Phantom Blood PS2 (10/2006)
An interview with Hirohiko Araki released as bonus content for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood (PS2 Game). It is a retrospective of his series.
Your thoughts about your 25th anniversary as an author?
I think that it was a very quick 25 years. But when I look back at my work...it's kind of like the stuff around the Phantom Blood era is the work of someone else. Yeah, that's what I honestly feel. So, when I read it I can kind of read it objectively; I can read it as though I was a fan.
Do you read back on your old work?
Not very much, but if there's a game or something released like now, I'll read back and think "Ohh, so I was writing this kind of stuff?" Once the Stands started coming out, I often forget about some characters. Someone will mention a guy and I'll be like, "Who was that again?" and I'll read back and say "Ohh yeah there was that guy." Kind of like that. The readers know more than me.
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of JoJo.
Well, they let me debut on the New Year's of '82 but that still felt a bit vague to me. I couldn't really imagine myself as a manga artist; it wasn't clear on what kind of manga artist I was going to be. It was like I just was incidentally awarded the Tezuka Award, it wasn't really like I was aiming to win it. So that was kind of when I began training. And...when I look at the other Jump artists manga, they all had their own distinct styles. So the period when I was thinking about what style and what kind of manga I should draw was right before JoJo. I sort of feel that I finally became a pro with JoJo; it was like everything opened up in front of my eyes.
How was "JoJo" born?
I liked movies and at the time Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were popular. They're both muscular characters and their bodies are covered in muscle, which made me think to myself "I wonder who the strongest person in the world is?" This question was basically the beginning of the idea of JoJo. Themes such as immortality, seeking life, justice and things that humans innately seek spawned from this and eventually lead to the creation of Part one. So basically stuff to do with immortality and super macho guys and how strong they can get; that was what I was pursuing. Also, I had gone on a trip to Italy about 2 years before that and you may already know but, the art in Italy kind of strives for human beauty. When I saw the original artworks, it made me want to do the same.
The origin of the name "JoJo"
I wonder if it's okay to say this..? Umm, the place I used to hold meetings with the editor was at a local family restaurant in my neighborhood called Jonathan's. We were thinking of making the name "Jonathan" Something, and you know how a name can be two S's like Steven Spielberg? I wanted something like that so I thought "Well if it's Jonathan then it'll start with J so...Joestar should be okay." But that was really adventurous for a Shonen manga because it was taboo to have a foreigner as a main character; it was that kind of era. It was a big adventure so I was really grateful to my editor at the time.
Regarding the birth of the arch nemesis, Dio
He's full of confidence, very arrogant and he's aiming to become a God, or top of the world. Because of this, I used the Italian word, 'Dio,' that is used to refer to a God, as well as the 'Dio' that plays Heavy Metal. I like Heavy Metal and Rock so I used those as a reference to make characters. They're also characters that I created to signify 'black and white' or good and evil.'
Part 1:Phantom Blood
What were your initial ideas?
Back when I started drawing part one, I liked stories that went over several generations like 'East of Eden' and the show 'Roots' that they did on TV. The lead character changes but it kinda continues; it's something like an American periodical drama or periodical novel. And I don't think it was very Jump-like in style but I thought that it might be good to go where nobody else had before.
There's also a manga that I really respect called Babel II by Yokoyama Mitsuteru which has fights that follow rules. I also wanted fights that followed rules in JoJo, so the Ripple was one of those things. Also, you can't see psychic abilities right? Like if you concentrate your mind and something breaks, you can't really see it. But it's a manga so I thought I should be able to draw it and try and make it easy for readers to know what kind of psychic powers they were, which is how I came up with the ripple. It kind of spread from that like how ripples slowly spread, no pun intended. (Slowly is 'jojo' in Japanese)
When I look at him now, I think Jonathan is too much of a good boy. If I was to draw him now, I'd probably show more of the weaknesses of his heart too.
Part 2: Battle Tendency
Was Joseph's personality affected by Part one?
One more thing that you weren't supposed to do in those days was to let your main character die. That was another forbidden act. We had a discussion as to whether that will happen first and it was eventually decided in a meeting that we'd kill the main character. Because of this, I had to drastically change the story's characters and portray events that I didn't show in part one in part two and then similarly portray events I didn't show in part two in part three. That was my plan. I had a story devised up until part three, but because the story convention required Part 2 to be different to Part 1, I created Joseph. He does share similarities to Jonathan though in that he is also a muscle type.
Was it always your plan to revive Dio in Part 3?
I really wanted to draw him being dead for awhile and then coming back to life, but if I was to do that I needed something to happen in between (Part 2). Yeah.
Part 3: Stardust Crusaders
How was the process of changing from Ripples to Stands?
I tried portraying the ripple through pictures and I also tried portraying the psychic ability of Stands with pictures too but, how should I say it... I wanted to have punches from here (away from body). I had a meeting for it where I was asked, "What are you going to do next? You can't use the Ripple anymore." But when I said, "Well, a punch comes out of here (referring to the front of the body) and breaks stuff," they'd be confused and wouldn't understand me. So I was like, how should I say this...? Well, there's a thing like a guardian spirit and...it comes out and attacks." That's how I explained what the new ability would be and nobody would understand what I was on about. I told them that I think I could create alot of characters this way; I could make like a green colored punch or a sharp thing spawn and make them fight. Unlike the ripple, I can do lots of variations. That's how I started with Stands, though I originally thought that people who read it at first wouldn't know what's going on. Stands gave me alot of trouble when it came to explaining them, but I really felt that I could keep inventing new characters and ideas this way forever. It was like I dug up a gold mine. No one else thought it was gold, but I was like "Wow, look what I dug up!"
Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable
What were your ideas from Part 4 and onwards?
Part 3 was a story that had the shape of a role playing game. It's like a board game where you go here and there. There's a book called "Around the World in 80 Days," which I made Part 3's story with that as an influence. If that's the case, then enemies have to be types that come and attack Jotaro themselves, though they might be waiting for them too. So when i was thinking of ideas I thought of people that were willing to wait in their positions for a long time: like people that live in houses and attack when customers arrive, people with personalities like trapdoor spiders. I had a lot of these ideas left over and so I thought that I could probably use all of them within a single town. There were various incidents back then such as a serial killing incident that sent huge shockwaves across Japan. The feeling of your neighbor possibly being a serial killer was the perfect atmosphere, so I used that idea when positioning lots of Stand users around the town. That's basically how Part 4 was born and you can see how it's different from part 3. Making Part 3 different to Part 2, and making Part 4 different to part 3...is the way JoJo was made.
Up until Part 3, the setting was in an imaginary, mythical kind of world but for Part 4 I drew an everyday world so I feel more closeness to Josuke, which is why I like him the most. I found it really fun to write, it was like he became a friend of sorts. Jotaro, however, is someone that you admire, like a hero from a mythical tale. But Josuke seems more like a friend or a senior.
Josuke is supposed to be the child of a lover but...?
Yes, he is. If I could write more of Part 4, I'd like to explore that more specifically. You would probably develop some complicated ways of thinking if you were a child of a lover and Josuke was also meeting his dad for the first time in a while, so I'd like to write more in depth about that. If I had the opportunity to write that, I would really like to. Part 4 isn't really finished yet. If I decided to continue it, I could as much as I want.
Part 5: Vento Aureo
Why did you make the hero Dio's son?
Oh yes right. In part 5, he's not really a blood relative...well kind of. I find great importance in the upbringing and background of the characters. Stuff like what kind of place they were born, and what their parents were like. If I know that then it makes it easier to understand and write. That's what I do it for, so I find bloodlines very important. It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but that's how Part 5 started. During Part 4, the editor said to me, "Are you able to draw sadness?" But life is a sad thing though isn't it? He asked me if I could draw that, and initially I said that it wasn't really my style but during Part 5, I suddenly felt to urge to draw just that. Like the sadness of being ostracized by society but still having a sense of justice. That was what I tearfully wrote for Vento Aureo.
Part 6: Stone Ocean You once said that you can't draw females. Back then, it was an era when it was unthinkable to have a female character taking punches and in JoJo, arms can go flying if you're not careful. I felt that I wasn't able to draw that with female characters and the readers wouldn't be able to keep up. As I grew older, the difference between genders became less important, and I started to feel that I could actually draw a tough female. What I came up with was Stone Ocean, whose takes place in a prison setting.
About the end of Part Six
The last boss in JoJo has to be made incredibly strong. And I already made Dio stop time, so I figured the readers wouldn't be happy unless I thought of something even stronger. That factor had become a bubble-like situation and so I thought what would happen if you sped up time really fast, and ended up going full circle. Your brain goes strange when you think about infinity.
What are your thoughts regarding time?
It's mysterious isn't it? If you think about time, it feels mysterious and possibly the ultimate power if you could control it. My thought process involved coming up with this ultimate power and then thinking up how on earth you'd defeat it. Even while writing JoJo I myself often thought, "Oh...they're going to lose this one, they can't possibly win." But thinking about how it will be done is how I go about making this, so even now I still think about the question from Part 1, "Who is the strongest person in the world." I find that there's a great deal of romance there.
Manga Artist Hirohiko Araki
About drawing old characters.
I really find it hard being asked to draw previous characters. I wonder why that is..? I just get really tired. First, I have to try and draw the essence of my older style and then I have to fuse it with my current style, which made drawing the cover of this game really tiring. Though I did end up drawing it anyways after telling them that I can't draw older characters.
Second, artwork always changes; for example, I said before that muscular characters were really popular in the 80's but that wasn't really the case anymore in the 90's. I think it's strange to keep drawing muscular people if that's the case. So when I started on a new chapter back then I made Giorno Giovanna quite thin to be like a normal sized person. From around the time of Josuke, I decided to change from a mythical kind of person to a more ordinary size. That's the kind of way that artwork changes. Well, that's what I think. Also, I don't know about my art getting better. You could say that I was bad at the beginning though. I don't really try to keep it like my older styles; they're pictures that I've drawn in a classical kind of method, so I don't really mind if it changes.
About the game's cover
Well I first imaged it as having the ripple, but I was requested to have Dio and Jonathan fighting with the stone mask but I basically tried to bring the stone mask to the front more. The stone mask is like the game's emblem or the game's mark, so I put water and ripples over the background to lessen its impact. Usually, the main character is right at the front for package illustrations but I kind of made it the opposite of that.
About the poses.
The poses are influenced from Italian sculptures. I really like the way the bodies are twisted and it makes me want to turn them into a drawing. Also, you might not understand unless you're a person that draws, but the pelvis moves up and down and that's what I find fun. Like doing this... and stuff like if you move your wrist than you move up here. (Hand gestures) It's fun to draw while you theorize about that. Well for example, I'll show you here...If you put weight down on your right leg like this, your left shoulder drops and stuff. Or if you raise this hip, you go like this; it all moves oppositely. If you raise one hip then a shoulder goes down. If you concentrate on it you'll notice it, I found that about the human body very interesting and I really find it fun putting that into a drawing.
Also, it's not related but I actually enjoy drawing skin getting peeled. So I had alot of fun when drawing Koichi turning into a book. Not because it's grotesque but I think it's because I have to theorize what it might be like. It's strange. Also, things like what would happen if you bend a finger this way. You can make it possible by drawing. I think those are the kind of things I like, though I like drawing the poses too.
About the unique 'sound words'.
Oh, right. They're influenced from horror movies and rock music. In progressive rock and horror music, they use synthesizers and an instrument called a mellotron and sometimes I really want the tinkly kind of sound it produces for some scenes. Also stuff like "Chwween" and "Kyun Kyun Kyun!" You know how they often have noises like that in horror moves? I get the feeling of wanting those in my work. So I just write them out using letters and they naturally become the sound words I use, and I'm not really conscious of it.
Is the model of Kishibe Rohan yourself?
Everyone I meet for the first time thinks that I'll be like Rohan, so it's a bit of nuisance. I once thought about just acting like that character but that is something I aspire instead and I'm sorry if I break anyone's dreams, but I'm not really like that. Everyone comes into my house a little bit frightened. Sorry, but I'll use this to change my image now.
Do you lick spiders like Rohan?
Well, I do sometimes try eating some unusual things. If they tell me that it's edible cooking then I'll eat it, but... (Laughs)
Themes Embedded in Araki's Work
The theme of JoJo that continues for 20 years?
To not negate human beings. What I mean by that is is to have positive thinking characters that don't stress about things going wrong. They're not allowed to stress. They believe strongly in what they do. Even if its a bad guy doing bad things, those actions are very important to him and he'll use that to move one step forward. Then in response, the hero comes to defeat that. When they both step out forwards they'll then conflict. That's what I find interesting. I don't think it's interesting as a Shonen manga if the hero feels some sort of empathy for the villain. For example, with the character Yoshikage Kira, he's a serial killer but I think that he had his own proper reasons for doing so, such as the poor environment of his childhood, his relationship with his mother and his father always ignoring him. But if I write that you start to feel sorry for Kira, and so despite being such a horrible villain, when Josuke fights him, I think he'll kind of feel sorry for him. But then Kira says that he's fine being that way and moves one step up. That's what I like. That's the reason why I really like Kira. Although he may have had a bad childhood and turned into a serial killer, I always hope that he tries his best at being one. I can't really say that out loud much though. I'm secretly a fan of his. So living with a positive outlook like that is the theme of JoJo. It's a 'celebration of humanity.' To make humans positive. There may be conflicts because of that but that sort of thing is a theme.
Will that remain to be the theme?
Yes, probably. I said this before but I think that if the villains weak, it'll definitely be a boring story. They may be that way in real life but its better if its not in a manga like this. Yes...so I don't think it'll change.
A final message to the fans
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood is a piece that I created 20 years ago and it really feels nostalgic. I'm really thankful that it has been adapted like this after 20 years.I find it more special than a recent and currently serialized one being adapted because it makes me think that it really has been appreciated for 20 years. So I would really like to express my gratitude and say thank you very much. I hope you really enjoy it. I've properly checked the game myself and I've given it my guarantee.