Review: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable – Episodes 20 & 21

Episode 20 Yukako Yamagishi Dreams of Cinderella

Throughout its entire run so far, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has never had much time for romance. This has always been a show about manly men doing manly things like fighting each other and shouting a lot. With this episode – Yukako Yamagishi Dreams of Cinderalla – JoJo’s breaks this tradition in a surprising fashion, complete with glittering sparkles and romantic melodrama. And Stands, of course we can’t leave out the Stands.

Yukako Yamagishi is one of my favourite JoJo characters and I was looking forward to an episode focused entirely on her. I think this show is at its best when it’s casting previous villains as the main characters as was the case with the Rohan Kishibe episode a few weeks ago. Earlier this season, Yukako was a crazed maniac who’s obsession with Koichi led to her kidnapping and then trying to kill him and now, here she is recast as the heroine of the episode in a way that is still consistent with her character. Yukako is still in love with Koichi, though she’s somewhat more subdued in it nowadays, secretly pining after him as she looks on from afar. She stumbles across the store of Aya Tsuji, a seemingly miracle working aesthetician who promises that she can make whoever Yukako desires fall in love with her. In a moment of desperation, Yukako agrees, subjects herself to Aya’s treatment and then takes off to test out her new charm on Koichi.

This episode charmingly plays out very much like a fairy tale. It’s not really giving much away to say that Aya is a Stand user who’s Stand (Cinderella) can remodel a person’s face and body. And as with any fairy tale, these things come at a price. Our heroes find something too good to be true, are faced with tragedy and then true love triumphs at the end. There are a lot of single frame shots here that play up the fairy tale angle, looking very much like pages out of a story book. It all seems very different from how JoJo usually is and yet through careful direction and pacing, it manages to fit in seamlessly alongside the other episodes this season.

There’s a lot of growth here with Yukako and Koichi as characters. On paper, the turnaround in their relationship seems unrealistic but somehow it just works. There’s some great comedy here as Josuke and Okuyasu react to the sudden turn of events in hilarious ways. Yukako, though she acts a lot more subdued than when she was a villain, still shows signs of her toughness and fury, particularly in a scene where she angrily confronts Aya over what the beauty treatments have cost her. Aya herself is an interesting villain in that her motivations are never really explained. Much like a Fairy Godmother, she hovers at the edges of the story, a central character to the plot and yet somehow more of a catalyst to events and what the main characters learn about each other. Overall, the episode is a very charming change of pace.

 

Episode 21 Yoshikage Kira Just Wants to Live Quietly Part 1

Now we come to the main event. Yohikage Kira has been hanging around in the background of our story for 20 episodes now, first appearing in the first scene of Diamond Is Unbreakable, and gradually popping up from time to time, usually in the company of a severed hand. We know he’s the serial killer responsible for the death of Reimi Sugimoto amongst many others and we know he’s dangerous and hard to find. Now we finally get an idea of exactly what his day to day life is like.

The opening scene of Episode 21 mirrors Kira’s first appearance in the series. Back then, we opened with him preparing breakfast for the severed limb of one of his victims. Now we see him cutting his nails before settling in to eat breakfast with a hand in a similar condition (is it the same one or different?). The breakfast is made up of the exact same dishes he was cooking up in Episode 1 which is a nice touch. After the credits, Kira is accosted by some female co-workers who ask him out to lunch. It’s clear that on the surface, Kira doesn’t seem to be a man who’s missing much in his life. He’s obviously popular with the opposite sex, has a nice car and a career. And yet he much prefers the company of his victim’s limbs which he carries around, carefully concealed as he goes about town. He wanders into a bakery for lunch and we’re subjected to a pretty squeamish scene as he and the hand shop for sandwiches. This all somehow leads to Kira’s path crossing directly for the first time with Josuke, Okuyasu and Shigechi. In a strange turn of events, whilst eating lunch in the park, Kira gets his sandwich bag (containing the severed hand) mixed up with Shigechi’s and sets out to get it back as quietly and carefully as possible.

I really like how this episode is structured and the way it functions as two parallel but perfectly linked stories that constantly walk along the edge of coming together. On one level, we have the menace of Kira circling our main characters as he tries to get his lunch bag back, on the other we have the much lighter story of Josuke, Okuyasu and Shigechi quarreling over lunch. This is mostly Kira’s story though and there’s a genuine creepiness to him. He’s a horrific character, all the more so because of how careful and calculating he is. There should probably be a comedic aspect to him scrambling after a bunch of high school kids who’ve unwittingly stolen his lunch bag, and while it is pretty humorous at first, it gradually becomes more and more frightening as we realize how relentless he is.

Another interesting thing about this episode is how the dynamic between Shigechi and Josuke/Okuyasu has slightly changed. To be honest, Okuyasu and Josuke are kind of jerks in this episode, pushing Shigechi around to get him to do whatever they want. For the most part, though he’s no smarter than he was previously, Shigechi comes across as the responsible one. He just wants to eat his sandwich in peace. I think my favourite aspect of this story though is the way it plays with the audience question of whether Kira is a Stand User or not, drawing out the issue right until the final moments. It made me realise how rare it is that we see regular people interacting with Stand Users in the JoJo-verse and how it must appear to a normal bystander when Josuke, for example, uses his Stand to suddenly fix something that was broken only moments before.

Being the first part of a two parter, this episode ends with a cliffhanger and it’s a great one. I genuinely felt scared for Shigechi in the final minutes. If this episode was anything to go by, the next one will be spectacular.

 

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