Now that Stardust Crusaders has wrapped up, it’s time to move onto the next stage of the wild journey that is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. For the first time ever, Diamond Is Unbreakable has hit the west with its debut release, a hardcover like the rest of the Viz Media books. Is it good?
In April 1999, Jotaro Kujo travels to a town in Japan called Morioh to find a young man named Josuke Higashikata, the secret love child of his grandfather, Joseph Joestar. Upon finding him, Jotaro is surprised to learn that Josuke also possesses a Stand. After their strange meeting, the pair team up to investigate the town’s proliferation of unusual Stands!
The Initial Reaction
As strange as it may sound, I sort of skipped over Stardust Crusaders in my Jojo journey. I read the first two Parts and read a bit of the third, but just kind of fell out of it. I know, the most beloved of the franchise and I skipped most of it by jumping into Part 4. However, the franchise has been fairly easy to jump into at the beginning of almost any Part so far, so I assumed the same would hold true here.
Diamond Is Unbreakable both kind of is and kind of isn’t with needing to know the past. It fills you in enough on what you need to know about the series’s past, its characters, and the plot going forward. However, reading a little bit of Stardust Crusaders is at least recommended to have a semblance of an idea of what’s happening. Beyond that, this was pretty up to par with what I’ve come to expect from this weird franchise. However, that’s both good and bad.
The first volume of Diamond Is Unbreakable acts as a good introduction to the new situation we find our old and new characters in. We’re introduced to the rather mundane world where all our bizarre antics take place and a basic idea of what to expect: stop whoever is making new Stand users and take out any potential monsters among them. The story is tied a little into the past arc, making nods to Dio and some certain plot points that came about. However, jumping into this arc doesn’t really require much background for the most part.
For instance, Stands. They’re just sort of there now. Just people with incredible powers that only other Stand users can see, which are depicted as weird beings of all shapes and sizes. The manga sort of expects you to get that these are a thing now and doesn’t really explain them, unlike Hamon in Part 2. So, it’s just something a reader will have to run with if they jump in here.
The one thing that really stands out to me personally about Diamond Is Unbreakable is its setting. Throughout the series’s journey, we went from a hellscape village overrun by vampire zombies, to New York City in the ’20s, a Nazi base in Mexico, ancient ruins, hopped several places across the globe, and so much more. Our location though is Morioh, a fairly typical city with a population of 50K. It doesn’t look much different from any city or residential community, and yet, the extraordinary is going down there. This location feels rather refreshing in how normal it is (or would it be abnormal given this franchise?) and how kind of close to home it hits to the characters and to the audience. The little details given or the maps of the area help drive it home in a way that makes the world of the manga stand out more than most of the franchise.
So far, we have a small group of characters with no clear villain at this point. Our lead is Josuke Higashikata, the son of Joseph Joestar, who had an affair in the past. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really jump out as much as the past Jojos, feeling more like a hodgepodge. He has some of the noble traits of the first, some of the crafty and smart thinking of the second, and sort of the punkish air and aura of the third. He does have some motivation for helping stop the insanity happening in his home, though it’s a bit forced all things considered. He’s not a bad character, and his smart thinking is certainly fun to watch. However, at this point in time, he just doesn’t do much to distinguish himself from the other leads in the past besides his sticking point with people mocking his hairstyle.
Our supporting cast, judging by how things go, are Koichi Hirose, Okuyasu Nijimura, and Jotaro Kujo. Hirose comes across as the third wheel initially, reminding me a lot of Speedwagon in Phantom Blood and Smokey Brown in Battle Tendency. He’s the guy who isn’t particularly powerful and is mostly just around to comment on things. However, credit to the creator, he does end up in a different situation than the others that does offer more room for character growth and development. How it will play out is unknown, but it does leave Hirose as someone to watch. For the time being, he’s sort of there.
Jotaro is the returning hero from the last storyline, and Nijimura is a partial villain who sort of aligns with Josuke towards the end. Not having read too much of Stardust Crusaders, I do definitely see a growth since its start for Jotaro. Much more focused, noble, understanding, and kinder to a degree. Sure, he still takes no crap from people, but he’s definitely mellowed out of his punk attitude. Nijimura is a guy tied to his brother and helping him out with his goals, no matter how bad they are and how poorly he is treated. It’s rather abusive and hard to watch. However, the reveals with his childhood and the two’s current situation paint a stronger picture of why he puts up with his big brother. It’s rather heartbreaking knowing his past and the final words of his at the end show just how desperate he was to know his family loved him on some level.
As for the rest of the cast, it’s a bit mixed and there aren’t many players here. There’s Tomoko Higashikata, Josuke’s mother, a woman who takes absolutely no crap from almost anyone. Her introduction has her smash the face of a guy who is harassing her into his car door, which is kind of awesome. However, she spends most of the time fawning over her lost love or in mourning, which is just underwhelming after a great introduction. There’s Ryohei, Josuke’s grandfather, a character that is horribly underutilized. He shows up for two scenes and is killed. While it sets up Josuke’s motivations going forward and shows he can’t simply fix everything, it feels hollow since the two barely interact with one another. It’s like the original death of Ben Parker in Spider-Man comics, but with even less emotion or time spent between the two.
But a Jojo series is nothing without what people really come for: the wild, bonkers action. Diamond Is Unbreakable certainly provides that in its first volume. There’re several different fights involving liquid, erasure-based powers, toy soldiers, and rearranging of matter to break or fix things. The fighting is all about damaging the Stands, which in turn hurts their users. I can’t speak to the quality of the Stand battles of the past for comparison, but they are certainly a sight to see play out in this arc. Nothing is hard to follow along with since the layout work keeps things focused on what’s most important. The highlight battle would probably have to go to the final confrontation between Jotaro and Angelo, the first villain. It all comes down to Jotaro, who has to constantly keep thinking about how to deal with an ever-changing situation.
Reflecting upon the first volume and thinking it over, I cannot help but feel a little underwhelmed. For a series known as Jojo’s BIZARRE Adventure, the manga feels almost mundane, typical. The characters, the fighting, the over-the-top to sympathetic villains, the main character, and so on. All of this I’ve seen a lot before in other Parts, but yet nothing really clicks so far. Maybe it’s just the first volume and not everything is set up, but there’s this lack of oomph and uniqueness (outside of the powers) that would really make this Part stand out on its own. I’m sure things will get better, but right now the manga feels standard.
At last, there’s the artwork. Out of curiosity, I flipped through the pages of the opening volumes for each of the Parts for comparison and it’s truly impressive. The quality has significantly skyrocketed and it really makes me appreciate how much Araki has improved over the years. His penciling is much smoother and cleaner, leading to crisper characters and much more impressive action. The layouts are easy to follow with stellar action sequences full of creativity and wild antics. Characters are very distinct from one another, even if they still don’t look their age given how massive they are. Despite the mundane setting, the manga still captures that insanity that we’ve come to know throughout the years. Nothing really jumps out when everything is already at 11, but still.
Is It Good?
Diamond Is Unbreakable Vol. 1 is not bad, but it feels a little underwhelming in comparison to all that has come before it. While I love the setting and the action is still as crazy as it always has been, the weakness lies in the characters and plot at this moment. Most of them are not very interesting and there’s not much direction on where we’re going outside of a vague idea. As it stands, Part 4 so far feels too safe by standards this franchise has given us. Hopefully things pick up when the next volume drops.