The ED theme song for the first season, “ROUNDABOUT,” was decided upon as the result of an exchange the anime side had with Hirohiko Araki while they were working on creating a new theme song.
Producer Hiroyuki Omori of Warner Brothers Japan, who is in charge of the music, had this to say about that exchange: “At first, I wanted to decide on the OP theme, so I proposed some sample songs based on rock to Mr. Araki. But the direction was different from what he had imagined, so I asked him what songs were close to his image. He suggested ‘ROUNDABOUT.’ However, it was quite difficult to make an original progressive rock song like this, so we decided to ask for permission to use ‘ROUNDABOUT’ and use it as is.”
After that, Omori suggested that it would be more appropriate as an ED theme rather than an OP theme, and with that the basic direction that later ED themes would follow was established. The ED themes are chosen based on the concept of “songs that Hirohiko Araki was listening to a lot at the time of writing” or “songs that are close to the image of each part of the original manga.”
The sound director, Miwa Iwanami, who is a member of the generation that was listening to music when Yes became a hit, was surprised to hear that “ROUNDABOUT” had been chosen as the ED theme. At the same time, he wondered if it could be used as background music, and strongly suggested to the director, Naokatsu Tsuda, to make the ED video in such a way that the ED could be played from anywhere. As a result, in the first season, they adopted a special style where “ROUNDABOUT” would be played as background music, and then it led directly into the ED. According to Omori, “When the first season ended, Mr. Iwanami happily reported to me that he had included all the parts of the song. (laughs)” He had been able to use all eight and a half minutes of the original song without wasting any of it.
In contrast to the ED theme, which featured fashionable Western music, it was decided that the OP theme would be a masculine 70’s style anime song. The memorable first OP theme “JoJo ~That Blood’s Destiny~” was composed by Kohei Tanaka, a veteran anime song composer. “When I went to Mr. Tanaka to ask for the song, he said ‘Omori-kun, you made the right call, coming to me for this.’ (laughs)” Following the example of this song, each OP theme would be an original Japanese anime song that matched the taste of each part. In addition to the regular OP themes, a special OP theme related to Mondatta called “Evil Concerto” was created for the second season of “Stardust Crusaders,” and a variety of highly addictive and famous songs were born.
One of the most talked about aspects of the OPs is the way that the animation changes as the story progresses. In particular, in episode 47 of the 2nd season, “DIO’s World, Part 3,” Dio uses the power of “The World” to stop time, which must have shocked many fans. Regarding this trick, Omori said, “It was an idea from Kamikaze Douga, who handled the OP video. During the presentation, Junpei Mizusaki, the president of the company, suddenly said, “It’s DIO, so we just need to stop time for 9 seconds. (laughs)” He revealed that it was self-directed by Kamikaze Douga.
This direction led to the creation of the “Bites the Dust Version OP” at the end of the third season, “Diamond is Unbreakable,” in which Kira Yoshikage’s Bites the Dust is activated and the OP video plays backwards. In the fourth season, “Golden Wind,” the “Diavolo Ver.” depicted Diavolo’s King Crimson ability, and the “Giorno Ver.” depicted Giorno’s Gold Experience Requiem ability. Tsuda smiles wryly about this series of special effects in the OP. “Thanks to the trick we used in Part 3, there’s no going back now. (laughs)”
One feature of the JoJo anime is that it has had a lot of special background music produced for it. This was made possible by the fact that Omori, the production producer, also serves as the music producer. “Since I was involved from the scenario stage, I was able to prepare the music ahead of time. I was hoping that I could provide a little support for the production,” Omori said. For example, in the third episode of the first season, “Youth with Dio,” which Omori focused considerable effort on, he made long special background music tracks to match the storyboard that had been drawn ahead of time, making the film more exciting with a theatrical production style.
One of the most talked-about scenes was the 40-second dance scene in episode 7, “Sex Pistols Appears, Part 1,” of the fourth season, “Golden Wind.” During the location scouting in Italy, Kimura was so excited that he ordered Omori to do the scene, and Kimura was naturally in charge of storyboarding and directing the scene. “I forgot that I had even ordered it, and I thought, is the dance going to be this long? (laughs) In the original manga, there are only about four frames, so I had to fill in all the other frames myself, but since I’m not a dance expert, I asked a friend who is to look at the original frames. He said it looked like a Michael Jackson dance, so I spent about a month checking out videos of his live performances and music videos, and finally finished it.”（Kimura）
For the casting, auditions were conducted purely on the basis of whether or not the actor fit the character, ignoring factors such as name recognition and popularity. Tsuda said that the top priority for JoJo voice actors was that they had to have “sound pressure and be a good performer,” but he also took into account “having broad repertoire of skills,” and “being articulate.” There are many scenes in JoJo that stretch the actors’ voices to the limit. Looking back on the dubbing process, Toshiyuki Kato, who served as the series director for “Diamond is Unbreakable” said, “From the very first season, the dubbing of ‘JoJo’ has always been very difficult. We have to demand the maximum amount of passion and volume of voice at all times, and I end up selfishly worrying what they’ll do if they have to record another one after this. I always felt sorry for the cast members.”
However, despite the harsh conditions, many JoJo-loving cast members gathered at the auditions, and the number of JoJo-loving cast members in the booth inevitably increased. There were even some who took the initiative to lecture the confused cast members who were participating in the dubbing for the first time, saying things like, “JoJo’s lines are read with a small ‘tsu’ sound.” The producer, Hisataka Kasama, expressed his gratitude to the cast, saying, “The original theme was to do it without changing one word of the original lines, so it was very helpful for the staff side.”
In fact, Noriaki Kakyoin’s famous “Rero Rero” was recorded 17 times (episode 9, “Yellow Temperance”). Kenichi Suzuki, the series director of “Stardust Crusaders,” is said to have asked Daisuke Hirakawa, who played Kakyoin, to “practice Rero Rero from now on” when he came to the studio for the first recording. This attention to detail is incredible. Of course, it can also be said that the cast members who responded to these orders with perfect performances were full of love for JoJo.
After “Stardust Crusaders,” there was an attempt to use the method of recutting. In this method, the first cut which will be taken to voice recording is done with a 30-second margin, and then the final adjustment is made by cutting only a few frames between the lines. This allows for a more pleasant sense of rhythm and a tempo that does not lag even in scenes with many long lines. The accumulation of such detailed creative measures may have led to the pleasant feeling that is typical of JoJo.
What did you think of the four production notes? I hope I was able to convey the strong love and dedication to the original manga in all sections of planning, scenario, video, and sound. Finally, I’d like to talk about what the JoJo anime was.
In writing this article, I interviewed the producers and directors once again, and I was struck by how everyone’s face instantly turned back to a boyish expression when they talked about JoJo. The workplace environment for animation production is much harder and harsher than we can imagine. There must have been a lot of anguish and human drama behind the scenes of a project that has run for nearly 10 years. Even so, when it comes to JoJo, the JoJo team’s faces instantly revert to those of young boys. That is what makes them so amazing, and I felt that those faces tell the whole story of the JoJo anime.
Lastly, I asked the staff I interviewed, “What is the JoJo anime for you?” Their answers varied, but I would like to note that they were all filled with an indescribable “refreshing” feeling.
─ Naokatsu Tsuda
“I was inexperienced, but this work taught me everything I needed to know as a director.”
─ Kenichi Suzuki
“This is the film that helped me in my life. It was definitely a turning point in my career.”
─ Toshiyuki Kato
“It broadened my view of directing. It made me realize that anything is possible as long as it’s interesting and powerful.”
─ Yasuhiro Kimura
“It was painful when I was making it, and I was sad when it was over. It’s such a rare work.”
─ Hideya Takahashi
“The three years I spent working on JoJo were a very special experience and have become a treasure in my life.”
─ Producer：Hiroyuki Omori
“I knew it was going to be a long battle, so I promised myself that I would not give up, no matter what.”
─ Producer : Hisataka Kasama
“I still remember vividly how when the second season ended, all the staff hugged each other’s shoulders and cried wildly.”
Interviewing and writing by Daisuke Okamoto