Hirohiko Araki: Creation and Death of Character in ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’

As of Jan. 1 of this year, Hirohiko Araki has been writing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure for 34 years. In that time, the way he writes characters has completely changed. If you were to compare the writing of Phantom Blood to Vento Aureo (or Golden Wind), or even Steel Ball Run, it would almost seem like they were written by two different people if it were not for a handful of “bizarre” commonalities. I have only been a JoJo‘s fan for a couple of years now, but even I can see how far Araki has come as a writer. However, to understand how he developed as a writer, one must first understand how Araki develops his characters. Spoilers for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure ahead, especially Stardust Crusaders and Vento Aureo.

Before Araki even begins drawing a character, he writes a character-history sheet for them. These sheets usually includes much more than just the characters’ personal history. It can include anything from their favorite music to their unique personality quirks. Araki then uses this sheet to both design the character and decide on how they would act in the situations presented throughout his manga.

Hirohiko Araki’s character sheet as pictured in his book, “Manga In Theory and Practice”

In the third chapter of his book, “Manga In Theory and Practice,” Araki specifically cites Jotaro Kujo as his primary example of how the character sheet can be utilized. Outside of DIO’s reintroduction, the entirety of the first chapter to Stardust Crusaders focuses on introducing Jotaro to the audience. Everything, from his height to the way he reacts to his mother’s potential demise at “the hands” of DIO, comes from the character sheet Araki created for Jotaro. This is the case for nearly every major character in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. However, with the introduction of Stands in Stardust Crusaders, Araki created another integral layer to his character-creation method.

Jotaro and Star Platinum fighting DIO and The World in Chapter 258, “DIO’s World, Part 12”

Araki always creates the Stand before the user it belongs to. Because of this, the personality, abilities and design of the Stand usually give insight into the personality of the character. In Stardust Crusaders, this idea is most present in the designs of Jotaro Kujo and DIO’s Stands, Star Platinum and The World. Star Platinum’s abilities are all physical, being incredibly strong, fast and precise. The barbarian-esque design gives Star Platinum this brutish warrior-like appearance. These aspects then all feed into Jotaro’s “punch first, talk later” personality. Star Platinum acts as an embodiment of Jotaro’s fury, which is likely why his battle cry is so loud, as Jotaro himself demonstrates very little emotion.

Similarly, The World appears physically similar to Star Platinum in many ways except for one major aspect, the scuba gear attached to him. DIO, having been submerged under water for almost a century, naturally would have a fear of being trapped there again. Thus, his Stand would be outfitted with gear allowing it to survive underwater. It’s an odd choice. The World’s ability to stop time also perfectly fits DIO, since he is a near immortal vampire, it makes sense for the personification of his soul to have dominance over time. This is mirrored even more in how, despite Star Platinum and The World having the exact same abilities, they feel like different Stands due to the differing personalities of their users. This idea is explored even further in every part of JoJo’s after Stardust Crusaders.

Purple Haze appears for the first time in Chapter 480, “Man in the Mirror and Purple Haze, Part 2”

My favorite example of the Stand being used to form the personality of the user is Pannacotta Fugo and his Stand Purple Haze from Vento Aureo. Without Fugo controlling Purple Haze, it becomes a mindless unstoppable killing machine due to the poisonous capsules on its knuckles. Purple Haze’s unbridled rage would seem to be symbolic of Fugo’s anger management issues, as demonstrated by how he lashes out at Narancia and nearly stabs him in the face with a table fork because he got a math question wrong. However, based on how Araki creates character, it was the opposite, with Purple Haze’s savagery inspiring Fugo’s rage. This can be seen in the majority of Vento Aureo‘s characters, such as Moody Blues’ replay ability allowing Leone Abbachio to replay crime scenes seems to have inspired his backstory as a crooked cop. Everything about a character’s personality can usually be represented by their Stand.

Jolyne Cujoh and Stone Free from Stone Ocean Chapter 9, “Stone Free, Part 2”

It is also extremely common, especially after Vento Aureo, for the music references in the Stand names to actually serve as inspiration for the abilities of the Stand in question. Sometimes these references can be literal, such as Risotto Nero’s Stand from Vento Aureo, Metallica. However, they can also be more figurative in meaning like Rohan Kishibe’s Stand, Heaven’s Door, from Diamond is Unbreakable, which acts as a doorway to the person’s soul. Jolyne Cujoh’s Stand, Stone Free, from Stone Ocean is probably one of the more interesting uses of this, as it allows Jolyne to turn herself into string, allowing her to literally free herself from her bonds, whether physical or mental.

Much like how Star Platinum and The World act as parallels for each other, a similar motif has been used for nearly every protagonist and antagonist in JoJo’s history. For example, in Vento Aureo, King Crimson’s combined abilities allow Diavolo to skip the cause of an action and only experience its effect. This likely influenced Diavolo’s belief that the ends are more important than the means. Gold Experience Requiem, however, negates effect, an aspect which is represented in Giorno Giovanna’s belief that the actions taken to reach the desired outcome are just as, if not more, important than the outcome itself. This way, Giorno and Diavolo’s Stand abilities oppose each other just as much as their desires and personalities do, which was likely written intentionally by Araki.

Giorno and Gold Experience Requiem from Chapter 586, “Gold Experience Requiem, Part 1”

There is all sorts of irony in Giorno’s character, such as him being the son of DIO, yet his Stand’s primary ability is to give life rather than end it, which was the primary thing DIO used The World for. Almost all of Giorno’s qualities are meant to be a combination of Jonathan Joestar and DIO’s character traits, so it makes sense that almost all of his actions throughout Vento Aureo, along with his Stand, feel in line with one of his two “fathers.” Because of this, Gold Experience is often used for bloody justice, but also to save the lives of others.

Caesar Zepelli’s death from Chapter 92, “Caesar: A Lonely Youth, Part 5”

That last point is part of the reason the character deaths in Vento Aureo carry so much more weight than they have in previous parts of JoJo’s. When Araki first began writing death in Phantom Blood, it almost always was over-dramatized like it is in most media, with the dying imparting some last words of love or wisdom to those they are leaving behind. The most egregious example of this is Baron Zepelli’s death, who, despite being sliced in half, is somehow able to have a full conversation with Jonathan while rapidly aging and giving him the rest of his power. For a show dominated by its silly humor, this scene is played completely straight, falling flat in the process.

Battle Tendency is where this begins to change, with Caesar dying before Lisa Lisa or Joseph could get to him, making his death feel bittersweet. These sudden, somewhat realistic deaths quickly become a staple of Araki’s storytelling, becoming increasingly brutal with each consecutive part.

Giorno protecting Narancia’s soulless body in Chapter 577, “The Requiem Quietly Plays, Part 6”

Vento Aureo is where this progression is most noticeable, as I mentioned earlier. Abbachio’s death is incredibly fast, with him falling onto the ground and his eyes losing color just seconds after King Crimson shoves his fist through Abbachio’s chest. Luckily, his death was not in vain, with him leaving important knowledge behind in the moments before his demise. The rest of the group are left to mourn him, trying to put on a strong face for the least mature member of the group, Narancia.

Compare this to Narancia’s sudden, unceremonious death just a few chapters later and the entire group are brought to tears, as the only one they kept their sadness hidden for was the one they were crying over. Narancia left no last words, he didn’t pass the last of his energy to Giorno and his body was just an empty container. The writing of this scene contradicts everything readers/viewers had been told by previous character deaths in JoJo’s: that there is always meaning in death. Sometimes death is senseless. For a show as typically lighthearted as JoJo’s to have such a dark moment represents just how far Araki had come as a writer in just a decade, and it’s even more apparent in Stone Ocean and Steel Ball Run. Araki is one of the few manga writers whose depiction of death has changed greatly as his writing matured, making his characters’ deaths some of the most brutal of any manga/anime I’ve seen.

Published by John Wintroub

I am a fan of all things pop-culture related, especially film, music, anime, and comic books. Killer Queen has already touched this bio and King Crimson has obliterated the rest.

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