An elite culture snob not keeping his stupid opinions in his pocket
Obviously the reason you're not reading Steel Ball Run is cultural. Chances are your experience with manga/anime is games or generic normie anime which will have put you off. Or the sheer volume of manga has made you think: "No way man that's too much and it sounds mental. I'll stick to Finnegan's Wake, now leave me alone"
But fear not gentle reader I'm here to explain why you should read Steel Ball Run easily one of the finest pieces of literature gifted to our doomed and stupid race.
So I had in fact heard about Jojo's way back in the caveman days of 2009 but had never really read it outside of memes which I could not stand (back then or now) so ignored it. And if I had access to a time machine I would go back and swear me out something fierce, I wouldn't offer life advice (I remember me back then, definitely would not have listened to me) but I would beat the sense into me to pick up this one book. (or tankabon, if you're an absolute dork) But I picked up Steel Ball Run liking the artwork and honestly no joke this has become one of my favourite books. Now as a man with a big beautiful Masters in English Literature I can safely say SBR is better than any play by Shakespeare. Better than any novel by Austin. This should be taught over The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird in a heartbeat. SBR came out in 2004 and wrapped up in 2011 now for some context the go to author for dorks that have never read anything good, George Martin (I refuse to give him the RR. Get your own thing and get some attention for the better authors of Wild Cards you hack) has not released the book (Farts in Snow or something) that his fans have been waiting for in eight years. In that time Araki finished SRB and then one month later released part 8 of the series Jojolion. And, he's not just writing these monsters, he's drawing them too and he's been at this since 1986 (with breaks obviously he's not a robit). This puts Araki like many mangaka on an insanely tight schedule where he has to deliver quality work consistently compared to western writers and artists that can fart about for ages not working. I'm including myself in this criticism as I've spent ages just not working when I should be, even my illustrious, groundbreaking first article was sat on for a week before handing it in. The reason I bring this up is quality, quality does not dip even once in SBR. SBR stays jaw-dropping in every page and every panel.
So with that weird rant out the way why is SBR so good? Well simply put it is constantly inventive. Constantly entertaining. Constantly moving forward and constantly amazing you. SBR is about two racers the wonderfully named Gyro Zepelli and Johnny Joestar (The Jojo you dingus) and they're in a horse race for a $50,000,000 prize starting from San Diego and ending in New York. So far a simple premise. But along the way these two have to deal with the golden ratio, other racers, The U.S President, dinosaurs, bandits and the ever present danger of enemy stands.
|Title||Year Start||Year End|
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendancy
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakble
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Jojolion
One of the great things about Araki is how he changes up the genre each time this one primarily being a chase and just to break down how Araki translates the feeling of a chase onto the page we'll take a look at chapter 5 "1st stage 15,000 meters" This is the start of the race and we get a scope of the race, three thousand plus riders and the feeling of excitement in the participants and the race promoter and organizer Steven Steel (again Araki you genius) lays down the rules for us. As soon as we have the rules explained the race begins and the pace is set, each horse looks to be in a constant state of movement, horses are notoriously difficult to draw but Araki takes the time to individualize each one and to fully immerse us in the race he uses a variety of angles to show the maneuvers and speed they are moving at. Close ups of the riders screaming at what the other riders are doing shows the reader what each character is thinking along with how they are reacting to the situation. The chapter is also great for characterization as Gyro quickly takes the lead on the race making clear his intention to win as quickly as possible as well as his exceptional riding. Johnny takes a more reserved place in the race studying the other racers backing up his chapter that showed him as an expert jockey who has been compromised by injury. Below is two pages to show what I am talking about.
So as you can see Araki is moving along at a great pace, the characters facial expression are showing their concentration and motivations. The dialogue is from the race announcement team, which again brings focus onto the narrative device of this being a public spectacle. Araki also gives us a close up of one of the key villains of the book Diego Brando giving our heroes another obstacle and highlighting his skill as a rider and showing the threat he poses to the racers.
Just these pages highlight how far ahead of other manga Araki is in building tension, stakes and characters we as a reader can care about and get invested in. His mastery of the form makes just the simple act of turning pages exciting as you get another new surprise to make you stop. Take a breath. And say wow.
So a bit fawning, bit messy but I think my point is made. Please go out and get a copy. Mug for a copy. Dance on the street for a copy.
Go along for the ride with Johnny and Gyro as they race to win the Steel Ball Run and stop the villains of the story, meet other amazing racers and get into hilarious and heartbreaking situations. The complex stand battles, out there ideas on physics and reading about the bizarre and absurd problems the characters have to deal with guarantees that after you have turned the last page and absorbed the whole run, you will want to close it, flip it over and start all over again.
© 2019 JM