Hirohiko Araki has created many distinctive works, JoJo included.
Here he discusses little-known details, including his childhood years, the story of his debut, JoJo's secrets, and more, leading us closer to knowing the real Hirohiko Araki.
What led to Araki creating JoJo?
What was his inspiration for Stands?
What is the theme of Part 4?
These and other mysteries will be revealed in this, Araki's first long-form interview.
I'm going to give JoJo Part 4 everything I've got!
Stands—apparitions of life energy—What was their inspiration?
From the very beginning, I had decided that JoJo's protagonist would change with every new part. I'd planned on having three parts, or thereabout, each time refreshing the characters, battles, and fighting techniques. And I knew that every protagonist would be called JoJo. At the outset, I hadn't yet come up with the ideas of Ripple or Stands or anything like that. But I knew I wanted JoJo to be a bizarre tale, following a single bloodline, that would start in the past and work its way into the present.
When we came to the end of Part 1, at first my editor opposed me switching away a popular protagonist. But in the end, he agreed with me and said, "The title is 'Bizarre Adventure'—making the manga ought to be an adventure for the creator too." And it really was.
The inspiration for Stands and Ripple come from my skepticism toward supernatural powers. Whenever someone claims to move objects with their mind—first of all, I'm not sure that's even possible—I feel like there's something underhanded going on. It's the same with UFOs or ghosts. People can claim they saw something, but I want evidence, even if it's made up. I need something more persuasive, some kind of explanation to make it fit. Instead of someone looking like they're thinking hard and then an object suddenly breaks, maybe something invisible to other people could actually come out of them and break the object for them. So, Stands are a way for me to explain superpowers, even if it's only quasi-persuasive.[laughs]
The name "Stand" came about because they stand right next to you, like a ghost standing at your bedside. Stands are highly situational, and many different kinds show up in the story. When I came up with the idea, I thought, "What a useful idea. I can use these for anything!" I was pretty proud of that one.[laughs]
That said, I have thought through some defined parameters for Stands. For example, if a Stand has one ability, that Stand won't get a completely different ability added in. A single Stand has a single restricted kind of superpower. As a result, Stands can be categorized into different types.
In Part 3, I linked Stands with tarot cards because I wanted to make the Stands distinctive. At the time, I figured I could probably come up with enough Stands to fill twenty-two cards, but in the end, I needed even more [laughs]. I came into the start of Part 3 with ideas— rough ideas, at least—for fifteen Stands, and at this moment I have about eighty just in my stockpile.
When it comes to designing the Stands, I want them to feel different from robots or armor or things like that. I get ideas from books on yokai and creepy folk art. I first decide on the Stand's abilities, and then I make the design something that doesn't stray too terribly far away from that. But personally, I put more of my heart into the characters' tactics and their psychological battles, rather than the design and form of their Stands. I want to say, look how scary it can be to have an enemy that focuses the attack on only one certain point—for example, instead of yet another powerful enemy, a physically weak one who tells lies.
I set Part 4 in the future—1999—because for one thing, it comes after Part 3, but also because the end of the millennium brings a certain amount of apprehension and unease, while also remaining near enough to present day that I can still depict ordinary life. Going really far into the future would separate the story from a sense of realism. Also, with Part 3, which was set in present day but ran for three years, people were left unsure about when the story was taking place. I also wanted a setting where anything was possible, and where I could make up fake crimes and events. At first, I wanted to set the story in the afterlife, but I decided that would be too unfamiliar.
One of the concepts behind Part 4 is "draw a town, create a town." When I was working on Part 3, I had some ideas that fit into more of an everyday setting—what if the old woman running the tobacco shop was also a Stand user, that kind of thing. In contrast with Part 3, where the enemies were constantly coming and attacking, this time, the enemies could also be in waiting. And because Morioh is still unfinished, I can add a hospital, or maybe the mayor will show up. Maybe something will come up involving issues with the town's garbage management. Whatever it may be, there's still things to come.
I take names for characters in JoJo from foreign musicians because it makes naming characters—and remembering their names—easy. And that's the only reason. [laughs] If I try to make an original name, I second-guess myself and end up with no ideas. Even Kakyoin is named after a town in Sendai. Ever since Part 4 started, I've been coming up with Japanese names, and it's been pretty hard. For Josuke, I'd decided upon two kanji that can also be read as "JoJo," but I didn't know what to do for his family name. In Part 3, I knew what two kanji I wanted for the back-to-back "JoJo" in Jotaro Kujo's name [in Japanese order, his name is Kujo Jotaro], but when it came to deciding what would go around them, I just looked through a kanji dictionary and thought, "Oh, ku [空, sky], huh? That one's nice." For Nijimura, the dictionary came back out again. "I like niji [虹, rainbow]. Nijiki, Nijioka...no, Nijimura." I put together kanji that strike my fancy, while being mindful of how easy the name is to say.
But I'm out of ideas for any other JoJo names. If I end up doing Part 5, I'll probably have a lot of trouble coming up with the protagonist's name. [laughs]
My childhood was manga and movies from morning to night
I think I first started drawing by reproducing Sanpei Shirato's Watari and Tetsuya Chiba's Harris no Kaze. I must've been in kindergarten or first grade. That was a really long time ago. I'm talking about when Ultraman was on TV. Besides drawing copies of manga art, I think I was making stories too, like where the yojimbo fights evildoers. I liked samurai-era manga. I also liked Tiger Mask, Judo Icchokusen, Koya no Shonen Isamu, Kazuo Umezz's horror manga... I liked a lot of manga. I even read the first issue of Shonen Jump.
Among all the manga artists I read, Mitsuteru Yokoyama was particularly influential—Tetsujin 28, Babel II—I loved his manga. The manga writer Ikki Kajiwara was another major influence. I bought a novel of his and read it every night until it practically fell apart.
My childhood was normal, except I was the kind of kid who, when everyone else was excited about something, I'd be watching, just a little bit aloof. You know the kind. And so my interests were manga and movies. I had absolutely no interest in model building or radio-controlled toys. My favorite movie genre was the spaghetti western. Clint Eastwood's were great.
My dad liked him too—Eastwood.
I wrote in one of my author's notes that my parents don't understand my manga. And as far as I can tell, they still don't. But I aspire to be like Eastwood through my manga, so they really should be able to get it, because the spirit is the same. I think if they ever watched JoJo's anime adaptation, they'd probably enjoy it.
I also watched Godzilla movies, and I also enjoyed disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure. Movie tickets were expensive on my allowance, so I didn't go out to them all that often.
As for athletics, I did kendo. I couldn't do team sports. I tried youth baseball, but when you make an error or something, everyone looks at you. I didn't care for that. It's like, running by myself is fine, but a relay race isn't. If I lose in kendo, the responsibility is only to myself, so that's okay. I wasn't good at working in groups. [laughs]
I also liked magic tricks and slight of hand. I'd buy books and practice techniques. I liked card games too.
And then, it should come as no surprise that I loved foreign rock music. I started listening to bands from the late sixties and after, like Chicago, Yes, Led Zeppelin...I also liked Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan too. In the eighties, I listened to Prince, and I still do—including when I drew the cover of this book. I'm still crazy about him. Progressive rock has kind of an antiquities/Middle-Ages vibe that stirs up my creativity whenever I listen to it.
But when I was a kid, records were too expensive for me to buy, so I would tape songs off the radio. I didn't have a cassette recorder either. Instead, I had a huge reel-to-reel tape recorder I told my parents I needed for English practice, and I'd hold the microphone up to the radio. When I was recording music, I had to stay completely quiet. That's the kind of era it was.[laughs]
I almost never listened to music from Japan.
In high school, there were some days where even though I had school, I really wanted to go to the movie theater, or it would be the release date of the latest Jump magazine, and I couldn't contain myself. So over lunch break I'd leave and go to the bookstore or wherever [laughs].
I've always wanted to make manga, ever since I was a young child. But I kept my dream hidden. When an adult asks, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and you answer, "A manga artist," they always say, "Good for you," but even as a kid I picked up on the unsaid message: "That'll never happen." And so I never even told my parents that I wanted to be a manga artist. I never made any doujinshi, either.
Eventually, rather than just wanting to be a manga artist, I started feeling like, "I want to draw manga. I want to immerse myself in the pictures, the designs, and the world of a story." Then, as I was attending a design school, I made I think four books, including two Westerns and one science-fiction manga.
I submitted them for Shonen Jump's Tezuka Award. I also liked Shonen Magazine, but in the '80s, they went in the direction of romantic comedies, which I really hated, and that's why I went with Jump.
But then I never heard a word back from the editorial department. Out of a desire to figure out what had happened, I decided to go to Tokyo.
So I went into the Shueisha building with my manga in hand and met with an editor. But when he slid my manuscript out from its envelope, he glanced at the cover page and immediately said, "You forgot to white out this part. Even a grade schooler would have erased that."
He hadn't even looked past the cover yet. I was taken aback. [laughs] But from that experience, I realized that I had to put forth my absolute best effort. And so I rolled up my sleeves, reworked the story, and redrew the art from scratch. I think I took four months to finish about thirty pages. Every day, I came home from school and went to work on my manga. I brought it back to Shueisha, after a few tweaks, it received the runner-up Tezuka Award. This was Poker Under Arms.
From debut to the present
I was fortunate to have Poker Under Arms published in the Jump magazine. I graduated design school and stayed in my family home in Sendai and made manga. My works from that time include a Western called Outlaw Man and the sci-fi Say Hi to Virginia.
Then came my first serialized manga, Cool Shock B.T.. At that time, I was still living with my parents in Sendai. Express deliveries had just become available, and I could send photocopies of my rough outline and hold meetings with my editor over the phone. I was living the Rohan Kishibe life. [laughs]
But my editor at the time was a real tyrant. [laughs] I'd send my finished pages and he'd call me, saying, "I have corrections. Come to Tokyo tomorrow." So then I'd be sitting in some conference room at Shueisha making corrections through the night and thinking, "It would've been better for me just to bring this here in the first place." I was using ashtrays to rinse my brushes or hold my correction fluid. [laughs] And I'd sleep on the train ride home the next day.
That period of rigorous training was also my first time out in the world, and I truly believe I learned a great many things from my editor. I think he influenced me more as a manga artist than any other person. Editors are like tyrants, but they are also like gods. I mean, he was the one who decided that Dio would be in Egypt.
Next was Baoh: The Visitor. I came up with the concept when I was doing B.T., and when I told my editor the idea, he said, "We'll do a serial. Come to Tokyo." And so in summer 1984, I moved to Tokyo. "The Visitor" doesn't really have any special meaning—maybe just in the sense that he comes back and strikes. At the time, biotechnology was a popular topic I thought I could use in a manga. So the name "Baoh" comes from "bio." And stories about big muscle guys like Rambo were very popular, so I thought I needed to pursue a more muscular style.
I'm often told that the fighting moves had really long names, but I find longer names more exciting. They feel more novel, for one thing... As for how I chose them, I just looked in the dictionary and put together words that looked cool.
The idea for The Gorgeous Irene came to me suddenly during my pursuit of a more physical style. I used the name Irene simply because I thought it sounded adorable. There's not any particular meaning behind it.
The Gorgeous Irene was an experimental work; I wanted to try out drawing girls too. What I learned was that I can't. I don't know if it's because I don't understand how they feel, or what... I came out of it figuring that men draw men. That's one reason why JoJo doesn't have many female characters.
But lately, the times are changing, and girls are becoming more proactive, so I think that I might be able to draw them now.
And then finally came the beginning of JoJo. I had gotten a little bit of money from Baoh, enough to go on my very first overseas vacation to England for ten days. But I didn't know what kind of food to order aside from rice, and I really had trouble. Especially when I can't speak English...
But my experiences on that trip led to JoJo's Part 1. Incidentally, because I went under the pretext of doing research for my work, two years later I tried to write it off from my taxes as a business expense. The tax office told me that a vacation I went on two years prior couldn't count as a business expense, and they charged me the extra amount. I was sooo bitter! [laughs] But maybe I'll get in trouble for saying that here. [laughs]
The "ゴゴゴゴゴゴ" [gogogogogogo] sound effects are rhythm and mood—the tempo I feel as I'm drawing. Maybe I'll add a ドーン [doon] here and an eerie ゴゴゴゴ there. And isn't Dio's 無駄無駄無駄 [muda muda muda] great for really feeling like he's shouting? Sound effects can be similar to music in that regard.
As for my favorite JoJo character, I'd have to go with Josuke, I think. And Jotaro, and Dio. And then D'Arby and N'Doul—I like characters with their own aesthetics. My least favorite is Vanilla Ice. I decided to draw him as an unlikable person. And wouldn't you know it, as I was drawing him, I came to not like him.
I don't find either good or evil characters easier to draw than the other. Maybe they're two sides of the same coin... Good characters come with a lot of different restrictions, but while I'm drawing them, there's also part of them that makes me think, "This person kind of looks like they have a freaky side," and that's fun.
Both good and evil are easy to draw, and both are hard to draw, too... but if I had to pick I'd say that bad characters are more interesting. They have a kind of freedom; they can just destroy things if they want.
Jotaro's school uniform is from Babel II, which also has a protagonist who wears a school uniform and goes to the desert. I just think that's extremely cool—to go on an adventure dressed like that. There's a certain kind of romanticism there, and beauty. Even though in ordinary manga, I'm sure they'd take their uniforms off.
Nikola Tesla, which I wrote and supervised, came about because I was reading about the man and thought he was really incredible. A lot of books have come out about him now, but there were almost none at the time we did the project. I was stunned when I read about him. He was super eccentric, but also a genius, and I was immediately drawn to him as a character.
Now—and this isn't about Nikola Tesla—I'm drawn to the dark sides of people. I want to know what made them that way. I'm strongly taken in by people who commit crimes, while probably feeling casually about it, that end up being a huge incident.
Right now, JoJo is everything!
I'm also interested in fashion, and I read fashion books and catalogs from places like France and Italy to get ideas for my character's clothing and accessories. Flamboyant designers like Versace and Moschino make for great drawings. But there's one downside—when I keep drawing the same fashions for an extended time, I get tired of them. [laughs] It's the same as with real fashion—you don't keep wearing the same trends for two or three years straight.
Early on, I also referred to Japanese fashion magazines, but they're not the same. We're behind. A trend will start elsewhere, and then about a year later, everyone here imitates it and then it's the trend here.
My process of drawing manga begins with the rough draft. I write the script on notebook paper, and if I go over length, I'll make cuts or shift some to the next week's chapter. I usually finish the script within twelve hours. I have a meeting with my editor to go over the rough draft, and after that I do the panel layout and go on to drawing.
I work on one page at a time, from penciling to inking. I don't do the entire chapter's penciling at one go, because my five assistants work more efficiently if we take each page from start to finish. The panel layout almost never changes from the rough draft to the final pages, although sometimes I'll reword the dialogue.
I do the rough draft and the panel layout on Sunday. Then Monday, we work from eleven until usually midnight. We do take a proper break for about an hour-and-a-half starting at three. Tuesday and Wednesday are the same, and we'll finish the pages by around six on Thursday. Then, until midnight, I'll work out my ideas for the next week. Then I have Friday and Saturday to work on color illustrations, or research, or resting. I'm not very good at doing research. [laughs] Talking to people I don't know, that's a little... [laughs] Going to the zoo, even asking questions of the zookeepers, makes me so nervous.
When I'm working, I keep a rather strict pace, because if I take my time I'll never be done.
In the afternoon, I have to give my assistants lots of instructions, and as a consequence, my own work often comes to a stop. My most productive time of day is after they go home at eight.
Sometimes I'm better at coming up with ideas than other times. When I'm in that creative mode, I don't waste it, and I get out every idea I can. That makes things easier for me.
I've never had a prolonged slump, but there are times where I just don't want to do anything. But of course I can't not do my work. I suppose that happens to everyone right? Or maybe not.
I've always worked as hard as I could, so if you asked me what parts are difficult, I'd say all of it. [laughs]
Sometimes I'm asked if I'll ever continue Baoh or B.T., but to me, those stories have ended. I get letters, too, asking me to "bring out Polnareff" or "bring Kakyoin back to life." But Part 4 already has characters of the same type as them, so there wouldn't be much of a point to it. Joseph and Jotaro are only in Part 4 because they belong to the Joestar bloodline.
I don't have any kind of lingering attachment to or regret about my past work. You could say that's because I'm decisive, but it might be more that I'm forgetful. [laughs]
I think of my work as something close to a diary. Rather than set it aside or let it steep, I try as best I can to draw my art in a single take and move on, rather than to keep on amending it, or to set it aside and come back later, because I want to value my emotions in that moment.