Popcult Japan, a German documentary film by Marcus Fitsch, features an interview with Hirohiko Araki, manga artist of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. It was uploaded online on the website of German public TV channel MDR Fernsehen on June 2, 2022 and will air on TV on June 16, 2022.
The documentary mainly focused on the popularity of manga and anime cosplay in Germany, but also featured a segment where “Cathy Cat”—a popular Japanese cosplayer and TV presenter born in Germany—interviews Araki from his recluse studio in Tokyo.
Hirohiko Araki: In the end, it’s always about the characters. I think that a good character, who captivates everyone, creates the basis for a great manga. Whether it’s a main character or a side character. And then there’s the world in which these characters inhabit. How an author creates this world, and if they succeed in making it unique, essentially determine the quality of their story.
Narrator: In a small studio in Tokyo, one such superstar grants us insight into his work.
In 1986, Hirohiko Araki created a series which today is one of the best-selling manga in the world: “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure”. So far, 131 volumes have been released in Japan.
Cathy Cat: Oh my god, it’s really you! What an honor. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is “Cathy Cat.”
Araki: Hello, the pleasure is all mine.
Cathy: So this is Sensei’s workplace?
Araki: Yes, this is my office.
I usually work over here.
Cathy: So this is where you work on your stories?
Araki: Yes. that’s correct. This is the only spot where I work at. Over there are my assistants and a few other things.
Cathy: Oh, and these are your drawings.
Araki: Yes, go ahead, take a look at them!
Cathy: Wow, I’m thrilled.
Araki: I’m currently working on my newest piece. Of course, I can’t say anything about the contents.
Narrator: The story begins with the bitter feud between Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando. The spiteful Dio manages to get a hold of a mysterious mask, which bestows him with supernatural powers. Araki’s manga is brutal, over the top, and above all else entertaining.
Araki: I wanted to create a Shonen manga, in other words a manga for boys, where the story was themed around horror. The typical Shonen at that time were Dragon Ball, City Hunter, and Fist of the North Star. There were lots of different themes to choose from. However, most of them were already taken.
So if I wanted to publish a soccer manga, even if I liked it, I wouldn’t be able to because it already existed. The publisher would say “no.” So I had to choose a theme that wasn’t taken at the time. And since I was a fan of horror movies, I made a horror story. Unfortunately, they then later told me that I can’t write a horror story for a Shonen manga. I ended up doing it anyways.
Narrator: Shortly after, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure gets published in the Shonen Jump magazine. One of the major magazines, in which Shonen manga series get published weekly. Almost every big manga originated here. For Araki, 20 years old at the time, this was the final confirmation for his talent. Since his youth, he aspired to become a pro, sending in his first manuscript as a student to the publishers.
Araki: I was supposed to study for school, so I secretly drew and hid my drawings under my school books. Unlike today, many parents were under the impression that reading too much manga would rot your brain. And that if you listened to rock music as well, you’d end up becoming a criminal sooner or later. To my parents, being a manga artist wasn’t a real profession. So I kept working in secret, hoping they would accept it once I made it big.
Narrator: However, the life of a manga artist isn’t always as glamorous as it appears. Merciless deadlines, massive stress, and extreme work hours; in an industry that requires creativity on the production line.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has become a hit, even beyond the borders of Japan. 120 million copies have been sold until now. The artwork, enduring generations, has even made it into the Louvre. In 2012, the series received an elaborate anime adaptation, making Araki especially popular abroad.
Araki: The aura of a good piece of artwork can be felt at first glance. Even if a Japanese person looks at a painting from Europe, they’ll still be moved by it. The same applies to Japanese paintings. People from anywhere on Earth can understand it. It’s universal. I think this is the beauty of drawing manga.
[Translated from German to English by B1ackZer0]
[Source: ARD Mediathek]