JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the most successful anime series of all time and it’s been a phenomenon for over thirty years at this point. Each season of the heightened action series focuses on a different member of the extended Joestar family. Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is a four-episode OVA (Original Video Animation) series that focuses on Rohan Kishibe, a manga author and supporting character from the Diamond is Unbreakable season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. JoJo is popular, but the character of Rohan Kishibe has turned into a surprisingly resilient character and this spinoff is just part of the extra attention that the character has seen over the years.
Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is set in the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure universe, but each of its stories are self-contained incidents from Rohan’s life that aren’t necessarily even playing out in chronological order. Part of what makes Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan so interesting is that it paints Rohan as a consummate adventurer and that these are only a handful of the bizarre events that he’s experienced. These four installments are labelled as episodes 16, 2, 5, and 9 to further illustrate that they’re just slices of Rohan’s life. Since Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is designed to be enjoyed in any order and the episodes tell self-contained stories, here’s our ranking of how Rohan’s four adventures stack up.
4. Mutsu-kabe Hill
“Mutsu-kabe Hill” is easily the most disturbing story of the lot and it tells a morbid, bloody murder story that begins as a love triangle that spirals out of control. There’s a very Telltale Heart aspect to the story when Naoko tries to hide the corpse of her victim, only for the blood to continue to spread. The moment where Naoko drinks the blood out of desperation to hide the evidence is seriously upsetting and “Mutsu-kabe Hill” doesn’t hold back with this story of misplaced affection and aggression. Somehow it manages to reach a happy ending by its conclusion.
Each installment of Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan looks gorgeous and does inventive things with color palettes and art design that gives every scene an extra punch. There are no rules that govern how colors play in this world and “Mutsu-kabe Hill” takes advantage of that the most. The use of black and white and spot coloring during Naoko’s murder flashbacks is extremely effective and it’s carried over throughout the episode. There’s a minimalist look where pastels like pink, purple, and light blue dominate Rohan’s attacks and there’s just so much that goes on with this episode’s visuals. At certain points Rohan’s face is cast in five different colors that make no sense, but look beautiful. It’s an episode that’s entertaining even if it’s muted and just enjoyed on a visual level.
3. Millionaire Village
Strangely enough, even though Rohan is the main character of this OVA series, there are a number of entries where he’s still a supporting player and recounting someone else’s story. “Millionaire Village” is not just the episode that’s the most celebratory of Rohan, but also his Heaven’s Door Stand. Its utility and importance is most present in this episode. Additionally, it’s always exciting when Rohan puts his Stand into play, but “Millionaire Village” really emphasizes the event with exaggerated color and dramatic lighting and angles.
“Millionaire Village” really feels like a haunting Stepford Wives level of story when Rohan and his editor, Izumi, wind up in an isolated community where etiquette is held above everything else to a frightening degree. Everyone is a potential danger here despite the appearances that they keep and characters like Ikkyu really stand out and are as foreboding as this situation should dictate. Rohan and Izumi’s lives come down to a test of manners, which is the perfect culmination to this story.
2. At A Confessional
Each of these Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan installments skew towards a different type of genre, but “At a Confessional” is an unabashed ghost story and the installment benefits from going all out when it comes to the elements of horror and how the animation is able to compliment the terror that’s built through it all. The Stand that’s present in the daughter’s tongue is the stuff of nightmares and the competition that the confessor of the story gets caught up in is extremely strange, even for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure standards. The fate of a man’s life comes down to catching popcorn in one’s mouth several times. It should be absurd, but it’s genuinely tense. This is also an entry where Rohan is largely not even present and he’s reciting someone else’s story, secondhand, yet “At a Confessional” remains engaging.
There’s also a cute moment that long-time JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure fans will appreciate where Diamond is Unbreakable’s Koichi asks Rohan to use Heaven’s Door to make him fluent in Italian since he’s making an upcoming trip over to Italy. This is an allusion to the circumstances surrounding the beginning of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, which is set in Italy, and what triggers Rohan’s Venice-set story in the first place. None of this existing knowledge is necessary, but it does make “At a Confessional” function as a nice piece of connective tissue between the two seasons of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
1. The Run
“The Run” is an absolutely ridiculous story about vanity and the addictive, destructive way in which self-improvement can take over lives in a manner that’s even more unhealthy than a lazy, sedentary lifestyle. Rohan encounters Yoma Hashimoto, a male model who becomes obsessed with exercise and perfectionism that it turns him into a Patrick Bateman-esque murder who is singularly focused on being the best.
The complication in “The Run” is the sort of thing that Jigsaw would devise. Rohan and Yoma are stuck on two treadmills of increasing speeds that are ready to fling either of them out of the shattered window from the 8th floor of the gym if either of them fail. This terrifying endurance task is visually stunning and Yoma doesn’t possess a Stand like Rohan, but his muscles become so accomplished that they form into wings and he essentially becomes Hermes.
“The Run” articulates its message well, reflects Rohan at his best and savviest, and it’s the most heightened of the four installments, all of which are considerably extreme. It’s a treadmill horror story that you won’t find being told anywhere else and it’s actually full of harsh turns for many of the characters.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is now streaming on Netflix, Diamond is Unbreakable is currently streaming on Tubi, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.