It’s ten years to the week since I moved to the city where I currently live. I moved here to live with my then-girlfriend, after I’d been harassed by my old letting agency and needed to get away. During that relationship, I also joined the theatre group that my girlfriend was involved in, and met and befriended a great group of people.
Most of the group were students, with some recent graduates and one or two, like me, a little older. After the relationship ended and I moved to a new place, I kept up with the theatre group, but found that during the summer breaks when most of the students left town, I was kind of lonely. Over time, more of them graduated and stayed in the city for their new jobs, but for various reasons I started to see those friends less and less.
Then, four years ago, one of those friends reached out and said, ‘hey, everyone I know leaves town over the summer and I get bored – want to do something?’ They worked at the local student bar and had even less to do over the summers than I did, with my full-time day-job. The friend was also an anime fan, and they suggested that we get together to watch anime: we’d each pick a couple of shows we thought the other might like, and watch them together.
At first, it was tough trying to pick things we thought would suit each other’s tastes. I was very much into horror, sci-fi and (inexplicably) sports anime; they liked mecha and magical girls.
I had a basic Crunchyroll account at the time, and for some reason I remember the bizarre Crunchyroll ads more than I remember the first shows we watched. I do know that I picked out ‘No Game, No Life’ and ‘Dramatical Murder’ for my first recommendations. I think they picked ‘Durarara!’ first – absolutely not something I would have picked myself, but that was kind of the point of the whole thing. We took it in turns to host, and would bring snacks or get take-away. We weren’t really that bothered about newer stuff at the time, although sometimes we would look for older shows we wanted to try. It would be a while before I started getting into seasonal releases and actually caring about new releases.
They suggested ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’, having watched plenty of Let’s Play videos covering the games. I knew nothing about it beyond the memes – the posing, the menacing sound effect, the ‘Its me, Dio!’. But in the spirit of adventure, I agreed to give it a try.
It was the musical references that got me hooked. I wasn’t all that interested in the fighting at first, and the character designed was bizarrely ugly – everyone looked like their arms had been bolted on to their shoulders. Dio was amusing as an over-the-top villain but I didn’t find Jonathan an especially captivating hero.
Then we got to ‘Battle Tendencies’, and it was like flipping a switch. Joseph was fun to watch (largely due to Sugita Tomokazu’s performance), but more importantly, the Pillar Men were captivating. They looked like they’d stepped off the pages of a ‘Tom Of Finland’ book. At university, in an elective on representations of men in art and media, we’d discussed the differences between a male power-fantasy and a beefcake-fantasy meant to be sexualised. That, and the references to the ‘wedding ring’ used to poison Joseph, gave the whole thing this intense homoerotic vibe and I could never tell if it was intentional.
‘Stardust Crusaders’ gave me Hirokawa Daisuke and that cherry-eating scene. I think that’s the moment I stopped trying to understand the show and just let it happen. When I figured that the fights weren’t fights but battles of wits, as stand users tried to outdo each other like Vulcan chess-players rather than boxers, and that trying to keep up with what was happening was futile. Whatever weird crap stands could suddenly do, I just went with it. Weirder things have happened in anime, after all.
‘Diamond Is Unbreakable’ was an interesting change of pace, and of design. I love the colour pallet of that series – just like its ’90s setting, it reminds me of Memorex cassette tapes and the ‘Saved By The Bell’ opening credits. I also liked seeing stand users who weren’t actually using their stands for evil – Tonio in particular.
When ‘Golden Wind’ was announced, there was no question that we would add it to our watch list.
There have been moments in JJBA where I’ve laughed so much it hurts, and moments where I’ve actually been close to tears over the loss of a character. I love the boyband video-look of the ‘Stardust Crusaders’ opening and the melancholy I feel every time I hear ‘Last Train Home’.
JoJo’s feels more like an aesthetic, a mindset, an experience, than a plot. I’m really not that interested in what happens, and more interested in how it happens. And I love how much more flamboyant the character designs have become, as if the show is genuinely questioning concepts of masculinity at the same time that it’s punching people in the face.
I own JoJo’s merch. I wear JoJo’s T-shirts to work. I listen to the OPs on Spotify in my office and I finally understand the memes!
So thank you, anime friend, for introducing me to this incredibly bizarre adventure.
I like this new series very much, so expect it to continue for a while. Is there a show I’ve mentioned that you’d like to know how I got into? Let me know in the comments, and it may end up in a future ‘Why I Watched…’