I was never that big of a fan of Made in Abyss. I found the main cast to be very uninteresting and nothing about the story struck me as anything that memorable. I feel like I could appreciate a little more when rewatching it, seeing as the themes it tackled became more clear (with Reg’s sexuality being a very interesting aspect of his character). But what I always appreciated from day one was its story. The way that you are truly placed into the world that the character inhabits is very impressive. The incredibly detailed backgrounds by Osamu Masuyama mixed with the way that the character interacted with the setting made me feel like it was a world worth exploring.
And this is something I find few shows or movies do well. Every now and then you find a show like this that really does something with its setting, but for the most part, I find that the world I enter isn’t worth shit. And that doesn’t just mean fantasy stories, even ones that take place in the real world can’t use that as an excuse to not make the setting interesting. There’s a lot that you can do with the real world, cause it isn’t just the world. It is where you have lived ever since you were born. Your school isn’t just a school, it’s the one that you have possibly spent a lot of time in and have made relationships and memories. Your house isn’t just a house in whatever country and city you live in, it’s one where you became who you are. And I feel like many anime neglects that and just make their setting a background and not an aspect of its characters. And to my surprise, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable avoided this.
In the fourth part of the popular Jojo series, Jotaro Kujo whom we saw defeat Dio Brando 11 years prior, meets Josuke Higashikata who is revealed to be another stand user. The two make friends along the way of hunting for the next threat in the city of Morioh.
And this premise kind of scared me. The previous seasons of the series have almost always been about finding the antagonist and beating them. The first part of Jojo focuses on Jonathan Joestar who has to find Dio Brando and kill him, the second focuses on… was it the pillar men or was that just a side thing I don’t know, and then in the third part the focus is on Jotaro and his friends finding Dio again and killing him. But this season feels differently, however. While the focus is still on finding Kira and killing him, because of his goal of living a peaceful and normal life which I’ll get back to later, the series doesn’t leave the town of Morioh. The series has always had a lot of different settings, but few of them felt all that developed so I was scared that the town would become boring after a while. Still, there was hope. I had seen The Lighthouse a few days before which only takes place in a lighthouse, so a whole town was probably enough to make 16 hours interesting.
In the second episode of the series, a villain by the name of Anjuro Katagiri has already started threatening Josuke and Jotaro. When the weather becomes rainy in Morioh, he uses his stand to control the water in and around his house. It becomes a tense fight scene, where the villain could come at any point from any direction. But in the end, Josuke and Jotaro find Anjuro hidden in a tree, and with Josuke’s healing ability he morphs Anjuro with a stone. And like most rocks, he stays. Anjuro, or more commonly known as “Angelo Rock”, becomes a part of the town. The rock becomes a landmark, almost a tourist attraction, where lovers meet. We continue to see Angelo rock, Josuke says hello to it which Koichi then starts to do as well. We see it become a part of the world. And this is one of the reasons why I found the world to feel so real. These landmarks are what make Morioh so special cause you can tell that people live in it. Boing-Boing Cape, a place believed to be holy for saving Yukako when she was seen “committing suicide”, Toyohiro becomes famous after being known as the man living in a tower, and Rohan Kishibe’s house whose directions aren’t noted as he’ll pretend that he isn’t at home. Irrelevant details are included to make sure that this town feels real. And I find one of these landmarks to be especially interesting, that being Reimi’s Alley. The alley where you can meet a ghost girl and can’t look back. I find this both interesting because of how reminiscent of a rumor it sounds like, but also how it is executed in the series. How important the alley becomes to telling the story.
First Rohan gets possessed by a stand that kills its own user if it is seen, and he walks to the alley to make the stand look back and is therefore taken by the ghost-hands to the unknown. It is then later used in the end to finally kill off Kira, which puts Reimi at peace at last.
And I find this so interesting because it tells me that both Araki and his characters know this town. Rohan knows it enough that he uses it to defeat Cheap Trick, and Araki knows it enough that he kills off the central antagonist with it. It shows that Araki wants the setting to be a part of the story and not a backdrop to it. It started to feel like a character, and I loved that.
But like most (good) characters, it is multi-sided. And another aspect of Morioh that I feel the need to point out how the town tackles the precognition that your town is and will always be good. That what you know is good.
Morioh resembles in many ways everyone’s hometown. It’s a normal suburban neighborhood. Nothing about it sticks out, if not it’s anticlimactic existence in a Jojo season. But the structure is very reminiscent of part 3 which feels weird in a setting so calm like this one. Villains are thrown at you left and right when one leaves another appears. And you start to realize then how Morioh isn’t what you were led to believe. Morioh isn’t the image of a hometown that you have in your mind but what it actually is. Flawed and potentially dangerous. Your hometown is probably not the home of a mass murderer with a hand fetish, but it is probably closer than you think. We have been tricked by the fear of the unknown that the known isn’t to be feared. But you don’t know everything about what you think you know. And speaking of mass murders with hand fetishes, Kira Yoshikage embodies this theme.
Kira is unlike any Jojo villain that we have seen before. Both Dio Brando and the Pillar men are clear-cut villains. Their goal is to kill the main characters, and they’ll do anything to do so. They present themself more as forces of evil rather than actual characters. But Kira presents himself differently. His goal isn’t to kill anyone, but to keep himself sane and normal. In the popular monologue about how Kira lives his life, he tells Shigechi that his life resembles our own mostly. He works for the Kame Yu department stores, he doesn’t smoke but drinks on occasions and he cares deeply about getting enough sleep. But if killing someone means that he’ll get enough sleep, then he’ll do it easily.
And that’s how he characterizes the town. His appearance is unremarkable, his way of life isn’t abnormal or immoral really and he just wants a quiet life, not unlike what many of us. But when you look closer and see the end of the hand, you realize that something’s off. And I think I’ll always find characters like that interesting. Ones that can embody a theme or setting. That can personify what a story is about.
At the same time, I have conflicting thoughts about this theme. While the structure helps to convey the feeling that the town isn’t what it seems, it quickly becomes very repetitive. There always seems to be another villain that can inconvenience the Jojo boys for a few episodes until they befriend him/her and they turn into a completely new person. Many of them start to feel useless in the end, like the episode where they fight a rat for 30 minutes or try to find a baby. They start to feel like fillers, even when they “develop” the characters. It turns into some pretty annoying moments where they try to make you feel emotional for a character that you’ve mostly seen as an asshole. Yukako is a good example of this, who threatens to kill Koichi in an episode but has her own arc a few episodes later where we are supposed to feel bad for her.
In the end, I don’t think Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable is a genius masterpiece. For the most part, it is dumb fun with interesting stand powers and weird inconsistencies. It ends with the Jojo boys having fun in the town, showing all the characters we have met in all the new places we have been at, with Great Days behind it all. And doesn’t that just feel weird? We have spent all this time showing that this town isn’t what it seems, and that is neglected as Tonio makes food Okuyasu’s dad but comically only sheds his skin and maintains his weird form. Isn’t this exactly the opposite of what the story wanted to say? That the town will always be a safe space for the malicious.
But maybe that’s alright. The town will always be filled with evil and killing Kira doesn’t change that, destruction still persists. But maybe it’s a sign that you can overcome it. That it is hopeless to try to save the unsaveable, so maybe just live life knowing that you don’t have to do anything. To live in optimistic nihilism
A weak 8/10
Edit: This review used to end with “We are the jojo boys” and I need to keep that in this review