JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Josuke Never Shines

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It took me the longest time to hunt it down, since I’ve never actually read the book, or seen the full movie, but I did find a reference to it on a website about languages: in The Name of the Rose, Salvatore is said to speak ‘all languages, and none’, pushing words from different languages into a disordered syntax that must be decoded by those familiar with him. The idea is fascinating in many ways, because if one knows anything about language, it’s that it cannot be policed or controlled in spite of the strictest observance of rules; perhaps a little chaos is central to linguistic communication, and by extension, in other systems. One such system, or rather work of art, where one learns to appreciate the baroque and the bizarre is Hirohiko Araki’s manga, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Araki’s manga, known in Japanese as JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken, certainly has much of the bizarre in it, with plot points including vampires, ghosts, turtles with TVs in them, a sentient sword, sentient plankton, dinosaurs, and so on. Perhaps the most bizarre of those, or at least the one where Araki jumped the figurative shark, is Part 4, titled Diamond is Unbreakable. Part 4 changed the formula before Stone Ocean did, because instead of a journey, you had a great deal of stasis – the setting was the small town of Morioh, and our JoJo, Higashikata Josuke, had one of the most promising Stands in the series. The possibilities, however, were lost, and instead we had dissipation – of plot, and of character. As much as we like Josuke, we’re not given much to like.



To cut to the chase – and I’ll take the liberty of repeatedly referring to the author as ‘Araki’ – Araki really learned how to handle protagonists with Part 5. In Part 1, we met our first JoJo; in Part 2, Joseph upstaged everyone with his brash and outspoken actions and words. Jotaro, despite being taciturn and sometimes receding into the background, was introduced with a voice-over, had several important fights, and finally amazed us by taking on Dio. Whenever anyone does anything in Part 5, they realise it’s because Giorno was there to guide them. Jolyne remained the prime focus of Part 6 throughout. But Josuke is just… kind of there. His introduction was perfect, as I’m only happy to admit (and I’ll repeat that I would have liked the rest to be as good, too). Everything was going well so far as Angelo, even if Jotaro was nerfed a little bit to put Josuke in the spotlight. As a matter of fact, that’s not a bad technique, especially since Jotaro has a strong Stand. The Reddo Hotto Chiri Peppa Arc started off well, with a good focus on Josuke while keeping the action balanced. Soon afterwards, however, Araki got distracted by the de facto protagonist of Part 4 – Hirose Koichi.

I have nothing against Koichi. He’s cool, really. What isn’t cool is that he got kidnapped, got a girlfriend, and went through three Stand evolutions while Josuke was out eating hot dogs with Okuyasu. The focus shifts so much to Koichi that Josuke doesn’t get enough of a character arc. Sure, he fights the tower guy here and Highway Star there, but who really killed the ho? Koichi. Who made friends with a celebrity mangaka and met a ghost? Koichi. Who was there to Three Freeze the enemy when being fast wasn’t enough? That’s right, Koichi. He would later go to Italy on an all-expenses paid trip while his loving girlfriend (fiancée?) waited at home, and all this time, Josuke was probably eating at Tonio’s with Okuyasu. Josuke even got time with Joseph, the greatest JoJo of their time, and all he got from that was a wallet.



To briefly refer to another manga, just as Ackermans in Shingeki no Kyojin have a moment where they can do anything, every JoJo has his moment, where he does something so glorious and unique that he goes down in history. For Jonathan, that just might be the moment he embraces Dio, setting the ‘tangled destiny’ in motion; for Joseph, it was when he flew a plane into a volcano; Jotaro wiped the floor with an overpowered vampire; Giorno gained an awesome power to fight the villain; and so on. Now, this topic has been visited by several YouTubers and other commenters before me, so I can’t lay claim to any originality on this point, but Araki significantly changed his mind on the climax of Diamond is Unbreakable, giving us both a hero and a villain that never really amounted to much. It is clear that the man who rescued Josuke when he had a fever must be JoJo himself – as one YouTuber points out, even the wounds are in the same places. Kira, therefore, was meant to have a somewhat different ability, and instead of dying on the pavement like a cockroach, could have had a unique Stand battle with Josuke, where Kira Queen’s ability could only be countered (somehow) by Crazy Diamond. The result? The title, ‘Crazy Diamond is Unbreakable’ would be justified, and the protagonist of Part 4 would, at least in the climax, come into his own.




The easiest way to fix Josuke’s character arc would be to give him an amazing power in the climax – or, even better, to find a way to use Crazy Diamond to fight Bites the Dust. All of the little moments through the series would have lined up, like iron filings near a magnet, if Josuke could have done more to fight Kira. In fact, Josuke did precious little to even look for Kira, despite having a Stand that could help in detective work. It might be a good artistic decision to set up a story where the camera doesn’t follow the hero all the time, and right off the bat Josuke is also cast as someone who doesn’t want to be in the limelight. But that only means we had a great hero/villain pairing, because both people wanted a quiet life and got dragged into extraordinary circumstances. Instead of a clash of wills and Stands, Josuke sort of hid from Kira while Koichi came to the rescue. The fact is that Hayato did much, much more in fighting Kira than Josuke did.



The other gripe I have with Josuke is the inevitable comparison with Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho. From the very beginning in that story, we knew that Yusuke was the protagonist and saw his definite personality; his relationship with Kuwabara, with its friendship and rivalry, is well crafted. But like many things in JoJo, everything about Josuke and Okuyasu drifts over our senses like a surreal dream: we accept their bond and their teamwork like the yellow sky and Shigechi’s lack of a neck. Pushing Koichi to the background in favor of spending more time with Josuke, his friendship, and his interests would have gone a long way towards closing the gap left in the narrative. The brief glimpse we get of his childhood memory, which is his reason for his haircut, was good, but we needed more plot to flesh it out, like wet hair being blow-dried for volume.

Thankfully, we still get just enough of Josuke to be able to write all the doujinshi and draw all the fanart we could want. Maybe there is such a thing as too much characterization – like extra body parts. But Josuke remains Araki’s great failure – much larger than retcons and mistakes, because it was within his power to give us the hero we needed, even within his strange, bizarre narrative framework. As we bid goodbye to Morioh, it’s hard not to wish we had more JoJo.


Sucheto Nath

Sucheto is a literature student with a great writing ability and a love for original (salty) content creation on Facebook. His work is literary and in-depth, and will make anyone totally absorbed in the topic he's discussing. He blogs at The Whisperer in Kolkata, and loves writing in general.