[Anime Review] JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has set the gold standard for shounen manga adventures for three decades. It is beloved by many an anime fan, but it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t at least know the name.

So when the fourth saga of the JoJo saga came to anime, it obviously brought a lot of attention to itself.

JoJos Bizarre Adventure Diamond is Unbreakable

That attention has not gone anywhere. Part 4, Diamond is Unbreakable (or Diamond wa Kudakenai… or according to an early English translation, Diamond is Not Crash) remains one of the two most popular series of 2016, up there with Re:Zero.

The JoJo series has an interesting way of handling its story arcs. The manga has been running since 1986, but it splits up into distinct story arcs that all follow different members of the Joestar bloodline. The first and second arcs of the series have very little in common with the third and fourth, and so on.

In fact, the character power that the entire series is arguably known for, Stands, didn’t even come into play until Stardust Crusaders, the third part of the series. The first two parts involved a completely different set of powers, until Part 3 completely redefined the series with the spiritual familiars.

So what makes JoJo so special? And for longtime fans, is Diamond is Unbreakable a worthy successor to the fantastic Stardust Crusaders?

Well, the thing about JoJo is that, as the name implies, the characters and their powers are bizarre. JoJo isn’t quite like anything before or since. This is a series in which super powers (Stands) are named after popular 90’s bands and the protagonist fights a potential enemy by punching a plate of spaghetti on the table in front of him.

And that’s really where Diamond is Unbreakable shines brightest, is in highlighting the bizarre. Stardust Crusaders was the first foray into how Stand powers work, and it certainly brought some strange situations, like that time a gorilla on a haunted cargo ship was a stand user, and the stand was the ship itself.

In Stardust Crusaders, the powers were always presented in a battle setting. Because protagonist Jotaro Kujo and company had a single goal – get to Egypt and defeat Dio, the “dangerous adventure” setting was always in effect, which gave things a sort of “monster of the week” feeling with no real long-term impact. And honestly, that was fine.

But what we have with Diamond is Unbreakable is a consistent setting. Josuke Higashikata, our new primary protagonist, joins forces with (eventual) friends Okuyasu Nijimura and Koiichi Hirose, as well as Part 3’s protagonist, Jotaro Kujo. And their job isn’t to travel somewhere and defeat a super-boss like Dio. It’s to stay in the tiny town of Morioh, and find out who is responsible for making Stand users out of normal everyday people.

That may not sound exciting, but consider: how cool would it be if you walked down the street and there were people all over the place with hidden superpowers?

That’s basically what Diamond is Unbreakable is doing. And the beauty of it is that while the group is investigating potential Stand users around town, only a fraction of them are actually using their powers to antagonize people. Multiple people are literally just using their powers to run legitimate businesses. One uses his to run a small-time harassment racket, but isn’t really out to hurt anyone physically, he’s just a con man.

See, up to this point, we’ve seen plenty of Stand usage in battle, because basically every Stand user was an antagonist that needed to be defeated. Now we get to see more practical, everyday (and consequently more bizarre) uses of Stand powers, alongside the more standard battle sequences. And now that the power is well-established, there is a lot more exploration to be done in exactly how strange they can get.

Just wait until we get to the stand that’s just an abandoned radio tower named Super Fly.

In terms of the animation style, you might find yourself thrown off a bit at first. The use of color is definitely not what you’re used to seeing, with tons of gaudy bright yellows and pinks and greens appearing in places they normally wouldn’t – like the color of the sky or most buildings, for instance.

In addition, the flamboyant style of the characters’ designs and actions is also divisive, though if you’ve been following the series, you’ll find nothing unusual here.

One thing that is a minor gripe, but easy to look past, is the translation. And it’s easy to understand why it’s like this, but still it’s a bother.

In Diamond is Unbreakable, Stands are all named after classic popular music people, bands, or songs. We have Bad Company, Killer Queen, Pearl Jam, Earth Wind and Fire, Heaven’s Door, and even Red Hot Chili Pepper, among a slew of others. But those names are not used in the subtitles, because it would be a licensing nightmare.

And these names are not said in Japanese. They are very much spoken in English. So you can clearly hear the Japanese voice actors saying the actual name of the Stand, and then see it altered in the subtitle.

Josuke’s Stand is named Crazy Diamond, after the Pink Floyd song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” When he summons it, you clearly hear him call out, “Cu-razy Diamondo!” But the subtitles stubbornly say “Shining Diamond.”

We’ve also seen Bad Company become “Worse Company” and Red Hot Chili Pepper reduced to simply “Chili Pepper.” Again, it isn’t a huge problem, but it pulls you out of the moment a bit when what you read and what you hear is so different at the same time.

Of course, that’s a gripe coming from a series fan. The bottom line is, Diamond is Unbreakable is shaping up to be the best season of JoJo yet to make it to anime. It has different features than Stardust Crusaders, so it may well be a situation where there are large factions arguing about whether Part 3 or Part 4 is better.

That’s fine, but understand that both are great, and are absolutely worth watching.