Bizarre in Every Sense of the Word

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

It all started off so simply. When he was just a baby, Jonathan Joestar lost his mother in a carriage accident. Thanks to some kind strangers, both he and his father survived and went on to live their elegant and simple lives. Jonathan, who wished to embody the ideals of being a gentleman, didn’t know sorrow or tragedy. He studied, played with his dog, Danny, and did whatever 12-year-old boys did for fun in Victorian England. One day, everything changed with the arrival of a boy named Dio Brando…

One of the longest running manga series in Japan, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is the epic saga of the Joestar family’s struggles throughout generations against those who would see them destroyed. Created by Hirohiko Araki in 1987, the 28-year old series has taken readers on a wild ride of clever protagonists, disturbing villains, ragtag teams of misfits, bizarre powers with the strangest applications, and events that would make normal human beings question their sanity.

Currently, the manga is split into eight different parts. In order, they are titled Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency, Stardust Crusaders, Diamond is Unbreakable, Vento Aureo, Stone Ocean, Steel Ball Run, and Jojolion. Each part focuses on a new member of the Joestar family, each one bearing the nickname of “Jojo”, as they find themselves as part of a new journey filled with friends, enemies, and enemies that might become their friends.

Beginning with the kindhearted gentleman of Jonathan Joestar in Phantom Blood, there’s his tricky and pragmatic grandson, Joseph Joestar of Battle Tendency; Joseph’s stoic, delinquent grandson, Jotaro Kujo of Stardust Crusaders; Jotaro’s great-uncle and Joseph’s polite gambler of a son, Josuke Higashikata of Diamond is Unbreakable; Dio Brando’s honorable son who is NOTHING like his cruel and evil father, Giorno Giovanna of Vento Aureo; Jotaro’s thrill seeker of a daughter, Jolyne Kujo of Stone Ocean; the alternate universe version of Jonathan who is MUCH more rude and selfish, Johnny Joestar of Steel Ball Run; and the mysterious and amnesiac boy who wants to find out who he is, Josuke Higashikata of Jojolion.

Facing the Joestars is a menagerie of villains who either have a personal grudge toward the family or just feel threatened by them. There’s the man who kick started everything when he tried to make Jonathan’s life miserable before he even became a vampire, Dio Brando of Phantom Blood; the creator of the Stone Mask that made Dio what he is and the leader of the Pillar Men that Joseph opposed in his youth, Kars of Battle Tendency; the reawakened Dio Brando who faces off against Jotaro for the fate of the world, now known simply as DIO of Stardust Crusaders; a serial killer who simply wishes to live a quiet life, Yoshikage Kira of Diamond is Unbreakable; the don of the Passione mafia group who tries to keep his identity secret at all costs, Diavolo of Vento Aureo; the right-hand man of DIO whom he trusted to carry out his final plan, Enrico Pucci of Stone Ocean; and the President of the United States (of Valentine) who seeks to use the Holy Corpse to bring prosperity to his country, Funny Valentine of Steel Ball Run.

It’s with Stardust Crusaders that Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure starts to really become its own entity. The previous two parts, Phantom Blood in particular, were heavily influenced by Fist of the North Star in the character designs and methods of combat, though Battle Tendency began the trend where battles were won with trickery and clever thinking. With Part 3, JJBA introduces the concept of “Stands”, spiritual guardians that possess wildly different powers and appearances. Star Platinum, the stand of Jotaro, possesses incredible punching speed and strength, is able to enhance its vision, and can extend its fingers to pierce an enemy. Killer Queen, the Stand of Yoshikage Kira, doesn’t have the same level of strength or speed Star Platinum has, but its danger comes in the form of its ability to turn anything it touches into a bomb, erasing all evidence. Part 4 onwards feature truly bizarre Stands with some devastating or downright nasty abilities.

While the series never caught on much in America until recent years, JJBA has easily been one of the most influential and popular series in Japan for decades. Stardust Crusaders in particular is notable for pioneering and codifying many of the tropes found in Shounen anime and manga today. Many series today, whether through referencing the show’s art style and penchant for fabulous poses or by using the tropes laid down by the series years earlier, pay homage to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

While the only animated adaptations prior were a handful of OVA’s by Studio A.P.P.P and a movie that was NOT well received at all, the series finally gained a proper adaptation with David Production’s 2012 anime, simply titled Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, which covered Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency in their entirety. Taking a small break to work on the Hyperdimension Neptunia anime, David Productions returned in 2014 to begin Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, which wrapped up in the summer of 2015. With the high success and reception to both shows, not only has both adaptations been green-lit for an English dub as well as Viz Media localizing the manga from the very beginning, but there is a possibility that David Productions might go one to adapt Diamond is Unbreakable and onwards.

There is a lot to say about JJBA, but not all of it can even be covered in one session or even properly explained. A good place to start, if reading the manga isn’t suitable, would be to begin with the 2012 anime before moving on to the 2014 anime. The tale of the Joestars is something that has to be experienced for one’s self to witness this bizarre tale of vampires shooting pressurized liquid from their eyes, dogs with a love of coffee-flavored gum, a serial killer with a romantic attachment to hands, and songs about pizza mozzarella.