Hiroki Goto (July 2019)

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Published July 4, 2019
Jump The Golden Age of Manga

Commentaries of Hiroki Goto, former editor-in-chief of Weekly Shonen Jump, about JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Published in his book "Jump: The Golden Age of Manga", released in France on July 4, 2019.


Hiroki Goto was the editor-in-chief of Weekly Shonen Jump from 1986 to 1993. Having already entered the company in 1970, Goto's tenure as editor-in-chief saw the greatest period of the magazine with weekly sales reaching up to 6 millions copies. Here's what he has to say about JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki: when storytelling is a vocation.

This manga is awesome. I always thought that JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's main interest was limited to its first chapter. However, I forced myself to read the first 47 volumes that cover the first four parts and I must say that I found it a lot more interesting than when it was published weekly in the pages of Shonen Jump. How do I explain this discrepancy of feelings? When I entered the editing team of Shonen Jump, I was succeeding another editor supervising the manga Chichi no Tamashī from veteran manga artist Hiroshi Kaizuka. At the time, I was told that Hiroshi Kaizuka could only be appreciated when followed continuously. I lacked the experience then so I didn't really understand what those words meant, but now that I think about it, I do now. When we take on the new chapters from a manga each week to correct them with an expert eye, we have a different approach. To read and grasp a manga as a whole allows you to adopt a different relationship to the story that unfolds before your eyes.

When I was in primary school, I had a friend that was gifted for telling stories. I remember that I was always enthralled by anything he used to tell me on the way back from school. Nowadays, I have to tell you that I don't remember anything about the stories themselves! On the other hand, I clearly remember that he was very expressive and used a lot of gestures when he was telling a story. Likewise, our teacher showed us a kamishibai show once during class. There too I do not remember the story well but I still feel the excitement I had while listening and how eager I was to hear the rest. Isn't it what we called being hooked on a story? Hirohiko Araki is a true storyteller and to illustrate this, I'll quote his words:

"People often say that prostitution is the world's oldest profession. Well, that's what I learned in history class at least. But is it really the oldest profession? I found an even older one! I can't prove it, but I bet it goes away back! That profession is the storyteller who tells scary stories.A long, long time ago, people sat under the starry night sky and gathered round a fire, as they listened to an old man tell frightening tales. They listened intently and let their imaginations take them into the world he described. "Okay. That's enough for tonight."

"We want to hear more. I'll give you this fruit if you tell us more."

"I'll tell you tomorrow! Now, go to bed!"

That's the kind of story I hope to tell, and keep on telling."

Hirohiko Araki had his own style and didn't hide his wish to captivate his readers with his works.

Hirohiko Araki, then named Toshiyuki Araki, was runner-up of the end-of-the-year edition of the 1980 Tezuka Awards with his manga Buso Poker. This story was published in the first issue of 1981. The judges of the Tezuka Awards had severe personalites and they didn't easily grant the prize, only giving the runner-up prize when in doubt as was the case for Buso Poker. I always made it so I could be at the selection comity and I remember that during one session, 2 or 3 people asked me what was the author of Buso Poker doing at the moment. Although he didn't win, this young manga artist had managed to catch the eye of these strict experts.

After winning this prize, Hirohiko Araki made the manga Cool Shock BT for a brief time from the no.42 to 51 of 1983 of Shonen Jump. The next year, he began to write Baoh The Visitor from no.45 of 1984 to no.11 of 1985. The last chapter of "BT" narrates how BT manages to drive away a freckled boy and his family of squatters. This episode highlights Evil as something that takes away what others cherish. In Baoh, Ikuro Hashizawa fights the secret organization Doress that made him a living weapon by inserting a parasite into him. Ikuro steadily gains conscience of his new potential. His way of fighting is also varied and original. Araki's art had also clearly improved and was concerned with the idea of Evil that hides within everyone's heart. These two mangas had a short life but we find the essence of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's first chapter that was published in the no.1-2 of 1987 in Shonen Jump.

"From the XIIth Century to the XVIth Century, a brave and valorous kingdom prospered on a plateau in the heart of Mexico. [...] They were called the Aztecs, the Sun people! Among them, a tribe had the ambition to reign over the world thanks to the power of the Stone Mask! [...] But this tribe suddenly disappeared from History without reaching its goals. It only ledt behind it a ruined palace. [...] This story depicts the mysterious Stone Mask from Mexico and its raveling of the destinies of two youngsters and their bizarre adventures!"

Thus opens his story that happens in Great Britain in the year 1880. Despite the predominant idea that a manga that was set out of Japan and featured a foreign hero couldn't become successful, Araki decided to put his story in Britain, during the XIXth Century at that. To maintain this publication over time was thus far from being easy for such a manga. But the characters of Jonathan Joestar (the first JoJo) and Dio Brando rapidly caught the eyes of the readers.

I have to say that the meeting between Hirohiko Araki and his editor Ryosuke Kabashima was determining. Kabashima had studied archeology and the History of the western world from Antiquity to the contemporary times. He was the kind of erudite few editors were and Hirohiko Araki speaks of his like this:

Sometimes, the meeting between a manga artist and his editor is the result of fate. In my case, it was Mr. Kabashima who answered my call when I contacted the editing team of Shonen Jump to bring them my script. He became my first editor. Without him, I wouldn't be drawing mangas like I do now. He always encouraged me to make something marginal within Jump. He used to tell me that publishing a marginal story in a popular magazine would be interesting. (Hirohiko Araki speaks about his work, Shukan Bunshun, June 18 2009, interview from Shunsuke Kimura).

The iconoclastic position taken by Kabashima and Araki consisted in making a work that fit the manga artist's personality rather than minding the know-how of Shonen Jump's way to success, which was clearly audacious. What is extraordinary with Hirohiko Araki is that he managed to make a good manga while imposing his style. To say it like Araki, it is about telling a good story and master it. To always keep a little in reserve. JoJo narrates the years-long battle between the noble-born Joestar Family and Dio Brando. Dio is a bad boy by nature who exploits the weaknesses of the people to manipulate them. Deceitful and cunning, he doesn't hesitate to betray his benefactors and annihilate them for his pleasure. He also doesn't hesitate to kill people to accomplish his ambitions. Dio is without doubt the incarnation of Evil. Dio poisons George Joestar, the father of Jonathan, and ends up killing him and bringing the Joestar Family to ruin. Dio burns JoJo's dog alive and also destroys his budding relationship with Erina with several deceitful plots. You can see Dio's attitude as a form of benign malice and agression but the violence he exhibits has a unique facet. By stealing or destroying what JoJo loves, he doesn't directly use physical violence but tries to destroy him from within by tearing his soul apart. Psychological wounds can be worse because they are more difficult to apprehend, it is the highest form of harrassing. Hirohiko Araki has a gift for portraying this kind of Evil.

JoJo is still being published today but among the first four parts I am talking about here, my favorite is Stardust Crusaders. The second JoJo (Joseph Joestar) and the third JoJo (Jotaro Kujo) go to Egypt to kill Dio, who's come back as a vampire, for good. The JoJo's and their companions use their Stands and nothing can stop them. Little by little, the story becomes a fight between Stand Users.

One of JoJo's main attractions are these famous Stands that first appeared in the third part. Stands are the materialization of the vital spirit of its creator, some sort of persona. To perfectly understand what Stands are and how they work, it is best to see them in action in the manga but I'll still give you an example. Dio's Stand, The World, has the ability to stop time and dominate the world. When The World stops time, Dio can move and kill his enemies who is still immobile. However, Jotaro manages to vanquish Dio through ruse and abnegation, Dio is sensible to sunlight and thus annihilated by the Egyptian sun. It is here that the long struggle between Dio and the Joestar Family ends but it won't be the end of the manga.

The fourth part, Diamond is Unbreakable, takes place in the fictional town of Morioh in Japan where serial murders take place, starting from March 1999. The case is solved by Jotaro Kujo and the fourth JoJo (Josuke Higashikata) as well as their companions. This chapter is the most terrifying in JoJo's history and gives the reader a story that contrasts heavily with the adventurous aspect and and the super-powered fights of the previous part. Here we don't cross exotic countries anymore, we stay in the peaceful day-to-day life of the the small ordinary town of Morioh, disturbed by murders of great cruelty. The menace that lurks in the shadow is quite chilling. The author of these murders, Yoshikage Kira, is a well thought character. This man is 33 years old, single, graduated in literature and works at a mall in town.

Although he's graduated from a second rate university, from the outside he seems to have benefited from an elite education. His appearance and refined manners make him a very popular man among his feminine colleagues. His still performs mediocre work but his seriousness and his general appearance make him appreciated by all. He's thus truly terrifying because it is a man with ordinary personality and capacities, a psychopath who perfectly blends into the mass or ordinary people! The way Hirohiko Araki depicts the madness that inhabits Yoshikage Kira is simply brilliant. The idea of being in the average is a only a good thing in a society where the majority lives well and all are equal. In an unequal society, this idea crumbles. The pressure for this increasingly competitive society makes Evil germinate in a spirit dominated by disquietude and insastifaction.

Reading these for parts back to back, I profoundly felt the way the author tries hard to depict Evil and explore its different facets. The Evil that inhabits Dio Brando and Yoshikage Kira has a viscerally realistic and these antagonists are so well done that we could ask ourselves of the true heroes of this story spanning four generations aren't the JoJos but their enemies. Usually, in shonens, the bad guys who occupy this role until the end have a small presence that then increases. But in Araki's work, the more their presence is felt, the more those of the heroes (the Joestar Family and their allies) is felt too, making them shine more and more. In this themes and also in its general narrative, Hirohiko Araki has managed to create a "major yet marginal" work.

To conclude, I would like to quote the author's note in Volume 46:

"I was thinking about how strong enemies show up in manga. After them, an even stronger enemy shows up, and after them, an even stronger one... so what happens at the very end? It's kind of like thinking about the edges of the universe. Once you look about the world, you realize that what it really means to be a "strong" person is not to do bad things. "An enemy who does bad things" is a person who has "a spiritual weakness," and what's truly scary is when someone takes that weakness and uses it to lash out against others."

Araki is talking about both his own manga and the favorite genre of Shonen Jump, fighting manga. But in our own world, strong people are rare and weak-minded people are sadly in the majority. Thus, the individuals who use their own weakness to hurt others are also numerous. In this text, I think that Araki is warning us about our contemporary society and what happens in there every day.

Hiroki Goto, translated from the French version of his book, "Jump, the Golden Age of Manga".


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