Kodoku no Gurume (Gourmet)

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Here’s rather peculiar manga. It’s about a single man eating in different restaurants. There is practically no conflict. The only problem posed in each episode is “what should he eat?”  He eats by himself, and he just…eats and leaves. That’s how every episode is wrapped up.  This is the whole premise of manga series Kodoku no Gurume (roughly translated as “Solitary Gourmet” or “Lonely Gourmet”)

Sounds boring?  Yet this manga was turned into TV show, which began the season 3 this year. It was supposed to end with season 1 but it was too popular to stop there. How can a show devoted to seeing the same guy eating be this successful?

Although Kodoku no Gurume is in fiction format, it is more like reality show; the restaurants featured in the show are real locations with the actual food they serve.  So you can say that this series is a food based reality show without trying to look “realistic”.  This format enables the artist to convey his idea without forcing dramatic. The theme of this series is stated in the beginning of the tv show; to the busy individuals of this era, eating what he/she wants is the greatest reward one can give to oneself. For this theme, the protagonist, the lonely gourmet, eats alone without being hampered by promises or manners, whenever and wherever he wants. This comic is all about the ultimate pleasure you can get in the modern life, which is to feed yourself as you like. The manga and tv show attempt to deliver this sense of small yet great satisfaction which ordinary person can attain. Compare the pleasure of food to other pleasures such as relationship or social recognition; pleasure of food is instinctive and simple joy that does not accompany heartbreak, anxiety, or competition. The joy of food can be felt by anyone, so seeing a person enjoying his meal is easily the most sympathizing pleasure.  When you watch romantic movies, you may not be able to emulate the pleasure from the film, but the good food can be found as soon as you leave the theatre.

This series is unusual even in Japanese manga standard because it deviates from many “food manga” genre.  The majority of such food mangas focus on the cooks.  The cooks either compete against each other or they simply create drama with their food.  But in Kodoku no Gurume, the focus is solely on the customer who eats the food.  There is no dramatic tension leading to revelation or competition… it’s just one tired and hungry guy eating whatever hell he likes.  When he eats, he makes it clear that the food he eats is not always the masterpiece; he will make a comment about some aspects of food he does not like or something he does not understand.  One thing to notice here is that all these comments are his internal dialogue.  He does not make exaggerated exclamation about the beauty of food, he simply appreciates the food as he eats.

This series is about appreciation, not judgement.

I think this praise for the simple yet abundant pleasure is the reason behind the series’ popularity. This is one show you can watch without feeling tense or wincing at unpleasant or or description.  In a way it is a bit like pornography; it shows the act of pleasure and you are only getting the illusion of it. But Kodoku no Gurume series portrays the joy of food with sincerity and respect, without shock value or controversy. It is about appreciating the little joys in your life. Instead of finding happiness in far away land or outlandish romance, the series exhibits the small pleasures in daily life.

This is the show which can make you feel hungry after a dinner. So read at your own risk.

My favorite villain: Kira Yoshikage

Kira from "Deadman's Question"

Kira from “Deadman’s Question”

When my friend asked me about my favourite villain, my initial answer was Dio Brando, but later I was thinking about the question a bit more and decided Yoshikage Kira from JoJo part4 was more of my favourite

So the profile. Kira is basically a serial killer living in your neighbourhood; he works in a sales job, quiet, and gentle man. But he has an abnormal sexual desire towards woman’s hand so he occasionally murders women and keep their hands for awhile(it is indicated that Kira kills men as well). He covers up his track with his Stand, Killer Queen, which has a power to explode objects or people into pieces. He continued this life until he runs into Josuke Higashikata’s friend. Kira managed to kill Josuke’s friend but the friend sent the crucial evidence to Josuke before he died. After that, Josuke & co. starts chasing Kira to stop his killing spree.

Kira was an unusual villain in JoJo series. First of all, he had rather humble ambition – to live a peaceful life like a plant. In the comics, it is indicated that Kira intentionally became an underachiever to avoid attention and he does not socialize much. He has little interest towards other people, except when he has an urge to kill. Basically, his unusual libido is the only thing that keeps him away from the peaceful life he desires. If he did not kill, he would not have attracted Josuke’s attention and could have lived peaceful life.

Another unusual aspect of Kira is that he is “weak”. Kira, unlike many villains from the series, is merely a salesman, and he is overwhelmed by Josuke and his friends; Kira is overpowered by wounded Jotaro, and he could not fight Josuke face-to-face because Josuke’s Stand simply overpowered him. So Kira has to work hard and get stronger to defeat the good guys and he almost succeeds.

Irony of Kira is that his own mania denies the peaceful life he wants, and he has to work hard to achieve quiet, plant-like life.

At a glance, Kira does not look like a super villain compared to the other villains in the series. Dio and Kars wanted to rule the world, Diavolo was the kingpin of the mafia, Pucci was a nutshell priest who wanted to create heaven on earth, and Funny Valentine was a right wing politician who wanted to make USA strong. Compared to them, Kira’s desire looks…unepic. But Kira is still horrible individual regardless; he sacrifices innocent individuals for his own satisfaction and is willing to disturb the peace in the community for his own peace. Kira is a selfish man who disregards other people’s sentiment. He is a sort of evil we can find in our own lives when you think about it. There is always a man or woman who willingly sacrifices other people for his or her solace. They may not murder like Kira, but they make people’s life hell for their own pleasures.

But Kira is not just that. According to Araki’s note, Kira developed twisted desire due to the parental abuse. When Kira was disguised as another man to avoid Josuke’s friends, he seemingly developed caring feeling towards his victim-to-be. He was worried about her safety while he was fighting… a car in plant’s body(it’s kinda complex). Kira disregarded it, thinking he doesn’t want his victim killed before he kills her, but I think it shows that Kira could be capable of positive emotions but his mania prevents him from achieving what he really wants.

After Kira’s death, his spirit was cursed to walk in earth forever(Deadman’s Q). He remembers nothing except his name and the fact that he is forever denied from heaven. But here we see something interesting. As a ghost, Kira works as a ghost hitman but he does not show any lust towards women. In this short story, you don’t realize it is Kira because not only his looks were changed, but his personality seemed to change as well. No longer Kira lusts over women’s hands, he does not show contempt towards others for approaching him(it is obvious since he is a ghost). In a way, he is living a life of his dream – tranquil and quiet life like a plant, and he no longer has his old obsessions. His only discomfort is that he does not have a house of his own and he cannot possess a thing. So he is excited when he finds a ghost house full of books and objects he can carry around(but it doesn’t end well for him though he survives).  We become more sympathetic to this villain when he gets what he wants. We see he could have been an alright individual if it wasn’t for his flaw. That’s what makes Kira interesting villain.

Hirohiko Araki revealed that Kira was his second favourite character in JoJo series next to Josuke. Kira was used as an example of “praise for humanity” theme of the series; a man striving to do what he thinks to be important, regardless of good and evil. He may not be the most complex character, but the obvious contradiction in his character makes him one of the most interesting.

Thief series

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(image from wikipedia)

You are in the shadow.  You see the guard coming towards your direction.  He mumbles as he patrols the premise, and he is armed.  The guard comes very close and you can see his face clearly.  He turns in front of you, oblivious to your existence.  After all, you are the expert thief who mastered the art of stealth.  As the guard turns you grab his wallet and walks out from the shadow silently.  The idiotic guard does not realize that he is few hundred golds poorer now.  He does not even know who stole his wallet.  You move onto the next part of the building where more loots wait for you.

Thief series is THE classic in stealth game genre.  Not only it was the one of the critically acclaimed stealth game, it was the most influential.  Thief introduced the concept of light and darkness to the stealth which added more depth to the game play.  The guards cannot see you in the complete darkness so you can observe, attack, and sneak past behind safely.  The concept of light and darkness was passed onto The Splinter Cell, then to many other games like Dishonored or Mark of the Ninja.  Of course there are many dangers and obstacles lurking in dungeons or rich men’s mansions so you have to be careful while you are stealing.  The floor may cause loud noise as you walk, the brightly lit torch will give away your locations.  But you have many tools to help you overcome these obstacles.  You can shoot moss arrow to muffle the sound of your footsteps, or shoot water arrow to the torch to create shadows.  Even if you want to fight (which is not recommended since the game discourages direct confrontation.  Two or three strikes from even the common guards can cripple you in this game.  And the guards usually call for backups so it is pretty difficult to survive the direct confrontations unless you run away), the game gives you more advantage if you use more sneaky approach.  Nice blackjack on the unsuspecting guard’s head can knock him out for the rest of the mission, and you can steal without disturbance.

Thief: Dark Project initially started as fantasy RPG developed by Looking Glass; it was about Mordred fighting tyrannical King Arthur and stealing the Holy Grail.  But the game developers switched their direction to more sneaky type of game play.  The game was influenced by Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, according to the developers.  In the third installation of the series, you get to sneak into the secret organization’s library.  The development was difficult for the team.  First of all, there were not many stealth games around that time.  Castle Wolfenstein, the original of Caslte Wolfenstein 3D, involved the disguise mechanism to help you sneak around the Nazi soldiers, and Metal Gear made you sneak around the guards instead of fighting them out front.  But overall, stealth game was almost non-existent in late 90’s when Thief: Dark Project was being developed.  The developers were not certain whether their game would be fun.  It was the era of Quake and other adrenaline-rushing FPS games.  The idea of FPS where you are to avoid direct confrontation would be unpopular.

But the team gained hope as the time passed by.  Two games that involved stealth as the main gameplay mechanic, The Commandos, and Metal Gear Solid, proved to be extremely successful.  The success of these two games encouraged the developers to continue working on their game, and Thief: Dark Project was released.  It turned out to be the most commercially successful franchise from the Looking Glass.

Thief: Dark Project was unusual in many aspects.  As I have already stated, this game was all about avoiding the enemy while the most, no, all of the FPS games at the time rewarded you for killing every living thing in your path.  The game manual and the game itself tell you that violence is for the amateurs.  The game tells you that avoiding violence was professional in this game.  Playing this game required different kind of strategy from other FPS.  The main character, Garrett, is noticeably weak compared to other video game characters.  Yes, he does wield his sword alright but he cannot overpower his enemies.  Few hits from a lowly guard will kill him.  In addition to this, he was a criminal without many evidence of humanity.  He was trained by the mysterious organization called the Keepers, but decided to use their stealth skill for the life of crime.  When Garrett breaks into the heavily guarded prison to save a fellow criminal, he does it not for the friendship, but for the sex with the fellow criminal’s sister.  Garrett does not have any family, and he steals for himself.  He never distributes his loots to the poor population.  He steals from the riches, and gives to himself.  This was clearly no ordinary main character.  Yes, he does save the world in the end.  But Garrett does it for personal revenge and his own life.  Do not expect any act of sacrifice or courageous confrontation from this guy.  He solves every problem by tricks and robbery.  Garrett’s cynical voice worked well in the world where the nobles are corrupted, the gods are evil, and the religious are zealous.

The success of Thief: Dark Project ensured the sequel.  Thief 2: the Metal Age, considered to be the best in the series introduced more modernistic environments (now you have to bypass the security camera and patrolling steam punk robots), and complex game design.  Garrett had to sneak into the heavily guarded bank, police stations, or building in the middle of the City.  New obstacles offered challenges to the veterans of Dark Project, and the fans developed their fan missions filled with new challenges.  One of such fan expansions, titled Thief 2X: The shadow of Metal Age, was praised to be the great work by fans; it offered new story, new protagonist, as well as new equipments.  When Looking Glass studio was bankrupt, the series was sold to Ion Storm.  Ion Storm developed the sequel, Thief: Deadly Shadow, which was the first Thief game to be released in console as well.  Deadly Shadow was not taken well by the series’ hardcore fans, but regardless it was a quality stealth game (compared to many others).

I have known this game even before I played it.  The PC game magazines talked about Thief, praising its creativity and innovations.  When Thief series was made available on GOG.com, I bought them without second thought and I was blown away.  First person perspective did made stealth experience different.  Unlike many other stealth games in 3rd person perspective, your view is limited.  In Metal Gear or Tenchu, you can see the location of your character as well the enemies.  You can watch the enemies walking by as you hide behind the crates, and if the enemy approaches you can see him coming.  That is not the case in Thief.  Garrett’s view is limited to his own eyes and you cannot see what is around the corner.  You have to listen carefully to your environment to locate possible enemy patrolling nearby and this raises the tension in the gameplay.  Listening to the footsteps approaching while hiding in the shadow without any visual on the enemies can be frightening.  When the game introduces supernatural elements it becomes really good horror game as you sneak carefully while listening to the moans and groans of zombies lurking in the forgotten city.

The story was another appeal of Thief series.  Garrett does not care about justice or social equality.  The game manual states that Garrett wants to be left alone so he can steal in peace.  The manual also states that Garrett wants to steal enough to prepare for an early retirement.  Garrett steals for living, not for challenges.  In this aspect, he is a petty criminal.  But Garrett always finds himself in the middle of conspiracies because of his skill as a thief.  He wants to steal in peace but the world will not let him.  The way this selfish thief interacts with the supernaturals and conspiracy hooked me instantly.  There was a huge catharsis produced by the fact that horrific creatures are tricked and the world is saved by a thief who happened to be really good at his job.  That irony makes Thief very unique, even today.

Overall, Thief is a connoisseur’s game; it provides unique fun which is an antithesis to many games out there.  Its distinctive charm comes from being the opposite from many popular games, and playing it gives you singular experience.  This is the must-play game for stealth game fans.  Plus, it is the best way to bring out your inner thief without getting yourself busted.

Beauty of book covers – using The Colour of Magic as example

Don’t judge the book by its cover. That’s what many people say, but can you judge the cover itself? To me, the cover is inseparable part of the book. The cover is where you get the first impression of the book, and it is art by itself.

The cover was very important for me because I often read classics. You see different copies of the same novel , and the only thing different between them is the cover(or introductory essays. I used to read them for fun). In such cases, I usually pick up the one with more aesthetic cover. If I’m going to buy a book, I want the good looking one. But what is the good book cover anyway?

My personal criteria is that the book cover should reflect the content of the book, without spoiling everything. One Korean translation of “Tragedy of Y” by Ellery Queen had a cover that obviously told everyone who the killer was. In such cases, it is a horrible book cover no matter how beautiful the cover is.

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(image retrieved from http://www.youthedesigner.com/2010/03/19/86-beautiful-book-covers/   )

Or book cover should reflect the themes or certain impression the author conveys in his or her writing. Look at the cover for Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney – the cover simply shows the chain mailed figure in black background but 1. It catches your eyes, 2. It tells you that this book is about medieval subject, so I consider it to be an effective book cover since it is both aesthetic and relevant. It also gives you strange feeling too; the chain mail left in the dark gives me sense of relic abandoned in the shadow of time, and this somehow amplifies my emotion. So the good book cover can enhance your enjoyment.

Sometimes I look at the book covers and imagine about the books’ contents. Often the cover only depicts a scene from the story(common in many sf and fantasy books) or extremely distilled image of the book. I can use different versions of Discworld covers to provide the examples.

 

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(image retrieved from Discworld Wikia http://discworld.wikia.com/wiki/The_Colour_of_Magic  )

The old Discworld covers drawn by Josh Kirby depict the scenes from the novel. For example, the cover of “The Colour of Magic” shows the scene in the bar, which is an episode from the early part of the book. You can see the Luggage intruding and surprising the characters in the bar. Kirby’s art style captures the vitality and absurdity of Discworld so well that book cover becomes the part of experience. Kirby’s covers include so many details, and finding out about details becomes an additional fun.

Colour of magic black

 

(image retrieved from Discworld Emporium  http://www.discworldemporium.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=122   )

Some other book covers have more abstract aesthetic to them. Once again, I bring Discworld as an example- there are covers that feature important objects in story in dark background, and it gives different beauty to the book. Unlike Kirby’s unrestrained vitality, these “dark covers” are like shadows the story leaves after it is over. Take a look at the cover for the Colour of Magic. It shows you the pile of gold coins on a luggage. Without knowledge about the story, it may not make much sense. But after you read the whole story, you can look at the cover and know that those gold coins began the misadventures of Rincewind and Two Flower, then the covers become like a snapshot of your reading.  Since this is Discworld, you can say that you are remembering the future reading to come when you read into this cover.  This is complete opposite effect from Kirby’s art, yet both versions capture the essence of the story.  The difference is that Kirby’s art captures the moment/action of the story while the black cover exhibits the shadow of the story.

The book cover presents first impression to the readers.  But they can be more than just a cover; it can be a capture of significant moment in the book, or the shade of the reading to come.  Either way, beautiful book covers sure do make reading more interesting.

Stealth Game and non-lethal gameplay

Imagine this scene.

A character walks into a bar, then he starts to boast about his past exploits. “I’ve been in the field for more than 10 years,” the character sips his whiskey in front of youthful, eager faces waiting for the story. “I have never killed a man”. The youths are awed. Not a single kill in his career? He must be the master!

Such scene can only be seen in stealth games. While other action games characters may boast number of enemies they killed or beat up, the stealth game characters boast about all the enemies they chose not to hurt. It’s a complete opposite way of thinking.

Of course, stealth game can involve killing. Mark of the Ninja offers many creative ways to lethally remove the guards while remain hidden and I personally like such gameplay. It is a different type of empowerment; instead of competing in the same field as your opponents, you force them into your world and overpower them. But non-lethal way of playing has a significance in stealth game, because it is a sign of your skill.

Stealth game is basically a puzzle game, according to Extra Credits and other critics. The heavily guarded environments are puzzle problems and way to trespass the enemies is the solution you have to figure out. You need to observe the enemies’ behaviours and plan your movements.

This emphasis on problem solving is the reason why non-lethal is celebrated among the stealth gamers. If you kill the guards, it’s like you’re forcibly removing obstacles. It may be seen as a sign of ineptitude. Thief series emphasizes that violence is for the amateurs; the game will force you not to kill anyone on higher difficulty, and states that true thief does not kill. This perspective adds different significance to non-lethal gameplay; Avoidance of violence is not a sign of cowardice or inefficiency, but the sign of intelligence and skill. In this way, there is a very interesting reversal. Now non-lethal way is empowering(show off the skills) while killing is disempowerment(admitting your lack of skill to get through the problem).

Of course this does not apply to all the stealth games(remember, killing the guards in creative way can be a show off of your skills and creativity as well). But many stealth game uses that 0 kill stat as a sign of your competence. With different perspective, the same number means different thing.

But how many game genres celebrate non-lethal like stealth games? The most games actively promote killing as an acceptable(often the only) solution, and there are games that do not allow the gamers to kill in the first place. But stealth game? Yes, you can resort to violence if you want to, but it will mean that you’re not good enough. That’s the beauty of the stealth games – it shows that violence is not the only solution without being preachy and overly ethical. The developers of Mirror’s Edge tried to make a game that makes the gamers feel good for throwing away the guns. Not sure if that was successful because I still haven’t played it, but I think they will find stealth game to be the better medium for their idea. Stealth game gives you great satisfaction for avoiding violence. Unlike any other game genres, avoidance of confrontation is not the sign of cowardice, but of skill.

Sparing an enemy feels great in stealth game. Every single guard walking oblivious to your presence is the evidence of your skill. It makes pacifism stylish.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

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What is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure?

It’s hard to summarize jojo’s overall storyline. The title may give you some idea, that it is going to be quite bizarre story, but still too many questions remain.  Who the hell is JoJo, what is so bizarre about the story, and what kind of adventure is so bizarre?

The title of the work usually gives some idea about the work itself. Look at Dragonball – you know the work has something to do with this thing called Dragonball, and for Kinnikuman(muscle man in Japanese) you know it will be about this funny looking muscular guy.

Even a name like Naruto gives you some idea – it’s about guy named Naruto, and it must be something exotic because that name doesn’t sound European. Well, he looks white but that’s for another article

But JoJo?  What kind of image comes to your mind when you hear the name JoJo?  If this is The first time you’ve heard of JoJo’s bizarre adventure, I’m pretty sure you’re not thinking of 2m tall British gentleman fighting vampires using mysterious breathing technique. Of course you wont think it is about the half Japanese half British high school student who can instantly heal and fix people and physical objects, seeking out the local serial killer who can turn people into bombs. And you probably won’t think of Italian teenage gangster fighting the mafia kingpin to wipe out drug from the street. You won’t think of these scenarios when you hear the title “JoJo’s bizarre adventure”.

But of course, it is about them. And there are more I haven’t told you about.  That’s one bizarre series, and it’s been ongoing for more than 25 years.

Brief history(and random facts) of JoJo

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is written and drawn by Hirohiko Araki, a man who is also well known for his bizarre youth.  He wanted to draw a comic about vampire because vampires are dandy, and a monster with many rules. So he started out by creating the monster, named Dio Brando(Ronnie James “Dio” + Marlone “Brando”) who was inspired by his earlier character B.T, then decided that the story should be set in 19th century Britain because thats where vampire became popularized. After that, Araki came up with his opponent. The opponent to his monster was the young British gentleman named Jonathan Joestar a.k.a JoJo. So here’s JoJo, designed as an antagonist to Dio Brando, the true protagonist of the story(Araki commented that Dio was the de-facto protagonist of part1). The nickname was given because long foreign name would have been hard for the younger readers to memorize.

So the basic premise was made and the title was given; JoJo’s adventure wouldn’t give enough idea about what the work was about, so Araki added “bizarre” to the title, and added the additional title “Phantom Blood” to give the reader better idea about the story.  As the story progressed, Araki introduced the power called hamon(or “Ripple”), which was a psychic ability that produced sunlight like energy by breathing in certain rhythm. Rather bizarre technique, but JoJo fought vampires using this technique. Ripple was Araki’s attempt to visualize psychic energy. He was a big fan of psychic manga such as Babel II, which displayed psychic power as a form of electricity. Ripple, like vampires, had sets of rules(you will see that Araki is obsessed with rules).  First of all, you had to breath in certain rhythm otherwise you can’t produce Ripple energy. Ripple energy needed blood flow to send the energy to the owner’s body, so if the blood can’t circulate, you can’t use Ripple(Dio figured this out and fought JoJo by body freezing technique). Also, Ripple could be transferred through other objects but transfer through solid object was either temporary or ineffective.  Jonathan had to overcome these limitations to defeat Dio and he succeeds in flamboyant way.

And that was the part 1 for the epic now known as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Yes that was only the part 1. It occupies only 5 volumes among 100+ books in JoJo ongoing series and its style was drastically different. Actually, each part of JoJo has different protagonist and different styles. In the end of the part 1, Jonathan Joestar sacrifices himself to save his newly wed wife and unknown baby from Dio. So in part 2, 50 years after part 1, stars Jonathan’s grandson Joseph Joestar, who has very different personality and fighting styles from his grandfather. While Jonathan was a gentleman, Joseph was more of a rogue, and while Jonathan fought like a honourable knight, Joseph fought like a trickster. This change eventually helped to differentiate JoJo from other battle manga of the time, such as Hokuto no ken or Kinnikuman. The characters of JoJo did not fight with guts and muscles(they helped but you don’t win the fight with brawn in JoJo) but with their wits. Joseph’s signature trick was his string trick, which he used to lure his opponents into his trap.  This battle of the wits, along with “the stand”, aspect is what made JoJo series cult classic.

JoJo’s popularity boomed when the part 3 began. Araki planned to make his epic trilogy from the early stage, so you can say this part is the climax of the series, and to many readers it was. The protagonist of this part, Jotaro Kujo is the half Japanese grandson of Joseph Joestar, who must travel to Egypt to kill Dio in order to save his mother from the curse. Once again, we see very different type of protagonist; Jotaro is calm, always poker faced, and perfect. That was the motif for this character; The perfect mythological hero who can stand against the ultimate evil. By the way, Jotaro is heavily inspired by Clint Eastwood as well. Araki met Eastwood in person and gave the framed picture of Jotaro as a gift.

Part 3 introduced the new concept called “the Stand”, a form of life energy visualizes and materialized.  Each stand possessed distinctive looks and powers influenced by the personality of its owner; flamboyant man will possess the stand controlling fire, swordsman will possess the fencer stand. The editor of Shonen Jump thought Araki did all he could with the concept of Ripple(after all, part 2 featured the villain who was immune from Ripple so it would be natural to move onto different concept) and Araki had to come up with a new idea. The stand was a sort of improvising idea but then it became the signature feature of JoJo series.

The Stand was another concept full of rules. One stand per individual, one stand has one distinctive power, the most of stands could not be seen by non-stand users, stand and its user shares physical pain etc etc. there were plenty of stands that broke all these rules, but the fights in JoJo ever since the stand was introduced, became a sort of mystery stories where the good guys had to figure out the weakness of the bad guy’s stand. The stand expanded the possibility of villains in JoJo series, and now we see even more bizarre enemies.

Previous parts had bizarre enemies. One villain will cry to calm himself down at the moment of anger because his emotion was explosive. There was a vampire who bred snakes in his veins. But from part 3, the rogue gallery got even more weirder. A fog that can control people, a baby who could kill people in their dreams, a man who had two right hands, a gambler who can suck the soul out of you etc etc. some of them may not be the most original, but the way Araki described these characters were unique.

That’s another appeal of JoJo. It’s unique. You see the drawing style, the character designs, and postures, then you can recognize them as JoJo or something inspired by Araki. The characters of JoJo often stand and pose in rather bizarre ways(nowadays it is called JoJo posing), and that made this series very memorable and stylish in its own way.

The JoJo series continued after the part 3, after Jotaro killed Dio once and for all. The concept of the stand continued to evolve and part 4 showed this better than any part. But as the concept developed, the series became more complex and strange that it became even harder to attract the new readers. Eventually the series seemed to end in part 6, but part 7 soon followed, set in the new world. Part 8 is being serialized at the moment, and the new game called JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle is scheduled for release in summer 2013.

Bizarre art, bizarre sound

JoJo is well known for its strange and unique art style as I have mentioned above. The characters pose in renaissance art like style(Araki was heavily influenced by Italian art) and the frames are full of sound effects. The sound effects are another things that catch people’s eyes. Araki begins his rough draft by positioning the sound effects first, and they are definitely crucial parts of the art. The sound effects fill the screen to emphasize the intensity of the scene. Araki personally asked the Korean publishers to not modify the sound effects on the Korean translation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure because it was such a crucial part of the work.

The signature sound made by enemies works like a chorus in the song. In crucial moments, Dio would shout “wryyyy!”(pronounced ureyyy) to intensify the scene or make it more creepy.

Music has been big influence on JoJo. Many characters’ names came directly from songs or musicians. Jonathan’s mentor Baron Zeppeli’s name comes from Led Zeppelin, there are stands named “Black Sabbath”, “Notorious B.I.G”, “Stone Free” etc etc. no wonder Araki decides to express music in visual form. This incorporation of musical construction into visual art gives unforgettable impression to the readers.

What hooked me?

At first I was curious. There were so many JoJo parodies on Internet and I wanted to read the original source.

I think what really hooked me was its unique artwork and the way characters behave. So the bad guy has a hostage?  Punch through both the hostage and the bad guy but heal the hostage only. You have to fight the immortal monster?  Launch him into the space where he will be frozen and wander forever. JoJo does not pull punches and they solve problems in very interesting ways.

Plus the characters felt distinctive too. I still consider Joseph Joestar to be one of the most creative characters in Japanese manga, and it’s hard to predict what the characters will do next.

The best of all, this manga promotes humanism. The main theme of the series according to Araki is “the praise for humanity”. In his work, humans find strength in themselves and work hard to overcome the odds. So even villains can get spotlights and show growth. The gangster brothers in part 5 is a good example. The younger, wimpy gangster learns from the dead brother and becomes a formidable foe.  Seeing such drama even in villains is one of my favourite aspect in reading JoJo.

Should you read this?

I must admit that JoJo is a bit of acquired taste. At first it may look strange and plain bizarre, and not everyone finds it fascinating.  There was an official English translation  but it wasn’t too popular I believe because they only translated part 3.

But if you’re looking for something unique, I suggest you hunt it down and read it.  Its unique style is worth checking out and Araki’s recent art style is just gorgeous(his recent collaborations include the promotional manga for louvre museum, and promo for Gucci. Actually, all the Gucci stores showcased Araki’s art in their display for limited time early in 2013. You may have seen Araki’s art without realizing it).

Acquired taste, but worth trying.