It’s taken a couple of months, but we’ve finally gotten here, gang – we’re caught up to the modern incarnation of Jojo, Jojolion! Continuing on in the re-imagined universe started by Steel Ball Run, we’ll see how the weird can get even weirder as we encounter new versions of old friends, strange new powers in crazy tests of wits, and a key plot element that truly lives up to the word “bizarre!”
Jojolion (pronounced as a fusion of Jojo and the Greek “evangelion”) is a very strange arc, and one that we know very little about, even considering the fact that it’s been running virtually every month in Ultra Jump since May of 2011. The story takes place in an alternate version of Morioh, the Japanese town where Diamond Is Unbreakable took place. Strange earthquakes have been occurring, altering the features of the town and causing civil destruction. After one of these, a young woman named Yasuho Hirose stumbles on the naked body of a young man amid the rubble, and tries to help him out. The boy can’t remember who he is or how he got there, but upon being attacked by her schoolmate, Joshu Higashikata, two important features are revealed: a star-shaped birthmark on the naked man’s shoulder, and his strange ability to manifest bubbles that can take elements away from their victims.
From the very first chapter, it’s clear that Jojolion will be a different beast from any of the previous Jojo parts. This series is much, much less about combat, and focuses more on an air of mystery, even more than Part 4, from which it draws the most inspiration. The first of these mysteries, then, is to solve the new Jojo’s identity. When he’s taken to the Higashikata household, he’s christened “Josuke,” but it’s clear that’s not really who he is… right? And as we learn from a few chapters later, no, the rabbit hole goes much deeper: Josuke isn’t just Josuke. He’s actually a fusion of two people.
I know, right? I told you this one got weird! But, again, this is only the first big mystery of Jojolion, and there’s plenty more we’re still working through. So before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let me step back a touch and introduce our major players for this part, as best I can.
Josuke Higashikata, as mentioned, is our mysterious protagonist. He spends the early chapters trying to figure out who he is and how he became buried in the rubble with no memories. He’s taken in by the rich Higashikata family, but he’s not sure if he can trust them all. Yasuho seems to be his only real ally in the fight, as she’s shown no ulterior motives to discovering his past or hunting down those surrounding it. His Stand is Soft & Wet, a tall, metallic figure with the ability to create “soap bubbles” which, when they come into contact with an object, can take away a property from it, such as its friction, its vision, its ability to make sound, etc.
Yasuho Hirose is Josuke’s best friend and confidante. She’s an unflinching ally and does everything in her power to help him discover his true origins. While at first she’s wary of him, due to some early revelations from a previous residence, Yasuho sticks around as the pieces fall together and she sees that this new Josuke might have more to him than she thought. She shares the same family name as Koichi from Diamond Is Unbreakable, and their characters are pretty similar, as well: both being strong, positive partners who also occasionally take up the role of narrator. She has the Paisley Park Stand, which gives her some semblance of precognition, a type of super-GPS, and an inhuman skill with technology. It’s an incredibly potent and useful Stand, albeit severely lacking in combat applications.
Joshu Higashikata is… kind of a scumbag. Especially early on in Jojolion. When we first meet him, he’s chasing Yasuho because he thinks he can win her over, much to her chagrin. He’s greedy, jealous, short-tempered, bratty… He’s the worst things you think of when you imagine “the rich middle child.” However, as the story is progressing, we’ve seen Joshu start to step out into his own more. He hasn’t had a whole lot of limelight, but there’s some arguments to be made that maybe he’s just the wrong guy in the wrong place – I mean, Josuke did basically show up out of nowhere, immediately become best friend to the girl he likes, win the hearts and minds of his family straight away, and kick off this big adventure as leading man through the town. So you can kind of understand why Joshu gets pissy about him.
Joshu eventually reveals the Nut King Call Stand, which allows him to place nuts and screws onto a target, disassembling and reattaching the affected pieces at will. It’s a vicious and powerful Stand, and unlike previous impulsive sidekicks such as, say, Okuyasu, Joshu seems to know how to use it pretty well for his short time with it.
Norisuke Higashikata is the patriarch of the Higashikata family and owner of the Higashikata Fruit Company. He’s a loud and affable man who loves discovering new fruits and recipes almost as much as his children. At least, that’s how he wants to be seen. In reality, the laid-back Norisuke is just a front, as the food mogul hides a terrible secret – one he needs Josuke’s assistance and discretion in. As the goals of the two align and we learn more about Mr. Higashikata’s true intent, he becomes a powerful resource for Josuke’s quest.
Norisuke’s Stand is called King Nothing, which is a jester-like figure made up of many small puzzle pieces. It has the ability to track people by scent, taking on a jigsaw-esque version of the target as it moves along, somewhat reminiscent of Moody Blues from Vento Aureo. Like many other Jojolion Stands, it is virtually useless in a fight.
And so far, these are our major players. The rest have been villain-of-the-week style players or characters related to the family who sort of flit in and out, but haven’t yet had as major of an impact on the plot as these four. It’s clear others will become vital, but even at approximately the 75% mark of the story, we aren’t sure how that will happen.
So if Josuke’s identity isn’t the big driving force of the plot, then what is? Well, it’s the inception of how two people could fuse into one. You see, even though we’re still working in the Steel Ball Run universe and its rules (we don’t have Corpse Parts and Devil’s Palms, but the Wall Eyes that show up after the earthquakes seem to have something in common with the latter), nothing was ever hinted at in that series about body transfer, so that’s clearly new. No, that’s where Norisuke comes in. We learn that there’s an extremely rare fruit that’s been floating around the black market that causes an “equivalent exchange,” giving the imbiber one last high before draining their life, or some other trade. That plant is known as a Rokakaka.
It’s understood that the two people who became Josuke had stolen a bit of Rokakaka fruit and were intending to use it for healing purposes. Unfortunately, before they could bring it to their ward, they were tracked down by its original owners and, one of them on death’s door, the two consumed the fruit and fused together as the “exchange.”
The group chasing them? A mysterious new faction known as “Rock Humans,” supernatural beings who seem hyper-resilient, have intimate knowledge of the Rokakaka and its history, and, worst of all, are innate Stand users. Some of them are lucky enough to keep a normal human appearance, but others, like the pair most recently revealed in the July 2017 Ultra Jump… Not so much.
This is one of the highlights of the arc! Araki’s art has never been better, and he’s putting it to great use, creating amazing new Stands and crazy, almost Clive Barker-esque monsters. These creatures function as normal human beings, from the others we’ve encountered, with the same goals and motivations, but their anatomy is completely other-worldly. They hearken back to some of the designs he was trying to accomplish with the Pillar Men in Battle Tendency, but turned up to eleven!
On top of that, we have a weaving narrative that’s refusing to let go. Layer upon layer of intrigue, alliances that seem to duck and weave at a moment’s notice, and characters that are, for the most part, constantly engaging. Best of all? Araki seems to have taken some of the earlier criticisms of his stories being “punch-fests” to heart, as Jojolion has seen a marked decrease in actual combat. There’ve been chases, stag beetle fights, daring escapes, and more, but very few of the enemies have come down to “which one of us will land the fatal blow?” It’s a breath of fresh air for the series, in general.
It’s main negatives? Well… it’s hard to tell what’s the main thrust sometimes. We know that recovering the Rokakaka and defeating the Rock Humans’ plan is the big picture, but we don’t know what that plan entails. We’re also not really sure who’s in control with the Rock Humans, as the ones we thought would be major players keep getting picked off. The best guess, right now? This man:
Jobin Higashikata, eldest son and inheritor of the Higashikata Fruit Company. We don’t know why he’s working with the Rock Humans against his father. We don’t know what grudge he holds against Josuke. We barely know what his Stand, Speed King does! We got some reveals earlier this year that felt important, but they haven’t really been built upon in recent chapters, so it’s hard to say. We’ll have to see what happens, but keep your eye on this one.
So, yeah, that’s more or less my take on Jojolion. I’m really liking it, and I read every issue as it’s translated and released by the Jojo’s Colored Art Team, who do a fantastic job, so please go give them some love on their Facebook page (they also just re-colored and updated Vento Aureo this month, so hit that up, too)! It was definitely a little strange to write a “retrospective” of an arc that’s still being written, but I didn’t want to leave it out, either!
Thanks as always for reading, gang! Come back next week for something completely different in the world of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure!