And, of course, there's always this week's installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion!
And a new Overlooked Manga Festival. There's always a new Overlooked Manga Festival.
Longtime OMF readers have probably noticed that I have a weakness for a certain type of manga. Namely, manga that are batshit insane. When I read manga, I don't want to waste time reading stuff that makes sense. I want manga that's going to flip out and kill the whole town. Fortunately, Japan has a rich cultural tradition of gloriously nutty manga, and many key titles in manga history are equally brilliant and deranged. Everything by Osamu Tezuka, for instance. And, on a somewhat different note, this.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a long-running cult hit in Japan. Appearing weekly from 1987 to this very day, it's the second-longest-running manga in Shonen Jump and the third or fourth most batshit insane, which is still really, really nuts. The volumes of JoJo published by Viz comprise the third and most popular storyline in the saga, "Stardust Crusaders." Each JoJo storyline (there are seven in Japan so far) follows a different member of the Joestar family, which is locked in eternal battle with an immortal vampire named Dio.
The first storyline takes place in 19th-century England, as young Jonathan Joestar kicks things off and masters the mystical martial art of hamon; the second storyline follows Jonathan's grandson, Joseph Joestar. But our hero for these volumes is Jotaro "JoJo" Kujo, Joseph's half-Japanese grandson, a tough-talking teen delinquent with a whole new supernatural power. Apparently, the reawakening of the evil Dio has caused certain people to manifest "Stands," telekinetic or telepathic powers that appear as entities only other stand users can see. JoJo's Stand is named Star Platinum and takes the form of a dude in a headdress who punches the shit out of guys while hollering, "ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA!"
As much fun as this is, Dio is perpetrating gruesome violence and must be stopped, so JoJo, his tough-as-nails grandpa (whose own stand, Hermit Purple, gives him second sight), and some Stand-using buddies set off on a journey across land and sea to Egypt, where the vampire awaits them. Along the way, they fight evil or brainwashed Stand users, all of whom have stands based on the major arcana of the Tarot.
It just so happens that the Viz edition of JoJo is edited by none other than Jason Thompson, who provided last week's Guest OMF. Jason is a huge JoJo fan who spent years pushing for Viz to publish it. When he learned that I was planning to feature it in this week's OMF, he sent me a list of his own JoJo fanboy credentials:
* I own the original JoJo's Bizarre Adventure video game in four versions: Japanese Playstation, Japanese Dreamcast, American Playstation, American Dreamcast.
* I twice took a day trip just to go to arcades (in Fremont and San Jose) looking for the "JoJo's Venture" video games.
* I used to maintain a Jojo FAQ (it hasn't been updated in forever, because it's sort of conflict of interest).
* I once ran a role-playing game inspired by JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, in which the characters were Stand Users who traveled from San Francisco to India.
* I did a little bit of work under an alias for the English release of the Jojo anime... basically, I came up with a narration summarizing the un-animated parts of Jojo, which Cindy Yamauchi then accompanied by artwork, and one of the voice actors read aloud.
I'm afraid I can't boast anything like that, but I do think it's a rad manga.
Jason adds, "I used to think that liking JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was clearly a sign of latent homosexuality, but perhaps it merely embraces a sort of glam/metrosexual ideal of beauty." Jason's got a point: the art in Jojo, especially in the early volumes, suggests Knights of the Zodiac crossed with Tom of Finland. Maybe it's Jojo's strangely militaristic, ab-enhancing school uniform. Whatever it is, I heartily approve.
Yes, that's "Captain Tennill" and the Speedwagon Foundation, presumably named after a character in the first JoJo storyline, Robert Edward O. Speedwagon. One of the awesomest of many awesome things about JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is that most of the supporting characters are named after rock stars, bands, and songs.
That's right, Polareff! Stomp J. Geil!
The sad part is that, for copyright reasons, Viz has had to change or avoid using some of these rock names. Why? Why must the unimpregnable legal apparatus of the American music industry prevent us from enjoying the simple pleasures of a pair of villains named Oingo and Boingo? Why?
Oh, well. At least we still have the glory that is Iggy the Fool.
BEST. PAGE. EVER.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is pretty thoroughly nuts from the get-go, but I think it really picks up around Volume 6. That's the volume where several Stands shrink to microscopic size and fight, Fantastic Voyage-style, inside Joseph Joestar's brain.
Later in the volume, they're attacked by the sun, and then by an evil baby that invades their dreams. The next volume features more evil baby, zombies, a submarine ride, and a genie that grants wishes.
The art in JoJo constantly walks that fine line between freakish and freakishly awesome. Creator Hirohiko Araki does become a more polished artist as the series goes on, although at times I get nostalgic for the strangely twisted musclemen of the earlier volumes. His art on the JoJo storyline currently running in Japan, "Steel Ball Run," is almost normal. ("Steel Ball Run" takes place in an alternate universe and involves a race across America that's kind of a cross between Mad Max and Cannonball Run. Just so you know)
I really like the freaky Tarot cards in JoJo, which Araki draws in a completely different, Peter-Max-cum-Gahan-Wilson style.
In one sequence, he works this style into the main story by incorporating it into a precognostic comic-within-a-comic used by one of the evil Stand users to foresee the future.
But in the end, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is the simple story of incredibly badass homoerotic dudes kicking the crap out of other badass dudes and ladies all the way across the Asian subcontinent so they can fight a vampire in Egypt. It's one of the six basic plots. Here's JoJo in one of my favorite moments of badassitude, after letting an evildoer kick him around a little:
Later, JoJo collects that bill--in the form of THREE SOLID PAGES OF ORAS. HELL YEAH!
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a towering classic of manga nuttiness. And sometimes that's exactly what a troubled world needs.
Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Your and My Secret
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Anywhere But Here
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888