Diamond is Unbreakable (1999)
By Evan O
I’ve reviewed some obscure anime before, but this one takes the cake. You may be familiar with Diamond is Unbreakable, the fourth part of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure manga that received an anime adaptation last year. What you may not know is that this is the second adaptation of Diamond. In late 1999, Studio LES produced a short lived OVA adaptation. However, the manga’s author disapproved of it and it was canceled after seven episodes. Araki may not have liked it, but surely it has some merit of its own, right? Let’s find out.
There is very little in common between Diamond 1999 (as I will henceforth refer to it as) and the manga and current anime. While both are set in a small town, and feature a cast of characters thrust into strange situations, everything else is either completely unrelated or has a tangential connection at best. For starters, Stands are renamed “Mysteries,” don’t have names taken from popular music, and, with one exception, don’t have users. The characters share nothing more than the names of their manga counterparts as well. The main cast consists of Josuke, Okuyasu, Yukako, and inexplicably Aya. Koichi, Rohan and Jotaro do appear in most episodes in some capacity, but the focus isn’t usually on them, despite one of them being the first character shown in the manga! Their characterization is mixed: Josuke retains his more heroic qualities, but loses many of the elements that make him unique, while Okuyasu is quite different, being more eccentric than dumb. Easily the biggest fail is with Yukako and Aya, who seem to only be present to force a love triangle between them and Josuke. This is odd because not only did Josuke not have a love interest in the manga, but Yukako was obsessed with Koichi! The love triangle doesn’t even amount to anything by the end of the series.
While we’re on the topic of episodic, formulaic plots, let’s talk about the first four episodes. One of the brilliant things about the Jojo manga is that it combines the “Villain of the Week” formula with an overarching story. You can read most of the enemy Stand encounters on their own and be satisfied, but at the same time, there’s a continuous plot that each encounter advances. This is clearly something Studio LES didn’t get. Instead, you get four standalone encounters that follow the same formula: one of the gang needs to learn a life lesson, they are thrust into a mini-adventure involving the mystery of the week, they learn the lesson, and life goes on. These episodes are mildly creative, but don’t do much with their premise and don’t have much to do with the manga, except for episode four, where the mystery is vaguely similar to “Achtung Baby,” in that both involve someone turning invisible. The standout of these is probably episode two, about a haunted car that is obsessed with Josuke.
The last three episodes attempt to be more faithful, possibly as a last ditch effort to keep Araki from pulling the license, but even that is botched. They revolve around a mystery that is obviously supposed to be “Bites the Dust,” but the only similarities between the manga and OVA is that it causes a time loop that everyone but the victim is unaware of. Even then it’s dropped in favor of some parallel universe/time travel BS. The main antagonist of this arc isn’t Kira, but rather Akira Otoishi, though it is implied that Kira was the one pulling the strings from behind the scenes the whole time. I may just be speculating here, but I think if the series wasn’t canned, he may have eventually appeared in person, but alas, he’s only mentioned.
If there’s one thing I have to give Diamond 1999 props for, it’s presentation. Maybe it’s because Legend of the Hungry Wolf and Art of Fighting have conditioned me to assume all OVAs will look choppy and undetailed, but this one in particular looks pretty good. The animation is consistent and fluid, and the art style, while not spectacular, is at least unique, taking inspiration from American comic books. Since this series obviously never left Japan, I’m forced to listen by ear for the voice acting, and it’s passable. The only voice I’m not a fan of is Okuyasu’s, I don’t know why they gave him a nasal squawk, but it’s very annoying. Easily the best thing about this OVA is the theme song. It’s very energetic and made me want to keep watching, even if the show itself kind of sucks.
Diamond is Unbreakable falls into the same trap as Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture. It is totally unfaithful to the source material, but at the same time, the source material is the only reason why anyone would care about it. Taken as a standalone product, it’s got interesting ideas, but doesn’t do anything great with them, and as an adaptation, it completely drops the ball. It’s almost like it isn’t even a Jojo anime. At least we finally got the adaptation we deserve.
+ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JxZFMSXm08 Killer theme song
+ Unique art style
+ Attempted to correct itself later in the series
– One of the least faithful adaptations of all time
– Characters are one-note
– The romantic subplot goes nowhere, seemingly by design
– Wastes potentially good ideas.