I wanted to do a quick little post about one of my favourite comic book characters, Jotaro Kujo from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Of all the series’ titular protagonists, Jotaro is the third and arguably the most iconic, to the chagrin of some fans. Like previous protagonist Jonathan, his design and demeanour take inspiration from the seminal manga series, Fist of the North Star. Unlike previous protagonist Jonathan, he’s kind of a dick.
He’s more than just a dick, too. He’s stoic, grumpy and at times, kind of mean. In short: he’s a punk. And to some fans of the series, his place as the marquee character feels undeserved. I disagree. Jotaro is a classic rebellious youth, constantly annoyed by his elders and putting on a childish tough-guy act. At times, it’s kind of annoying, but that’s precisely why I enjoy his character so much. Underneath his rough exterior, he really is a good kid. Aside from the obvious facial similarities to Kenshiro, I’d compare him to James Dean’s character in Rebel Without a Cause. He’s a rebellious youth yeah, but can you blame him?
What makes Jotaro so fascinating to me – and what frustrates me to no end when fans claim he is a boring hero – isn’t just his attitude, it’s why he acts the way he does.
Spoilers for the entire JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga ahead.
Jotaro has the most appearances out of almost any character in the series, making his début in Stardust Crusaders, playing a major role in Diamond is Unbreakable and Stone Ocean and appearing briefly in Vento Aureo. Over the course of these four parts, we see Jotaro evolve from a moody teenager to responsible adult to failing parent and it all feels incredibly natural. It’s never really touched upon, but I’d argue that the major reason Jotaro acts he way that he does is due in large part to the lack of a strong father figure in his life, namely Sadao Kujo, the world-travelling jazz musician who is only briefly mentioned but never seen throughout the entire series. In his place are figures like Clint Eastwood and Columbo (two characters references by him in episode forty-eight of the Stardust Crusaders anime) and other characters like them, which likely contributed to the development of his tough guy persona.
His being mentioned in passing is likely just an aside on the part of the author. However, I also like to think that Sadao’s absence from the story could neatly parallels his absence from Jotaro’s life. There’s no way to know for sure, but it’s very clear that Jotaro’s personality in Stardust Crusaders isn’t simply a phase; he is dealing with some deep-seated emotional issues. Along with tragic side character Polnareff, the events of part three force him to mature very rapidly. Whilst Polnareff is extremely fun and carefree throughout the series, he is clearly a changed man after watching two close comrades die to save his life – not to mention Avdol, who essentially sacrifices himself for Polnareff twice before he finally grows up. By the time he makes his appearance in part five, he’s a very different man.
Jotaro, likewise, has changed significantly by his second appearance, in part four. His fifty-day journey with the Crusaders – which tragically leaves just as many survivors as dead – has made him a more caring, open and compassionate person. He has taken on the mentor role of the group, a role once held by his grandfather Joseph in the previous part. To see a character evolve from gruff and cold to warm and kind is very satisfying.
Throughout the course of the series, we get to see him grow as a human being and tragically end up just like his father. His daughter Jolyne likely views Jotaro the same way Jotaro viewed his father though, with the former, the grudge held against the father figure is far more overt. Basically what I like about Jolyne (I mean, aside from just being the feminine version of Jotaro, which is kick-ass in and of itself) is how she mirrors and re-contextualises Jotaro in Stardust Crusaders. Like Sadao, Jotaro is constantly travelling the world and though his reasons may have been justified, Jolyne ends up as a troubled youth because of it, just like Jotaro. Unlike his father, however, Jotaro ultimately attempts to make amends with his offspring and reveals that through it all, he always loved his daughter.
I’m probably overthinking this quite a bit. In fact, I’d say I’ve put far too much thought for a simple shonen protagonist. But, simple as he may be, Jotaro is a highly effective character with a surprising amount of nuance and depth to him. That, in an 881-word nutshell, is why it bugs me so much when readers and viewers write him off as simply being boring and stoic when he is so much more than that. He’s a dynamic character with a wide story arc that spans three major story arcs.
He’s also really badass and has a cool hat, which is also great.