Hirohiko Araki – Viz – 2015 – 113+ volumes
I call this an omnibus, but it’s a Japanese edition that is slightly larger than a normal volume.

Today is Hirohiko Araki’s birthday!  I usually post a Jojo review or article when there’s content to talk about, and now there’s new volumes available!

This volume has one of the single most disturbing scenes I’ve ever seen in a manga.  Jojo, Speedwagon, and new mentor Zeppeli are taking a carriage ride through a tunnel to meet Dio.  Speedwagon notices the carriage stops, and looks outside to see it’s raining in the tunnel.  Except it’s raining blood, not water.  When Speedwagon asks the driver what’s up, the driver is wearing the shocked head of the horse.  The next panel shows that all 4 of the horses on the carriage have been decapitated, and we also see dozens of scalpels sticking out of the driver’s body.  Speedwagon looks closer at the horses, and sees a sneering face embedded into the stump of one of the horse’s neck.  The face exhales a puff of breath, then we see an arm waving a scalpel protruding from the stump of the horse’s neck.

The man inside the horse?  Jack the Ripper, of course.  Just before he fights Zeppeli, he mutilates himself by cutting off one of his fingers and shoving a sword/spear through his face.

The rest of the volume has its moments (notably, the fight at the Joestar mansion where Dio disintegrates a number of policemen and there’s an absolutely ridiculous series of struggles between him and Jojo), but it’s hard to top the carriage ride into Windknight’s Lot.

We find out how the vampire mask got to England, and we also meet Zeppeli, who teaches Jojo the Hamon technique.  He learned it from a monk in Tibet after his doomed expedition stumbled across the mask, and he realized he needed a way to wipe it off the face of the earth.  He teaches Jojo, because he sees that Jojo has a great and noble reason to defeat Dio.  Zeppeli is a great character, an eccentric dresser that rarely explains himself before doing something inexplicably badass, like landing a punch on a frog that breaks the boulder underneath but leaves the frog unharmed, or using wine spit out of his mouth as tiny airborne blades.

Also awesome is the origin story for the two zombie-vampires introduced at the end of the story:  Tarukus and Blueford (aka Tarkus, Bruford, and Buford – the names are allusions to an ELP album and Yes, respectively).  These were knights that, according to legend, defended Mary (Queen of Scots) Stuart against her evil cousin (Queen) Elizabeth (I of England) and fought in Mary’s army against Elizabeth’s forces.  All of Mary’s army was overwhelmed except for Tarukus and Blueford.  They were tricked into surrender when Mary was captured, and were told Mary would go free if they would agree to be executed.  They did, and just before they were beheaded, the executioner revealed that Mary was dead, and the Queen didn’t want them to lead an uprising.  My favorite detail (aside from this nice story, complete with very shoujo-y Mary Queen of Scots) is that Tarukus’s body was so rigid with fury that they kept breaking axe-heads on his neck.

They also make for great zombie-vampires.  But their fight only begins here, and gets better next time.

Basically, this volume is a fight with Dio, meeting/training time with Zeppeli, and Jojo, Zeppeli, and Speedwagon going to confront Dio and his minions.  I was fairly entertained the whole time, though, as often happens with Jojo’s Bizarre adventure.

It’s a shame these don’t come out more frequently, the next one’s due out in… mmm, August, it looks like.  Can’t wait!

Hirohiko Araki – Viz – 2015 – 113+ volumes
I call this an omnibus, but it’s a Japanese edition that is slightly larger than a normal volume.

I MISSED YOU, JOJO.

God bless anime.  I’m pretty sure the current anime has popularity enough to warrant starting this series from the beginning.  I’m torn on the edition, which is the Jojonium edition.  It is gorgeous, a hardcover with all the color pages reproduced inside (on non-glossy stock, which I love), including the entire first color chapter.  This volume has 3 chapters more than the regular edition of volume 1, so, in theory, the series will be shorter (but not by much).  There’s also translated bonus content from Araki in the back, in this case a couple pages of comments about part one from Araki.  He also drew new cover art for these editions, and they have very fancy cover designs.  It’s one of the nicest editions of manga available in English, I’m a book geek, and this is one of my favorite series of all time, so I’m dying of happiness.  But each volume also has a steep $20 pricetag.  I’d pay it over and over again, but I know many wouldn’t, and that’s the only reason I worry about these print editions.  On the other hand, if the print price is too much, these are also available digitally on Amazon for less than $10, which is perfect for a long series like this.

So far Phantom Blood (part 1) and Battle Tendency (part 2) are planned for these editions, which will take us through the first 12 volumes of the story.  On one hand, I would totally read Stardust Crusaders (part 3) again, but then I would have to wait even longer for Diamond is Unbreakable (part 4), and I do already have Stardust Crusaders in English.  So it’s hard to decide what to wish for.  Either is fine as long as the series continues.

Anyway!  The Jojonium edition is amazing.  It was fantastic to read the first chapter in color, which is muddy and hard to see in the tankoubon edition.  And it’s in English, of course, which is good and bad.  I can stumble through on key words in Japanese, but reading it in English makes me realize… uh, the dialogue isn’t… terribly natural.  Which is more than made up for by the fact that the story is batshit crazy.  In that first chapter, we see Aztec vampires, a corpse robber, a nonsensical fight between boys, and a young boy kneeing a dog in the face really hard as an introduction to his foster brother.  In color!  And that’s how this series starts.

The animal violence is still here.  Dio still incinerates Danny, who pops out and runs around in his death throes.  When on Ogre Street in London, a cat eating a puppy still pops out of an alley.  But don’t worry, Dio and Danny have made on the back cover.  But only for the illustration, apparently.

Dio has a really hilarious habit of talking about himself and ending statements with “me – Dio!” similar to Bender on Futurama.  It’s great.

The story… Dio antagonizes a young Jonathan Joestar after moving in.  After basically breaking him (turning his father against him, turning his girlfriend against him, making the other children ostracize him, and killing his dog), Jojo decides to just take it.  Seven years pass, the two are pretending to be friends, and Jojo’s father is dying.  He realizes Dio is poisoning him when he finds a letter from Dio’s father where Dio’s father explains he’s dying of the same symptoms.  He sets off to London to prove it, and meanwhile, Dio explores the powers of an Aztec mask the Joestars have lying around their house.

There are some moments of sublime strangeness in this first part.  Pretty much any fight, which are overly violent.  During a boxing match, Dio appears to take Jojo’s eye out with his thumb.  During a knife fight, one man takes the knife between his pinky and ring finger, and the knife slices the rest of the way down his hand, which hangs off by a strip of flesh before he drives it into a wall and pulverizes the rest of his fingers.  Dio swings a bottle into a man’s face and knocks out several teeth.

But the introduction of Robert Edward O. Speedwagon is probably the best.  For no reason, he does this fancy hat shuffle thing.  We realize later there’s a spinning blade in his hat, but man, those first few panels where he’s just whirling his hat around on his arms are fantastic, creepy, and completely without context.

The dialogue does get better as the book continues.  The art took some getting used to, because Araki’s art is an awful lot better now, to the point where it made me wince to read that first chapter.  But as I kept going, I realized this volume still has fantastic art – wonderful scenery, some awesome poses (though they get better), nice panel composition, and way more detail than Shounen Jump art usually gets.  There’s great atmosphere throughout, and Araki is great at setting the mood and drawing creepy things.  And gore.

This volume stops just before Dio’s iconic vampire transformation.  At the beginning of the next volume, he’ll be ready to let the UREEEEYYYs rip.

Hirohiko Araki – Viz – 2010 – 104+ volumes
This is English volume 16, I just like using the Japanese numbers.

Every year I do the Arakifest on June 7 as a celebration of the amazing coincidence that I share a birthday with one of my favorite artists. Except this year I forgot my own birthday (I suddenly remembered yesterday, and my priority was not letting my license plates expire), so I have no extra content to offer you aside from the review of the final volume of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure part 3.

Which is okay, because honestly, this is way better than anything else I would’ve talked about today.

I read an article in the back of the first Elephantmen graphic novel recently, written by Richard Starkings. He talks a lot about the history of British comics. All of it is interesting, but he talks about Pat Mills and 2000 AD specifically as an inspiration. That it was work like Flesh that made him appreciate comics that are specifically written as fantastic stories for ten-year-old boys. These particular comics have a spectacular, over-the-top hook, and then run with it, but also don’t take themselves too seriously or get bogged down in boring, depressing details. In the case of Flesh, the fantastic hook is that cowboys have come to the cretaceous period and are rounding up dinosaurs to send back to the present in time machines, because the planet is too polluted to raise any other source of meat. In Elephantmen, it’s croc-men fistfighting with hippo-men over ancient artifacts.

In Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, it’s vampires fighting a tough-guy high school student with ghost versions of themselves while stopping time long enough to do hilariously over-the-top things. I’m the biggest fan of well-written action comics with unusual ideas executed with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. It’s a difficult thing to do, and not even Elephantmen pulls it off very well (every issue is too much like a pity party for that). Flesh does, and well enough to have a British killer animal predecessor (Hook Jaw, about a shark) and a successor (Shako, about a polar bear). Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has always hits these buttons for me, and this final volume just cements its place in my personal comics hall of fame forever.

I can’t talk about this without spoiling it, so I’m going to cut the rest of the review (“review” being relative, because I’m just going to talk about everything and gush embarrassingly). Suffice to say, I could not have been happier with the way things turned out. While the outcome may have been obvious, getting there was one of the most spectacular and unusual rides in comics. I was not disappointed, and I urge any sort of fan of shounen manga to go out and read Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s strange, but you will not be disappointed in the end.

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Hirohiko Araki – Viz – 2010 – 101+ volumes
English volume 15, I just like using the Japanese numbers.

As expected, this gets quite a bit more serious as Dio steps up to the plate. We do get one more wussy minion just before the final fight, as one last taste of hilarious stand fights (including an awesome face-punching scene), but Dio is strictly business. It takes the entire volume for the characters to figure out what his stand’s power is, and before then, he does quite a bit of damage to the team and the surrounding city.

Actually, I take back what I said about Dio’s sense of humor. Because it’s difficult for Jojo to go more than a few volumes without gratuitous animal cruelty, as a display of his stand’s power, he walks through the street and dismembers a cat, throwing the pieces into the drinks and sandwiches of nearby diners. I promise it’s way less gross than it sounds. He also has a habit of exploding various body parts of passerbys and yanking teeth out, stuff like that. He really knows how to make a first impression.

But it is mostly straightforward, as Kakyoin and the Elder Jojo lead Dio through the city while Jojo and Polnareff try a different tactic from behind. Because they… er, “share blood,” Dio and the Joestars can sense each other, but Dio can’t tell the difference between Joseph and Jotaro. He seems to prefer Jotaro, but the distinction is not important since he only needs the blood of a Joestar to fully assimilate with his body, the former Jonathan Joestar.

Kakyoin and Joseph are the ones who are doing most of the experimenting as to what Dio’s stand ability is, and Kakyoin is the one that finally figures it out. It doesn’t really do anyone much good in the end, though, and the only ones still standing in the end are Jotaro and Dio, exchanging “ORAORAORA” for “MUDAMUDAMUDA.”

And that’s really as it should be. I love this series so much, I can’t properly express why. It’s so over-the-top and manly, and I am so pumped for the final volume now. I should have held onto this one a little longer, because I probably will put off talking about the finale, but just know that I love it. I love every page. I just cannot get enough Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Hirohiko Araki – Viz – 2010 – 100+ volumes
published as volume 14 in America

Well, it’s June 7th.  Around here, that is both my birthday and the birthday of Hirohiko Araki.  Usually some sort of dance party takes place, but last year I expanded that in order to talk about Araki’s early work Mashonen B.T. and the first part of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. This year should have been extra special given recent events, and I was planning on doing a similar post this year for Jojo Part 2 and Gorgeous Irene (another early work), but I am away for my birthday and wound up not having the access to image editing software, a scanner, and drivers for my digital camera I thought I would have, so unfortunately the bulk of the party will need to be postponed a week or so.

All the same, we can still dance.  The songs are the same as they were a couple years ago (ie I’m recycling my images), but still worth listening to.

One thing that struck me about this volume… Vanilla Ice really beats the crap out of Iggy.  You may remember from last year that I noticed a canine abuse trend in Araki’s work, and the only sign that he may have liked dogs a little bit was Iggy.  Well… not so much anymore.  Iggy is not treated well in this volume.  Now, I know it sounds horrible when I say it, but in the context of the series, and with what I assume is a running gag through all of Araki’s work, it was pretty funny in context.  I know I’m going straight to animal hell to be eaten by dogs for eternity for saying that, but I just calls ’em like I sees ’em.

Also worth mentioning is that the villain they fight this time around is Vanilla Ice.  Not mentioned in the book is the fact his stand is called Cream.  Vanilla Ice puts up quite a fight (the hardest by far in part three, so far anyway), but there’s still room for about three pages of resistance from Kenny G, whose stand is Tenor Sax.  Oh, you’ll see.

Vanilla Ice goes up against Polnareff, Avdol, and Iggy, with the Jojos and Kakyoin wandering around elsewhere for the entire volume.  Cream’s power is the disappear into another dimension, and he can pull anyone and anything into the dimension with him.  The trio is taken by unpleasant surprise immediately, and Iggy and Polnareff begin their mystery fight angry.  The problem is that, in the other dimension, neither Avdol’s Magician Red nor Iggy’s nose can sense Cream’s movement, so he can appear to wipe anybody out from anywhere at anytime.  And they can’t strike at Vanilla Ice, since he hides inside his stand and seems able to withstand the dimension traveling.

This is a sad fight more than anything, and is less puzzle-y and funny than most of the previous ones have been.  Even at their most intense, over-the-top gags usually appear.  That’s definitely not the case in this volume, and not even Polnareff can crack jokes after what happens at the beginning.  The fight is brutal, since neither Iggy nor Polnareff can get any hits in, and Cream frequently clips them and makes body parts disappear.  The solution doesn’t come until the last chapter, and it’s surprisingly simple when it does… though it’s not quite as wacky as the solutions usually are.  Of course, after D’Arby the gamer, we probably needed something a little more straightforward.

There’s also a short chapter that takes a look at Suzie Q Joestar, the Elder Jojo’s wife, and her visit to her daughter Holly.  Suzie Q is a cute, clueless old lady, and it’s nice to see her, but without part 2, her appearance doesn’t really mean much here.

Dio also makes several appearances.  The chapters periodically cut to his silhouette elsewhere in the mansion now, and there’s a chapter at the beginning of the book where Dio makes Vanilla Ice immortal and proves just how loyal Ice really is.  There are two volumes left in this storyline, both of which focus on the final fight with Dio, which means all the crazy stand user fights are over.  I hope you’re ready for some vampiric stand on stand action, because that’s what you’re going to get.

I’ve got a half hour left of dance celebration on my end, and I plan on making the most of it.  Again, keep an eye out for the belated Arakifest.  I feel bad I couldn’t post it today.

Hirohiko Araki – Viz – 2009 – 100+ volumes
I use the Japanese numbering for the series, the English volume number is 13.

I had to wait to read this in order to be sure another volume would come out before my birthday so I could do the whole celebration thing again.  I’m reasonably positive volume 26/14 will be out in April, so it’s now safe to read this one.  We’re getting down to the end of the Stardust Crusaders arc, and we should see the final showdown with Dio by the end of the year.  Do we get Diamond is Unbreakable afterwards?  Or maybe Phantom Blood?  I am going to cross my fingers and hope desperately.  All the old volumes of Jojo from more than a year ago seem to be sold out and out of print, which must mean it is at least vaguely popular.  I hope this bodes well.

This entire volume covers the fight with D’arby the Gambler’s brother, D’arby the Gamer.  While this could have been way more ridiculous, I am still quite pleased with how things played out.  D’arby shares the ability to steal souls with his brother, except he traps them inside horrible dolls that beg for their lives back.  Neither Joseph or Jotaro are gamers, so Kakyoin takes D’arby’s challenge.  They play a rousing game of F-Zero (called something else, but clearly F-Zero), and have one of the most extreme contests you can possibly imagine.  D’arby purposely chooses the same racer as Kakyoin so that he can get just in front of him at the start of the race and make it impossible to accelerate around him, since they go the same speed.  There are all sorts of other little tricks the two men pull on one another throughout the contest, each more extreme and hilarious than the last.

Important note: Unlike D’arby the Gambler, D’arby the Gamer feels that cheating is unnecessary to get what he wants.  So it’s not that the characters are looking for ways to cheat each other and catch each other cheating, they’re just looking for insane ways to outdo one another.

Jotaro steps up to the plate next, citing Joseph’s age and the fact he’s never touched a video game before as a reason that he shouldn’t participate in the contest.  Jotaro leaves out the part where he mentions he hasn’t, either, but of course he has Star Platinum to help him.

This volume?  Best final scene in a volume of Jojo’s Bizarre adventure to date.  The last three pages had me absolutely rolling.

I don’t talk about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure as frequently as I do my other favorite series, like One Piece and From Eroica With Love, but that’s only because it comes out less frequently (and, to be fair, it sould be ashamed it’s coming out slower than Eroica).   But I still love it.  I may love it the most of any other series, period, including those two.  There’s a lot to like about it, and while I haven’t read all 100 volumes of it, every volume I have read is hilarious, extreme, action-packed, completely serious, and drawn with a skill you don’t see very frequently in a Shounen Jump series.  It’s everything a comic book should be.  Everything about Jojo is perfect, and there’s 100 volumes of perfection to love.  It’s a hard act to beat, and I’ll continue to praise it as one of the best comic series in the world until the day I die.

Hirohiko Araki – Viz – 2009 – 98+ volumes
published in English as volume 12

I may have been looking forward to Ooku most this year, but there’s little that can come between me and my love of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.  This is pure, undiluted, ridiculous entertainment.  This is the very definition of “comic” in the pictorial story sense.  This is what every comic book dreams of being at night.

This starts with the end of the story between Hol Horse, Mondatta, and the Joestar group.  Mondatta’s stand has once again predicted that Jojo’s head will be split open, this time by Hol Horse’s bullets, and Hol Horse scrambles in the two minutes he has to make the elaborate prophecy (which is never wrong) come true.  Hol Horse’s scrambling to try to force things to work, his inevitable oversight, and the way that Jojo literally dodges the bullet are all pretty funny stuff.  I read these two chapters just waiting for the punchline that came when Jojo inevitably did not die.  I didn’t see the loophole until it  happened, and I really should have.  It was fantastic anyway.

The next stand user is Pet Shop, with Horus as his stand.  Since Pet Shop is actually a hawk, it only makes sense that his opponent is Iggy, the little dog that’s been traveling with the Joestar group and wields the Fool stand.  I was hoping that the entire fight would be wordless, but we do get running commentary from Iggy (first just his thoughts, then, hilariously, he gets dialogue bubbles in later chapters).  Iggy’s commentary makes the fight way better than it could have been otherwise, because he thinks a lot of himself, does not want to fight, and has the most hilarious reactions and facial expressions ever.  In one of the best scenes in the book, after condemning a small boy to death, Iggy shows back up to engage the stand user, saying he just can’t abandon a dog-lover while striking a funny and strangely triumphant pose.

Here’s something to ponder, though:  To my knowledge, there have been at least two scenes redrawn by Araki for the American editions to sort of lessen graphic violence against dogs.  One was just a panel or so where a dog was beheaded, but one was a reasonably lengthy story sequence where a dog that had its skull lopped in half with brains spilling out was redrawn to look more like a rat.  Here, two dogs are gratuitously decapitated and an ice stake is rammed through their skulls.  This is shown a few times, just so the impact sinks in.  Their owner, a little boy, shows up to look for them and gets to see Pet Shop pulling out their eyes in one of the most gratuitous eyeball-popping scenes ever committed to paper.  It is one of those comedically violent scenes that Araki has a knack for, you can tell it’s drawn with love and a sly wink.  But its presence makes me wonder why the other scenes were changed, since this is about a thousand times worse.

Pet Shop’s single-mindedness while hunting Iggy down is hilariously insane as well.  Frequently, the panels will spend a lot of time zooming closer and closer in on one of his eyes to show just how tough he really is, which gets funnier every time.  At one point, when wounded by Iggy, he takes the tip of his wing, swabs blood off his wound, and tastes it.  While flying.  And also while the eye zoom is going on.  It’s great.

As for the actual plot, the characters are now in Dio’s mansion, which is heavily guarded by stand users.  Even so, I believe there are only four volumes left to this storyline, so hopefully we’ll see the wrapup by the end of next year.

I just can’t see why anyone would dislike this series.  Well, unless you love dogs I guess, in which case I would advise against reading it or anything else by Hirohiko Araki.

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