, common gang-style police looking hat - check, chains all over (?!) - check, and then penny loafers with no socks?! Bizarre adventures in fashion certainly go along with bizarre adventures in the plot.
Even more of a hallmark than crazy fashion in "JoJo's" are the Stand battles. The main reason this series was turned into fighting games are the numerous battles which take place from chapter to chapter. Like most shonen adventure titles, "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure" is about cool fighters striking at each other in combat that attempts to the previous battle. This series delivers all the action and craziness that Araki can muster, as each Stand battles in its own unique way, and each Stand user is as different and varied in their character design as their crazy powers. From the super fast force of Jotaro's Stand, Star Platinum, to the villainous scarab Stand that takes peoples tongues, the fight scenes explode across the page in ways that newer fans of battle manga may recognize, and can now learn where some of their favorite manga creators got their influences. Surely Araki was influenced by Tetsuo Hara of "Fist of the North Star," but he in turn influenced the creators of "Yu-Gi-Oh!" and "Shaman King."
I am very interested in how Viz handles the numerous band names and musical personalities that Araki names in his book. In the games and publications before, this publication, many of the names such as Vanilla Ice, Abdul (as in Paula Abdul) and others have been changed to avoid possible copyright infringement and lawsuits. So far Abdul has been changed but Viz asserts that Araki actually wrote Avdol originally. Dio and the Reo Speedwagon foundation have been left intact, which is heartening for future volumes. The only thing I am curious about is the substitution of symbols like #*! for swearing, as opposed to just writing out the word. I haven't seen the original art, so I don't know if that is how it was intended. If Viz has edited this for content, it seems like an odd editorial decision. Jojo's is definitely a teen+ manga and I doubt the words that are substituted are any worse than in teen oriented anime or what is during prime time television.
Fans of battle manga looking for a new series (or new to the US) should look no further than "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure." Although this particular series started in 1989, it still is a fun action title with some great scenes and tough guys with insane fashion choices sure to fuel some interesting crews at cosplay conventions. Fans of comics looking to get in to manga may enjoy some of the action and weirdness that rivals a lot of older DC and Marvel comics, when each super villain was weirder than the next, and super heroes were trying to branch out with their own unique schtick, for better or worse.
I'm excited to see where the manga leads, even though I may spoil it by completing my set of Super Techno Arts DVDs (which contain this series and the prologue series). I can't wait to have more of the series in my hand and I hope that other readers join me for more Bizarre Adventures here on Manga Island. Next time on Manga Island, it's my year in review including new manga, the highlights of the year, and who I think will be the movers and shakers across the Island in 2006. Have a great holiday weekend from myself and the rest of the Island, give thanks for friends family, and our publishers here and in the East for a wonderful manga filled season.
Volume 1 (the series is over 60 volumes in Japan, this on starting at the end of volume12)
Rating Teen+ (Older teen) for violence and adult themes
Tony Salvaggio has been a fan of anime and manga from an early age. He has been an animator in the video games industry and is currently co-writing an original graphic novel for Tokyopop, PSY-COMM Volume 1 is out RIGHT NOW!!. He regularly hosts anime and Japanese related shows in Austin and his passion for all things anime and manga related is only excelled by his quest to become King of the Monsters.