How is it that Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has managed to captivate audiences for so long? It blatantly disregards what most would consider “proper writing”! Often times, characters conveniently ignore the cries of help from their friends just because “they’re screwing around” when not a couple of chapters or episodes earlier that very person rightfully turned paranoid over a table wobbling for a fraction of a second. Many times Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure even forgets its own established rules in order to pull a fresh development out of nowhere just for the sake of moving the plot along.
And yet, there’s just something to Jojo, isn’t there? Why is it that we are perfectly willing to accept Jojo making up things on the fly when we overly scrutinize every other manga and anime out there? Let’s take a look at what makes Jojo work!
-Spoilers For Parts 2, 4, and 5 Ahead-
Have you ever read a manga or watch an anime where someone says something like “Oh, I bet Kobayashi will be interested to hear about this…” or “Much like the incident at Port Minato…” without having any idea what they’re talking about? This is a common strategy implemented by manga authors to build up the intrigue. Since manga chapters are written monthly or even weekly, often times the workload is so much that artists don’t have a lot of time to plot things out and fly by the seat of their pants. Many times, they’ll throw in these details and when they’re quickly scrambling to figure out what to do with the story next, they’ll look through their old chapters searching for vague mentions like this and decide to expound on it.
However, Araki’s greatest strength as an author is to not get caught up in the details of his own story if it means it’ll sacrifice its tone. A great example of this is during Diamond is Unbreakable, where we find out early on that an unnamed individual saved him and his mother out in the middle of nowhere when Josuke was a kid. While it certainly would have been possible to have gone back to explore this plot point, the contrast between the illusion of the warm atmosphere of the town of Moriah and how that provides a shield for a monster like Kira to thrive is the tension that drives our investment in Diamond is Unbreakable. It’s not necessarily that Araki forgot about the intrigue set up by Josuke’s history, but that he couldn’t really figure out how to incorporate that into the Kira story without it being distracting to the themes of Diamond is Unbreakable. Instead of stressing out about it, he just didn’t care.
Timing Plot Beats
If you’ve been keeping up with the anime adaptation of Vento Aureo (or Golden Wind, as it’s been translated to), you’ve gotten to where villain Diavolo’s spirit has returned to his original body, thus beginning Diavolo’s downfall. What makes this entire scene work so well is that it’s timed exactly to the moment we finally have Diavolo in his perfect, “true” form, no longer hiding in anyone else’s body. Throughout the entire series, we have only known Diavolo through his stand ability, as he’s a man who understands his greatest strength comes from his complete anonymity. Even if plotwise it wouldn’t have mattered if Diavolo went back into hiding or not, it makes sense on an intuitive level for us as a reader/watcher. We’ve been terrified of him because we didn’t know who he could be or when he could strike next. Once we know who he is, the story has to show how he’s no longer someone to be feared and ties his immediate downfall to the instant he purposely throws away his winning strategy.
This also plays into our understanding of Giorno’s role in the story. Bruno has overshadowed Giorno so much as a presence in Part 5 that it’s actually an in-joke in the fandom to refer to him as the real main character. But here it pays off by directly addressing that expectation. Note the difference in tone to when Bruno threatens to switch everyone’s bodies vs when Giorno actually has it. When Bruno is in control of the situation, Diavolo pleads with him to reconsider “who is truly worthy”, acknowledging that Bruno is a threat to his rule. However, when Giorno has the Golden Arrow in his hands, there is no consideration that the vision Diavolo could have seen was Giorno’s success. Diavolo actually fears Bruno, but Giorno’s a newbie, so of course, the future Diavolo sees is of Giorno’s failure. Even if we don’t consciously recognize it, we understand on an intuitive level why Diavolo would underestimate Giorno and don’t question why he would throw everything away for this one shot at even greater power.
Throughout the course of Part 2, Battle Tendency, we watch Joseph grow up from being a righteously-hearted but somewhat cowardly street punk into a man who learns to value the people who have supported him all this time. However, none of this actually changes the fact that Joseph’s greatest strength is his ability to bluff through any situation. So, when Kars and him are launched into the air by a volcanic eruption, and Joseph’s dismembered arm also knocks into Kars, launching him into the stratosphere, Joseph calls out to him “Of course I planned this Kars! I plan everything!” During all this, Joseph thinks to himself how this was all a great stroke of luck and he’s only saying this to make him mad.
It’s this sort of consistency in the face of insanity that make Jojo’s characters so endearing. Even when death approaches, Joseph is still bluffing his way through his fight with Kars all the way to the very end in case this doesn’t work out. Jojo’s main draw is its creativity at the expense of logic, but we can buy into it easier when it feels consistent with the character’s personality.
Even if Jojo drops major plot points like Giorno being able to reflect attacks back at people and Jotaro being able to extend his fingers, there is a method to the madness. Sometimes, it’s just better for a writer to not get too wrapped up in things if it means they can’t write an interesting story.