Celebrating The Art and Fashion of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

by Mary Lee Sauder,

Manga authors all have their own art styles, but there are few as distinctive and iconic as Hirohiko Araki's illustrations for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Over the course of his nearly 40 years as a manga artist, Araki has created some of the most recognizable characters, poses, and scenes in the history of the medium – in fact, so many other series pay homage to him that spotting JoJo references is practically a sport at this point.

But where did Araki's wild designs come from? How did he get the idea for Jonathan's dramatic hand pose, part 5's avant-garde outfits, or all of those stylish chapter covers? ...From museums and fashion magazines, of course! Today, we're here to shed some light on how classical art and fashion illustrations inspired the unique look of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and how JoJo's cultural impact eventually led to collaborations with the likes of Gucci and the Louvre. Strike your favorite pose and join us!

Colorful Concoctions with Gauguin

Ever since he was a child, Araki has admired the color choices of French painter Paul Gauguin. The artist would often disregard reality in favor of using colors that he thought looked good together, such as soft pink grass to contrast dark horses, and would distort perspective and human proportions to evoke certain emotions in the viewer. Araki adopted this cavalier view of reality for his own work, bending the rules of perspective for dramatic effect and bathing his color illustrations in wild hues that have left fans forever stumped as to which color scheme is supposed to be canon for each character.

The anime adaptation by David Productions translates this to animation by employing “color shifts” in the opening songs and during dramatic moments of the story. Joseph's default look in part 2 is brown hair with somewhat muted clothing, but in the opening, he's decked out in fantabulous purple to match Araki's portrayal of him on the cover of volume 11. And when Kakyoin finally gains the upper hand against Death 13, he shifts to a chic black and white look that punctuates his victory. On a subtler note, the town of Morioh looks so surreal because of its yellow skies and purple hills, a common choice for volume covers in that era of JoJo illustrations. However, fudging with perspective and human anatomy doesn't tend to mesh well with the rest of the animation, so only a few choice moments like Esidisi's crying fit and Polnareff's gravity-defying pose when he joins Jotaro's group are kept.

Theming with Renaissance Sculptures

A lot of modern manga protagonists look like they could use a few extra protein bars in their diet, but JoJo characters have always been well built. It doesn't matter if they're 15 years old or female or paraplegic – they're clearly capable of kicking ass even without using their superpowers. The bulkier designs from parts 1-4 were partially influenced by Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star as well as '80s action film heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the main inspiration for how Araki draws humans comes from classical Renaissance sculpture.

The defined jaws, well-developed muscles, and strong facial features of characters from all eight parts resemble masterpieces from Italian museums – Giorno in particular seems to have been modeled off of Michelangelo's David. Even though Araki's art style has changed drastically over the years, his characters have always looked like they could've been chiseled from marble. And for part 5, which is set in Italy, he goes one step further by using famous sculptures to illustrate the story's main theme.

Part 5 is all about fighting against fate – everyone on Bucciarati's team clawed their way out of dark situations that could've defined them for life and Diavolo's ultimate goal is to control fate with his Stand so that he can achieve an everlasting apex of perfection. But there are consequences for toying with such a powerful force, as seen in the “Sleeping Slaves” epilogue arc. It uses Michelangelo's Slave/Prisoner statues for inspiration – these figures are only partially carved out of their stone, appearing as though they're trapped and struggling to free themselves. So in this arc, a Stand called Rolling Stones forms itself into a sculpture of someone who is fated to die. The team retaliates against it when it morphs into one of their members, but they only end up dragging more people down with them in the end. People can change fate, but just like the slave statues, they'll never be completely free.

A Passion for Fashion

If there's one aspect of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure that every anime fan knows (besides “to be continued” and “Kono Dio da!”), it's the fabulous poses that characters strike when the situation calls for a little extra drama. Jotaro's intimidating turn and point, Killer Queen's crossed arms, and Dio's back-bending “Wrrryyyy!” have all become such staples of pop culture that fan-organized “posing school” meetups in Japan drew hundreds of participants in 2003. The gatherings would've continued, but the turnout became so overwhelming that they had to shut down for safety reasons.

JoJo poses, along with the characters' daring outfits, are so enchanting because they bring together the disparate worlds of shounen manga and high fashion in a way that nobody has ever seen before. Along with his passion for art, Araki has a deep love for the fashion industry. He lists Christian Dior and Gianni Versace among his heroes, and many of his most iconic manga panels are homages to the works of legendary '80s fashion illustrators.

For example, Hermit Purple's photograph of Dio showing off his Joestar birthmark is based on a 1985 illustration of a female model by Tony Viramontes. The same artist also inspired Kars' Switzerland outfit, Kira's black-and-white hairstyle, and even Jonathan's splayed hand pose. Viramontes' loose line work and vibrant color choices bring to mind Araki's more fluid art style for parts 1 and 2, while the models' exaggerated facial expressions resemble those of Johnny and Gyro from part 7.

Antonio Lopez is another of Araki's heroes – his designs are often covered in detailed patterns and loads of jewelry, which made their way into JoJo as the golden badges Jotaro and Josuke wear in part 4 and the incomparably flashy suits from part 5. We also have Lopez's influence to thank for that delightful chapter cover where Joseph and Caesar press their faces together and glare at the viewer for judging them.

Bizarre Collaborations with the Greats

Naturally, Araki's love of art and fashion has led him into several collaborations with high-profile brands and publications (being one of the most beloved mangaka in the world also probably helps). Perhaps the most prestigious of these was in 2009, when he was featured in an exhibition for comic artists at the Louvre in France. He previewed a special one-shot about Rohan visiting the museum and solving a mystery about a cursed painting, which was released in full the next year.

He has also collaborated with Gucci and the Japanese fashion magazine Spur for two one-shot comics – one about Rohan investigating a Stand that takes the form of a Gucci bag, and the other about Jolyne and several part 5 characters meeting a unicorn. To go along with the second comic, Jolyne's floral-patterned outfits were manufactured and sold in Gucci stores for a limited time.

Other clothing and jewelry companies like Glamb, Jam Home Made, and Vans have worked with Araki to create high-end JoJo merchandise. For the debut of the part 5 anime, Bandai Fashion Collection released a Gold Experience ladybug ring, a Sticky Fingers zipper bolo tie, Giorno and Bruno-themed sneakers, and other tantalizing accessories that will make you curse the exorbitant cost of international shipping. Sometimes an anime franchise will be lucky to have a few figurines and t-shirts for sale, but thanks to Araki's many joint projects with his inspirations, the JoJo fandom has its choice of capsule collections from some of the biggest brands in Japan and Europe.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was conjured out of a melting pot of highly unusual ingredients – Renaissance art and sculpture, '80s fashion, horror novels, Western rock music, and just a pinch of classic '60s and '70s manga to pay homage to Araki's forefathers. Who knew that such opposites as Michelangelo's slave statues and Tony Viramontes' illustrations for Nina Ricci could work together to inspire such a juggernaut of Japanese pop culture? We're still not exactly sure how Araki made it work, but we're forever grateful for the wonderful and deranged series he's given us.


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