30 in 30: Diamond Is Unbreakable

Not content with the shake-up he had already given to his formula, Araki unleashed a wealth of changes to the world of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in writing Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable. Where Part 3 took Jotaro and company for a globe-trotting adventure, its follow-up features a new JoJo whose story is a little more contained. This time we focus entirely upon the Japanese town of Morioh, a peaceful little place hiding a dark secret – the means by which Dio granted Stands to his servants.

Yes, that’s right, we’re changing the power dynamics, again. Now it’s not as big of a leap as Hamon to Stands, but Araki changes the rules, saying that the powers aren’t simply inherited, but that they’re granted via an ancient relic known as the Bow and Arrow, or Stand Arrow, which, when piercing the flesh of a victim, will either kill them or, should they survive the trial, grant them a Stand power. Now, the old inheritance rules still survive, which explains the Joestar line having Stands via their connection to Dio, as he pierced himself, while inhabiting the body of Jonathan Joestar.

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Anyhow, let’s get back to some PLOT – because that’s where DIU really shines. This round, our lead JoJo is Josuke Higaskata, high school freshman. “But wait!” I hear you say, “He’s not a Joestar or a Kujo! How can he possibly be related?” Ah, clever reader, you are keeping up! But here is where our tale gets interesting – Josuke is a Joestar. In fact, he is Jotaro’s uncle! 

Yes, that’s right, Josuke is Joseph’s illegitimate son! So much for his dedication to Suzie Q (I know, dear readers! It broke my heart, too!)!

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The redeeming part is, Josuke is easily one of the best JoJos of all time. He’s a good kid with a heart of gold. He’s always there for his friends, and although he’s got a bit of a temper when you threaten those close to him or make fun of his hair, he will literally fight and die to protect those around him. And this is all exemplified by his stand: Crazy Diamond. It’s only ability is to repair things – be them animate or inanimate – although he cannot revive the dead or heal himself. So even his powers are completely selfless. It can punch and throw things, but as it’s pretty low on the destructive scale, it means he has to be creative in how he uses an ability that’s basically 100% healing.

Alongside him, we have three other new main cast members: Okuyasu Nijimura, Koichi Hirose, and Rohan Kishibe. Okuyasu is first introduced as a villain, as his brother, Keicho, is the first to steal the Stand Arrow. Okuyasu is a bit dim-witted and easily lead around, but as the story progresses, it’s clear that he’s a good guy at heart. Both of the Nijimura brothers were simply looking out for their father, who was transformed due to his proximity to Dio, back in the day. As Okuyasu works with Josuke, however, we see him calm down, and learn to control his Stand, The Hand, better. His abilities are basically the complete opposite of his new friend – anything the right hand of his Stand touches is completely removed, be it words on a plaque, an incoming projectile, or even just the space between him and a foe, so he can draw them closer for a big punch.

Koichi is actually the first character we meet in Morioh, as he bumps into Jotaro on his way into town. He’s sort of our narrator, early on, and gives us perspective for quite a bit of the arc, as we see him grow as a young man throughout the story. Though short in stature, he’s big on heart, and we see him rise to the occasion again and again, slowly building on his self-confidence. Like the other characters, his personality is reflected in his Stand, Echoes, which is the first shown in the series to have stages, or Acts. Echoes “evolves” three times throughout the series, each time changing shape and growing new abilities, although it is always shown to have an association to sound, whether it be making onomatopoeias take on physical form, making a sound reverberate in a victim’s mind, or slowing a target with a sound-based rhyme (called “3 Freeze”). Koichi is so delightful and sweet, it’s really hard not to like him as we see him overcome each tribulation put before him.

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Finally, there’s Rohan Kishibe, the prolific (and sometimes mad) young manga artist. At first, he’s simply roped into the adventure because Koichi reveres his work, but once he finds personal stakes in the greater mystery, he becomes an integral part of the team. Rohan lives to create, and he always wants to find new source material. He has to know just how things in the real world tick so that his creations can be the most authentic, leading to awkward scenes like this:

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Yes, that’s right. Rohan needs to know the taste of a spider… in order to draw one better. He’s weird. That leads to his Stand, Heaven’s Door, which allows him to stun a person and turn them into a book, reading their history, their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, and even giving him the ability to write commands and put limitations on them.

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It’s… pretty freaking terrifying. These bits of self-determination make Rohan a much more bold character, in stark contrast to a lot of the others, and he’s much more willing to step on the whims of his “allies” to get where he wants to be. Therefore, it’s easy to read Rohan and dislike him – I know I sure did when I first worked through Diamond Is Unbreakable. But there was something about his portrayal in the anime that actually made me come around on Rohan, and I found him being one of my favorite characters in the arc. Obviously I empathize with him as a fellow artist, but I think his motivations come out a lot clearer, and the pacing helps this, too. Also… Josuke and the gang give him a bad rap, so maybe the poor guy just needs the damn kids off his lawn!

Now that I’ve hinted at it a bit, let’s get into what really sets Diamond apart from so much of the rest of Jojo’s: the story. While at first it’s set up as “get back the Stand Arrow,” it quickly spirals into something much, much worse. You see, Morioh holds its own secret: there’s been a string of murders happening in recent years, and they’re starting to spike. So our small-town heroes have to band together to find the killer’s identity, outmaneuver his Stand, and bring him to justice.

Which means we have to talk about the villain, himself – and, luckily, that’s not really a spoiler, at all, as we spend a fair amount of time following him around his daily life, once this plot point is revealed. His name is Yoshikage Kira, a simple business man who just wants to live a quiet life alone… but in the darkest recesses of his heart, he’s a cold and calculated killer, who enjoys murdering women and cutting off their hands as trophies.

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His Stand? Killer Queen, a looming, pale figure with literally explosive power, able to turn objects into bombs with a mere touch. The fact that it completely disintegrates the target, and that its effects, by way of being Stand-based, are completely untraceable and undetectable by non-Stand Users, make him a fearsome murderer, indeed. You don’t know what will kill you until it’s too late. Granted, he can only have one bomb active at a time, but Kira has spent years as a mundane serial killer – these new powers have given him plenty of new avenues to hone his terrible craft.

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And that’s really the joy of Diamond Is Unbreakable – Araki found a beautiful medley of slice-of-life manga and detective murder mystery, all rolled into one. In the same story, you have the heroes tracking down an amoral serial killer and taking a day out to go to a new Italian restaurant (oh yeah, did I mention this arc has our first non-combat Stands? HOW COOL IS THAT?). It’s beautifully paced, the characters are fully realized, and there are moments of real triumph and loss. Some of the most heart-wrenching character deaths happen here, and you feel them most because you have the time to get to know these men and women, and, in the end, they’re just regular people thrown into extraordinary circumstances.

I could go on and on about this part of the series – the change to naming Stands after musical acts (we have highlights such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cheap Trick, Pearl Jam, Bad Company, and so many more), an anime with a simply fantastic musical score, a change in art style to a slimmer, less bulky design… But really, Diamond Is Unbreakable is probably one of the best parts of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure out there. If you want to dive right in, I highly encourage you to check out the anime from last year – you don’t really need any of the previous parts to enjoy this one, and while it’s not always up to the same production standards as other arcs, David Productions still does a fantastic job.

And, simply because I cannot resist, I’ll leave you with the beautifully ominous theme for Yoshikage Kira. As I touched on, I really think that this season brought the arrangements back to, if not exceeding, the level of Part 2’s anime, and may even rank with some of the all-time classics. Though I really do just love me some piano-based show tunes.

Perfectly encapsulates everything about this suave, yet terrifying man. Love. It. And if it’s piqued your interest, I recommend you hunt down the whole OST, and definitely check out the three stunning opening tracks for the anime – they’re all kick ass, in their own way.

So that’s all for this week, folks! Come back next Thursday as we dive into our first Jojo series without an anime adaptation – and I run a high risk of ruffling some feathers!

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