3 out of 5
Directed by: Takashi Miike
I don’t envy the writer with the task of adapting JoJo as a live action motion picture. That means you, Itaru Era: turning the dense, multi-era, logic-built-on-inherent-wackiness story of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure into something digestible within 90 or 180 minutes seems impossible. OVAs can get away without necessarily doing any explanatory bits, being somewhat more closely related to their related animes, and the previous animated JoJo flick at least stuck to the first arc, so that had introductions built in. Still, I wouldn’t know how to turn that into flesh and blood actors, necessarily, nor would it dawn on me to kick things off several chapters in, with the Diamond Is Unbreakable arc. But that’s what Itaru Eta did, and – I nod in approval – it was a smart decision. Diamond has a modern setting, and somewhat built in introductions as well, since we jump to mostly a new cast from previous JoJo chapters who are moderately unaware of the nature of their “stands” – other-wordly powers gifted by – in lead Josuke Higashikata’s case (aka the JoJo of the title, played by Kento Yamazaki) – lineage, or in others’ cases, bestowed upon them by a mystical bow and arrow. There’s also a grounding POV character in Koichi Hirose (Ryunosuke Kamiki), who’s new to the fictional Morioh, and gives us a framing voiceover about starting up school there, meeting JoJo, and etc. Director Takashi Miike then makes an interesting decision to counter the inherent outlandish style of the series by playing it rather straight. Not gritty, as we still get notes of creator Hirohiko Araki’s wild designs for the the principle characters, and the Stands (done on screen, generally, as ghosted figures behind their owners) are definitely anime types, but the dialogue and color scheme and shooting style are rather grounded and balanced.
These are all interesting decisions.
Is it for the best? If you’ve never seen the anime or read the manga, will you have any clue as to the Whats and Whys?
The basic setup of JoJo versus, first, a serial killer in Morioh, and then, second, tracking down the source of his powers to the current owner of the aforementioned bow and arrow, is followable enough, but I do think our training in Hero-type films thanks to Marvel movies asks for a little more explanation than we’re give, not to mention the seeming non-sequitors that are references to the source material and just bait for sequels that likely won’t materialize. Koichi also ends up being pretty damn irrelevant in Chapter 1, truly only necessary for saying hello and goodbye at the start and end.
But you can see the appeal of the material for Miike, with themes of family and inherited responsibilities part of the series’ generational-structure DNA, and by sitting back and shooting / directing this as a more standard drama than anime insanity, he gets some legitimately great performances out Yamazaki and Kamiki, as well as Masaki Okada, playing one of the film’s foes. And I do respect the way the material was adapted, which I think was fairly accurate to my memory (except for maybe the conflation or substitution of some Stands) of the anime – I haven’t read past Phantom Blood in the manga, sorry – while, as mentioned, managing to stand generally on its own as a flick.