JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: the extravagant manga that conquered web culture
Many of the words that spring to me are hard to categorize, apart, excellent but ineffable, and truly strange. Here, more or less, is the list of qualifiers that we hear when mentioning the manga Jojo’s bizarre adventure merch adored by many readers and Internet users if we are to believe the abundance of references and memes online. And the arrival of its animated adaptation on Netflix on Sunday, March 1 could put a coin back in the machine.
Born in 1986 under the pen of mangaka Hirohiko Araki, this dynastic pop and the baroque saga of more than a hundred volumes, divided into eight parts, is still being published. Each season features different characters, times, plots and locations. One constant, however: the heroes are members or descendants of the same family. And their first name generally begins with “Jo”, thus recalling their ancestor, Jonathan Joestar, the first nicknamed JoJo.
Incubated until the early 2000s in the pre-publication magazine Weekly Shonen Jump – a star publication for teenagers that shaped great manga hits, such as Dragon Ball and One Piece – the series had a very difficult start. Not to say a flop. At its beginnings, Jojo merchandise tells, in the heart of Victorian England, the rivalry and the confrontations between two lords and adoptive brothers, Jonathan and Dio.”At first, the fans weren’t really interested since the hero enjoys himself when confronted with his opponent Dio, the figure that Araki really intended to showcase.” It’s not really in line with the beating and luminous heroes of the other Shonen Jump series ”, analyzes Frederico Anzalone, journalist and author of the essay JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the unclassifiable diamond of the manga (3rd Editions, 2019).
The series manages to seduce and take off at the very end of the 1980s when the mangaka invokes in its third part JoJo’s great-great-grandson, Jotaro Kujo. But especially when he offers him a supernatural power: a “Stand”. The concept of Stands, which will be assigned to different protagonists, offers a variety of combinations, attacks and fights.
Muscular heroes in feminine outfits
But it is undoubtedly the atypical and shimmering aesthetics of the manga that challenges. With the money earned from a previous series, Baoh, the young mangaka travels to Europe, visits England and, above all, Italy, “the cultural cradle of the series”. A crush on Rome: “He went to the Borghese Gallery and fell in admiration for Bernini’s Baroque sculptures. He, therefore, wants to distinguish himself in the manga in the manner of Italian sculpture, ”says Frederico Anzalone.
Passionate about fashion, Hirohiko Araki moulds his muscular heroes into feminine outfits by great Italian couturiers. And makes them adopt poses worthy of Vogue covers. A fan of Western music, he baptizes his heroes or certain Stands with the names of artists or songs from the hit parade: from David Bowie to Lady Gaga, via Prince, Dire Straits or even… Polnareff. Amateur of genre cinema, he does not hesitate, from one arc to another, to spawn with the horrific register influenced by Dario Argento, to try an Indiana Jones adventure or to embark on a Columbo-style police investigation.
Contrary to his peers who often anchor their story or their heroes in the Archipelago, the author takes them out of Japan. Some are born in Italy or Egypt, others are of mixed race. They also vary their looks. Many are hefty while others are androgynous. Johnny Joestar, the character of season 7, is paraplegic. “Araki breaks codes, opens doors,” says Frederico Anzalone.
Now published in Ultra Jump magazine, a more mature magazine from the major publishing house Shueisha. Jojo exceeded 100 million volumes in circulation in Japan in 2016 and brought Hirohiko Araki to the status of a grandmaster who saw his boards exhibited during his lifetime in the prestigious National Center for the Arts in Tokyo, or even at the Louvre.
A Meme Production Facility
In French, Frederico Anzalone described the release of JoJo in 2002 as “private,” kept “for a limited circle of slightly impoverished followers. After an increasingly resounding word of mouth in the West, its adaptation into an animated series in 2012 made it truly popular with a wider audience.
This anime is very different from the manga. Made many years apart, the series assumes and emphasizes the bizarre side of certain scenes. Which, originally, had certainly been drawn without a second degree, with naivety. “This modification can make them legendary, and it’s a meme factory,” the reporter explains. It refers in particular to the female poses of the heroes, to their extravagance or their expressiveness, which for many Internet users have become a symbol of gay pop culture.
According to Frederico Anzalone, an inadvertent evocation of the author owing to the number of references to haute couture. And fiercely LGBT artists of the 1980s “shows once again that he was in line with the times. But who also knew how to seduce fight lovers with his references to the action cinema of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. If this great pandemonium was also able to intimidate intrigued readers, this much-referenced series. With exuberant characters and a retro aesthetic, could only captivate surveyors of Web culture.