September 22, 2023
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Hirohiko Araki
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The artistic evolution of JoJo’s author Hirohiko Araki

Hirohiko Araki is one of the most influential manga authors of the last thirty years or so. His legendary series, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, has been one of the most influential works of the industry, paving the way for a lot of different concepts that have become staples of the medium these days. And his combination of brilliant storytelling, dynamic artwork and creativity is something that remains relevant even today.

Having said all that, a fascinating aspect of Araki is his constant evolution as an artist. A lot of legendary mangakas always maintained a strong foundation and their art remained pretty much the same throughout their careers. In the case of Araki, he always strived to improve and developed his own style, which is something that can be easily compared between parts in JoJo’s.

So, how did Araki grow as an artist? Well, we first have to go back to the very beginning of the series with the first part, Phantom Blood, and see how our protagonist started his journey to manga stardom.

JoJos and Kenshiros

Phantom Blood is rough around the edges in terms of storytelling, but it is a very enjoyable story, a classic good vs. evil tale between our hero, Jonathan Joestar, and his evil adopted brother, Dio Brando. However, it is even more interesting to analyze the early days of Araki as an artist during the creation of Phantom Blood as it shows a very direct connection with one of the most important manga at the time, Fist of the North Star.

You only need to have a look at Kenshiro to see how much he inspired the character of Jonathan from a physical perspective. Fist of the North Star was one of the most successful manga series in the 80s and in 1987, when Phantom Blood first started publishing, you can tell that Araki was a fan, to the point that a lot of people thought early JoJo’s was a Fist of the North Star copy.

It’s not only the similarities in design, but also in terms of the art style. Both Araki and Tetsuo Hara use a lot of dark shadows and their characters are very muscular with big, imposing frames, with a lot of close-ups thrown for good measure. A good example of that can be seen in the following comparison, which shows panels from both Phantom Blood and the third part of JoJo’s, Stardust Crusaders, contrasted with Hara’s art in Fist of the North Star.

The element of Fist of the North Star was very prevalent in terms of aesthetics and storytelling in the first two parts of JoJo’s, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, while some paneling remaining in Stardust Crusaders. This is very telling even in characters such as Battle Tendency’s Lisa Lisa, who holds a striking resemblance to Kenshiro’s love interest, Yuria, in the manga.

Battle Tendency’s Lisa Lisa
Fist of the North Star

This is not to say that Araki is the only to have taken something from Hara’s art in Fist of the North Star. As mentioned earlier, this was one of the most important manga series of the 1980s and there were some elements that influenced a lot of artists, including Araki himself and the author of Berserk, the legend Kentaro Miura.

In fact, here you can see panels of both Berserk and JoJo’s that took direct inspiration from Fist of the North Star:

Fist of the North Star/ Berserk/ JoJo’s

Even geniuses like Araki and Miura had to start somewhere and it is fascinating how their early stages were so clearly influenced by Tetsuo Hara’s artistic magnum opus.

The power of poses

From a visual perspective, the element of posing in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the defining traits that the series. Araki has intentionally used posing for decades to give his characters an air of glamour and flamboyance that is a far cry from what we usually see in shonen manga. This is something very important to highlight in his evolution because it would spur him to improve and grow as the years went by.

In an interview he did a while back, Araki had this to say regarding posing in JoJo’s:

Manga drawings are boring if the characters are just standing still, but if you twist the character’s waist a bit, you can create an extraordinary fantasy feeling. It is a fantasy within the reality that exists in the story, and that is a good manga-like feeling. I thought Italian art would be a great reference for the posing, so I decided to try to draw around that. Especially in Part 5, Golden Wind, which is set in Italy, I think I consciously developed the posing. But, I was surprised to see so many people imitating the JoJo pose, even though I originally came up with a pose that people could not do. As the author, this was totally unexpected.”

【Interview】Hirohiko Araki Jojo ‘s conception that lasted 25 years.

In that regard, while Araki has rarely ever given public credit to specific artists that influenced his work, in terms of posing, we have to mention legendary fashion illustrator Tony Viramontes. The work of Viramontes was a very influence in the way that Araki would draw his characters and you only have to contrast and compare to see the resemblance:

Another example of this can be seen in the design of the main villain of Battle Tendency, Kars, and how his first look is almost a direct result of a Tony Viramontes piece:

Hirohiko Araki

From a personal perspective, this is one of the reasons that I find Araki’s from the first three parts of JoJo’s so interesting and fascinating: he manages to take a lot of inspiration from stuff you wouldn’t associate with a battle manga and combine it with the hulky, muscular physique of 80s action heroes, thus giving his series a very unique feel in terms of attitude and display.

It could be argued that the third part, Stardust Crusaders, is where Araki peaked with this style and then decided to move to something else.

Josuke and change

The fourth part of JoJo’s, Diamond is Unbreakable, is widely regarded for the most prominent transitional period in Araki’s career and the image above of the protagonist, Josuke Higashikata, is a very good example of said transition–the first panel is how Josuke looked at the beginning of the story and the second is how he looked at the end. There was no story event that led to that change–it was simply Araki’s change as an artist.

It was during this storyline that Araki slowly stopped drawing muscular characters and went for a slimmer, subtler style. Speaking for VOGUE magazine in 2022, he had this to say about the aforementioned change in his character designs:

I think it’s because of how the times have changed. In the ’80s, main characters were drawn as the embodiment of adventure, with muscular bodies and strong features. However, when I came up with the concept of “inner power” in the ’90s, the bodies of the main characters started becoming more normal-sized (around 5’7″ to 5’9″).”

VOGUE+: An Interview with Hirohiko Araki in China

Other than fashion and manga, Araki also took a lot of inspiration from music. Several characters, locations and abilities are named after musicians and songs of his liking. In the case of Josuke, he took a lot of inspiration from one of his favorite artists, Prince. In fact, if you check Josuke’s character bio in one of the first volumes of the Diamond is Unbreakable manga, it says that one of his hobbies is listening to Prince album, so there you go.

Josuke was a very important character in Araki’s career because it allowed him to develop his own style when it comes to creating and designing, which is something that he would only go from strength to strength afterwards. Another example of taking inspiration from musicians is shown in this part’s antagonist, Yoshikage Kira, and how he is obviously influenced by David Bowie. I mean, look:

I mean, that’s Bowie as an anime character.

Hirohiko Araki ’s loves: Italy and fashion

Anyway, by the time we get to the fifth part, Golden Wind, Araki already had a very clear artistic style and it is at full display here. Long gone are the Fist of the North Star-inspired muscle men and now we have more slender character designs that are heavily inspired by fashion, as you can see in the picture above with Leone Abacchio’s design being a borderline tribute to the Gucci attire.

I consider Golden Wind one of Araki’s finest artistic works and he takes a lot from fashion during this period of his career. The main character, Giorno Giovanna, much like Josuke before him, has some elements taken from Prince for his design, but it is even more interesting to see how some of his most iconic panels are inspired by Versace models and their posing:

Vento Aureo /Lynn Koester by Richard Avedon for Versace

And while it has never been stated or confirmed, I genuinely believe that the design of Bruno Bucciarati is heavily inspired by legendary Queen vocalist, Freddie Mercury, when he had long hair in the 70s:

Hirohiko Araki – Bruno Bucciarati
Fin Costello/Redferns

If you ever wonder why Araki decided to go for more and more extravagant designs as the series went along, particularly finding its peak with Golden Wind and the next part, Stone Ocean, he had this to say in a 2017 interview:

When I create characters’ outfits, I am conscious of two elements: ‘daily life’ and ‘fantasy’. I envision everyday fashion alongside strange, cartoonish, bizarre clothing that would be impractical in real life.”

Interview: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Creator Hirohiko Araki

Hirohiko Araki ‘s peak: Steel Ball Run

Hirohiko Araki-Steel Ball Run

By the time that Araki started a whole new universe with the seventh part of JoJo’s, Steel Ball Run, in the mid-2000s, widely regarded as his creative magnum opus, something happened: he want from drawing manga from a weekly schedule to a monthly one. This would prove to be monumental for him as an artist.

It is no secret that a weekly schedule puts a huge toll on an artist to constantly deliver the goods and this can make the creator to not do his best in order to fulfill his deadline. And while Araki has stated in his book, Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga, that he has never phoned it in with his artwork (and his body of work strongly suggests that he is being honest with that statement), there is no argument that having a whole month to draw a chapter is a lot better than having one week.

So, you could argue that his evolution as an artist during the Steel Ball Run years, his last major evolution as an artist, as of this writing, came not necessarily from outside influences or inspirations, but rather simply having more time to add details and give a grander feel to each page. This is one of the many reasons that Steel Ball Run is considered one of the finest manga stories of all time.

Hirohiko Araki-Steel Ball Run

Hirohiko Araki has come a long way from his early days with Phantom Blood to what he is done now with the newest JoJo part, the ninth installment known as JOJOlands. He has matured a lot as an artist, gaining his own style and sensibilities, giving his artwork a feel and texture that perhaps he didn’t have before.

Constant changing has been a running theme in JoJo’s and you can see it all over Araki’s pages.

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