Though promising at the start, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1 still flops like other live-action adaptations, strangled by indecisive feel and uneven pacing.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1 Synopsis
Based on the fourth story arc of Hirohiko Araki’s enduring manga series, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter I tells the story of Higashikata Jōsuke, a high school teenager with the unique ability to manipulate a psychic version of himself known as a Stand. Though Jōsuke doesn’t shy from using his power, he is uninterested in wielding it for any larger purpose, content to just live a peaceful life with his mum and grandfather. This changes when he is approached by Kūjō Jōtarō, a paternal relative who also possesses a Stand. Meanwhile, a killer in Jōsuke’s town gains the water manipulating Aqua Necklace Stand. He begins using it to murder townspeople, eventually setting his eyes on Jōsuke and his grandfather.
I’d like to try something different with this snappy review. Instead of immediately commenting about the movie, I’d share my “bizarre” viewing experience. Forgive the pun, thank you.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter 1 (what a long title!) started promisingly. An industry master of the horror and shock genres, director Takashi Miike effortlessly drew me into the deranged, gory world of Katagiri Anjūrō, the first antagonist who gained the power to control water. His subsequent introduction of Jōsuke was equally effective too; it delivered such a delicious hint of the true nature of Jōsuke’s Stand. Jōsuke’s introduction also, in several ways, replicated the feel and approach of Hirohiko’s popular manga. Added together, both efforts were effective enough for me to ignore the hair. As in ignore how ridiculous such stylised fashion actually feels when depicted by real people.
Next came the introduction of Jōtarō, the protagonist of the previous story arc in the manga. Some fights. More displays of Stands. Unlike what some reviews wrote, I didn’t find the effects at all lacklustre, all felt at least reasonable in concept and execution. In short, I thought the look of the Stands formed a bridge with the manga. By not appearing completely realistic, they reminded the movie was inspired by a manga series. Made to honour a manga series too.
And then, and then, it started fragmenting. Fragmenting badly.
Combat dragged on and on, full of meaningless posturing and repetition of the same swear words. Jōtarō vanished from the story. An emphatic side story involving Jōsuke’s classmate was abandoned too. Worst of all, what I hated most in 80s Anime series was embraced with a fervour, this being extended conversation in the midst of fights. Talk and talk and talk while the enemy, inexplicably, stays docile. It’s like watching a crime/magical adventure that suddenly forgot which way it was heading.
Personally, I feel all these were the outcome of Miike valiantly attempting a different approach to the story, but quickly realising it doesn’t work. The original JoJo stories have always been magical crusades, shonen adventures that revel in the outlandish and the audacious. Not only does Miike’s approach at the beginning sync badly when signature elements of the manga kicks in, if anything, the content of the manga actively undid his style.
Making it worse is the need to omit all mention of previous JoJo story arcs, something necessary to prevent the story from becoming inexplicable to those unfamiliar with the manga. What did Miike then do to remedy the discordant feel? He started filling key fight sequences with posturing and talk. Repetition of the same poses and needless conversations that go on and on and ON. With reference to the manga, the final act of the movie felt as if Za Wārudo himself was sitting beside me. He was so gleefully stopping time every five minutes. The abrupt end of every major fight also felt as if important events had been slapped away from the story. Because there was simply no other way to deal with them.
Check out my other snappy movie reviews.
Read my other Asian Movie Features.