Imagine a fantastical, modern-day epic comprising well over a century of events in its breadth. Within this epic are the stories of mighty heroes, conniving villains and strange powers beyond all imagination. There is love, family, betrayal, sacrifice and so much else, with situations at times dark and ominous, at others, cheerful and lighthearted, still at other times surreal and irrational. “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” is this epic.
Written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” is a Japanese manga series which tells the story of the noble Joestar family, whose members have battled supernatural forces throughout recent history. First published in 1987, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” has since gained widespread popularity, now having more than 100 million print copies in Japan alone. The series has also been adapted into an animated TV series which, much like the manga, is still going strong today.
While “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” has received praise from fans and critics alike, it can seem intimidating to newcomers due to how large and complex it is. In order to make things simpler for initiates, I have offered below an overview of the series as a whole, followed by a summarization of particular parts of interest. Although there are eight parts to the series in total, I have chosen to focus mainly on the first five, which have all been made into anime.
Keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to read the manga or watch the show in chronological order. Since the stories are mostly separate, you are more than free to pick and choose whichever part or parts grab your interest.
“Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” tells the intergenerational tale of the Joestar family, whose members have long been known for their great courage and virtue. Each part of the series follows a particular member of the family in a unique time and location, whether in America in the 1930s or Italy in the early 2000s.
Wherever the place and time, the family member in question always discovers that they have a special, supernatural power and that they are destined to defeat a great evil that threatens the world.
In addition to these powers, each family member assumes the titular nickname “Jojo.”
Part 1: Phantom Blood
The series begins in England in the late 1800s. Jonathan Joestar is the only son of his wealthy and noble father, Joseph, until the day Joseph adopts Dio Brando, the son of a poor beggar who saved Joseph’s life. While Jonathan initially wishes to befriend Dio, he soon realizes that Dio is an arrogant, violent narcissist who is only interested in the Joestar’s fortune.
When Dio’s attempts to usurp Jonathan and murder Joseph fail, he uses an ancient stone mask, found by the Joestars during an expedition, to transform himself into a vampire. The series begins to take an entirely different turn as Jonathan, with the aid of master Will A. Zeppeli, learns the art of Hamon, an ancient method of channeling one’s life energy into powerful attacks capable of killing even a vampire.
As Jonathan and his allies confront Dio and his undead minions, what was once a mere struggle between brothers becomes a battle between the forces of life and death, with the fate of the whole world at stake.
Part 2: Battle Tendency
In 1938, Joseph Joestar, grandson of Jonathan, investigates the disappearance of his uncle, Robert E. O. Speedwagon, who went missing after an expedition to Mexico. Joseph soon discovers his uncle has been kidnapped by a group of Nazis who are attempting to awaken the “Pillar Men,” ancient beings of incredible power whose history is tied to the same stone mask that made Dio into a vampire.
Despite his efforts, Joseph is unfortunately too late to stop the coming of the Pillar Men, who easily overpower the inexperienced warrior. Believing the young Joestar will prove a more worthy foe if given time to develop his skills, the Pillar Men implant poison-filled rings into Joseph’s body and challenge him to defeat each of them for the antidote. To make matters worse, the Pillar Men are after the Red Stone of Aja, an artifact that will grant them ultimate power and immortality.
All is not lost for the wily Joseph. Through a combination of his razor-sharp wit, latent talent for Hamon and powerful allies, including Zeppeli’s son Caesar and the mighty Hamon master Lisa Lisa, Joseph may yet prove a match for the formidable Pillar Men.
Part 3: Stardust Crusaders
In 1989, Jotaro Kujo, a Japanese high school student and the grandson of Joseph, witnesses a strange, ghostly figure suddenly appear before him. Believing himself to be possessed by an evil spirit, Jotaro gets himself arrested and refuses to leave his cell. Joseph and his associate, Mohammed Avdol, soon arrive and reveal that what Jotaro believes is an “evil spirit” is really a physical manifestation of his fighting spirit, called a “Stand.”
Joseph and Avdol explain they also have Stands, and that the sudden appearance of this power within the Joestar bloodline is due to the return of Dio Brando, now calling himself DIO. DIO has awoken his own Stand, called the World, and plans to use its power to rule the earth. To make things even worse, Jotaro’s mother, Holly, has developed a malformed Stand which is slowly killing her.
With the aid of his Stand-using allies, who dub themselves the “Stardust Crusaders,” Jotaro must stop DIO and save his mother’s life.
Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable
In 1999, in the fictional town of Morioh, Japan, Jotaro introduces himself to Josuke Higashikata, a popular high schooler and the illegitimate son of Joseph. Jotaro explains that he is searching for the Bow and Arrow, an artifact capable of granting a Stand to whomever it hits. After Josuke uses his newfound Stand to avenge his grandfather’s death, he joins Jotaro in his search for the Bow and Arrow.
The two face many threats in the form of Stand-users created by the artifact, including the brothers Okuyasu and Keicho Nijimura, the criminal Akira Otoishi and finally the serial killer Yoshikage Kira. Luckily, they gain the help of other Stand users, including Koichi Hirose, a classmate of Josuke and Rohan Kishibe, a famous manga artist. Together, the brave young warriors must save their town from the evil that threatens to consume it.
Part 5: Golden Wind
In 2001, Giorno Giovanna is a young Italian man and unknowing descendant of Jonathan Joestar. Gifted with a Stand from his Joestar bloodline, Giorno’s goal is to use his new power to reform the mafia from the inside out, making it serve the public rather than terrorize it. Giorno joins the organized crime syndicate Passione, whose members wield their Stands as a means of intimidation and control.
With the help of his new squad, consisting of Guido Mista, Leone Abbacchio, Narancia Ghirga, Pannacotta Fugo and their leader Bruno Bucciarati, Giorno must fight off rival mafia gangs while finding a way to not only overthrow Passione’s shadowy leader, Diavolo, but also rescue his benevolent daughter, Trish Una.
The last three parts, which exist only as manga, include “Stone Ocean,” “Steel Ball Run” and “JoJolion.” “Stone Ocean” tells the story of Jolyne Kujo, the estranged daughter of Jotaro who must save her father from the evil chaplain Enrico Pucci. “Steel Ball Run” and “JoJolion” take place in an alternate continuity. The former deals with an American version of Jonathan, who must unwrap the malevolent conspiracy behind the popular horse race known as the Steel Ball Run. The latter involves strange happenings in Japan after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, including the mysterious appearance of a young man dubbed “Josuke.”
As mentioned, each of the parts listed above exists as anime as well as manga. They can be found on most websites dedicated to Japanese popular media, including VIZ and Crunchyroll. Additionally, Netflix has the first season of the anime, which consists of both “Phantom Blood” and “Battle Tendency,” and most of the manga is available for sale on Amazon.
Obviously, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” is quite the extensive series. But therein lies part of its beauty. It is, in the most classic sense, an epic: a story made up of many stories, each filled with action, drama, humor and, above all, heroes battling against the forces of darkness and chaos.
Certainly, if the series were to have an ultimate message, it would likely be that while evil can never truly be destroyed, there will always be those individuals with the courage to take up arms against it, forever fighting the good fight to protect those they love.