This Week in Anime
You Don't Mess with the Rohan

by Nicholas Dupree & Monique Thomas,

The side quests of haughty manga creator Rohan Kishibe continue in a series of spin-off episodes now available on Netflix. The secondary character from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable encounters a new batch of weirdos, including the god Hermes himself!

This series is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Nick
Nicky, there comes a time in every TWIA contributor's tenure when we have to face the music, and for you that time is now. Sit down, get ready to binge, and grab some popcorn because it's NETFLIX DUMP SEASON!!!!
Nicky
Oh no! What horrible cg bug anime are they going to make us watch next?
Yeah, I don't know why but Netflix loves to dump anime series in March for whatever reason. Though thankfully there are no bugs (so far)! Just a totally regular and normal story about a manga creator with magic rock band ghost powers!
Also, fortunately for us, it's short! Unfortunately, it doesn't have anything to do with the currently anticipated part 6. Set in the world of Hirohiko Araki's beloved and bizarre Jojo's franchise, this is a collection of tales told from the perspective of Diamond Is Unbreakable's eccentric fictional manga author, Rohan Kishibe.
Now at first it might seem strange to have a whole miniseries of spinoffs about a secondary character from Part 4, but it makes sense when you realize Araki really, really likes Rohan. And I mean "Drew a Picture of himself with Rohan very heavily implied to be grabbing his ass" levels of like:
Lot's of people have speculated that Rohan is actually Araki's authorial self-insert simply because he's a manga artist, like himself. And I'm going to refute that because even the standard of absurdity set by the average Jojo's character kind of pales in comparison to Rohan's haughtiness.

Also, like, the dude wears pen-nibs for earrings.

Personally I subscribe to the idea Rohan is just the OC Araki thinks is the hottest. Sorry Jotaro but this is what Peak Performance looks like.

Anyway, this series of OVAs is essentially a collection of Twilight Zone stories but with Rohan in place of Rod Serling. They're weird, totally disconnected from any arc of Jojo's, and don't even have any Stand battles. But they DO have that classic Jojo's body horror!
They're all part of a series of one-shots Araki has published over the years for various promotions' sake, so it makes sense they're stand-alone stories. They all start the same with Rohan, often sitting at a café and describing the oddities he encountered in order to broaden his scope as a storyteller. Since Rohan takes his career to the extreme, it's likewise that the stories he seeks match the same degree of eccentricity.

The main series, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, often includes some strange, funny, and horrific asides; but since they're normally contained within the series' ongoing supernatural battles, these ones feel a lot less restricted. And Rohan, as the sole observer, is even able to inject a little bit of commentary that's normally missing.

It also allows him to continue the proud history of Jojo's protagonists being jerks. Like when he sneaks into a confessional in an Italian church, gets mistaken for a priest, and just lets some dude spill his guts to him without a word. Takes some guts to put yourself on the same level as God, but that's Rohan.
Also using his secret powers to turn people's bodies into their life's diary just so he can snoop on even complete strangers. Nice to know he never changes even after burning down his whole house trying to own some local teenagers.
One of the beautiful parts of Jojo's is exceptionally pretty and petty men using supernatural powers to be dicks, ok? Though Rohan is at least marginally less of a dick than the star of episode 1:

Some of these fables feature moral elements like many horror stories do, and the people in them range from sadistic to simply misfortunate. Also there's a lot of grey area as you're simply meant to watch and be mesmerized by the mystery that entangles them rather than cast moral judgments on the characters. Though yes, the dude in the first story is such a dick that even Rohan admits it as such, even if he also relates as a human.
Dude sees a homeless man begging for food and just up and decided he must be a lazy con artist. It's simplistic as hell, but does a good job of making me want to see him get cursed by a ghost.
It's also the one that feels the most familiar even though it doesn't really mention anything about Stands. Something about a curse that brings success before causing your downfall feels right at home for a ghost-revenge story – with the added Jojo's flavor of possessing the tongue of his daughter to talk.
"See, it possesses her tongue to speak!"
"Mr. Araki, you already did that with Talking Head."
"No I mean she gets a little face on her tongue and it talks.
"Yes that's what Talking Head did."
"...anyway they throw popcorn to decide on the fate of his soul."

It is absolutely the most ridiculous Jojo's shit and I love it.
It almost felt like I was watching an episode of Kaiji when the biggest threat to your life is some greedy-ass birds, while being played completely straight and over-the-top in true Jojo's fashion. It's sheer comedy.

It also made me really hungry for popcorn.
It almost immediately devolves into pure insanity and I love it. Like hey, how best to keep birds from eating your lifesaving popcorn? SET IT (AND YOURSELF) ON FIRE!
I also thought the other wager in the third episode ended up pretty funny. Why do forest spirits care about how good your manners are and why do both of these stories involve corn?!
Araki has clearly spent a good portion of the last 20 years contemplating the massive and unspoken importance of corn in the modern American diet. And he has opinions on it!
Also the fact that Rohan's default defense is just writing "Can't see shit" using his Stand. Neener, Neener, Neener. Want to keep a child from framing you for murder? Yeah, can't see me now, can you?
Look we can't all be Giorno "Turn a lightbulb into a snake to bite the loaf of bread holding a magic lighter" Giovanna okay? Though we do get some galaxy brain problem-solving regardless. Like Popcorn Man trying to avoid his curse by HIRING A MAN TO IMPERSONATE HIM FOR HIS ENTIRE LIFE.

Galaxy brain apparently means you get a deal for "2 Ghost Curses For The Price of 1! Get Matching Ghost Curses For You and Your Child Too!"
Never said it was a good plan. But it's the exact type of overcomplicated nonsense I come to this franchise for. Though Rohan's in-universe audience don't seem that impressed.
The Part 4 cast continues to be good even in casual cameos. They're just all super chill to the point that oddities are mundane to them. Though I found it funny that Okuyasu thinks GHOSTS are scarier than whatever-the-fuck Stands are...even though they've already met a real ghost...
And aliens!

Glad that dude's still around. I pray Araki never actually explains anything about him. #KeepMoriohWeird
The second story, however, felt more sad than humorous? I guess that depends on how dark you like your comedy. Drinking the blood of your "accidentally murdered" lover to hide a body from your fiancé IS actually funny, but also totally gross. I'm glad Araki doesn't exclude women from these kinds of tense situations.
It does sort of trip back and forth across the line dividing horror and comedy. Like the terror of trying to hide a corpse from your family is certainly scary, but also he dies via the world's most lethal putter.
I also love his Steel Ball Run polo.
He should have Steel Ball Run away from those irons if you ask me.
The weirdest part is deffo what happens after she's successfully hidden the body (that's still bleeding everyday btw) and gotten married. As it's implied this dude is actually some sort of parasitic curse that only wants you to become a necrophiliac.

The conclusion Rohan reaches is that it's some kind of like, reverse vampire that just hangs around and hopes to conveniently die in front of somebody who will feel compelled to hide and preserve the body. And apparently this lady is really into guilt-tripping corpses.
Find yourself a girl that looks at you the same way this lady looks at this re-hydrated sponge.
Really though, this is an interesting idea that never exactly goes anywhere. Even Rohan admits he's not all that interested in the possibility that there are more people like that literal deadbeat dad, since he's more concerned about all the money he spent on real estate doing research.
Rohan spends about half of this show flat-broke (lol) even after he already has to leech off Koichi's family.
He even had to sell his manga and record collections! Dude's hitting hard times ever since gambling teenagers and aliens set his house on fire.
At least he still has his looks and his erm..taste in fashion?? Yeah, let's go with that. Whatever this is. It's one of those flourishes that makes it so you can never forget what you're watching cuz it's just full of Araki's crazy aesthetic choices.
He also has remarkably patient editors. Everything this guy draws must sell Demon Slayer numbers to support all the bullshit the folks at Shonen Jump have to deal with from him.
She even has the logo on her!
Sadly Shueisha doesn't make their own branded hiking jackets for when you need to visit a mysterious, secluded village of millionaires. So she borrows one from Rohan. You can tell because of, again, the pen nibs.
This story also features Rohan as an active participant rather than simply an observer like the previous two. He and his editor travel to a village that turns everyone who lives there into Jeff Bezos after they're 25. IMO, it's also the one where he acts the most heroic despite his editor calling him out on his shit.
I just love his face when she tells him to not be a narcissistic dick to the spooky rich people.

"D'oh, but not being a prick makes me so CROSS."
And then we get this creepy lil' butler and if you don't cross your legs the right way when you sit down in front of him the forest spirits are gonna murder your whole family.
Literally. You put your soup spoon where your salad fork should be and suddenly your mom's dead. I know the real estate market is volatile but this seems a bit much.
There's some really great stills that remind you that you're not simply watching an anime but Araki's art being brought to screen.


It was also really fun to see Rohan successfully outsmart some tree gods too, given that he's usually the one getting out-witted when he's not the main character.
Good on Rohan realizing you don't use a fucking knife and fork to eat corn on the cob

Not gonna lie, I feel like the Mountain Gods were kind of phoning that one in.
I'm just waiting for someone to combine the "BEHOLD. CORN!!" audio clip from Aqua Teen Hunger Force with this image.
Like episode 2, this one doesn't leave much of an impression. There are some cool shots and the concept is fun, but Rohan lawyers his way out of it and then gets the fuck out of dodge without much to say about the whole deal.
I think the last episode is the one that visually feels the most distinct anyway. It achieves a feeling of being manga-like but also cinematic. Even though the story essentially boils down to Rohan's brief Gym Rivalry.
Oh I absolutely love the final episode. This one was apparently written in 2018, and nearly a decade of working on JoJolion seems to have unlocked Araki's third eye. The entire thing is basically a Junji Ito story but replace unknowable creeping horror with getting absolutely ripped.
It also opens differently, with Rohan wearing a cast on his hand and two of his fingers completely broken (really important assets if you're a manga artist), making it feel a lot less casual than the others.
Oh right, I forgot episode 3 opened with Mangaka Calisthenics. Reminded me of that "Stretching with Holo" extra on my Spice & Wolf DVDs.


I actually tried it out myself before recording this and my fingers do feel a little looser after all this typing!
It's really cute. I actually do stuff like this all the time cuz being at the computer too long (writing about anime) can cause injury (it really sucks).
Though Rohan's injury is caused by something decidedly less common than too much computer time. He instead falls victim to that one dude at the gym who always hogs the bench press.
Pretty sure this is also the most decidedly fanservice-y episode despite having one where a woman was stripped down to her underwear for half of it.
Really this is all a cautionary tale about dating somebody super into Crossfit. Sure it seems nice when they're all strong and have stamina for days, but then one day you come home and they're bouldering in the living room and it just becomes a whole thing.
I had to suspend my disbelief long enough to accept that A) Rohan has enough time as a manga artist to exercise and use his gym membership and B) Rohan lifts, bruh.
On the other hand I can 1000% believe that Rohan would goad a stranger into an impromptu treadmill race just to prove he's better than them. In the cold open even he admits he brought this on himself.
Oh yeah, I guess that's just me being weird cuz even though I've watched Jojo's for years, I can't recognize the lumps on character's bodies as functioning muscles instead of weird atrophied flesh that's extremely fragile. Like horses.
I mean, you're not wrong.
Turns out Rohan didn't just pick a fight with any old gym Chad, but THE GOD OF MUSCLE, HIMSELF.
OK I never paid much attention to Hermes but I'm PRETTY sure he's not the god of sick gains. If he were, my boons from him in Hades would be a lot more worthwhile.
Also as expected, Rohan is a pretty sore loser. But he's also not the one who decided to take things too far, and whether he likes it or not, he makes it out of it.
Look he's the one who picked this fight. If you don't want to race for your life against a literal Greek god, don't get so fucking cocky during warmups.

Sidenote: this event is what forced Planet Fitness to install Lunk Alarms
Despite how trivial it sounds, it definitely feels like the most perilous trial for Rohan. It brings into question the sustainability of his own curiosity on top of being a stuck-up asshole. Definitely the best-animated segment in the whole OVA series, and it has to be because you can tell it's Araki's later art style compared to the more simple Part 4 designs. David Productions always seem to put a lot of care into the adaption that way.

I'll note that some of these were made at different times, the earliest being announced in 2016 and this and the first episode being released together in late 2019. It's just now that they've only been dubbed and subbed and released on Netflix.

It's a neat sort of vertical slice of both the anime and manga sides of Jojo's. You get to see both Araki's evolution as a speculative fiction writer and the anime staff's evolution in adapting it! I wouldn't exactly call these OVAs essential viewing, but they're certainly worth checking out if you already like Jojo's.
Despite the title trying to ape Nietzsche's Magnum Opus, Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan isn't meant to be particularly deep or thought-provoking, but rather an interesting diversion. Like diverting from the fact that they still haven't announced an adaption for Stone Ocean. I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth though, having more Jojo's is always a good thing. Since these are also bite-sized it also feels rather low commitment for someone who just wants the feeling of watching Jojo's without taking on more than they could chew.

I think the lack of Jojo's continuity even makes it more interesting to test out on people who have yet-to-be-initiated to Araki's Crazy-Noisy-Bizarre Ride. Since everyone wants to get everyone they know into Jojo's.

I don't know if this would exactly work as a beginner-friendly entry point, but it is undeniably Jojo's being Jojo's, and that's almost never a bad thing. Sadly though, I hear the opening notes of "Roundabout" in the distance, so until that Stone Ocean anime happens...

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