Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Testify to the Gospel of Hirohiko Araki

This is a plea to all 17 people who read this blog. Jojo Bizarre's Adventure has resumed release in the U.S. The price point has been raised from 7.99 to 9.99 from volumes 13 and on, and the earlier pre-10 volumes may get kinda hard to find at this point, but still, buy it. Buy it so then Viz may be at least slightly compelled to release this-
Had I written this yesterday, I would have had nothing to say except for words of praise. Unfortunately, having read some more today, I'm rather peeved to find that Araki has killed off two of my favorite characters. Additionally, one of those characters was made to be an antagonist for a twist. Granted, the shock and surprise factor was certainly there (you can't really call out Araki on predictability), but after the character's setup, the twist is somewhat inconsistent and unsatisfying.
Nonetheless, Steel Ball Run is still punch-to-the-nuts exciting. It's premise involves a race across the United States from San Diego to New York in the late 19th century called the Steel Ball Run The cast that is assembled at the outset is dazzling. The protagonists are Gyro Zeppelli, an Italian son of an executioner who makes a pair of spinning steel balls far more awesome and devastating than they should be, and Johnny Joestar, a paralyzed ex-jockey who gains the stand of nail-shooting. In addition, there's Sandman, an Indian who beats horses while running on his feet, genius British horse racer Dio Brando, the noble cowboy Mountain Tim, Pocoloco, the luckiest black guy in the world, among many others. Araki is damn good at creating personalities and situations that are larger than life.
It goes without saying that, like the rest of the Jojo series, Steel Ball Run is fucking homoerotic manly. I saw a picture of Araki. He's a quirky-looking, modest 49 year old guy, so to see him conjure up such manliness with ease is a bit unexpected. What trials he underwent in his youth that left him with such an understanding of testosterone is a mystery to me. But anyway, I really appreciate the message that this guy brings. There is the occasional power-up, but, as usual, the fights are never won by purely outpowering an opponent. Instead, it's all a very cerebral game that involves utilizing existing abilities according to the circumstances at hand. Any stand can win a battle if its advantages are maximized, despite how lame-ass it may seem initially. Araki gives the impression that any ability can win any battle.
In addition, SBR also works by reinforcing a living, organic universe that extends far beyond the pages of the various books. I had a film professor tell me that many of the best franchises succeed because they generate worlds, landscapes that can fill myriad other stories besides the specific ones that have been depicted, really getting the imagination juices of an audience working. Giant Robo, Baccano are two particular series that create very open, wide-ranging universes. SBR similarly succeeds. While each series focuses on the Joestars and their friends, it's easy to see many other potential protagonists and stand powers lurking in the Jojo-verse.
Hmm...I think I've already wrote and repeated myself too much. Basically, to reduce this post to one simple sentence, buy Jojo, support Araki, pray for Steel Ball Run.

Random Addendum: Apparently, The Cove, that dolphin movie I wrote about earlier, was able to generate enough media attention in Japan to at least suspend dolphin killings for a day. For the time being, it's only a minor victory, the slaughtering should resume again fairly soon, but small or not, a win is a win.


  1. No memory or the plot events you reference -- presumably dwarfed by what came after.
    But I definitely think Steel Ball Run is the strongest Jojo series since part 4, and has much better art (Part 4 may be the most inventive stretch, but it came while his art style was struggling with the transition between his old style and his current one, and often winds up looking comparatively rough.)
    With the continuity reset and the lack of band names, it sort of seems designed for ease of translation should Viz want to jump ahead.
    Although they may not have the guts to deal with Jesus making personal appearances.

  2. I'm not even sure they have the guts to deal with an underage wife, much less Jesus.
    Basically, since it doesn't seem like I'm in danger of spoiling anyone, I'll go ahead and say that I was a bit saddened by the deaths of Mountain Tim and Sandman. I was actually rooting for Sandman to win the race, after the introduction.

  3. I remember thinking Sandman got short shrift after the intro, yeah. Mountain Tim had cannon fodder written all over him, though.

  4. I think I'm still in denial over Sandman.

  5. Goddammit, if Pocoloco joins Sandman, I think I'm gonna cry.