Music Appreciation in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Anyone following me on Tumblr knows how much I love JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 JoJo no Kimyō na Bōken). I started watching the anime this year, and quickly fell in love. JoJo’s such a significant and interesting franchise. One of Shueisha’s longest running manga properties, it’s been in continuous publishing since 1987. It’s had various game adaptations and OVAs, and starting in 2012, it finally got a full anime adaptation treatment. It’s a best-selling property in Japan, and has had significant traction in Europe and other Asian countries, but had never really made it to North America until now. This is usually blamed on two things: America’s strict copyright protection, and JoJo’s, well, bizarreness.
The names of many characters of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure are references to famous bands and musicians, primarily in the West. The names of the main villains of the second arc of the series, for instance, are Santana (a reference to the famous guitarist), Wamuu (a reference to the pop duo WHAM!), Esidisi (a reference to the band ACDC), and Kars (a reference to the band The Cars). Japan has much looser laws in terms of parody, but such audacious character names does not fly in America. For the English broadcast of the anime, internet streaming site Crunchyroll changed the names of various characters in the subtitles to avoid copyright strikes.
While the copyright issues are the main reason the show didn’t make it over to North America, compounding that issue is the fact that JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is weird. The series has audacious character designs, strange powers, horror elements, and more to make it a unique mashup of genres. It can also be just plain weird.
JoJo is difficult to adapt not only for copyright reasons, but for its foreignness to Western audiences as well. I mention all this to illustrate how JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure reflects the media ecologies of Japan, and how the series contributes to them. I want to focus in particular on JoJo’s use of music, the primary reason for its difficulty in adaptation, and explore its powerful effect as a best-selling franchise in promoting music.
The anime adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has reflected mangaka Hirohiko Araki’s love of music. Each ending theme of each season is a significant song int he pop culture lexicon, and perfectly reflects what is happening in the story arc. Yes’ “Roundabout” serves as the ending theme to the firs tow story arcs, signifying the cyclical nature of the Jouster lineage in fight evil. The next story arc deals with a journey to Egypt, so the ending theme changes to The Bangles’ “Walk Like An Egyptian”. After they arrive in Egypt, the ending theme changes to the more melancholic “Last Train Home” by the Pat Metheny Group, representing the end of the journey, and that some comrades aren’t catching the last train home. Part 4’s ending these is “I Want You” by Savage Garden, a sumptuous song to perfectly reflect the personality of protagonist Josuke Higashikata.
When acquiring the soundtracks to the anime, I was surprised to find that singles collections of the Pat Metheny Group and Savage Garden, with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure artwork on their covers, are available in Japan.
What is happening here is that the anime is introducing audiences to fantastic songs they may have not known. When audiences want the songs themselves, because of their connection to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, singles and best of collections were (re)released in Japan with artwork from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Which is an upgrade in my opinion, in comparison to their previous artwork. This is just one example of the power of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s a fascinating series, and I look forward to being surprised and delighted more by it in the future.