REVIEW: ‘Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan - But Why Tho?Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan has finally arrived for western viewers through a Netflix release on February 18th. Based on the manga of the same name, this David Production project adapts the manga that takes place between Diamond is Unbreakable and Golden Wind. Directed by Toshiyuki Kato (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable Series Director) and featuring the voice talent of Takahiro Sakurai (Code Geass, Naruto Shippuden, and The Seven Deadly Sins), Chinatsu Akasaki (Erased and Jujutsu Kaisen), and Koki Uchiyama (Devilman: Crybaby and Soul Eater), this series showcases Rohan’s travels around the world as he gathers insight into the human condition for his manga writing. This feels right at home as the series starts off with Koichi detailing his upcoming visit to Italy and Rohan delving into his memories of the city.

The opening theme song is not a legendary, bombastic ode to the Joestar lineage. Instead, it is a short, clinking melody that is breathy and spaced out. It is eerie and strange, and David Production has prepared us for the weird narratives to come. One of the biggest distinctions of these OVAs is that Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan has an art style shift. David Production is no stranger to switching the art style of JoJo and they have done so for every part released. Rohan’s adventures are more stark and dramatic. Character outlines are bolder and feel layered on top of scenery and backgrounds. Rohan appears more masculine and harsh compared to the softness and tenderness he was depicted within Diamond is Unbreakable.

One aspect of the anime that remains is that David Production changes color palettes frequently within fighting sequences. My favorite instance of this is when Rohan is walking in a forested area with lovely natural scenery. Suddenly, he comes across a young girl and they have a fight and when Rohan invokes his Stand, the colors change to these fluorescent pinks, saturating the TV screen. The frames are all white with nothing but the pinks exuding more color and Rohan’s signature green popping as well.

Alongside the look of the four-episode run, Thus Spoke Kisihibe Rohan characterizes Rohan as he should be seen. Throughout Diamond is Unbreakable, Rohan is first shown to be strong-headed, selfish, and nosey. These traits, while present throughout all of Part 4,  get negated when Rohan becomes an ally to the Morioh teens. In the OVA,  David Production has shown how Rohan is when left to his own devices and agenda.

For instance, he has gone to great lengths to insert himself in places where he can extract histories from people for his manga. His stand, Heaven’s Door, has the ability to open people up like a book, and Rohan can either just read all their memories or re-write their history to his heart’s content. As a fan, I have personally felt as though mangaka Araki has never written Heaven’s Door to his fullest ability, but this anime adaptation explores these ideas very well.

This leads to how, tonally and thematically, Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan explores more of the horror side of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. In one episode, Rohan purchases various mountains in a remote town that supposedly has ghosts. Rohan wants to learn the history there to use as material for his new writing projects. In another episode, he and his editor fight against a curse of manners that those same mountains have placed on various homes in the mountainside.  It is here where he rewrites a boy’s history simply to benefit him and his editor regardless of whether or not this curse finds Rohan to be rude.

My favorite depiction of Rohan’s selfishness and nosiness comes with the last episode where Rohan’s need to be the best gets him into an athletic competition with the wrong person. He admits that he was wrong to egg someone on purely for his own ego. This culminates in a treadmill competition that ends with Rohan (maybe…it’s complicated) committing murder. This both humanizes a character I have disliked for many years and also makes me admire how David Production and Araki can let one of the fan-favorite characters of JJBA be this flawed.

The pacing of the anime is short and sweet. In 25 minute clips, each episode follows the same formula. Rohan is recounting his horror adventures to someone, whether it is Okuyasu, Mikitaka, Koichi, and Josuke or if it’s to himself. Through the episodes, there are many moments where you can see the love David Production has placed into adapting Araki’s work. Whether it is its side characters walking in the background or easter eggs to other parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan feels both new and old at the same time.

This transitions into Rohan’s account of the situations he’s been in, the fight, and the conclusion. While it seems repetitive and unoriginal, the plot lines and imagery make each OVA feel unique. There were many instances of incredibly bloody and strange content. I warn viewers that you will see death, gore, blood-drinking, and possible murder.

The reason every episode of Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan feels so different from one another is that each episode functions as a window into Rohan’s life. I would argue that the violence, the strangeness, and the supernatural are simply part of Rohan’s life experience and, as viewers, it feels fragmented on purpose. The conversation-style setup of these episodes feels like Rohan is your peculiar friend who will do everything to get the answers he wants.

Kato has made the anime feel as if we are invited to share these bizarre adventures (if you will) with Rohan and friends, making this watching experience spectacular, terrifying, and cozy.

Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is streaming now on Netflix.

Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan
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    Rating - 9/10
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TL;DR

Kato has made the anime feel as if we are invited to share these bizarre adventures (if you will) with Rohan and friends, making this watching experience spectacular, terrifying, and cozy.