JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 7: Steel Ball Run
, which I began drawing in 2004, is the story of two protagonists, Johnny Joestar
and Gyro Zeppeli
, as they participate in a horse race
across the North American continent from San Diego
on the West Coast to New York
on the East Coast. I would like to write down some memories regarding the creation of this story.
Part 1: The Protagonists
The main characters each have their own family troubles. Johnny has his relationship with his father to deal with, and Gyro has his family's legacy. It's as if their very births were contradictions. And yet, they challenge the race hoping to overcome it. All of the other characters look forward as well; to bide their time concealing their Stand ability, they must have a certain degree of confidence. But only looking forward is a harsh way to live. And in any case, the only respite for a person who only looks forward is to either drop out or arrive in New York.
Part 2: Stands
In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, I set out to use Stand designs to depict things that, while they cannot be seen, exist in this world nonetheless. Anyway, my goal was to draw the existences of all creation and all kinds of physical phenomena. I would try to turn fire into a character, or time into an image, and so on. My previous work, Part 6: Stone Ocean, left me with a sense of satisfaction, or perhaps the sense that I had drawn all there was to draw...? I felt a small sense of accomplishment. So what do I do now?
At the time, there was something in my drawings that I was very interested in, and that was rotation (or, to use the proper term, spiral rotation). When I draw flames, I draw them in a twisting motion, like the twist of a splash of water. The twist of the bending joints of a human body. The twist of a growing lock of hair. I draw the branches of plants and trees twisting as they connect to the trunk. I draw petals as if they were whirlpools. I add shading to rocks and stones as if they were rotating, and so on.
Drawing in such a way led me to believe that all the phenomena in the world could be explained by rotation and spirals. If this were a Stand ability, it might just be the most powerful of all. And if rotation is rebirth, then perhaps the story can return to its origin. I decided to set Steel Ball Run during the same time period as Part 1: the dawn of modern civilization.
Part 3: Research
I am very fond of stories where the characters mature during their travels, and I think there's a certain universality to them. In recent years, a lot of information has been made available on the Internet, so there's no need to actually go on a research trip anymore. But I was curious as to how open the enviroment was, and I wanted to experience the sense of distance it gave off. The environment also provides an underlying feeling of inequality, even envy, and some places really made me think about what it would be like to live there, what I would do if I ran out of milk here, or other things like that. I wanted to feel that, so my first trip was to the deserts in the western part of North America by Cessna and by car. This isn't related to Steel Ball Run, but I was overwhelmed by the aircraft storage area (the boneyard?) in the desert.
I also decided to walk the Kumano Kodō in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture for five days and four nights. I walked the trail because I wanted to see what would happen to me if I walked around 20 kilometers every day. This particular incident might be somewhat related to Steel Ball Run. A beautiful forest landscape becomes darker than you can imagine after 4:00 PM, with dark shadows growing in the mere blink of an eye. One lone elderly traveler told me as they left the dark forest, "If I hadn't met that kid, I would have been totally lost!" (Now where do I find that kid?) My muscles ached terribly after the second day of walking, and my cell phone felt really heavy when I had to wait in places without any signal, so I thought about throwing it out every day. That's the contradiction of a convenient invention.
Part 4: The Enemy
President Valentine, a character that appears in the second half of Steel Ball Run, is the main antagonist, the greatest enemy, the villain. The ultimate evil. But I'd like to point out that this character is primarily a villain from the perspectives of the protagonists, Johnny and Gyro. President Valentine uses the transcontinental Steel Ball Run race to find a treasure that will make his country the greatest in the world. In other words, he intends to win the people's trust and support through sports. President Valentine knows that the future is moving away from the age of the horse and into the age of the machine. He is also keenly aware that democracy is equal to capitalist economic self-empowerment. Moreover, his selfless motives make him both powerful and utterly terrifying as a character.
In other words, our protagonists—Johnny, Gyro, Mr. Steel, and their allies—are outclassed in the justice of their perspective by President Valentine. And yet, in Steel Ball Run, the president attempting to lead society on the right path is the ultimate evil. Within President Valentine exists a contradiction between justice and evil. He is a paradox. What exactly is happiness, then? If happiness is true victory, will the coming era bring victory? Did Johnny and Gyro win after all?
Part 5: Scope
Serialization moved from Weekly Shonen Jump
to the monthly publication Ultra Jump
. This was partly because my age was making the weekly schedule difficult, but I also felt that the scope of what I could draw increased (due to the number of pages in each chapter). The rhythm of the manga's progression and the scale of the drawings of landscapes and characters just felt right. Steel Ball Run
was well-suited for a monthly magazine indeed.