Episode 17 – Rohan Kishibe’s Adventure
Two weeks ago, Rohan Kishibe was one of the most powerful villains our protagonists had faced this season (well, at least until he got taken out with one punch) and now here he is with his own episode. I’ve written before about villains ending up working for the good guys on JoJo’s before. We’ve seen a couple of examples of it this season. Okuyasu most notably, but also minor villains like Tamami, end up giving whatever assistance they can, sometimes inexplicably. Things with Rohan are a little different though. He’s not a person who’s open to change and is so enormously selfish that he won’t help anyone unless it helps him. He’s not above manipulating others in order to get his way, in fact, that’s his stock in trade.
We begin this week with Koichi suddenly coming across Rohan the streets of Morioh. Koichi is wary but surprisingly doesn’t run away screaming given everything Rohan put him through previously. Rohan is out trying to track down locations from his childhood in Morioh for his work and has come across a discrepancy on the town maps in the form of a street that doesn’t appear on any of them. He manages to convince Koichi to accompany him in investigating the street in his usual Rohan fashion: an odd combination of eccentric charm and manipulation through guilt. Once inside the street however, they find more than they bargained for when they repeatedly find themselves back in the exact same position with no way out. It’s here that they encounter a girl, Reimi Sugimoto, who seems to know how to get out of there, but first, she has a little story to tell them…
I have to give this episode the award for my new favourite episode this season. Possibly even of all time. The show gets so many things right here, especially stylistically through its use of split screens and transitions. There are moments here where it looks like the manga has come to life onscreen and it’s wonderful to behold. Beyond the overall look, everything else works perfectly. The pacing is on point, from the slow buildup of Rohan and Koichi entering the alley, right to the final frantic moments where they flee from it, everything just works. There’s a lot of growth in Rohan as a character this episode and the most impressive thing about it is that almost none of it is on the surface. Throughout, he’s still the same selfish jerk he’s always been and yet his capability to be different is there in the way he grabs Koichi to pull him out of danger and the way he resolves to help Reimi, even though he phrases it in ways that makes sense to his own internal logic.
Reimi herself is a really well designed character. Though initially playful and immature seeming, she gradually reveals a strength and certainty that plays a huge part in winning Rohan to her cause. There is a moment where she speaks about the evil threatening Morioh over a map of the town that gradually burns and darkens that was my favourite single shot of the episode.
The episode concludes with three epilogues, each of them perfectly fitting into what’s come before and looking forward to what the rest of the season will bring us. Rohan discovers a link between himself and Reimi that will possibly make him even more determined to help her. Koichi tells Josuke and Okuyasu about the threat of a serial killer in the town. Finally, we get to meet the aforementioned serial killer who’s been demonstrating his hand fetish in brief but sinister scenes throughout the series so far. His name: Kira. With the reveal of this villain who’s been haunting the edges of the story since episode one, it looks like the main plot is about to kick in. It’s the perfect ending to one of the all time great episodes of JoJo.