Full of gigantic hair, bulging muscles, and rapid-fire poses more grandiose and ridiculous than the next, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has always been big. A single glance at both Dio Brando and Jonathan Joestar in the first episode of Phantom Blood immediately lets the viewer know just what they’re getting into. At 12 years-old, Dio and Jonathan are already hulking giants who appear closer to the age of 25. Even a pre-vampiric Dio is appropriately menacing, with his comparatively smaller-scale dastardly deeds framed by hyperbolic commentary, dramatic poses, and visible onomatopoeia.
Until Diamond is Unbreakable, this first episode of Phantom Blood — the introduction to the most recent anime adaptation of JoJo’s as a whole — is the last time we see JoJo’s in the small scale. Events quickly spiral into mystic masks, vampires, massive power creep for the series’ protagonists from one generation to the next, and exotic foreign locales.
By contrast, the setting of Diamond is Unbreakable, a sleepy town called Morioh, appears quaint and miniscule. Rather than engaging in the steady one-upmanship that permeates Phantom Blood through Stardust Crusaders, Diamond is Unbreakable starts slowly. Its initial conflict is personal, with Josuke Higashikata unwittingly dragged into the thick of things by coincidence and birthright, instead of wanderlust, a desire to become stronger, or any sort of personal ambition. What follows is a series of events where Josuke is tasked with protecting his loved ones and friends.
As JoJo’s protagonists go, Josuke is simple yet remarkably endearing. He takes action when conflict comes to him, but his general manner is deeply caring — additionally reflected in the healing powers of his stand, Crazy Diamond. This makes the scope of the various disputes he ends up involved in feel a lot more personal than previous iterations of JoJo’s. Not since Dio inexplicably kicked Jonathan’s dog Danny upon meeting him, or later stole Erina Pendleton’s first kiss has JoJo’s been this internally focused, and even those incidents were used in the purpose of showing how rotten Dio is prior to any supernatural powers.
Adding to the insular feel, the trappings of Morioh seal the events of Diamond is Unbreakable away from the rest of the world. All roads leading away from the center of town appear to curve back inwardly, making the city limits appear inescapable. Buildings, trees, and other town landmarks often loom in the distance, or frame character interactions, separating them into isolated vignettes. Morioh oozes a small-town, low-budget horror movie vibe that fits the more personal nature of Josuke’s conflicts perfectly.
Nothing exemplifies this more than the ending sequence of Diamond is Unbreakable, which further builds on in-episode usage of switching from the foreground, to midground, to background much like a stage play. Morioh is, for all intents and purposes, a stage. The ending, set to Savage Garden’s “I Want You” is a dream-like diorama where flat cut-outs of characters, landmarks, and buildings pop up while the camera travels from one end of the town to the other. This firmly grounds Diamond is Unbreakable as a tableau of a small town, where the creeping horrors within are more terrifyingly intimate than the Indiana Jones-like adventures of Joseph and Jotaro.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure excels in the weird and wonderful. If you’re watching the series, chances are that you love the ever-expanding universe, massive scale, and all-embracing grandeur. However, nestled in between Stardust Crusaders and Vento Aureo is the closed set of Diamond is Unbreakable, Morioh, and a more personal narrative that’s a welcome respite against the natural expansiveness of previous JoJo’s experiences.