JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Figuration Libre

If you want to praise JoJo I think you would talk about its sense of humor combined with its unique narrative, especially the visual aspects of it. Like, it is fun to watch a vampire whose head was just split in half putting it back together, but having it a little off, so he has to adjust the two pieces, which seems to make him slightly annoyed.

Even better is to watch two dudes fight, where one throws a steamroller at another, and then both repeatedly punch it to make the machine hit the opponent. There are hundreds of awesomely stupid things like that in the series, and they all work because of how the show presents them. It is not all about actions scenes either, this anime can make even a static image work. Like this one, when an ark antagonist assumes a ridiculous pose and the anime treats it like focal point:

Dio Brando

It isn’t just one particular antagonists, they all do the poses

The whole anime is like this. People act as if they are actors on a stage, they strike poses that look like they belong to an athletic dance performance; the events are unpredictable and ridiculous while the characters are always in dire predicaments. You never know what would happen, would they outsmart their enemy or would they just overpower him or her, or will they get out on a sheer luck.

The anime went through four generations of JoJos already, each had their unique visual style, interesting quirks and interesting people to hang out with. There is a lot to say about each of the JoJos, a lot to praise in each season. But if I were to guess what would not make it to the list of praises I’d name the art style and animation.

JoJo is one of those (un)fortunate anime that were adopted from a manga with a got a huge and dedicated fan base. It is a common theme now to try to appeal to such fans by treating the source material with an utmost care. This usually means that the script, the key scenes, the character designs, all would be made as to follow the manga as close as possible. But JoJo took a step further, adopting an animation style that brings the characters closer to their manga look. This can be seen in the Stardust Crusaders, where character designs are notably heavier, which limited the fluidity of the animation and the diversity of the facial expressions. Take a look, can you imagine these faces moving very much? Right.

D'Arby

Polnareff and Kakyoin

Joseph Joestar

But even when the art style is this restrictive you can find animation gems. There was an episode where two brothers were trying to attack Jotaro Kujo (the third generation JoJo) and his friends. The younger brother had a power that allowed him to read near future in his comic book. It is not clear to me how much of an advantage this gave them, but the comic book did look pretty awesome. Here, take a look.

Boingo's comic book

This comic book inspired two alternative ending sequences made specifically for the episodes that feature this comic book. I’ll post a few screenshots from the second ending below ^^

You can watch the whole thing too, I definitely recommend it. Here is the first one:

What I found especially interesting is that this art style looks very similar to something called Figuration Libre, a French artistic movement. Here some examples of how this art looks (these are works of Robert Combas).

Do you see some similarities? When I first saw that JoJo’s ending I was very impressed by how unique it was, and I was even more impressed later when I realized it was an artistic influence of this not very well known French art style. I think this is the role those progressive art movements should play, discovering new forms of expression, new interesting aesthetics, and then giving them to the public by influencing popular commercial works, such as illustrations, decorative artworks and TV animations.

So what I wanted to say is, even in a show like JoJo you can find some awesome pieces of art, if you look carefully. It would be easy to brush aside this ending theme as some lazy weird joke, since the animation imitates still motion which creates an illusion of simplicity, and it would be easy to ignore it because the the art style looks so childish, while in fact it is very deliberate. Good job, whoever is responsible for this awesome piece of animation ^^b

JoJo's scenery

Just putting a few cool looking pictures here, which have nothing to do with Figuration Libre. Don’t mind me.

D'Arby

^^/

Kakyoin eating eyeballs

Okay, I’ll stop now -.-

If you want more art style talk, check out this post on Madoka Magika and postmodernism. If you wanna read more about JoJo, here are a few reaction posts on the first and second seasons.

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Madoka Magica’s postmodernism

I’ve recently finished watching Madoka Magica, a magical girl anime, famous for its unusually dark plot (at least by the standards of the time it was airing). Unfortunately for me I knew a fair bit about the anime before going into it, so the shock of seeing how different Madoka Magica is from other anime in the genre wasn’t that great for me. Maybe that is why today I chose such a weird topic, deciding to talk about whether or not there is a way to claim that Madoka Magica is a postmodern art, instead of just giving it the praises it deserves.

Here is a quick intro for those who have not seen the anime, but wish to keep reading (which is probably a bad idea, as I’ll spoil all there is to spoil in that show). Madoka Magica is an anime about a group of girls who were confronted by an alien creature (name is Kyubey) that offered to grant them one wish. In exchange they would have to become magical girls, fight witches, and eventually be killed in a fight. The anime makes sure to let you see that the stakes are high, showing you one death after another, revealing horrifying details of the contract Kyubey makes with the girls in exchange for the wish. The anime spends a lot of time with the characters, showing their normal lives, their parents, friends and loved ones, giving you reason to care about them. At times it almost is a nice and light-hearted slice of life story. But when they get to an action, especially when they show a witch fight, then the anime changes into something very unusual. I’ll talk about it below.

For me it started with admiring the artworks that are displayed during the fights (they are made by Gekidan Inu Curry, check them out). Let’s look at them together.

I started to wonder if there is a specific art genre they belong to. Eventually I started looking at what can be called postmodern art. I’ll post a few thumbnails here.

Here is Raoul Hausmann’s pictures:

Here is Robert Rauschenberg’s artworks:

And here is Wallace Berman’s works:

I don’t want to say that those artists are clearly defined as representatives of postmodernism, but I think it is possible to say that. Anyway, for me it seems like those works or similar ones were the inspiration for some of the art from Madoka Magica. That doesn’t say much, just an interesting observation. And it made me look in it a little bit more.

I think there are a few more ways in which Madoka Magica is connected to postmodernism. The show is a genre deconstruction piece, and while I don’t know if people acknowledge that as a trait of a postmodern work, I think it does go in line with the ideas of the movement. Madoka Magica is working within an existing genre, with existing tropes and concepts, and it uses the viewer’s awareness of those concepts to tell the story. In that aspect it is similar to Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Would you say that proves my point? I don’t know.

All in all, I am just amused by the idea that those serious classifications of art movements could be extended to fit in a popular anime series. Though I may very well be a victim of confirmation bias. If you think I am (or if for some reason you think I am not), please tell me in the comments, would love to hear different opinions.

Puella_Magi_Madoka_Magica 3

And to save this post from being completely dry I’ll say a few words about my experience watching the show. As I said I knew it was going to be a somewhat serious anime, with tragedy and death, thanks to the spoilers. I was pleasantly surprised by a few things I saw in the anime though. First are the architectural references. When I first saw Burj Khalifa I was like “Is this anime set in the Emirates? :O” I liked the idea a lot, though it didn’t turn out to be true.

H-0-08-59-620

Here is the Burj Khalifa, the white needle-like structure in the background

Also I liked the idea of ordinary people who lived good satisfactory lives being given a chance to have any wish granted. They just didn’t have a wish they would feel strong enough about. It was especially interesting with Madoka, who at the beginning clearly didn’t need anything and just wanted to become a magical girl cause she liked the idea. The show didn’t do much to develop this theme, instead it just gave the characters the motivations they were missing. That was kinda disappointing at first. Though eventually I started to appreciate the side stories they brought up to give the characters their motivations. Sayaka’s story turned out to be the one of the most emotionally engaging parts of the series for me. I liked the Madoka’s reason to become a magical girl, it made such a big contrast with the rest of the show. She suddenly changed that story about doomed people fighting for a lost cause into a fairy tale, and she did it in such a bizarre way that the transaction did not seem to undermine the feel of the show. At least it worked for me.

The few plot twists I didn’t have spoiled for me were that magical girls turn into witches, and that incubators were only there to gather energy, viewing people as live stock. Both are good enough twists, especially the first one, since it made such a big change for the relations between the characters and Kyubey.

Here is a reminder that this anime is made by studio Shaft

Here is a reminder that this anime is made by studio Shaft

That’s it from me. See you next time ^^/