Follow TV Tropes


Manga / JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run

Go To
”This story is about how I got up on my feet. Not in the physical sense, but how I went from adolescence to adulthood.
Johnny Joestar

Steel Ball Run is the seventh part of the long-running JoJo's Bizarre Adventure series. It is preceded by Stone Ocean and followed by JoJolion. While still published by Shonen Jump in 2004, the following year it transferred to the magazine's Seinen cousin, Ultra Jump, running there until 2011.

The story returns to 1890, but in an different universe from the previous parts. Philanthropist Stephen Steel, hoping to rekindle the United States' pioneering spirit, will be holding the Steel Ball Run: a cross-country marathon from San Diego to New York, a nearly 3000-mile span. With a prize pot of 50 million dollars, the announcement attracts equestrians and other contenders from all over the world to California for a chance at glory.

Johnny Joestar is a cynical and bitter young paraplegic, an ex-jockey who has been lost since an accident paralyzed him from the waist down. Upon meeting race participant Gyro Zeppeli, a boisterous and charismatic Italian, he discovers that Gyro's mysterious weapons, a pair of steel balls, are able to make him temporarily walk. Johnny, desperate to understand the secret of Gyro's technique, opts to join the race and learn Gyro's tricks firsthand.


Unfortunately, there is a lot more going on in the race than either Johnny or Gyro first imagine. As the race goes on they find themselves in constant conflict with cutthroat competitors, and gradually uncover a huge conspiracy involving an ancient corpse and the President of the United States.

Steel Ball Run marks an important transition for the franchise: it marks the series' jump to a new continuity (which the later JoJolion would continue), unrelated to the previous parts other than the iconic Stands and certain character namesakes. Moreover, during its run the franchise shifted from being published in Weekly Shounen Jump to Ultra Jump, a monthly seinen magazine.


'Rella! 'Rella! Pizza Mozzarella! It has a second verse, this time with "tropes"!

  • Abnormal Ammo: Tusk gives Johnny the ability to shoot his fingernails like bullets from a gun. It takes it Up to Eleven as Tusk evolves and gains new abilities, from being able to move the bullet holes to bullets that can be shot through multiple dimensions.
  • Adventure Duo: Johnny and Gyro, the main protagonists of Steel Ball Run. Gyro is the hotblooded and extraverted member of the duo while Johnny is more serious and cold.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: In New York, it turns out the sewer is big enough to accommodate Johnny riding on his horse. And there's still a bit of height left for him to aim his arm upward toward the alternate Diego Brando.
  • Actually Four Mooks: An extreme non-video game example in the form of the Eleven Men, a group of henchmen sent by the Big Bad to hunt down our two heroes. Their Stand Tatoo You! enables them to merge into and out of each other via the tatoos on their backs, effectively allowing every mook to exist inside a single member like a living Clown Car.
  • Alternate Continuity: Steel Ball Run takes place in a new universe and does not continue the story from the previous parts, albeit there are numerous Mythology Gags and retooling of concepts from previous parts.
  • Alternate History: A minor example, Naples has remained a city state as of 1890, deciding against joining the unified Italy. Sometime after the race, a revolution occurs, the monarchy is ousted, and Naples is absorbed into a republic.
  • America Saves the Day: Johnny is full blooded American, so much so that he got stars painted on to his hands when he gained Tusk.
    • Inverted with the Big Bad, who is the President of the United States. He claims he wants the corpse parts to protect his country, but his actions and the napkin speech show his true colors.
  • And I Must Scream: Also counts as Almost Out of Oxygen. When Magent Magent falls into a deep river, he uses his stand 20th Century Boy, which pretty much makes him invincible while in a kneeling position, so that he won't drown and Diego will be able to rescue him. When that doesn't happen, he eventually stops thinking and remains at the bottom of the river indefinitely.
  • Art Evolution: One of the most notable aspects of SBR relative to other parts is the fact that, due to it eventually moving to a monthly magazine, Araki had more time to refine his art. You can even see this happen gradually as Araki experiments with more detailed cross-hatching in certain panels, and changing around the proportions of his characters to be more realistic.
  • Artistic License – Physics: At one point the manga claims that gravity is what's holding the atoms in our bodies together. That would be strong interaction (in nuclei) and electromagnetism (electrons to the nucleus) instead.
    • However, certain interpretations of cosmology and quantum physics postulate that all fundamental forces are tied to gravity.
  • Attempted Rape: First seen in Ringo's backstory where he was almost raped by a vagrant. The second instance is Funny Valentine attempting to rape Lucy, and changing his mind once he sees she's become a vessel for the Corpse Parts.
  • Back for the Dead: After seemingly dying in the second leg of the race in Steel Ball Run, Mountain Tim returns to save Miss Lucy Steel from certain death... only to get killed later in the chapter.
  • Badass Driver: A lot of the horse riders here, from Diego riding in his dinosaur form, to Pocoloco sliding down a hill on the corpse of a cow, all while on a horse.
  • Balloon Belly: At one point, Gyro and Johnny have to spend millions of dollars in one day and try eating plenty of luxurious food, earning Gyro a momentary Balloon Belly; made all the more hilarious since by then, Araki's switched to a realistic artstyle.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: It's implied that Jesus might have been a Stand user.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Big Bad's ambitions are stopped, and Johnny's father has finally come around and apologized to him, but Johnny's lost a dear friend, the child his friend risked his life to save from execution dies soon after, and as of Part 8, he dies to save his family from a disease.
  • Book-Ends: Steel Ball Run's second chapter ends with Johnny talking about how he started to walk - not physically but in the child to adult sense. The last chapter has him talking more about how it was a story of revival, in many senses.
  • Canon Welding: Steel Ball Run started off as a spin-off of JoJo, as there was no connection other than the names, but once the manga switched to Ultra Jump, the story officially became Part 7.
  • Carnival of Killers: Johnny and Gyro are being attacked by assassins because they hold the corpse parts, which the Big Bad wants.
  • Chase Fight: During the manga's last few volumes, Johnny battles the alternate incarnation of Diego as both race toward the finish line of the race.
  • Church Militant: Hot Pants is hinted to be a nun sent by the Vatican to retrieve the parts of the corpse of a holy saint heavily implied to be Jesus Christ, as such a relics will confer supreme authority over the Christian world to whoever has it.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Inverted. Funny Valentine was captured by enemies and tortured during the Civil War. The scars left on his back resemble that of the American Flag.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The story of SBR is just as much about the race and its implications as it is about Johnny's growth. One of his commentaries for this adventure is:
    Johnny Joestar: This story relates how I got up on my feet.
  • Convenient Cranny: Johnny manages to find a rock to hide under while being hunted by Wired.
  • Continuity Reboot: Steel Ball Run is set in an alternate universe and starts back during the time period of Phantom Blood.
  • Cool Big Bro: Nicholas Joestar was one for Johnny. His tragic death contributed to make Johnny depressive.
  • Cooperation Gambit: Diego Brando briefly associates himself with Valentine in order to get rid of Johnny and Gyro in their chase for the Holy Corpse, then when Valentine gathers its part, he teams up with Wekapipo and later Hot Pants.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Johnny has to do this in order to learn more about the Spin and overcome any adversity on his adventure, which is made more difficult since Johnny is a paraplegic.
  • Darker and Edgier: The franchise had gradually been getting more risque and ambitious in its storytelling and characterization for years, and part 7 officially transitioned to a franchise aimed at adults. It shows. Johnny is by far the most flawed, byronic Jojo with a backstory that has more in common with western TV dramas than mainstream manga and anime. The part in general takes itself more seriously than the previous parts, with a greater focus on the central narrative and the Character Development of the cast. The greater freedom afforded to the seinen demographic also allowed Araki to go further than he did in the previous parts, with even a few cases of on-screen Attempted Rape.
  • Death Course: The Steel Ball Run, which is a horse race that spans the entire length of the US. Now that doesn't sound too bad but you have to remember that Part 7 takes place in the late 1800s and our protagonists are constantly being hunted down by assassins and rogue Stand users.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • Lucy showing up with Diego's head. To be fair, Diego allows himself to be consumed with rage and tries to kill Lucy instead of running away.
    • It's also invoked in name by the spin. It is a reference to the logic of a 13th century priest, who stated that if a sphere spins, it can do so to infinity. He called this a "Deus ex Machina".
  • Dimensional Traveler: Funny Valentine has the ability to travel between dimensions, but he is still only interested in his own dimension which contains the Holy Corpse, able to bless the United States for all eternity.
  • Dismantled Macguffin: The Corpse Parts, being ten separate pieces of the corpse of Jesus Christ.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Diego infiltrates the Independence Hall dressed as one of the guards.
  • Eagleland: The United States of America constitute the entire setting of the part as the character cross the continent on horseback, starting at San Diego beach and finishing in New York while crossing The Wild West and Flyover Country. The manga doesn't linger on the United States themselves, but still offers a diverse cast of Americans, from the optismistic Stephen Steel bent on pioneering spirit, the noble cowboy Mountain Tim, but also President Funny Valentine, a Noble Demon full of Patriotic Fervor, while the Indian Sandman criticizes how the Americans have stolen his tribe's land.
  • Eldritch Location: "The Devil's Palm" is a nightmarish region of the Arizona Desert that can change location and traps people until they either die or leave as Stand Users.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "JoJo" is this to Johnny Joestar, hence why he goes by "Johnny" and not "Jonathan" anymore.
  • Epic Race: The eponymous competition, in which thousands of competitors are racing across the United States in order to win 50 million dollars.
  • Eye Scream: Johnny's eyes are set on fire twice. He also gets stabbed in the eye by cactus spines in an earlier chapter. Really, it's a miracle that the man doesn't go blind.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Literally. Gyro Zeppeli's ability with his metal spheres involves causing them to spin, then endowing this spin to other objects, enabling him to cut through stone, alter someone's muscular system, and even harden skin enough that bullets bounce off (not that it hurts any less, though). Wekapipo uses a variant for his Wrecking Ball.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy: Gyro uses steel balls influenced by Spin energy to dispose of the Big Bad's assassins.
    • Wekapipo also uses steel balls, but his have miniature steel balls in them that fly out when thrown. When hit, the opponent is afflicted with Left-Side Ataxia, which causes the opponent to not see anything to their left.
  • Final Battle:
    • The final battle takes place by the sea as the land around our hero and the villain draws closer to Lucy and Funny Valentine is surrounding the area with Love Train. Now add stands and a ball crushingly sad death to mix and you got one hell of a final battle.
    • After this climactic battle, the denouement concludes with Lucy and the alternate Dio confronting each other in Valentine's vault just before he can succeed in stealing the Corpse, where Lucy has brought the one weapon that can defeat him: the decapitated head of the original Dio. Though not as epic in scale it is perhaps the most tense, claustrophobic, and triumphant fight in the Part.
  • Forceful Kiss: Diego does this to Hot Pants, although he was actually trying to suffocate her after she tried to suffocate him. It gets the same sound effect as the Dio/Erina kiss from Phantom Blood as a shoutout.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The story begins with a retrospective quote from Johnny, indicating that he will survive the whole ordeal in a high note.
  • Foreshadowing: In the earlier chapters, Valentine is always surrounded by people who look very similar to him, possibly hinting at his stand D4C's ability which is only revealed much later.
  • Garlic Is Abhorrent: Sugar Mountain repeats several pieces of advice given to her by her parents, among them a vehement 'Never eat garlic!'
  • A Handful for an Eye: During their second horse racing duel, Diego sends small dinosaur-fleas on Gyro's horse, perturbating it because they begin to attack its eye.
  • Handicapped Badass: Our protagonist, Johnny, is a paraplegic, and lost any feeling from the waist down. Amazingly, this doesn't him from participating in a horse race that spans the entire continental United States.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: On concept, being able to use the Spin to make things... spin, doesn't sound like a particularly useful ability to have, and not nearly as useful as its earlier counterpart in Ripple. In reality, it has a ton of useful applications: spinning one's nails or thrown items to turn them into deadly projectiles, triggering muscle reflexes to make a paraplegic walk, flatten limbs to let the user twist into tight spaces, or affecting one's skin to change their appearance.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: A mild case, but Dio Brando (not exactly that Dio Brando, though) ends up being the final enemy in Steel Ball Run.
  • Honest Axe: Sugar Mountain, the guardian of The Saint's ears. If you throw something in the spring, she'll ask what it is that you lost among a selection of choices. Answer honestly and you get it all. At first Gyro and Johnny seem to exploit this to get what they want, but they find out very quickly that there's a catch even to that. You have to "use up" whatever you got before sundown of that day, or else you'll be assimilated by a "tree". Only so many people can be assimilated at any point in time, and Sugar Mountain deliberately strung Gyro and Johnny along simply because she'll get her parents back if they get assimilated.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Johnny initially only had very little exposure to what Stands actually are, so when he actually gets one, it's up to him to learn its ability. The same thing happens to Gyro as well.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Valentine has Lucy in his power and tries to rape her. He quickly backs down once he sees that she's the host for the entire Corpse. Alternate Universe Diego does the same, but he's killed before acting on it.
  • Jail Bait: Lucy Steel is sexualized a lot for a 16 years old girl. May be Values Dissonance as this is seen as more acceptable in Japan than it is in some other areas of the world.
    • Granted, two of the characters that lust after her are blatant villains, while her husband is only a close friend.
  • Jesus Taboo: Averted—though he's not named, the Holy Corpse is almost certainly Jesus.
  • Leg Cling: The fourth volume cover of Steel Ball Run has Johnny doing this to Gyro.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Due to manipulating Axl R.O., Funny Valentine was able to arrange for all but two of the Corpse parts to come together and are now in his possession.
  • MacGuffin Super Person: Lucy Steel becomes the Holy Corpse, and can bless anyone with the power of Karma Houdini. Thus much of the penultimate fight revolves around her.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Valentine tries to rape Lucy in the Independence Hall, wondering if the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in the very room they are in.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Lucy Steel become pregnant with the Corpse of the Saint, to add to the weirdness she's even expected to deliver the very same day she's become pregnant.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: If two versions of the same person from alternate dimensions touch, they will both be annihilated. This is one key use of Valentine's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. D4C also insulates Valentine himself from this effect and actually allows him to mentally sync with his alternative selves. The annihilation effect turns out to be the only thing allowing for a final victory for the heroes when Lucy uses the severed head of the home dimension's Diego against the alternative Diego.
  • Not Justa Tournament: To Valentine, the Steel Ball Run is part of his plan to gather all of the Corpse Parts for himself and for America.
  • Not Quite Dead : Magenta Magenta seems like he was unceremoniously killed by Gyro when a bullet went through his head, but the brain left untouched and Magenta Magenta managed to drag himself back to civilization where he was treated and continues to hinder the heroes.
  • Not Worth Killing: Blood Knight Ringo Roadagain spares the life of Gyro Zeppeli because it disgusts him to kill someone with no real killing intent. Cue Gyro acquiring said killing intent.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Stephen Steel and his wife Lucy have this dynamic, although everyone mistakes it as a Dirty Old Man having a Trophy Wife. When Lucy was sold to the mafia because of her family's debt, Stephen saved her by pretending he'd already had her virginity and married her. He then privately shut of the possibility of any Relationship Upgrade with her, wishing her to life her life and be happy. Nonetheless, the two are very close and risk their lives trying to save the other. The narration itself recognizes that their relationship cannot be classified as either romance of friendship.
  • Politically Correct History: Despite being set in the 19th century, an era that wasn't very kind to non-Caucasians, Pocoloco, Sandman, and Norisuke are treated very respectfully by most of the cast, and none of the adversity they face is related to their race.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The first time D4C's power is disclosed, Johnny is shot by someone and we follow not less than four times the point of views of different characters (Johnny, Wekapipo, Diego and Valentine) in order to explain everything. It turns out that all of their perspectives are accurate... but they took place in different universes.
  • Rescue Arc: The penultimate fight of Steel Ball Run consists of Johnny and Gyro trying to rescue Lucy from Valentine.
  • Retool: The nature of Stands here is very different from the previous parts. In the new iteration of reality of Steel Ball Run, people develop Stands from being in contact with some form of the Saint's Corpse, either obtaining a part of the corpse for themselves of having survived an ordeal in one of the Devil's Palms where the pieces were first located as the land tore apart when Jesus of Nazareth died there and carried the pieces of his fractured corpse across the Arizona desert. And many of the Stands in Steel Ball Run are more ability- and object-oriented than the humanoid forms they've had since Stardust Crusaders; Scan is one of Gyro's Steel Balls, Cream Starter is a spray can, Oh! Lonesome Me is a lasso, and Tusk starts out just as a small sprite that appears alongside Johnny when he shoots off his fingernails. The follow-up part JoJolion, which takes place in the same timeline as SBR, returns to the series roots in a fashion by having more humanoid Stands, but they first appear as inanimate abilities of the users.
  • Rival Final Boss: The last major opponent Johnny faces is Diego Brando, one of the frontrunners of the Steel Ball Run, or at least, an alternate universe version of him, armed with THE WORLD.
  • Send in the Clones: Funny Valentine's Stand power makes him practically immortal, since when he dies, a parallel version of himself is brought in to take his place, and gets all his memories too.
  • Spaghetti Western: Araki's love for Italian Culture (fashion, brands, culture, food, films) is finally brought to the forefront in his love letter to the gritty, violent, cynical Wild West from The Dollars Trilogy made by Sergio Leone... with much more fabulous clothes of course. The plot of Steel Ball Run, essentially about the friendship between two violent amoral and cynical cowboys, is a tongue in cheek yet affectionate nod to the friendship between Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef's characters from For a Few Dollars More. It should be noted that the original inspiration for Jotaro's portrayal drew directly from the performance of Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name, and Eastwood himself became an avid fan of Jojo after learning this fact, even meeting and befriending Araki as a result.
  • Sports Hero Backstory:
    • Johnny Joestar was a star-jockey hailed as a genius before receiving his Career-Ending Injury.
    • Being Johnny's Foil, so was Diego.
  • Translation Convention: Most characters speak English, despite the original publishing language being Japanese. This also extends to units (displayed in metric) and currency, meaning the Steel Ball Run prize is actually in the ballpark of 2.5 million dollars.note 
  • Truth in Television: Sandman. Yes, there are Native Americans who have incredible running prowess, at least in terms of endurance.
  • Twilight of the Old West: Steel Ball Run is set in 1890, during which the train and the car are beginning to replace horses as the main means of transportation. The "western" setting in the west fades little by little as the racers go East toward the civilized areas of the United States.
  • The Unfavorite: Johnny had this unfortunate problem in Steel Ball Run with his brother Nicholas. The fact that Johnny indirectly killed Nicholas by not killing a pet rat that would go on to startle his horse makes it all the more heart-wrenching.
  • The Virus: Dr. Ferdinand's Scary Monsters Stand, which turns its victims into dinosaurs.
  • Weird West: "Steel Ball Run". Cowboys? Check. Gunfights? Check.(kinda) Weird stuff? Oh yes.
  • Wham Line: From the alternate Dio, cementing that this is not the Dio we know:
    THE WORLD! This time is only mine!
  • Wham Shot: In Part 90, Dio lunging out at Johnny... wielding not Scary Monsters, but The World.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gyro is outraged that Johnny is planning to kill Diego in cold blood and chews him out for thinking this as he doesn't consider himself a murderer.
  • White and Grey Morality: Part 7 is founded on this. While people like Gyro and Lucy are good people (Johnny eventually comes around as well, though he's much grayer than most heroes), none of the main villains are really evil, per say. Diego wants to win because it's his job, and to fulfil his dream of being wealthy to avenge his mother. Funny Valentine, on the other hand wants the parts because he feels that they are too dangerous for anyone else, and he wants to use them to further the gain of his country and make his citizens lives better. When the main villain is a guy that Jesus Christ himself approves of, you know this trope is in full effect.
  • Whole Plot Reference:
    You got a broken heart / He's double dealin' with your best friend / That's when the teardrops start, fella
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Johnny was always The Un-Favourite to his father compared to his late brother Nicholas, and himself had a lot of guilt over his belief that he was indirectly responsible for Nicholas' horse accident. However, when his father tells him to his face that "God took the wrong son", Johnny becomes fully depressive.

Alternative Title(s): Steel Ball Run


Example of: