In the United States, fans of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure are always hungry for new content. Toonami is even all caught up on the anime adaptation so far. The manga’s English release is currently far behind (VIZ Media is only just nearing the end of Diamond Is Unbreakable), and David Production announced an adaptation of Stone Ocean (Part Six) quite some time ago. This leaves a considerable gap in the amount of time fans will need to wait for anything following Golden Wind’s (Part Five) conclusion.
Thankfully, Netflix left a small appetizer for Jojo fans earlier this year–the four-part miniseries Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan, a spinoff of Diamond is Unbreakable with its eccentric mangaka in the starring role. Being a JoJo fan myself, being able to have more content on a property as large as this always brings a smile to my face. And the fact that fans are getting a miniseries with Rohan, who is a huge fan-favorite from Diamond Is Unbreakable, makes this project more fascinating. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get when watching (since I haven’t read the manga), but I’m all for digesting more Jojo content. Sure, this will never find its way to Toonami, but being able to venture outside of the block (if possible) adds a new flavor when consuming anime, and one that shouldn’t be shied away from.
*I will be covering all four parts in detail in this article (yes, including the endings), so consider this your spoiler warning.*
Before we continue, we need to address the elephant in the room: In Diamond is Unbreakable, Rohan was voiced by controversial voice actor Vic Mignogna. For this adaptation, he was recast in this miniseries by Landon McDonald. He does an incredible impression, so you don’t have to worry about indirectly supporting him if you watch the dub.
Episode 16: At a Confessional
Yes, you read that right–Episode 16. The original manga for this spinoff is deliberately out of order, and the anime kept the same numbers.
While on a trip to Italy, Rohan becomes enamored with the confessional booths in a church in Venice and decides to partake in a confessional to research his next manga. However, as soon as he sits down, someone sits in the booth next to him and mistakes Rohan as a priest, confessing his sins.
The confessor (who has no name, so I’ll refer to him as such) is an overworked, stressed laborer who makes a living carrying large sacks of corn. One day, as his lunch break approached, a starving beggar asked him for some food, and the confessor denied him a piece of his lunch unless he worked for it–making him carry the corn himself. The weak, hungry beggar doesn’t make it through one bag before he falls over and dies. The beggar’s ghost appears to him, swearing revenge that he will take away everything he loves on the happiest day of his life.
Following the incident, the confessor’s life took a fortunate turn. He won the lottery and became an incredibly wealthy entrepreneur; he married a beautiful wife and had a daughter. One day, while he was out watching his daughter playing tricks with a bag of popcorn, he believed he was having the happiest day of his life. Then the tragedy struck. The beggar’s ghost takes possession of his daughter and challenges him to a game of fate, depending on whether he lives or dies.
The ghost tosses the confessor his daughter’s bag of popcorn and tells him to throw the popcorn high into the air and catch it in his mouth. Do it three times, and the ghost will let him go. The sun is in his eye the first time, but he manages to catch it. The second time, the sun is obscured by clouds, but a flock of birds try to swoop down and eat it, but he rips the bag open and catches the popcorn again. The third time is the ultimate challenge: birds are swarming everywhere around him due to opening the bag. He throws one last piece of popcorn, but he clearly lights it on fire to keep the pigeons away from it, and to make matters worse, the clouds have cleared away, blinding him again. The popcorn falls on his shirt, and the ghost chops off his head.
Now that leaves the question: If the confessor is dead, how is he confessing to Rohan in the church? In a surprising plot twist, it turns out the confessor had used one of his servants as a body double to trick the beggar into chopping off his head instead, allowing him to get away scot-free. Rohan watched in horror as he pulled away from the curtain, and both ghosts vow revenge.
This episode is a fantastic start to the miniseries. It’s a perfectly paced horror story with an amazingly clever twist and the same great visual flair that David Production has provided for their JoJo adaptations. The only thing I felt could have been excluded is the framing device at the start and end of the episode, featuring Rohan at a cafe with other characters , and this will be a recurring set piece with the other episodes. Regardless, this episode was terrific.
Episode 2: Mutsu-kabe Hill
Rohan sets up a meeting with his editor and explains to him that he’s flat broke–he spent his fortune buying several hills to research his next manga since he had heard whispers that a monster had lived on those hills. It turns out the rumors were true, and this episode explores the story based on his research.
Before an incident involving a murder, the Osato family (who previously owned the hills) prepared for an arranged wedding with the heir Naoko. However, Naoko was having a secret affair with the family gardener Gunpei, and when her father arrives outside with her future husband, she breaks up with Gunpei and pays him to leave. Gunpei rejects the money and wants to stay with Naoko in secret, but they have a fight, and Naoko pushes him into a bag of golf clubs, one of which pierces his skull and kills him.
As Naoko’s father and betrothed approach the door, she attempts to clean up Gunpei’s blood, but the blood keeps unnaturally increasing in quantity. Her attempts to patch up his wounds only make the bleeding worse, and his skin decays faster; all the while, she has to fend off her fiance, who can hear nearly everything inside and becomes increasingly anxious to open the door out of suspicion and concern. He finally opens the door and sees a clean house with Naoko’s back to him, unaware of the corpse that she had rolled up in a carpet and stashed on top of the refrigerator and was drinking Gunpei’s dripping blood with her tongue. He leaves, and she gets off scot-free. Naoko and her husband get married in the spring, but Gunpei never stops bleeding. She stashed the body away in her attic and let’s his blood siphon into a flask, then discards it every morning, leaving her family none the wiser.
Finally, with over half the episode done, Rohan enters the story, where he discusses the sale of the hills with a real estate agent. He comes across Naoko on a chance encounter and uses his Stand Heaven’s Door on her, seeing her memories and learning about Gunpei, which made him curious. As Rohan approaches their house, a little girl runs by him. He tries to stop her, and she trips and hits her head against a rock, causing her to bleed profusely as Gunpei did. Rohan deduces that this girl is likely Naoko’s daughter, and she had a child with Gunpei’s corpse. He tries to use Heaven’s Door on her, but she’s quickly dying, and her memories are fading away, and a monster emerges from inside, trying to possess Rohan. He quickly writes a condition with his Stand to restore her to life and make her forget about him, and the monster vanishes, disappointed.
I feel this is the weakest of the episodes. The framing device was better utilized in this episode to provide context for Rohan’s appearance, but not so strong in the end. The tension was great when Naoko tried to hide the body, but it got way too icky during its second half.
Episode 5: Millionaire Village
This episode starts similarly as the previous, with Rohan having a meeting with his editor Izumi about buying property in the hills. However, this framing device has a unique twist, as SHE takes over the conversation, informing Rohan of a distant village where a bunch of young people became millionaires after settling there, all at the suspicious age of 25. Izumi plans on buying property there–and she happens to be that age, and she’s inviting Rohan along with the hopes that she can help inspire him for his next manga. Rohan is suspicious but also curious, so he agrees.
Rohan and Izumi arrive at the village entrance, and Izumi warns Rohan that the seller is extremely strict about decorum, so they both must be on their best behavior, or they will be kicked out. At the door, they’re greeted by a young servant named Ikkyu, who serves them tea while they wait for the seller. Rohan suspects that they’re being tested for their etiquette. Before Izumi can take a single sip, Ikkyu returns and informs them that the seller is no longer interested–Izumi had made multiple mistakes since they entered. Izumi asks for another chance, and as soon as Ikkyu leaves, she receives a phone call saying that her mother and boyfriend were killed in a car crash.
Ikkyu returns when she breaks down, and Rohan knew this was no accident. He attacks Ikkyu with Heaven’s Door and learns the truth–Ikkyu is a mouthpiece for the spirits that rule the mountain, and anyone who lacks proper etiquette will lose something precious to them. The spirits aren’t happy with Rohan’s use of his Stand ability, and they threaten to kill Izumi with a heart attack unless Rohan continues the trial by showing the proper way to eat a cob of corn using utensils. Rohan saw through the ruse and ate the corn with both hands, and he also tricked Ikkyu by adding a condition to his Heaven’s Door, causing him to subconsciously break the rules, reversing the curse and allowing Izumi and her loved ones to live. Rohan picks Izumi up and leaves, vowing never to return.
This episode is easily my favorite of the four. For a spinoff that’s supposed to center around Rohan, it was refreshing to see Rohan in the starring role and not just recalling other people’s accounts. Also, this episode marks Josuke’s only appearance in this miniseries, and it’s a non-speaking cameo, so that’s a choice.
Episode 9: The Run
This is the darkest of the four episodes and is the only one to ditch the framing device with the cafe since it wouldn’t be tonally appropriate. The episode begins with Rohan sitting alone in a dark room, his arm injured and bandaged, admitting to an unseen interrogator that he’s deeply regretful of winning a battle that resulted in said injury.
Rohan narrates the story of a model and rising film star named Yoma Hashimoto. He’s discovered by a talent agent who encourages him to work out more, so he gets a gym membership and becomes extremely buff. However, the constant praise of his physique turns him into a controlling figure. He ignores his girlfriend’s needs, brings his exercise equipment into her apartment, and takes her money to buy from the gym.
The next day, Rohan (who attends the same gym) strikes up a conversation with Yoma while they’re exercising, and a weight-lifting competition between the two turns into an obsessive rivalry. Yoma trains harder and faster, becoming more bulky and aggressive, and he takes so much money from his girlfriend that she threatens to kick him out.
Later, Yoma and Rohan return to the gym and start running on two identical treadmills that increase in speed automatically, and the only way to turn it off is with a remote. Yoma and Rohan decide on a challenge–whoever reaches the remote after hitting 25 km/h wins. They had done this before, and Yoma lost. However, he wants a rematch, and Yoma blames Kishibe for cheating last time. As they run, Yoma’s muscles begin to deform and take on a more winged shape. At 20 km/h, Yoma grabs a dumbbell and throws it out the window behind them, turning the competition into a life-or-death situation. Rohan uses Heaven’s Door on him and learns that he killed his girlfriend and two other people who had inconvenienced him.
Once they reach 25 km/h, Yoma grabs the remote and wins. However, Rohan had included a condition on his Heaven’s Door, turning off Rohan’s machine instead of his own, and Yoma falls out the eight-story window. Rohan doesn’t check to see whether he fell to the pavement below or clung onto the building. He just knew that he had to leave.
I love this episode, but I’m left with one problem with Rohan narrating this story:
Rohan is more of a supporting character in this story, yet he seems to know all about Yoma and the people he interacted with throughout this series. An argument can be made in the earlier episodes that Heaven’s Door provided all the information for Rohan to read.Still, in this episode, he had very little time to glance at his Stand while simultaneously running on a treadmill. He would have been able to see barely any more than the few murders that Yoma had committed. Aside from that logical hiccup, this was a powerful episode.
In summation, Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is a wonderful side dish that is worthy of the Jojo canon. They’re terrifying and intense, and I wouldn’t mind if David Production adapted the rest of the stories at some point. If you need to whet your whistle waiting for Stone Ocean, this might help scratch that itch. And I’m left feeling satisfied knowing that more content for fans like myself is available to be seen!
Rastergrafx is a guest contributor for Toonami Faithful! Feel free to follow him on Twitter @rastergrafx
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