Growing up and like most boys, I've entered anime with a love for shounen. Nothing is more empowering for a pre-teen than shouting matches and power fantasies manifested through a cast of relatable characters that you literally grow up with. Naruto running with a twitch in your eye pretending your Sasuke seeking your dead parents' killer was a normality in my elementary school days. But as I grew up, I learned that the world isn't as forgiving. I couldn't resort to violence or friendship to get into a university, there is no Neji that will die in my place, and no amount of butt clenching will summon a shadow clone to go to work for me. I wasn't pessimistic, but I can't say that I didn't feel powerless. As I graduate from college wondering where my life is headed, my world faded into a nihilistic grey. "Anime is nothing but a portal. You're in and you're out."
Then it happened...
ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA
ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA
Play this for more ora.
I get Ora Ora'd by Jotaro's Star Platinum. Jotaro stands with his cool, unwavering expression, adjusts his cap, and sighs:
"Yare Yare Daze..."
And bam, just like that, no depression and I remembered why I loved anime so much. It's not power fantasy or personal growth, it's the expression of a man's hard work. It's an artist's vision manifesting on your screen, not to pound a message or change your views on the world, but to tell the amazing tale of the Joestar family and their bizarre ass adventure.
And ooohhh boyyy is it fucking bizarre.
Okay, okay, listen, listen here me out.
"You wrote all this shit just to talk about Jojo...?"
Yes. Yes, I did. Wasn't that quite the bizarre adventure?
Now, get comfy because I'm going to detail why YOU should join this cult.
If you like adventures, then let me just say that this is one that truly holds weight where by the end of each journey, you can't help but feel a genuine release of stress and mental exhaustion escape you. In Jojo, you follow the story of the Joestar family from the 19th century to now broken up into 8 parts. Each part unveils a new protagonist, supporting cast, and story that makes it unique. It's a very refreshing approach to narrative development as it not only allows Araki to expand his world freely, but also doesn't confine himself to developing the same characters towards an inevitable wall.
So without further ado, first point.
Araki's Fascination with 'Za Warudo'
Throughout most of the bizarre adventures, you get to see how the world looks from Araki's perspective. Though his references to American bands, movies, and celebrities are most apparent, he demonstrates his fascination with the world by having each story take place in countries like India, Egypt, Italy, Hong Kong, England, America, etc. in meticulous detail.
From the treacherous journey on the Eastern Hemisphere from Japan to Egypt in Part 3,
the imaginary city of Morioh in Japan,
to the classical theater of Italy
and many more,
Araki sets the stage as tribute to the world.
It's only fitting that Araki's characters share the same sense of pride and appropriate their culture to their personalities, mannerisms, and designs.
Part 3's Muhammad Avdol is an Egyptian fortune teller who wears the traditional jellabiya garment, loves Tarot cards, and, as his name suggests, holds himself up as a righteous individual.
Part 4's Josuke Higashikata and Part 3's Jotaro Kujo are similar renditions of the Japanese bancho, the Japanese delinquent stereotype of the brash, youthful generation that was popularized in the 1960s.
Part 5's Giorno Giovanna's design takes influences from Michalangelo's David. Aside from physical appearance, Giorno romanticizes the idea of decision-making through resolve (覚悟 kakugo) alone even if it leads to pain and suffering. This philosophy of life seeks beauty in the human spirit and the virtues capable. It is recognized today as Renaissance Humanism from a collection of manuscripts, one of them from an Italian writer named Giovanni Voccaccio.
Unique Stylization: "Jojo Colors" and "Jojo-dashi"
The whole "ripped badasses and spirit guardians striking effeminate power poses, or "Jojo-dachi" in distinctly neon color palettes" was never an imaginable thing until Araki thought to show the world how cool it can be himself. The wacky designs Araki has made for his beloved characters leave such a strong impression. He chooses these masculine poses in the same manner Classical sculptors have done to suspend an animation of power. This, coupled with Araki's strange fashion sense, allows for his character's silhouettes to pop off the pages.
The Invention of Spirit Guardians, or Stands
The spirit guardians Araki calls "Stands" are probably the most interesting thing about the show thus far. Starting from Part 3, Araki introduces them as physical manifestations of unique powers, inventing what we recognize now as "quirks". Though one can't directly have a relationship with his/her Stand, they are cherished as literal extensions of their soul with a fighting style that aligns with the user's personality. That being said, it goes without saying how far Araki can take this to diversify fight sequences, enemy encounters, and power balance. Though Stands can be humanoid figures, they can just be a single or collection of objects, pets, or even concepts. Stand users tend to hide their abilities for this reason as having the upper hand in fights starts with the enemy not knowing what the heck is going to even happen to them.
Trust me when I say that some of these Stands you just cannot predict what they'll do even after you see them and discovering that is the fun part.
Since we got this far, I feel that I should talk about some bad points about Jojo and the most apparent one is the fact that Araki has very shitty memory.
Araki "forgets" A LOT of things. Okay, maybe it's not forget, but he chooses to ignore a lot of past development. This is inevitable for a series that's lasted for 30 consecutive years, making it the longest developed shounen manga in history.
A lot of rules that govern Stand powers end up contradicting itself or just entirely flipped on its head. Certain abilities that would deem useful in one scenario could be entirely unused in the next. Characters would undergo rapid change that would make them stronger, but immediately get their ass kicked regardless on the next encounter. As a very critical and vocal person, I cannot tell you enough how torturing it was to see it happen over and over again. It can repeat to a point you just choose to take a lot of Araki's "new rules" with a grain of salt.
As I mentioned earlier, Araki's work evolves as much as does an artist and writer, and so you could consider the trade-off here that you get to experience his growth. It's important to recognize Jojo's strongest feat is not the power balance, story, or characters, but his unwavering passion. Watching him reject his previous writings and sprout something new can be frustrating, but, hell, he is most definitely outdoing himself each time.
There is a reason why his work has such an identifiable style that is heralded by many.
Legacy in Anime and Beyond
If you've watched enough anime, you've probably seen a Jojo reference a good number of times. As a modern classic that continues to gain a huge following, the anime industry makes frequent nods of respect to the franchise as a strong member of its history.
Shokugeki no Soma
No Game No Life
Kill la Kill
Mob Psycho (HOLY SHIT how did I not realize this)
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda
This whole anime... (Oreshura)
Guile from Street Fighter (right)
I tried to link them all, but there's just too many so here's a link of a million more here.
Amazing Anime Adaptation
But let's be real, what really makes this show great is the perfect anime adaptation by David Productions.
And it couldn't have been better if it weren't for the Jojo shitposts:
These probably aren't compelling enough reasons for most people, but I hope it gives you a perspective as to why it's my favorite show. I particularly find Araki's motivation inspiring - to never give up on his dream and continue expanding as far as possible. He is a man who truly is in touch with his craft and watching his stories mold into entirely new experiences every time is riveting. He's invented a style with so much love and knowledge that for even those that hate it you can't say that there wasn't a very strong attempt.
I hope to whoever actually read up to this point finds some meaning to what I've presented and, at the very least, consider watching Jojo just a bit more. I can't say it's truly for everyone and the worst thing I could do is force anyone to believe everything I say is true. Nonetheless, you won't truly know until you try.
"Impossible? We did a lot of impossible things on this journey. I'm tired of hearing that things are "impossible" or "useless". Those words mean nothing to us."