Next year is the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite long-running shonen manga. This manga has been published in multiple languages across the world but has never had much of a fair shake when it came to English speaking countries until recently. Which manga is this? Why, I’m talking about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure! You might be asking yourself, “What is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure? Isn’t that the manga where the characters make weird poses? Why should I get into it?”
I’ll give you 5 good reasons.
1. A Constantly Fresh Storyline
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is unique among shonen manga because it is a sprawling, multigenerational story that follows the Joestar family and the various supernatural enemies they use their special abilities to fight. Whereas most shonen manga follow just one protagonist, each part of JJBA follows a different member of the Joestar family – each of whom has a name that can usually be abbreviated to Jojo. Each Jojo tends to be different from the next; the first Jojo, Jonathan Joestar, is a proper English Gentleman, whereas his grandson Joseph (the main character of the second story) is hotheaded and brash. The story is divided into 8 parts as of this writing, and each part brings something new to the table. From vampires in 1800s Great Britain, to Aztec gods in World War II era Italy, to a murder mystery in a quiet Japanese prefecture, to a horse race set in the wild west – JJBA has something for everyone to like.
2. The Ever-Evolving Art Style
Hirohiko Araki, the mangaka behind JJBA, has constantly refined his art style over the years. Greek statues were a big influence to Araki when he was starting out, as was popular manga at the time like Fist of the North Star. (For example, Jonathan Joestar was a dead ringer for Kenshiro.) But as the years went on and JJBA grew in popularity, Araki began to experiment with his art. Fashion magazines were a huge influence on Araki’s evolving artstyle, as the huge muscular characters of the earlier parts gave way to slender and almost androgynous ones. If you compared the art from how it started out to where it is now, one would think JJBA is being drawn by a different person now. Araki’s new style was so successful that he was even approached by Gucci to create a unique manga, which was displayed at Gucci stores across the world in early 2013.
3. More Music References Than A Record Store
Araki doesn’t just take cues from art and fashion – he is also an avid music fan. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure features characters with names heavily influenced by popular western music. Part one features characters with names like Dio, Ton Petty, and Robert E.O. Speedwagon. The villains of part two take their names from popular eighties bands like Wham!, AC/DC, and The Cars. Character names aren’t the only ones influenced by music; when Stands are introduced in the later parts of JJBA, they also feature musical names like Pearl Jam, Crazy Diamond, Red Hot Chili Pepper, and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. When asked about this naming convention in interviews, Araki has said this is nothing more than a simple hobby of his. It’s just to show off how much he loves western music.
4. Easy Access
The Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure manga has had a rough history in English-speaking countries. For a long time, the only way to experience JJBA was through a long out-of-print version of the third part of the manga by Viz, where certain volumes went for tons of money, or dodgy scans of the fourth part done by a Chinese high school class (I am not joking – Google “Duwang Jojo” and behold!). That all changed in 2012 when Jojo was picked up for an anime adaptation by David Production. The anime was a huge hit in Japan and was purchased for streaming by Crunchyroll in 2014. Viz not only put the volumes of Jojo they had previously done back into print, they also went back and translated the first two parts of the manga, releasing them in beautiful hardcover volumes with a promise of future parts to come. Viz has also stated that they will start releasing the JJBA anime on Blu-ray later this year, after an abortive attempt by Warner the previous year left much to be desired by Jojo diehards. The English dub will also be shown on Toonami starting in October, although it remains to be seen if this will be the dub produced by Warner or a new production.
5. The Posing
The posing in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is in a league of its own. This is not something that started with Araki’s shift to a more fashion-based art style, however. Even as far back as the first part, characters would pose in ways that do not seem humanly possible. But that just adds to the appeal, in my personal opinion. Some manga feature fanservice; Jojo features bizarre posing. With multiple ways to experience the story, there is no better time to jump into Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure than now!