Demystifying the Link Between CLAMP and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Demystifying the Link Between CLAMP and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Across the Internet, people often describe the relationship between the manga JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and the mangaka collective CLAMP thusly: CLAMP got their start making JoJo dounjinshi, went professional, and proceeded to work JoJo character lookalikes into their manga. In actuality, the truth goes much deeper. For one thing, CLAMP did not transition straight from doujinshi to professional manga. At one point, they still published doujinshi while their manga ran in magazines, including their JoJo-themed CLAMP Laboratory 6 and “CLAMP in Wonderland” in 1994.

In December of 2021, I joined CLAMPcast in Wonderland for a bonus podcast episode about this relationship between CLAMP and JoJo. For a casual conversation about this topic, please listen to the episode here. For an in-depth write-up, look no further.

This post contains potential spoilers for all parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and all manga by CLAMP.

Hirohiko Araki, who would go on to create JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, was born in 1960. Nanase Ohkawa, the eldest member of CLAMP and resident writer, was born in 1967. Artist Mokona was born in 1968, and artists Tsuabki Nekoi and Satsuki Igarashi in 1969. Araki made his professional manga debut in 1980 with “Poker Under Arms,” followed by his series Devil Boy BT from 1982 to 1983. In a 2006 interview between Araki and Nekoi, the latter revealed she read and fell in love with Devil Boy BT as a young teenager.

Nekoi, Mokona, and Igarashi met as high school classmates and attended Astronomy Club together in the 1980s. Ohkawa joined the group later, along with seven other members, to form a doujinshi circle named “CLAMP.”  In 1987, CLAMP released their first doujinshi (self-published work), one based on the Maohden novel series.

In the same year, Araki’s new series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure entered serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump. The first five volumes would later be considered “Part One” of the JoJo series to distinguish it from later chapters with different protagonists and storylines.

In 1989, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure transitioned from Part Two starring Joseph Joestar to Part Three following Jotaro Kujo on a quest to defeat DIO, the villain from Part One, and save his mother’s life. Jotaro sets off with his grandfather Joseph, his classmate Kakyoin, and Joseph’s friend Advol. Part Three, also known as Stardust Crusaders, surpassed the first two installments in length combined in its run from 1989 to 1992. Stardust Crusaders captured the hearts of many readers, including members of CLAMP. In an essay for the manga The One I Love, Ohkawa mentions her love of “the manga JoJo’s Strange Adventure (especially the third generation)” (as translated by Tokyopop).

Many ascribe the popularity of Part Three to the introduction of Stands, the manifestation of a character’s willpower with outlandish superpowers unique to the user in the JoJo universe. Fans of JoJo all have different favorite parts, and Stardust Crusaders appeals to people for plenty of other reasons: the roadtrip structure, the close-knit cast, the return of characters from previous installments, etc.

Jotaro and Kakyoin in particular seem to be of interest to CLAMP. Jotaro shares his bulky physique and good looks with his ancestors, but is gruffer than the previous noble or goofy JoJo leads. His stoicism makes him cool and collected in battle, but emotionally distant (or abrasive) in his personal life. He verbally insults his mother, but risks life and limb to save her with the help of his Stand’s flying fists. Also, his hat and hair are one in the same.

Kakyoin debuts as one of the first in a long line of puppets of DIO, but Jotaro “saves” him through defeat. Araki designed Kakyoin as “the thin, somewhat sensitive one of the group” according to the interview in JoJonium volume 12. Rather than lithe, today’s readers probably consider Kakyoin muscular, albeit lithe compared to his companions. Kakyoin’s official profile states that “he may seem feminine at first glance, but it’s not actually the case.” Although his personality or physical strength may not be stereotypically “feminine” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), Araki acknowledges that other characters consider his appearance feminine.

Eventually, as Araki’s artistic sensibilities changed, most male characters in JoJo would be drawn even thinner than Kakyoin. More and more male JoJo characters since then could also be described as feminine, from colorful lipstick to artist inspiration from female models, even if they aren’t called so within the text or supplementary material. At the time of Part Three, Kakyoin’s character design stood out, especially in contrast to the masculine powerhouse Jotaro.

The pair have little in common, except that within the main cast only Jotaro and Kakyoin share age and nationality. Indeed, according to the JoJonium interview, Araki made them foils in terms of Stand range, social dispositions, etc. He went on to say:

“During this journey, you can sense that although they become friends, there is still a sense of distance. But I wonder how it would’ve been like if they didn’t have their Stand abilities as common ground…Considering their personality types, they probably would not have become friends (Laughs).”

There’s a bittersweetness in being brought together by traumatic circumstances and befriending someone you wouldn’t have met otherwise. In the final battle against DIO, Kakyoin reflects on his lonely childhood in which he felt alienated from others for having a Stand they couldn’t see. Araki considers their Stands the foundation of their bond, which suits young Kakyoin’s desire to make friends who could understand his possession of a Stand.

Kakyoin’s childhood with Hierophant Green, as depicted in the Stardust Crusaders anime.

Jotaro and Kakyoin have other friends, of course, but some people invested in their bond more than others within the group. Polnareff joins the gang under similar circumstances to Kakyoin and emerges as one of Jotaro’s few surviving companions, but some consider Kakyoin the “JoBro” of the series instead. Kakyoin spends his tragic final moments leaving a dying message to Joseph, but fans have more investment in his earlier encounter with Jotaro. You can get an idea of the long history of shipping them by checking out the Jotaro and Kakyoin tags on Doujinshi.org, which has carried on beyond Japan.

In the same year Part Three began, CLAMP made their professional manga debut with RG Veda in Wings magazine. Contrary to popular belief, they did not retire from doujinshi at the time. On top of self-publishing a newsletter for their fans, CLAMP released doujinshi up until 1994. For an overview of their early derivative doujinshi, see Chibi Yuuto’s video series.

In 1992, CLAMP and Araki both began work on new series (if you count Diamond is Unbreakable as its own series rather than a continuation of JoJo overall.) Araki got a head start, but by that time they were contemporaries in the manga industry. With each of the new series taking place in 1999, X and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable both looked to the future.

In a 2005 interview, Ohkawa explained that one of her long-held concepts came to fruition in X: “I just love stories like that; 1999 being the end of the world and the end of a century.” Araki similarly described Diamond is Unbreakable in a 1993 interview: “Well, it’s supposed to continue after Part 3, and I figured ‘1999’ could add some type of ‘turn of the century’ feel to it.” In both manga, they captured the zeitgeist around the transition from the 20th to 21st century. In X, it evokes the onset apocalypse. In Diamond, it distances from Stardust Crusaders and marks a new generation.

On a surface level, X has more in common with Part Three than Four in how they both associate characters with the major arcana of the tarot. Fortune-telling cards are just one of many appearances of the occult from both authors. For Stardust Crusaders, Araki designed his own take on the tarot and named many Stands after them, such as Jotaro’s “Star” Platinum and Kakyoin’s “Hierophant” Green. In X, CLAMP opened volumes with illustrations of the character in cards, such as protagonist Kamui as the Magician to symbolize his supernatural power. 

Tarot card illustrations from X, as compiled by Tumblr user momolady.

Cardcaptor Sakura, CLAMP’s take on the magical girl genre that ran from 1996 to 2000, introduced their own take on tarot with the Clow Cards. In the series, Sakura befriends the spirits of a set of magical cards and uses them to battle. The cards could be likened to multiple Stands at Sakura’s disposal, rather than the tradition of a singular transformation of the heroine, but they speak moreso to CLAMP’s affinity for the occult than anything.

According to The Japan Times, “the tarot was first brought to popular notice in 1961 by writer Tatsuhiko Shibusawa” and such cards were first imported to Japan in 1973. Many girls and young women specifically discovered tarot through the fortune-telling magazine My Birthday published from 1979 to 2006, which included free cards and reading instructions. Overall, tarot took off in popularity around when Araki and members of CLAMP grew up in what became known as the “occult boom.” CLAMP may not have learned about tarot solely through JoJo, but it may have been one of their first times seeing it in manga.

X ran in Monthly Asuka from 1992 until an indefinite hiatus in 2003, chronicling supernatural clashes between the Dragons of Heaven and Dragons of Earth in Tokyo to decide the fate of the Earth and humankind. The Dragons of Heaven have Yuzuriha Nekoi, a young girl with a backstory similar to that of Kakyoin: in an extra chapter for volume 6, Yuzuriha reflects on how other people cannot see her supernatural canine companion Inuki. When a Dragon of Earth named Kusanagi notices Inuki, she embraces him and the two become friends.

Kusanagi has little in common with Jotaro, except for physical appearance and prowess. Jotaro is gruff, while Kusanagi is gentle. Like Jotaro and Kakyoin, he and Yuzuriha go from being foes to friends because they share spiritual abilities. Tragically, they cannot become allies as long as the Dragons of Earth and Heaven oppose each other.

The Dragons of Earth also have Kakyō Kuzuki, a dreamseer who can perceive the future rather than a warrior. He falls in love with Hokuto, a young woman who previously appeared in CLAMP’s Tokyo Babylon, but cannot prevent her tragic death. Kakyo’s physic abilities allow him to walk the dreams of others despite being in a coma. Although Kakyo’s name is phonetically similar to Kakyoin, they are spelled with different kanji and the former is his given name rather than his surname. Still, Kakyo has asymmetrical bangs that resemble Kakyoin’s, albeit with longer hair overall.

Another Dragon of Earth known as Nataku resembles Kakyoin minus his iconic side bangs, which admittedly makes this more of a stretch. Indeed, Ohkawa described Nataku as a character she created in middle school in CLAMP no Kiseki 8-9. Still, they have androgyny in common. Where Kakyoin’s feminine appearance contrasts with his true nature, Nataku is effectively nonbinary due to being created from the genetic material of a young girl and her father. Like Kakyoin, they sacrifice themself to prevent more deaths.

With X left unfinished, it’s hard to compare more to Stardust Crusaders, so let’s move on. In 1993, CLAMP released The One I Love, their first manga with Nekoi as “main artist.” Ohkawa penned the script as always, while Nekoi designed the characters and drew the storyboards instead of the established Mokona. The short story collection looks at a different relationship between a man and woman each chapter, followed by a short essay from Ohkawa.

In Ohkawa’s essay for the fifth chapter, she professes her love of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure among other things: “I love Egg McMuffins from McDonalds, the plain hot dog from Mos Burger, the ‘Shin Megami Tensei’ game from Super Famicon; Aloefan body shampoo from House of Rose, and the manga JoJo’s Strange Adventure (especially the third generation). I love all those things–and when I think about it–love always happens suddenly with me (just like in old-school manga).” CLAMP have never made their passion for JoJo a secret.

Indeed, the eighth chapter of The One I Love features CLAMP’s earliest pair of Jotaro and Kakyoin “lookalikes,” which Ohkawa said in a 2004 interview she based on recounts from her friends. A woman with wavy side bangs becomes insecure about her relationship, but her towering boyfriend with short dark hair reassures her they’re still dating. The series did not make a splash in the manga world, but it marked the beginning of CLAMP’s transition from Mokona to Nekoi as their signature style.

Chapter 8 of The One I Love.

1993 was an important year for JoJo as well, with its first adaptation to animation ever. In November of 1993, the OVA episode “Iggy the Fool and N’Doul the GEB (Pt. I)” produced by Studio A.P.P.P. was released on home video. Five more episodes were released throughout 1993 and 1994, then another seven episodes from 2000 to 2002 to cover chronologically earlier chapters.

In the summer of 1994, around the same time as the episodes “D’Arby the Gambler” and “DIO’s World: The Warrior of the Void: Vanilla Ice” were released, CLAMP hosted an event to premiere their own video. They promoted the event in March through their sixth and final issue of CLAMP LABORATORY, which also featured pages of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure doujinshi. The comic imagines an outcome where Kakyoin, DIO, Avdol, and Iggy survive the events of Stardust Crusaders and become neighbors to Jotaro, Joseph, and Polnareff. Jotaro and Kakyoin marry each other, and CLAMP designates the former the “husband” and the latter the “wife.” On some level this leans into Kakyoin’s feminine appearance, but that doesn’t mean “wifely duties” like cooking come easy to him.

At the CLAMP in Wonderland event, they distributed a doujinshi titled CLAMP in Wonderland 1994 Summer. The book credits the illustration specifically to “Mick Nekoi/CLAMP,” referring to Tsubaki Nekoi’s former pen name. CLAMP in Wonderland opens with the same husband and wife introduction as CLAMP LABORATORY, but swerves into the gang discovering a large egg created from Jotaro and Kakyoin’s love. Polnareff and Joseph assume Kakyoin laid the egg, but Kakyoin doesn’t seem so sure. Again, Kakyoin may be the “wife,” but perhaps Jotaro was the one to give birth.

The egg hatches a young boy named Jota, who predates Araki’s own take on a child of Jotaro by six years. (Araki introduced his own take on Jotaro’s child in 2000 with Jolyne Cujo, the protagonist of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean.) Kakyoin fawns over Jota, but Jotaro can’t stand his son. It wouldn’t be the first time Jotaro acts rude to a family member, but nothing suggests a love deep down like for Holly. Jota rapidly ages and develops a Stand with qualities of Star Platinum as well as Hierophant Green, which Jotaro derisively dubs “Charmy Green” after a dishwasher detergent brand.

The rivalry between Jotaro and Jota for Kakyoin’s affection resembles the heteronormative Oedipus complex hypothesized by Sigmund Freud, in which a boy desires his mother and resents his father. Freud came from the West, but Japan has a history of psychoanalysis including an influence from Freudian psychology. JoJo has its own nod to the myth of Oedipus in Battle Tendency when Joseph peeps at Lisa Lisa taking a bath, at the time unaware she’s his mother, but nothing to this extent. At the end of the doujinshi Josuke enthusiastically accepts that Jota’s “mother is a man,” but positioning Kakyoin as the mother of an Oedipal drama takes the gender essentialism beyond being Jotaro’s “wife.”

The CLAMP in Wonderland event also featured the premiere of the first CLAMP in Wonderland music video, to celebrate their work in the manga industry up until 1994. The music video put various CLAMP characters to animation for the first time ever, including a final shot of Jota and Charmy Green. The music video made its way to VHS tapes, and Jota even appeared on official CLAMP merchandise. The film was a celebration of all things CLAMP, which included doujinshi. When others might have distanced themselves from fandom, they didn’t. Jota and Charmy Green did not reappear in CLAMP in Wonderland 2 and CLAMP retired from self-publishing; but that legacy carried on, starting with Wish in 1995.

In the midst of X’s publication, Wish by CLAMP (with Nekoi as the lead artist again) ran from 1995 to 1998 in Mystery DX. It features Jotaro and Kakyoin lookalikes as main characters for the first time, and has since been considered a stealth JoJo fanfic by CLAMP fans. The story begins when a man named Shunichirou stumbles upon an angel known as Kohaku, who promises to grant him one wish in exchange for saving them. Shunichirou has no interest in wishes or Kohaku themself, but allows them to live with him.

The physical resemblances to JoJo characters is uncanny, including Shunichirou’s father to the elderly version of Joseph in Stardust Crusaders. The “ku” in their family name, Kudo, is even the same “ku” as Jotaro Kujo. Shunichirou shares height and dark hair with Jotaro, but lacks Jotaro’s signature curls. They’re both aloof, but Shunichirou isn’t as angry or foul-mouthed as his JoJo counterpart.

Shunichirou and Kohaku from Wish.

In Part Three, Jotaro speaks rudely to his mother Holly (putting it lightly), but actually loves her enough to journey across the globe to save her. Jotaro and Holly share only a few scenes together, so Araki adds tidbits like his favorite food being her cooking in his profile. CLAMP reveal Shunichirou and his mother’s relationship in flashback. In yet another Oedipal drama, Shunichiro fell in love with his adoptive mother, who let him down gently.

As for the other half of the main couple, Kohaku has the exact same hairstyle as Kakyoin drawn by CLAMP, but in blond. Like Kakyoin in their doujinshi, Kohaku struggles with housework, albeit due to their chibi proportions. Besides that, they have different personalities, such as Kohaku’s clumsiness and low self-esteem.

Shunichirou and Kohaku aren’t the only JotaKak lookalikes in Wish, either. Kohaku searches Earth for Hisui, another blond angel with bangs longer on their right side, after their disappearance. Indeed, both major angel characters in Wish resemble Kakyoin in stature and hair style. Their androgynous appearance and lack of gender could be based on Kakyoin’s perceived femininity, as well as cultural interpretations of Christian angels and the nonbinary depiction of Satan (a fallen angel) in CLAMP’S beloved Devilman by Go Nagai.

Hisui left their post in Heaven to be with Kokuyo, the son of Satan and their lover. Again, Kokuyo shares short black hair and size with Jotaro. Oddly enough, none of the CLAMP characters based on Jotaro wear a hat even though he consistently does in Part Three, Four, and Six.

Following Wish, CLAMP created more manga with Nekoi as main artist in the same fictional universe: Legal Drug, Drug & Drop, Kobato, etc. Legal Drug, which ran from 2000 to 2003, introduces not one but two more pairs of Jotaro and Kakyoin lookalikes. Teenagers Kazahaya Kudo (the same surname as Shinichirou, still the same “ku” as in Kujo) and Rikuo find themselves working for a drug store run by Kakeri (spelled with the same “ka” as Kakyoin) and Saiga, which also serves as a front for supernatural jobs.

The main cast of Drug & Drop, the sequel to Legal Drug.

Kakei remains the only one of CLAMP’s Kakyoin lookalikes with his bangs parted to the left. In the Stardust Crusaders manga as well as CLAMP’s doujinshi, the position of Kakyoin’s long wavy bangs changes from panel to panel. However, Kakayoin’s CLAMP doppelgangers consistently have the wave on the same side. All but Kakei have their wave on their right side, which David Production also adopted for Kakyoin in the Stardust Crusaders TV anime. You could say CLAMP predicted that, just like they predicted Jotaro having a child.

Around the time of Legal Drug’s serialization, a website known as “Gouhou Drug” (the Japanese title of Legal Drug) hosted on Japanese Internet provider BIGLOBE showcased pieces of JoJo fanart, including many of Jotaro and Kakyoin. The site has been lost to time, so we cannot say for sure who owned the site and whether it was closed by choice or by discontinuation of BIGLOBE. Let’s just say, the art resembles Nekoi’s.

As for the Legal Drug comic, the sequel Drug & Drop from 2011 confirms that Hisui and Kokuyo disguised themselves as the humans Kakeri and Saiga. Kohaku makes an appearance as well, and Kazahaya’s twin sister has those iconic asymmetrical bangs… but the manga remains unfinished and its connection to Wish a mystery. The characters of Wish have had a multiplicity to them ever since CLAMP introduced a second incarnation of Shuichiro, so permutations of him and Kohaku come with the territory. Overall, in the 21st century manga CLAMP embraced increasingly interconnected and self-referential universes, in a star system a la Osamu Tezuka.

Many people point to Cardcaptor Sakura’s Touya and Yukito as another CLAMP pair based on Jotaro and Kakyoin, but they would be better described as a traditional dark hair/light hair boys love couple. A square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. Touya has some things in common with Jotaro, like calling his relative names even though he loves her, but the same can’t be said for Yukito and Kakyoin. Even Yukito’s androgyny and the reveal around his “true” identity parallels Ryo from Devilman more, but even then he has a totally different disposition. The same goes for Kurogane and Fai, an iconic pair from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Bulky guys with smaller partners can be found throughout CLAMP’s bibliography.

CLAMP characters may be inspired by JoJo characters, but JoJo characters draw from others as well. Even the acclaimed Jotaro was partially based on various roles played by Clint Eastwood. Araki frequently names his characters after musicians and bases their superpowers on their respective songs, too. Those references make JoJo unique, and key to its longevity. Like CLAMP, Araki talks about his interests openly. He makes them so transparent that they have to change names in localization to avoid legal issues.

When it comes to less obvious references, the human brain likes to find patterns even if they don’t actually exist. There’s no doubt JoJo influenced many creative people, but you can’t know for sure unless they say so. CLAMP openly call themselves fans of Araki, but haven’t drawn specific lines between their works. Wish has an uncanny resemblance that can be explained in relation to JoJo, but can be read on its own as well. As for other commonalities, they could just be convergent or simply coincidence. Still, it can be fun to speculate or simply compare and contrast.

With that said, some people in English-speaking fandom approach JoJo’s impact on CLAMP differently from other creators. With Shonen Jump manga like Hunter x Hunter or Yu-Gi-Oh, they’re given as examples of the impact JoJo has had on Japanese pop culture. It props up JoJo as a great manga for its place in “The Canon” more than the work itself. Just like the Western literary canon, evident influences and allusions decide the manga canon of English-speaking fandom and thus skews toward male creators and demographics. When Araki names a character after the rock band REO Speedwagon, it’s iconic. When fans point out the resemblance between Yami Yugi and Jotaro, it’s paying homage. When fans notice Kohaku and Shuichiro’s similarities, it’s fanfic.

Comparing something to fanfiction wouldn’t be a problem if the term weren’t loaded with negative implications. To some people, “fanfiction” denotes poor quality or unoriginality. To others, it suggests passion and creativity. Concepts like alternate universes and crossovers may be stigmatized in the context of fanfiction, but accepted if not respected in others.

CLAMP’s own crossover series Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles from 2003 to 2009 follows alternate universe versions of Sakura and Syaoran traveling across dimensions to recover Sakura’s lost memories. Araki’s Steel Ball Run, concurrent to Tsubasa from 2004 to 2011, also stars alternate universe versions of pre-established characters. Partway through the series, Araki confirmed the manga as the seventh part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure that takes place in a different universe from the first six installments. The series includes alternate counterparts to the Phantom Blood characters Jonathan Joestar, William Zeppeli, and Dio Brando. In JoJolion, the eighth part of JoJo that ran from 2011 to 2021, the allusions to previous characters and storylines only increased.

Just like CLAMP, Araki references and alludes to his own work in his comics. As it stands, they’re both giants in the manga industry who mutually respect each other. In 2006, Nekoi and Araki even interviewed each other for the xxxHolic Official Guide Book. In the conversation, their different approaches to art and storytelling become apparent despite their shared interests and histories. CLAMP manga does not only derive from JoJo, but it would be inaccurate to say they don’t have a relationship.

Things came full circle in 2012 when CLAMP contributed an illustration of Jolyne to 25 Years With JoJo, a booklet celebrating the series’ anniversary. They were the only artists included without a manga serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump, which goes to show their importance and relevance to the series beyond its publisher.

With JoJo‘s Bizarre Adventure now a global phenomenal, I hope you enjoyed this look at some of tits earliest fans in its country of origin. If you enjoyed this article, you can support me with a tip by buying me a coffee. Thank you!

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