In a very special episode of Why It Works, we take a moment to think back on the dogs of JoJo past
I was sitting down to watch the latest JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in my living room last week, and my roommate happened to walk by. He’d watched through Stardust Crusaders, but hadn’t yet checked out Diamond is Unbreakable (I know, criminal), and so wasn’t up to speed on all of Morioh’s goings-on. “This is Kira,” I explained to him. “He’s probably a serial killer, and the show’s been hyping him up for a while now.” “How do you know he’s bad?” asked my housemate. “Has he killed a dog or something?” Cue a dog appearing on screen five seconds later, ready to be traumatized by our latest villain.
There is just something about Araki and dogs.
I know I normally break down some craft fundamentals of individual recent episodes in these columns, but today I thought I’d step back and do a bit of a retrospective. I am a dog lover at heart - though that exact housemate happens to own a cat, back at my parents’ home, there’s always been a dog in the family. I have been told that Hirohiko Araki also loves dogs, and thus that his eternal narrative tormenting of our four-legged friends is designed to show just how evil some particular bad guy is. But even if that’s true, there is a bizarrely staggering consistency to how often Araki returns to that “let’s just murder a dang dog” well. So let’s share a moment and shed a tear for the Dogs of Araki Past, and briefly offer a hope for the many dogs yet to come.
First off, we have Danny, one of the only named dogs in all of JoJo. Danny was a good boy and true friend to Jonathan Joestar, but in the eyes of Araki, Danny was just a vehicle to demonstrate what a jerk Dio truly is. One of the first moments of true JoJo lunacy was Danny getting kneed in the face by an angry Dio, and by the end of the first episode, Danny was burned alive in the family’s incinerator. It was a rough and ruthless start to what would be a torrid love affair between Araki and Killing Dogs Dead.
It would be a while before Araki would return to the dog-killing well, but in order to stave off any accusations of favoritism, I should briefly mention the time Dio killed a monkey-gerbil with a human head. This creature is not a dog. It does not deserve the sympathy of a dog. It is a strange and vile creature, and I no longer wish to speak of it. Never show me this.
And as yet another aside, I should also mention that Battle Tendency stars one more dog: a dog that is actually saved by Kars, who destroys the car that might have jeopardized its life. “But wait,” you might ask, “if killing dogs is used to represent evil, then why would Kars save this precious pup?” Ah, but this was before Araki realized the eternal pathos of murdering canines. Kars is framed as something of a conservationist, as also demonstrated through his wild acrobatics used to save an innocent flower. Do not worry, the dog-killing will come.
The first dog death of Stardust Crusaders is one of the saddest and least sensible of all dog deaths, notable both for its cruelty and its tossed-off nature. As Jotaro and his companions approach a remote Pakistani village, Jotaro happens to notice a strange edifice ornamenting the roadside. “Was that a dog’s corpse?” he thinks to himself, before the car rumbles on its way. The group will soon be shocked to discover a dead human body in the village proper, so in truth, all this dog had to offer the story was a brief pre-narrative shock, like the scene where the protagonist is scared by a noise in the dark that turns out to just be the cat. Queried on his shock by Joseph, Jotaro responds “no, it’s nothing” as they continue they’re drive. It’s not nothing, Araki. Dogs deserve better than this.
Unfortunately, dogs will receive no quarter from Araki in the near future. The next dog death comes swiftly and mercilessly, as Kakyoin is tormented by the malevolent Death 13. Waking on a mysterious ferris wheel, Kakyoin wonders what could possibly have brought him here. “Am I alone?” he thinks, before realizing he is accompanied by a friendly pooch. But before either of them can enjoy this fanciful adventure, Death 13 arrives - and proceeds to horribly murder the dog right before Kakyoin’s eyes.
Was it necessary for Death 13 to kill this dog? Couldn’t he have just killed Kakyoin right there, and thus gotten one step closer to completing his actual mission? Sure, we could discuss how in narrative terms, this kind of gruesome dramatic escalation is necessary both for seeding the conflict to come and for echoing this episode’s Nightmare on Elm Street roots. But as far as in-universe storytelling goes, this dog dies because villains just hate dogs. Dio did not command Death 13’s controller to “kill Jotaro, his companions, and also any nearby dogs.” Or perhaps he did? Perhaps that itself expresses the extent of Dio’s villainy. Either way, all this dog ultimately offers the JoJo narrative is “if you die in the dream, you die in real life,” along with one more stern exhortation to never, ever, ever be a dog.
That incident is really only the beginning of Araki’s mania, but I’ve run out of time for today’s article. But don’t worry, I’ll be back next week to finish this celebration of man’s best friend in the only way Araki knows how!