This ICHF was written by Sir K, who you can find at https://www.deviantart.com/sirkaijuofvaudeville. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
Image borrowed from http://jojo.wikia.com/wiki/Yoshikage_Kira
To anyone with a passing anime interest, it is HIGHLY unlikely they associate Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure with the word horror. With the sole-exception of being traumatized by the overly overmuscled and Escher-girls esq. posing by its cast of male characters, that is.
However, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure from its roots has always had a heavy horror influence worn on its sleeve. Part 1, Phantom Blood, is very much inspired by Victorian Gothic Horror romps, with Jack the Ripper as villain of the week and a complete fucking MONSTER of a vampire as its central antagonist and whose shadow has hung over the series and is one of the most popular anime villains bar none.
However, we are not hear to talk about Dio Brando.
Phantom Blood’s horror moments, while prevalent (Dio Brando’s rise to power is INCREDIBLY angering to Dolores Umbridge levels of hate), do not stand out enough against the insane adrenaline of solar-powered kung fu and late 80’s anime influences. However, that would change as Jojo progressed throughout its life and story arcs came and went until we are met with the late 90’s as the 4th arc of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure hit comic pages and one many people consider one of the best of the best of the series (that is until Pt. 7).
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 4, Diamond is Unbreakable is at its core a horror story that takes place and carves at a place that many readers of Weekly Shonen Jump would find painfully familiar, Suburban Japan, and namely the creeping horror and existential dread that exists the underneath of a seemingly ordinary town.
Not all is well in the town of Morioh. The amount of missing people, specifically women, is triple the national average. And strange anomalous events happen all over the town. And urban legends such as a street that if you walk down and turn to look back you are dragged off to hell or worse.
And at the center of this is a man who really simply wants a quiet life.
A quiet life he spends by murdering women, disintegrating their bodies and taking their disembodied hands as his girlfriend.
And has done so for decades without getting caught.
This is Kira Yoshikage.
Kira Yoshikage is my personal favorite of the Jojo villains, surpassing the more famous Dio Brando who every other villain up until Pt. 7 and beyond has a close connection to in some way (Kars made the vampire mask which made Dio, Diavolo found the stand-arrows which created stand-users, and Pucci is a follower of Dio) Kira is a character who has seemingly no connection to Dio. And his goals and ambitions aren’t world-shattering in any way.
Kira Yoshikage is a cut and dry Serial Killer.
Kira is the ultimate villain of the arc he’s in and he’s not even mentioned or felt until half-way through the story, where our heroes come across the ghost of a girl (and her dog) who lives inside the aforementioned alley where if you turn around you get dragged off to hell. She has a sickening gash across her back which still drips with blood and her dogs neck likewise drips with blood, the wounds they were killed by. The girl, one Reimi Sugimoto, has remained in this hallway in a state of purgatory watching for decades since her death as she witnessed dozens upon dozens of women pass through, all having been killed by the man who killed her and done so with a frightening regularity and efficiency he lacked when he first killed her.
With Reimi, she was a body that was found. With the others since, there had been none.
Later in the anime, and the first scene we see of him in the manga proper, we see Kira as a bystander who accidentally hits one of our protagonists when they walk across the street without looking. He pays them no mind as they apologize profusely and drives off. His features are incredibly muted, both here and the anime with very drab unassuming clothes and looks like a background character that the author really didn’t care about. Which is contrasted by the usually hard angular features and distinct visual outfits and flaire that most Jojo characters share.
But then we’re given an extended scene of him talking to his ‘girlfriend’ as he takes her home. Which again, we only ever see her hand. When they arrive at his residence, it is then as he takes her out of the car we see that it was a dismembered hand the entire hand. He comments to ‘her’ as if its actually still the women the hand once belonged too and expresses concern that ‘she’ isn’t wearing the imported watch he bought ‘her’ which is in the woman’s old purse. When the hand drips blood on to the seat he forces it to clean up the mess to where it expresses signs of rigor mortis. He fumes that it was probably time to ‘dump’ her and pick up another but for now he was going to finish their date as he and the hand (which is now supporting the purse) walk into his home, which is an old closed off traditional Japanese type home.
This is foreshadowed as well in the recent anime, it really plays up Kira’s presence and the foreboding horror of ‘there is something really horribly wrong with this town’ with its opening scene. In which we’re met to a regular morning as a woman (we only ever see her hand) making breakfast as a peppy radio announcer waxes lyrical of the wonderful morning the town of Morioh is having. Which when Breakfast is done, the music begins to change as it pans out to reveal the woman was a disembodied hand the whole fucking time. Her killer unseen but likely the one who was using the hand to make breakfast with.
Kira Yoshikage is a man who was born with a problem, like most serial killers. He has no real ambition outside of answering his urges. He leads a decent-paying job, turns down every promotion he’s given and when he partakes in any competition he intentionally holds himself back to place in a middling rank such as third or second. All done as an effort so not to bring attention to himself and so he can lead as stress-free life as he can possibly want. He is a man who cannot handle stress, like, at all, and goes so far as to chew his fingers to bloody pulp when such stress is placed upon him. Otherwise Kira is a charismatic, well-loved member of his community and workplace but so, so unassuming and quiet that no would expect him to do any sort of crime nonetheless serial murder.
This trait in of itself is one that is actually a recurring theme among some of the most notorious serial killers in actual history, such as the likes of Ted Bundy, who himself appeared and won a televised blind-dating game show during the height of his murders. Utterly unassuming and incredibly charismatic, the kind of person if you saw in a line up, you would never expect to being a sexually driven serial killer.
Kira likewise probably draws a lot of inspirations from real world Japanese serial killers that happened and were brought to light during the late 80’s and 90’s including Tsutomu Miyazaki, Hiroaki Hidaka, and Issei Sagawa amongst others. He is a microcosm of Japanese xenophobia and paranoia of the late 90’s in the wake of its economic bubble finally popping and the the promise of a bright future for many Japanese looked grim, compounded by the horrors of a more interconnected world.
Kira in terms of Japanese villains is terrifying on numerous fronts due to how much Japanese social values he has learned to exploit. On the surface he is a model japanese citizen and model worker who works day in, day out without complaint without ever asking a raise or promotion. The ideal corporate worker. Likewise he makes it a point to not stand out or raise a commotion which in turn allows him to exploit the society he was born in.
However, a slasher is made by many things. Such as a signature weapon. A Kira’s is as distinct and unique to him and him alone as any other. I talk of course, about Killer Queen.
To people not familiar with Jojo, yes it is named after the Queen song. Like a lot of Jojo is named after band names (Dio Brando anyone?). You come to accept and embrace it in the long run, it’s all apart of the ride. Kind of a theme with him in particular. Killer Queen is a psionic entity or extension of Kira’s soul, an entity called a “Stand”.
Stands in Jojo were introduced in the previous arc, Stardust Crusaders, and were a game-changer and what drove Jojo to become anime meme status. Stands cannot be perceived by regular people and only seen by other people who also have Stands. Each Stand is unique to the user and varies in ability, power and capacity.
So imagine if you will, if you had a serial killer on the loose with a murder weapon that could not be seen nonetheless traced, how could you catch him or bring him to justice. Heck, how do you even find such a person?
Kira makes the most of that conundrum in the full breadth of its horror.
Kira’s stand, Killer Queen has the ability to turn anything it touches into a bomb which includes even people. And due to how Stands work,one that no one can hear, nor see the explosion or the remains of who is vaporized by the explosion. Anything from a quarter to a doorknob to a person’s body to even pressurized air bubbles can be turned into lethal mines.
One that no one can see.
However, Killer Queen has another trick up its sleeve. By giving up the bombing capacity of Killer Queen temporarily, he can release a secondary stand, a nigh indestructible heat-seeking drone called Sheer Heart attack, which when it reaches a specific heat source it detonates into an devastating explosion relative to the source of it heat it targets. Allowing Kira to remove threats from miles away without any means of tracing it back to Kira.
Kira however is ultimately brought low by one thing he did not expect. Kira did not know others like him existed or that they could perceive Killer Queen. Kira Yoshikage would have carried on to his old age killing indiscriminately and ensuring many, many more women would never return home if not for that single fact.
The thing with Stands and Stand Users is that they are subconsciously drawn towards one another, be it fate or some other supernatural force. Stand Users without knowing why end up gathering in close vicinity to one another. And in the town of Morioh in the wake of Dio Brando’s passing at the end of Stardust Crusaders years prior slowly drew more and more people with that ability to that town.
This included other serial killers, would-be felons, as well as children of people with stands (who in turn were also born with the same ability) as such it was only a matter of time when Kira Yoshikage’s hidden reign of terror would come to a collision course with a group of teenagers with the same psionic forces he was blessed by, ones that were already aware of him by pleadings of the ghost of one of his previous victims.
When in a random act of chance is uncovered by a younger supporting character (who is the audiences first true reveal of Kira and his ability set) which he summarily tracks down and tragically vaporizes, his act is up and his lack of experience with stands, such as the knowledge only people with Stands can see them leads the others track him down however, Kira’s cunning allows him to evade capture and take the guise and face of another man he had murdered (using the Stand of another person in the series) allowing him to seemingly get away scot-free to lead a new life.
However, when investigating his home, another puzzle to Kira’s history is shown. What is Jason without a loving mother? There is another ghost haunting Morioh, one with a stand of his own. Yoshihiro Kira, Kira’s father.
Yoshihiro is a tragic figure in of his own right in that he and his wife had tried desperately to have a child for years and only managed to do so at an unusually old age. Likewise, he realized Kira’s tendencies early, however Yoshihiro in his blind love for his child covered for him and helped a young Yoshikage hide his evidence. And likewise…provide Kira with the key to never leaving evidence again.
In this arc, we are shown the origin of most stands, a set of enigmatic arrows forged out of a meteorite. And by shooting someone with this arrow it either straight up kills them or if their will is strong enough they emerge unharmed with the ability of their own. However this can apply to many things which includes Rats (there was a small arc where the main protagonists had to destroy sentient rats who were shot with the arrow. Said rats turned people into meat-cakes/blobs so they can feed off of them it was a heavily censored episode when it aired in Japan)
If someone else with a Stand is shot with the arrow… something else happens. It awakens new abilities.
Which one of the most tense anime or manga arcs ensure when Kira gains such ability. And what better Queen song to end on than with another one Bites the Dust.
Spoilers ahead for those who want to read or watch themselves.
Upon Kira taking over another man’s identity, said man’s child, despite being distant to his father, picks up immediately that something is not right with dear old dad. And when tailing him, finds Kira unable to control his urges and engages in the murder of a young couple. Kira however notices him and later, in a fit of rage, accidentally murders the boy.
The gig up, Kira in desperation, the Arrow (held on to the ghost of Kira’s dad) pierces him almost on instinct granting him a new power.
The next day, the boy, Hayato wakes up in bed. Unsure what happened. There he sees Kira in a much more groomed looked and one much more confidant. Hayato on his way to school is intercepted by a fan-favorite character and totally not authorial self-insert, Rohan Kishibe. Rohan has the ability to read people’s memories and experiences by turning their face into a storybook (and then he can write commands into their book face and they have to do it) however then he uncovers something odd: Hayato’s “memories’ are instead showing what is going to happen instead of what happened. Such as it suddenly raining or lightning striking onto buildings at specific times.
Rohan keeps reading and… spoils his own death, so to speak. Upon Rohan reading that Hayato knew that his ‘father’ was Kira Yoshikage he turns the page to read:
“Rohan Kishibe was also killed. By Kira, who had matured.”
What happens next is out from under the page, a small Killer Queen crawls out. And no matter what is done it zooms in closer and closer. Killer Queen was not physical but in reality already inside Rohan’s eye.
The switch for the ‘third bomb’ of Killer Queen had activated.
Rohan was now its catalyst as he is murdered in front of Hayato.
Then suddenly, Hayato is taken back to when he awoke that morning. Traumatized by what he had saw. He intentionally avoided Rohan this time around… but fate refused to change as Rohan still died.
Bites the Dust is a bomb which reverses time back to a designated point, a bomb which activates whenever someone uncovers Kira’s identity. And the only person who could do anything about it was a small boy who couldn’t even perceive these powers.
A groundhog day loop where in each loop we see more and more of the cast fall victim to this including the main characters. However, Hayato in several ballsy moves which would in a horror movie make him a beloved horror protagonist, manages to outsmart Kira. That I won’t spoil as it is REALLY FUCKING SATISFYING and leads to one of my favorite anime confrontations of all time as well as one of the most tense sequences I’ve seen in the medium. The fact that Jojo characters do not have plot-armor really help in this instance and the lead up, leading to a feeling akin to a final showdown with Slashers across the genre as the severely wounded protagonist, Hayato and nearly-dead friend have to fend and outsmart an incredibly cunning murderer as both parties use every trick up their sleeve to destroy the other.
I will not spoil the ending however, but I will say it is one that is incredibly satisfying for all involved and uses a Chekhov’s Gun that was present in the season since before Kira’s introduction.
Kira Yoshikage however is just a microcosm of the mystery and horror presented by the fourth part of Jojo. There are many other urban-horror scenarios and intriguing takes on Japanese horror and the Urban Legend craze of the late 1990’s. Diamond is Unbreakable despite its shounen battle action trappings is at its core a horror-mystery story set in very familiar place, which when we’re exposed to the mystery is incredibly terrifying with any number of mysterious and paranormal entities about.
Morioh Town is a set-piece character in its own right, however, as we go through the series and the creepy or mystery monster are revealed we are instead met with a diverse and quirky cast of characters who make up this town and represent the true heart of the story. Of which seeing them all come together to combat the true, human evil that has been haunting their town is something I deeply appreciate.
Morioh is home to much more that. Its home to a weird looking stone who couples like the confess around (who totally isn’t the still living remains of another serial murderer), a cape which bounces back people who jump off back to the ground with a ‘boing boing’ sound, a strange haunted house with a weird looking man with with his silly son and a cat that looks like a flower, a strange book called “Enigma” which people say speaks at the local library, a strange man who lives in a radio-tower, an italian chef whose cooking can cure illnesses and fix whatever ails you, a haunted alleyway and more in this strange slice of urban Japan. As well as the history and tragedy of dozens of families who due to the evil of one man, whose loved ones never returned home. Forever waiting for those they love to come home, but never will, without closure.
Kira Yoshikage is a very real human horror personified. A send up of Slashers both fictional and serial killers real. Mixed in with a distinctly Japanese outlook and infused up with the bullshit of a psychic battle manga.
Diamond is Unbreakable is not the first time Jojo has forayed into horror, nor would it be the last. The series started with a simple gothic horror tale of a young boy fending off his evil adopted brother who was also a vampire and the influences of horror have hence hung over the series since.
However before we leave, as Michael Myers has showcased…. every Slasher needs their leitmotif or theme, and Kira also has one of his own:
Editor’s Note: Fuck, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure really lives up to its title, doesn’t it?