In every volume of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the front folded flap of the dust jacket usually contains a picture of Hirohiko Araki himself, and more than often a quotation. The quotes featured below the picture are always different from each other, and are usually about Araki expressing his opinion on certain subjects. These subjects can be about anything, including information about characters or the story itself. The notes below are from Steel Ball Run.
In substance, I drew Steel Ball Run as the seventh part of the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure saga. However, for the readers who might begin with this volume, I preferred not to insist too much on that affiliation. On the other hand, completely burying one's past work in order to create a brand new one is, in my opinion, a bad habit for any manga author. It's important to find a theme which carries on from the past. (To be continued in SBR Volume 2.)
Since seasons pass and man evolves during his life, I think it's important to build what I call the theme of one's work by basing it on the foundations of their previous works, and that wanting to cut oneself one from that past is a mistake we shouldn't make. Thus, in Steel Ball Run, you will meet characters whose names are similar to some of the characters in the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure saga. You can see them as their ancestors, or as their incarnations in a parallel world. However, the theme remains the same: a hymn to humanity. What will happen to these people plunged into the strange race of life?
One of the things I've found amazing lately is a ball that is used for exercise. It's about 70 to 80 centimeters in diameter, filled with air, and made of scientific resin. By just sitting on it and jumping around, you can strengthen your abdominal muscles and remove strain on your spine and pelvis. I couldn't understand the principle behind something that moves so simply. I am a skeptic, but when I saw professional athletes using it, I was convinced that it was true. It also makes my internal organs stronger.
Something related to the shape of the sphere amazed me... I was watching an Aikido video, and this young man in a traditional dress grabbed the head of a man (he seemed to be a master) who was around 60 years old. The master grunted "Hmph!" and shook his head in a spherical motion. The young man flew approximately 2 meters into the air. It makes you think he just jumped on purpose, since he was thrown so easily. But I don't think it was fake, since the video cost over 10,000 yen. I'd like to be thrown once (onto somewhere soft).
In late 1980, when I had the opportunity to shake Osamu Tezuka's hand, I thought to myself, "Wow, a manga artist's hand is so soft and fluffy!" Later, when I shook the hand of Masutatsu Ōyama, a karate master, I also thought to myself, "Whoa! So he actually smashes bottles and stuff with these soft hands..." And so I decided that all experts must have soft hands. Nobody has ever told me that I have soft hands, but I'm sure that Gyro's hands are very soft and fluffy.
The question usually comes from women for me, but have you ever been told that you looked like someone else? People used to tell me I looked like an actor in Stargate named James Spader. But lately, I've been told that I resemble Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa or the cover of Prince's album 1999. I've also been told I look like Jackie Chan, Masakazu Tamura, a dog, a horse, a cloud, a car, the vampire Rock from Osamu Tezuka's work... All of these are questionable.
I've realized that I've reached my mid-40s. If I'm to live to the age of 70 or 80, then I've already passed the halfway point. This is a bit of a difficult topic to write about, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm alright the way I am. Am I walking the right path? One needs satisfaction on that front, and both Gyro and Johnny are seeking that satisfaction in this race. That is the theme of this manga. (To be continued in Volume 8.)
Sometimes I wonder what the right path even is. I wonder what would happen if I were to go down the wrong path, in pursuit of love or justice. What are the right and wrong paths, and how are we supposed to distinguish between the two? Will anyone ever tell us? If we hurt the ones we love because we love them, how can we escape it? Gyro and Johnny, as well as everyone else involved in the race, are in that situation. Can they do anything other than pray?
Movies that I've seen recently and thought were fantastic were works by Micheal Mann (like The Insider and Collateral), the Jason Bourne series, and the TV series 24. The main characters in these works all have a sense of professionalism, and they act without hesitation: it's as if their determination transcends notions of good and evil. I can sense a deeper sense of humanity through these characters. When I place myself in these characters' shoes, I can feel myself tearing up. All of these works are supposed to be cool, but I am passionately moved by them. The best one is Heat.
It's something that was given to me, but I have a swimsuit calendar hanging on the wall of my workplace. In other words, I have 12 pictures of girls in bathing suits in my office. Nothing too naughty. Every time the month changes, I have to flip the page to the next girl, and that somehow makes me feel incredibly melancholy. I feel like I'm saying, "Goodbye, September girl. I'll never see you again..." And then when I flip the page, I end up betraying her already and thinking, "October's not bad either!" What I'm trying to say is that a year goes by really quickly.
Recently, I've been thinking a lot about numbers. Take money, for example. Everyone thinks it's better to have a lot than a little, but it seems like once someone gets too much of it, they become burdened with it. This also applies to that wonderful, beneficial invention of cars: too many of them, and they become an inconvenience. They're bad for the atmosphere, too. And though I believe every human life is important beyond measure, if a country with more than ten billion people were to come into being... Hmm, that's a scary thought.
I have times I like to call angry seasons, when I strangely begin to get aggravated by the world's rules and regulations. On the other hand, once those phases pass, I start to think that the same things I was irritated by are now great!
Recently, two horror movies called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and The Texas Chain Killer: Beginning came out, and I mistakenly bought the wrong DVD. Hey! But once my angry season passes, I'll probably think that it was great that I bought two interesting-looking horror movies.
(Note: The Texas Chain Killer: Beginning is called Hoboken Hollow in America.)
I often see the phrase "horse and man as one" in racing magazines or in historical novels, and it supposedly means that the rider can synchronize his or her movements with their horse, so that they're almost one entity. When I draw Gyro and the others on their horses, I feel like I understand a bit of what that phrase means, though I don't ride horses myself. I can't tell you specifically which ones they are, but when I get a racing panel to look just right, the figures seem to fit well with one another. Humans and horses must be biologically suited for one another (whatever that means).
I've recently found out that people are somehow intimidated by me-- people I've met for the first time during interviews often say, "Man, I was so nervous the whole time!" That worries me. Apparently, people perceive me as similar to a character that I made in the past, Rohan Kishibe, and that's why they get so nervous. I'm not like him. I'm the type of person that'll drink their tea even when eraser bits or drops of ink get into it. I really want people to say, "Man, Araki makes me feel so relaxed." I guess I need to work on myself more.
I love horror movies more than eating a good three meals a day. The cheaper and more B-tier they are, the more I love them. I watch these movies with the utmost respect for them, and their cinematic vision somehow gives me a sense of ease. However, there are some elements of horror movies that I can never agree with:
Whenever one of the characters try to call someone on their cell phone, they either have no service or the battery is dead.
Even though a character only has a limited number of bullets, they get trigger-happy during the worst times and then run out of bullets when they need them most.
When the camera slowly zooms in on a character's back, but no one's there when they turn around. What's the point of using that camera technique if no one is there?! I... I can't forgive that. I want them to go and stand under a waterfall.
Do you know a song called Tsuki no Sabaku (The Desert Moon)? When I was a kid, one of my friends used to listen to me singing it with a tear in his eyes. At the time, his sensibility stupefied me, but I realize that I am highly sensitive too. I'm sensitive not to a song but a certain type of background: a curved and sloping street with a wire fence on the side, like what can be found near schools. Whenever I see such a street, be it in Japan or elsewhere, a wave of nostalgia takes me and a tear appears in my eye... I don't even know why. Regardless, I'm always bawling when I take pictures of these streets.
As I've been writing Steel Ball Run, I'm beginning to notice a common thread between the characters: namely, that they want to go home. Or rather, they're looking for places to go home to and meanings for their going home. That even applies to Gyro, who has a hometown to go back to. So far, the only one among all the characters who was able to find that was Mountain Tim. Even as the author behind Steel Ball Run, it feels really harsh, and sometimes I just want to leave this race and go home. But I can't go home yet. Not until I can find meanings for the characters' going home.
Here's a warning for young people: you shouldn't try to imitate tree climbers, and even more importantly, you should never do what you are told not to do. If you climb a tree in Tokyo, you'll undoubtedly be questioned by the police, and you'll look foolish if you find yourself unable to climb back down. People will suspect that you'll hurt your hip, scrape yourself, die, or simply go insane. You'll have to travel to the countryside to find trees to climb, but it's good to practice becoming one with nature regardless.
I'm afraid of false eyelashes falling in my house... Great long ones fall off in hallways and in the bathroom. When there's bad lighting, they really freak me out. I imagine they might be moving. Talk about horror! (I can't say whose specifically, but) when I picked some up and threw them in the garbage, their owner said "Why are you throwing those away? I'm still using them!" Then they picked the things up and put them on a shelf. I was really indignant, but even more terrified.
This is an actual conversation I had: "Huh? Don't you know Wakeru-kun?" "No. I'm afraid I don't." "Really? He's Wakeru-kun. Wakeru-kun!" "Really, who is he?" "Do you really not know him? Wakeru-kun, the guy with parted hair. He's incredibly popular. Sensei, you're from Sendai, aren't you?" "Huh? Yes, I am from Sendai, but... Is he the city's mascot character, like Shiga's Hikonyan or Nara's Sento-kun?" "That's the best reaction I've seen since I started working here! Sensei, you really don't know him despite being a manga artist? Wahahaha!" "How would I know...?" (The end. Was that good?)
The work known as drawing pictures is infinite. You can keep drawing on one sheet forever, wondering where the best place to end is. The same goes for a story. For example, if you have the setup of a lover falling to the bottom of a deep hole, but a friend you don't like can take the lover's place and save them if you push them in, what would you do in that situation? Would you push the guy you hate in? I don't think it's the correct action. If you start thinking about it, the infinity of answers begins to disappear. As a side note, drawings are only completed when your heart wants them to end. That's my personal opinion.
Recently, something that has been on my mind is people that put on performances. The ultimate goal of these people is to be the center of attention, so I honestly can't tell what is they're actually trying to do. Those people are abundantly talented, so they try to extend into many different fields and never try to quietly master any one thing. Is it art, or is it politics? Is it a rescue operation or is it business? I feel like they're a particularly extraordinary and uncanny part of society. I can't think of any way to unite those clashing goals.
With Volume 24, the Steel Ball Run race is completed. Everyone, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being such loving readers. Just what was the holy corpse that appeared here? I never explained it thoroughly right up to the end, but I wrote it as a symbol of purity. I think that the sense of purity is extremely important: like the difference between good and evil, virtue, and what should be respected, it can be understood instinctively. You can be sure that the one who obtains the corpse will find happiness.