“Good morning!” an affable voice blares from the boombox next to the kitchen table, following the trademark jingle of “Morning, morning, morning, mojo radio.” The voice belongs to disc jockey Kai Harada, a friendly, average sort who always has the perfect song to start the day. Sure enough, as eggs and bacon sizzle in a frying pan, an upbeat song starts to play, accompanied by the soft background noise of the morning news on the television.
No sooner has the table been set — a small salad, toast, eggs, bacon, and orange juice — than white noise and static interferes with the radio and the song dies out. The camera pans back to reveal a severed hand. Blood drips onto the floor from the otherwise pristine breakfast table setting.
The anime adaptation of the fourth part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure — Diamond is Unbreakable — thrives in the in-between and eerie spaces of small town life. Diamond is Unbreakable takes place in 1999, set in the sleepy, fictional town of Morioh. From the initial camera pan across the town prior to the scene just described, the anime embraces this setting and, in true JoJo’s fashion, augments it to a larger than life status, juxtaposing picturesque homey vignettes against the violent and flashy nature of previous JoJo’s parts.
This entire opening sequence, even prior to the reveal of the severed hand — whose recent owner has assuredly been dealt with in the process of this idyllic breakfast scene — sets the tone for the entire series. Something is rotten in Morioh well before the arrival of Jotaro Kujo and halcyon small-town snapshots clash with general JoJo’s ridiculousness.
Diamond is Unbreakable reiterates the pastoral framework of Morioh time and time again, only to herald the arrival of the next stand user or problem that lead character Josuke Higashikata is tasked with solving next. The friendly neighborhood milkman is actually a serial killer who specifically wants to murder Josuke’s family — and succeeds in the case of Josuke’s grandfather. Friendly neighborhood jockey Kai Harada returns to introduce another beautiful day, only to have Koichi Hirose run over a kitten on his mountain bike. Late-night airtime on Morioh Radio is time for Harada to answer questions on love, life, and other seemingly small matters that plague the average Morioh citizen. Naturally this is interrupted by the listener stabbing himself in the eyeball off-screen.
The Diamond is Unbreakable anime oozes with style, using a dulled color palette that relies heavily on yellows, greens, and blues effectively isolating it from the rest of the world, including previous iterations of JoJo’s. After the larger-than-life climax of Stardust Crusaders, marking the end of Dio and “The World,” this aesthetic immediately separates Diamond is Unbreakable in the mind of a regular JoJo’s viewer. It allows Part 4 to push the limits of its own creativity through the stands and more down-to-earth characters in a closed set environment rather than exotic locales and an obvious “big bad.”
Isolation is a tactic used often in horror films — becoming increasingly difficult with the advent of cell phones — particularly during the 1990’s small revitalization of the genre. Precipitated by Wes Craven and Keven Williamson’s Scream (December 20, 1996) which was released after Hirohiko Araki penned Diamond is Unbreakable (final volume released on March 4, 1996), horror films briefly returned to the forefront of filmmaking in the late 90’s.
While Scream was obviously not any sort of influence on Araki and the original source material, David Production borrows heavily from this 90’s horror film aesthetic for the anime adaptation. Scream toed the line between following the blueprint of horror films that came before it and commenting on the derivative nature of the genre itself. Thanks to Araki’s presumed love of rock music and other aspects of pop culture, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is already rife with various references, making this particular framing of Diamond is Unbreakable seamless.
There is also the unmistakable combination of mystery and horror that Scream embodies present in Diamond is Unbreakable. The audience, and Josuke, are both tasked with discovering and identifying the creeping darkness present in Morioh before the body count overwhelms the town. Visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting, borrowing horror film techniques to create an increasingly more claustrophobic Morioh with problems that are on an obvious timer.
Transitions like the one above serve to show how close in proximity every occurrence in the town is while the main characters continue to narrowly miss the objects they seek. In this particular case, Jotaro Kujo — who is investigating, among other things, the location of a stone bow and arrow that creates stand users as referenced by the defeated Angelo — drives directly past the location of the bow and arrow while an unwitting Josuke confronts the bow and arrow’s current owners. In another more recent scene, the stand that Josuke seeks, Red Hot Chili Pepper with the bow and arrow in tow, lurks in the background as Koichi Hirose, Josuke, and Jotaro witness the aftermath of their latest clash with another Morioh stand user.
The answers in Diamond is Unbreakable, like in most horror films, is always behind the protagonists, one step out of reach despite Morioh’s obvious city limits. Weekly confrontations are further sealed off and isolated from the rest of the town. Josuke’s first adversary, Angelo, attacks him in his own home and kills Josuke’s grandfather. Koichi similarly battles Tamami Kobayashi in his own home after Tamami attacks his mother and sister. Josuke and Koichi do battle with the Nijimura brothers in their dilapidated mansion — conveniently located next to Josuke’s house — uncovering the Nijimura family secret in the process. Koichi is later trapped in Yukako Yamagishi’s house in a Misery-style setup where she attempts to groom him into the perfect man for her.
Everything is personal, intimate, and closed-off as personal secrets are slowly revealed, reiterating that sometimes the most horrific of things lurk within one’s own periphery vision, despite an outwardly idyllic setting. The larger-than-life aspects of the JoJo’s oeuvre only compound this. That milk you’re drinking may not only be poisonous — like a traditional horror setup — but it could hold a stand that will kill you from the inside. Your new next-door neighbors want to kill you, with stands. Your reflection just might be a stand in disguise, controlling your body from a short distance away. Or, the cute girl that confesses to you just might be a stand user, fully willing to kill you if you don’t love her back.