Warning: contains spoilers for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Jojolion
The eighth part of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Jojolion, has come to a close, and the ending of the hit manga’s eighth part gives Josuke Higashikata some of the most complete character growth of any character in the decades-spanning series.
Jojolion ran for over ten years, beginning in 2011 just after the Tohoku Earthquake struck Japan. The natural disaster played a role in the manga’s backstory, as some mysterious formations known as Wall Eyes appeared around the city of Morioh shortly afterward. Found amongst the mud and rocks is a man with no memory who’s eventually given the name Josuke. The early chapters of Jojolion revolve entirely around the mystery of Josuke’s true identity, as he and the girl who found him, Yasuho, try to retrace the steps of a man whom he bears a suspicious resemblance to. Both are horrified, however, when the search leads them to the deadly apartment of serial killer Yoshikage Kira.
Much like Josuke himself, Kira takes his namesake from Jojo’s fourth part, which exists in a different continuity, where he served as the villain. Some fans were upset at the implication that this newest Jojo was based on such an unsavory character, especially when he seemingly had the same perverse desires. As it turns out, the answer wasn’t that simple, either; another woman identifies him as Josefumi Kujo, a very normal sort of person by comparison. So was Josuke once Kira, or was he Josefumi? What initially felt like a retcon became a complex question tied directly into the plot of Jojolion, which revolves around a miraculous type of fruit, the Locacaca.
As a series based around the exploits of several generations of a single-family, heredity and genealogy have been important to Jojo from the beginning. Josuke, as a man without a past, stands out significantly amongst the other Joestars. While characters like Joseph and Jotaro end up having to face the enemies of their ancestors to settle some very old scores, they always knew who they were. Josuke, however, finds himself dealing with the consequences of both Josefumi’s and Kira’s actions without knowing how much responsibility he should bear, giving him no choice but to face them. Many of the past Jojo protagonists, like Jotaro or part one’s Jonathan, are relatively flat characters: essentially the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning.
For part eight’s Josuke, though, his lack of almost any characterization to start with meant that he had no choice but to grow and develop over the course of the story. What begins as an obligation to repay the favor of taking him in becomes actual affection for the Higashikata family and concern over their fate. As Josuke’s backstory becomes unraveled, it’s apparent that he is neither Josefumi nor Kira, although he does have some attachment to them in the way that a child would a parent. Josuke is his own man, no more responsible for Kira’s crimes than anyone else would be. The final pages of Jojolion‘s last chapter highlight this, as Josuke encounters Josefumi’s mother and goes by unrecognized, opting not to identify himself to her. Instead, Josuke meets up with the Higashikatas and is regarded as a full member of the family by his own choice, embracing his new identity at last.
As Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure gears up to start the next epic saga of the Joestar family in part 9, looking back at Josuke’s character growth across part eight is a good reminder of everything fans love about the series: strange happenings, major mysteries, and some of the most ridiculously overpowered heroes and villains in all of manga.