I’ve started reading a Japanese comic series called ジョジョの奇妙な冒険, titled Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in English. It’s a pretty awesome series, and has been going for nearly 20 years. It is separated into 7 parts, the 7th of which is still continuing now. The artwork is great, as is the characterisation and story.
**SEVERE SPOILERS FOLLOW**
Way back in the 1880’s in England, a greasy old man is dying. He tells his son, Dio, a story about how he once came across a chariot which had crashed off a cliff in the rain. Greedy to try and rob the corpses, he approached, only to find a single survivor. The survivor mistook the thief’s presence as altruistic, and thanked the man for coming to his rescue, promising to offer him a hefty reward in return. The survivor was the head of the Joestar family, and now that the thief is dying, he tells his son to go to the Joestars’ and cash in a favour.
Dio arrives at the Joestars’ manor, meeting the son of the manor of a similar age, Jonathan Joestar (referred to by his friends as “Jojo”). Jojo is gentlemanly and welcoming, and in return Dio instantly assaults his dog. Dio decides that rather than try to simply live in the manor, he will drive Jojo mad, kill the father, and inherit the entire estate himself.
Many years pass, during which time Dio constantly does things to drive Jojo mad, such as making him look bad in front of his father, stealing a kiss from his sweetheart, putting his dog in the incinerator, and turning into a vampire. Vampire Dio then kills Jojo’s father, along with half the local constabulary in a fight which culminates in the entire estate being razed to the ground, Dio impaled in the middle of it, burning alive.
But not dying. Before the days of flimsy Twilight vampires who ran around spewing roses and apples and vegetarianism, vampires like Dio did what vampires should – ripping out throats and seducing maidens. Then ripping out their throats. He also amasses an undead army (including Jack the Ripper) by the time Jojo has finished training with Tibetan monks to learn how to project waves of energy with a frequency similar to that of sunlight, in order to do battle.
Battle is done, between the monks (with names like Dire and Straits) and the undead, and Jojo and Dio face off atop a mountaintop castle. Jojo finally manages to project the sunlight wave into Dio’s body, causing it to crumble. However, before his entire body is vapourised, Dio cuts off his own head and falls into a chasm.
Jojo and his sweetheart get married. They go on a cruise. However, also on board is the sneaky Chinese man who recovered Dio’s head and snuck it on board. While Jojo’s back is turned, his fellow passengers are turned into zombies and Dio’s head attacks him in the only way a head can – with autonomous hair and laser-beam eyes. Jojo’s final act is to blow up the entire ship, leaving Dio’s head with nowhere to escape from the sunlight. His wife escapes on floating debris, the sole survivor, gazing at the rising sun.
Thus ends Part I.
Part II opens further down the timeline, in the 1930’s, with Jonathan’s American grandson Joseph Joestar (Jojo). Jojo is attacked by the monk Straights, whose aging has made him seek the stone mask which gave Dio his vampiric powers, in order to prevent his own aging. Jojo wins, and hears of an excavation team in Mexico which has uncovered a giant man in a pillar, surrounded by stone masks! Knowing of the power of the masks, the team wants to destroy this pillar and its masks. However, before they can do so, the evil Nazis take over, led by a man called Strauheim, and attempt to being the man to life! They do so, the man is reborn, named Santana, then kills the entire Nazi research team. Jojo arrives in time to do battle, along with the sunlight “ripple”, and he and Strauheim join forces to finally defeat Santana.
However, Strauheim tells Jojo a secret – there are three other stone men that have been found in Rome! Jojo travels there, and joins forces with Zeppeli, a descendant of the man who taught Jonathan the ripple, to try and defeat the three new awakened supermen – Wham, Cars, and ACDC – the creators of the stone mask. They are beaten. However, Jojo manages to talk his way out of a simple death, and the men leave him – two of them first inserting rings into his body, designed to rupture and leak poison into his blood in a month if he doesn’t defeat them.
Jojo and Zeppeli run off to train under Zeppeli’s master, Lisa Lisa. It turns out that Lisa Lisa is in possession of the sacred Red Stone which, if coupled with the stone mask, would make the supermen truly invincible, removing their weakness to sunlight. ACDC discovers this, and comes to get it before the month is out, being beaten by Zeppeli and Jojo and their new-found powers.
The trio then decide to head out to defeat the remaining two supermen. They track them to Switzerland where Zeppeli manages to retrieve one ring of antidote to Jojo’s poison, dying in the process. Jojo then faces off against Wham in a bloody chariot fight. After defeating Wham, Jojo turns his attention to Cars, who is the strongest of the three. With Strauheim’s help, Jojo is able to all but defeat Cars. However, after stealing the Red Stone from Lisa Lisa (who is revealed to be Jojo’s mother), he becomes the ultimate, immortal lifeform!
Jojo climbs into an airplane, but Cars catches up with him with his new wings and an aerial fight begins, resulting in Jojo flying the airplane itself into Cars, and driving him into an active volcano. Cars, however, survives the lava, and climbs back out, ready to deal a final blow to the heavily injured Jojo, when the volcano, triggered by an exploding airplane, erupts, sending Cars off into space, where he is frozen solid, unable to move, drifting through space, and never seen again.
Part III (the most popular part) brings us further ahead in time to the 1980’s, and Joseph Joestar’s Japanese grandson, Kujo Jotaro (Jojo). He has discovered he is possessed by a spirit, and has turned himself into the police in order to refrain from hurting everyone around him. His grandfather (Joestar) turns up with an Egyptian friend, Abdul, the two of them whom are also possessed by these spirits. They explain to Jojo that these spirits have appeared recently, seemingly as a result of the fact that Dio is back! After the explosion on the boat one hundred years ago, Dio’s head removed Jonathan Joestar’s head, and attached itself to Jonathan Joestar’s body before shutting itself in a box and waiting on the ocean floor. There Dio (with new body) waited until he was fished up by Egyptian fishermen. Now Dio is in hiding in Cairo, regaining his strength, and for some never-really-fully-explained reason, this has resulted in the fighting people of certain people manifesting themselves into manoeuvrable “Stands”.
One of the such affected people is Jojo’s own mother – Joseph Joestar’s daughter – and, being a woman, is obviously unable to handle the stress. She is bedridden, and likely to die in about fifty days unless Dio is finished once and for all, and the Stands extinguished. Jojo and his gang then start a trip across Asia from Japan to Egypt, in order to finish off Dio for good. However, Dio is aware of the impending threat, and until he has fully recovered, he is recruiting other “Stand” users, and sending them out to dispatch our heroes before they reach their destination. The story is well written, great fun, and the characters very likeable. Many of the characters’ names come from musical references too, which is always fun.
The gang of heroes increases in number to 6 by the time they reach Cairo. They infiltrate the abandoned mansion which Dio has made his hideout (killing the guards, Pet Shop and Kenny G), and go up against Dio’s personal bodyguard: Vanilla Ice, with his Stand “Cream” – which musically has nothing to do with Vanilla Ice, but does give us the nice combo of Vanilla Ice Cream. A fierce battle ensues, in which two of our loved heroes are killed.
The remaining four come to Dio’s private room for the final showdown. The Joestars want to avenge their ancestor, and finish this demon once and for all. Dio himself realises that the only way for him to fully adjust to his new body would be to absorb more fresh Joestar blood. However, Dio’s powers stump them all. He seems to be able to twist space and time to his own desire. Realising this, realising that they can’t win, and realising that night is fast approaching, our heroes make a desperate dash for it. They bolt from the tower and run as fast as they can, before the sun sinks below the horizon, and the vampire Dio emerges to hunt them down.
** END SPOILERS**
This is where Volume 16 of the newly-packaged 17-volume series ends, leaving one volume for the final, highly-anticipated showdown. Boy, was I excited. I had been foraging through the second-hand bookstores for a couple of months leading up to this, but the Jojo books moved pretty fast, and Volume 17 never made an appearance. After finishing 16, I had to give in and head to the first-hand stores. However, a quick round of every bookstore in Kyoto revealed that it was not in any store. In fact, none of the books of Part 3 were in any store. There was a big 8-17 gap in every selection. Why was this?
A little research produced the answer – in 1993, a short animated series was produced, covering only the second half of Part 3. Why on earth they decided to only animate one section – let alone only half of it – is beyond me, but that’s what they did. At one point in the story, Dio is in his mansion library, instructing one of his assassins. While talking, he is idly flipping through a book he pulls off a shelf. In the comic, this book is generic “book” – it has a blank cover, and the text inside consists of straight lines. However, in the animation, the animators decided to add more detail, and probably as a result of pulling the first “Arabic-looking text” image off Google (this is set in Egypt), ended up placing text from the Holy Quar’an in this book.
Now, this was a mistake. Obviously people are going to be upset, if the ultimate incarnation of evil is shown to be reading the Quar’an. Predictably, Muslims watching illegally translated and downloaded pirated copies of the show saw this scene, and flew into a frenzy, claiming that the animation studio, and quite possibly all of Japan, were clearly indicating that anyone who reads the Quar’an is evil, and that all Muslims are terrorists. Producing such propaganda shows that the Japanese are enemies of Islam, and as such are going to have to get a bit of jihad to prove to them just how reasonable Muslims really are, in that weird sort of counter-intuitive reasoning that the extremists have become so famous for.
The Japanese company issued an apology, an explanation, and halted production of the animation a year ago. That’s a shame, but considering the volatile situation, I can see why they’d do it. However, that should be enough. Even if the text was intended to be the Quar’an, and it was intended to imply that Dio was reading it to gain evil inspiration, then how on Earth that is supposed to extend to “all Muslims are evil” is a mystery. For starters, Dio isn’t a Muslim. He’s not Arab. He’s not even human. He’s an English vampire. I already have trouble finding that to be representative of the average Muslim. And then even if that were the average Muslim, I can’t see how it implies any more than simply “one Muslim is evil”.
How many religiously motivated villains have we seen in our time? Most prominently, although not exclusively, Christians. There are countless stories and movies where the main villain walks around brandishing a Bible, quoting Bible passages as he commits unspeakable acts, and justifying his actions as coming from the word of God. It’s entertainment. I can understand that in a strict Muslim country, works depicting such things would be cancelled, but to attack publishers internationally for it is, quite simply, babyish.
But, OK. The animation got cancelled. Fine. What about my books? The book in question is unreadable and unrecognisable in the comics. Why can’t I find it? A little further delving resulted in the finding that all comics of the entire Part 3 storyline were also discontinued. Why? Because apparently, in the backgrounds of some of the fight scenes, set in Egypt, there are buildings which look like they could possibly be mosques. This is of course, incredibly offensive and insulting. There are no fights, there is no violence, in any Arab country, especially not those with mosques in them. Those images you see on the news every damn day, clearly they are fabrications of the devil, and all countries spreading them are enemies of Islam, and deserve to be bombed to Hell. Or Jahannam.
What about the little guy, me, who just wants to finish reading the exciting story which he has already read 250 chapters of? Too bad? Well, luckily, there is a “revised” edition scheduled to come out in February, minus any offensive material. Pros: people get to read the (possibly altered) story. Cons: artistic integrity is not worth a damn thing.
This is what happens when you get the world’s biggest bully going up against the world’s biggest nerd. The world never evolves past the schoolyard.