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Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable
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by Jay Seaver

"Miike doing a "Bizarre" movie? Quelle surprise!"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Hiring Takashi Miike to direct an adaptation of a manga that has "bizarre" right in the title seems like it should be a gimme, an easy and obvious fit, even if the idea of Miike directing family-friendly, decently-budgeted adaptations of popular manga still seems a bit peculiar. If audience reaction is anything to go by, he hit a lot of spots that the fans of the long-running series love, although it can be kind of an acquired taste for those encountering the franchise for the first time, though the action is still kind of fun.

After an opening where veteran cop Ryohei Higashikata (Jun Kunimura) runs serial killer Angelo Katagiri (Takayuki Yamada) to ground only to find that he has somehow acquired demonic powers, the audience gets introduced to this world through the eyes of Koichi Hirose (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a high-school sophomore who has just moved to pleasant suburb Morioh Town, although the aforementioned murders are probably going to knock it down the list of Japan's most liveable suburbs. It's a nice school, and the classmate assigned to look out for him, Yukako Yamagishi (Nana Komatsu), is cute but intense. "Intense" wouldn't necessarily be the word used to describe Josuke "JoJo" Higashikata (Kento Yamazaki) unless you insult his pompadour, though the amazing superpowers that he uses to dispatch those who do mostly fix what got damaged. Small-scale stuff until he runs into someone who seems possessed during a convenience store robbery and his older nephew Jotaro Kujo (Yusuke Iseya) shows up to explain that JoJo is summoning something called a "Stand" when he uses those powers, and it seems that the Nijimura brothers (Mackenyu & Masaki Okada) are trying to create new Stand-users for their own purposes.

Give screenwriter Itaru Era credit - the <I>JoJo's Bizarre Adventure</I> saga is a sprawling multi-generational adventure, with the "Diamond Is Unbreakable" series actually the fourth major arc in the series, chosen because it's the first with a mostly-Japanese cast; that he reduces the mythology to something that fits into this film is likely something of a major accomplishment. Nevertheless, it still often feels like there is just too much to fit in: Koichi and Yukako could probably be removed without the plot suffering too much, although they presumably would be major parts of sequels, and it often feels like each mythology-based moment that the fans will go nuts for comes at the expense of something in the immediate story. The movie eventually explains enough, and sets the action up fairly well, but I constantly got the impression that while the filmmakers made something where you don't <I>need</I> to know the source material to understand it, you're probably not going to love it unless you already know the manga or the anime.

If you do, you'll probably enjoy seeing a lot of what was on the page come to life. Though Kento Yamazaki's JoJo initially comes off as something of an ass, it's a performance that gets a bit better as he's given a definite mission and given a chance to be less aloof, or have Ryunosuke Kamiki's bright-eyed Koichi as a foil. Though Masaki Okada and Makenyu are fairly interchangeable as the villainous brothers, they can be suitably menacing when the time comes. Jun Kunimura is a reliable, charming presence as the cop who is tough on his grandson but impressively dedicated to protect his town.

The action may not quite be Miike at the top of his game, but he seems to be having a little more fun working with the digital VFX team than he was on Terra Formars; this manga seems to match his tendencies toward merging the silly-looking at the gross better than that one. He and the crew do a nice job of making JoJo's powers more visually clear as the audience (and surrogate Koichi) understand them better, and as the confrontations with other Stand-users get bigger, they get to be more entertaining, even if they can be kind of random - why one of the Nijimura's decides to attack JoJo with a bunch of army toys doesn't really matter so much as the glee in how Miike has him fight them off with his diamond shield.

Like with a lot of adaptations of adventure manga (especially those starring teenagers), the tone can sometimes be difficult to nail down - JoJo has genuinely nasty villains and people suffering grisly fates (even the Marvel-style tease during the credits is something of a gross-out) right next to colorful characters crushing on their eccentric classmates. For the most part, Miike handles this fairly well, with some of the funnier moments coming from the implication that people can start to take this sort of thing for granted pretty well. Well, that and Ryohei punching his teenage grandson.

Folks seeing this movie because they're fans of Miike's despite never heaving read the original comics will likely scratch their heads, not quite knowing what to make of it, and in that case this particular live-action manga adaptation may have a leg up because that's the initial reaction we expect from Miike's films. The fans around me seemed to go for it, and while satisfying the people who were already looking forward to a movie isn't necessarily the highest bar to clear, it's at least a sign that the filmmakers are doing something right.

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originally posted: 07/15/17 04:19:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Takashi Miike

Written by
  Itaru Era

  Nana Komatsu
  Jun Kunimura
  Kento Yamazaki
  Takayuki Yamada
  Yusuke Iseya

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