Even though Takashi Miike made quite a splash around the turn of the century, it's becoming increasingly difficult to get ahold of his films. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable [JoJo no Kimyo na Boken: Daiyamondo wa Kudakenai - Dai-issho] is one of Miike's latest endeavors, but it seems unlikely that the film will be getting any kind of wide, international release. Not that it would be an easy sell, I'll give you that, but fans of Miike are missing out on 2 hours of top notch entertainment.
Seeing Takashi Miike releasing a film with the word "bizarre" in the title may get people's hopes up, but know that we're dealing with a film adaptation of an established franchise here. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is one of the biggest manga/anime-based franchises in Japan, branching out into the world of video games, clothing and even food. But so far noone had attempted a live action adaption. Not too surpring really, it's not an easy concept to adapt and you need someone like Miike, someone who can effortly blend weird and commercial, to make it work.
This is the first time I came into contact with the JoJo franchise, so I have no idea how well the adaptation compares to the source material. While watching though I realized that this is the kind of film ompanies like Marvel and DC have failed to make in all these years they've been bringing superheroes to the big screen. A film in which heroes and villains possess superpowers that still offer some kind of surprise and which are used in creative, original ways. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is essentially just another superhero flick, but the fact that it doesn't feel like one is the biggest compliment you can give a film like this.
The film revolves around Koichi Hirose, a young boy who just moved to a new town (voted "Best town in Japan" twice in a row no less). It doesn't take long before Koichi runs into Josuke, a strange kid who goes mental whenever someone critiques his eccentric hairstyle. Turns out Josuke is a descendent of a longstanding family of Stand users, people with special powers who possess a kind of spirit guardian with rather unique skills. Josuke's Stand allows him to heal people and objects, a skill that'll be of use when he sets out to beat the villains who are disturbing his peaceful village.
Miike's experience was invaluable in bringing a franchise like this to the world of live action cinema. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure looks a lot cooler than most big budget films, at the same time Miike has the chops and budget to keep the CG in check. It makes this one of those rare films where both CG and cinematography look rich, while still maintaining enough commercial flair to sell this to the mainstream. It's a precarious balance that I haven't really found anywhere outside of Miike's more commercial films.
The soundtrack is no doubt the least exciting bit of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. It's so anonymous that I had to skip through the film once more to check if it was actually present. Turns out there is in fact quite a lot of music, it's just always in the background, never demanding much attention. For a blockbuster it's somewhat of a win that the soundtrack doesn't irritate I guess, but a bit more character couldn't have hurt. Then again, Miike was never known for incorporating great music into his film and it never held his work back.
This being a film about young kids handling otherworldly spirits with superpowers, don't expect too much from the actors. They do a good job, considering what they had to work with, but deep, emotional performance there are not. Then again, making something out of a silly premise like this isn't exactly child's play either. Kento Yamazaki is a solid lead, Masaki Okada makes for a good villain. Secondary actors like Jun Kunimura and Nana Komatsu also handle themselves pretty well, but ultimately their talent is a little wasted here.
The first hour of the film serves as an introduction to the JoJo universe. There's not much in the way of explanation, you're simply asked to accept what's shown on the screen. Which is okay really, it's probably best to leave certain things unsaid, especially when those things are pretty ... bizarre. The second hour is one big showdown, where all the theory is finally put to practise. It's a simple setup, clearly building up to a bigger storyline, but as the first in a series it's pretty effective.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is commercial cinema done right. It's big, bold and visibly backed by a sizeable budget, but at the same time it also feels original and creative, while packing some worthwhile surprises. It may be a little different for those who are already familiar with the franchise, but for an outsider like me there were plenty of interesting bits to feast on, followed by a more than entertaining showdown. Miike has come to a point where he can be weird and outlandish or slick and commercial, alternating between the two with a mere flick of a finger. I'm looking forward to the sequels, but only if Miike is on board.