On Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan and Its Continuity (or, How I Overthought Everything Again)
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Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is an enigma. This enigma takes root at its very concept: why has Rohan Kishibe, the irritable, maniacal manga artist from Diamond is Unbreakable, been selected to fulfill the role of protagonist? What are these strange creatures he continues to encounter, and is there room for them in a world already inhabited by Stands and other bizarre phenomena?
Which brings us to the main question of this post: which world inhabited by Stands and other bizarre phenomena? There are two, after all.
Araki's official accounts on the matter are muddled, to say the least. The topic hardly comes up during interviews, but generally Araki describes Rohan as the same character between Part 4 and Thus Spoke. There are a few notable exceptions, however: in JOJOVELLER, Araki describes JoJolion as a world "set alongside" the Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan series. In All-Star Guide, Araki reinforces the continuity gap between the first six parts and Parts 7-9, and promises that Rohan Kishibe will never appear in JoJolion, but that some other manga artist might. Of course, this never occurred, and instead Rohan himself made an appearance as an antagonist in The JOJOLands.
Here, I will attempt to discuss all information tying Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan to the main series, in either continuity, in detail. Feel free to either believe or disbelieve any assumptions made in the process.
Episode 16: At a Confessional
Episode 16 is set during Rohan's month-long hiatus after an "accidental injury," which fits neatly with his first battle with Josuke Higashikata during Part 4. Even here, however, oddities begin to emerge. The introduction to the chapter sees Rohan introducing the story, noting that Pink Dark Boy used to run in Shonen Jump. This implies that quite some time has passed. Also worth noting is that Rohan's return to Morioh begins the Rohan Kishibe's Adventure story arc, in which Rohan expresses as much terror as Koichi upon the reveal that Reimi is a ghost, and later reveals his disdain for ghosts clinging to their attachments.
Of course, the second continuity did not exist at this time.
Episode 2: Mutsu-kabe Hill
Rohan is revealed to be 27 in this chapter, seven years older than in Diamond is Unbreakable. Eleven years have passed since his debut at age 16, which is consistent with Part 4. In the introduction, we catch our first glimpse of other returning characters from Part 4, as Tamami and Otoishi ask Rohan for autographs. Once the tale itself starts, however, one of the first things we see is the lapel on Gunpei Kamafusa's shirt, which prominently bears the letters "SBR." These same letters appear on his shorts and, much later on, on the shirt of one of his posthumous children with Naoko Osato. And as the chapter debuted in 2007, well into Steel Ball Run's run, it is not out of the question that these refer to the historical event also advertised by JoJolion's SBR Hat Shop.
Mutsu-kabe Hill reappears in Episode 10, now itself displaying supernatural properties such as localized weather patterns. The specter Rohan unleashes in the chapter is contained within Mutsu-kabe Shrine, which shares a name and appearance with the shrine where Dolomite resides in JoJolion. Shakedown Road also bears the alternate name of "Mutsu-kabe Promenade."
Episode 5: Millionaire Village
Here, the in-universe timeline becomes distorted, as Rohan is confirmed to still be 27 despite Kyoka claiming the year is 23 years after 1989. In other words, since the chapter takes place in 2012, Rohan must have been born in 1985 and not 1979. Furthermore, the chapter takes place soon after Mutsu-kabe Hill, as evidenced by Rohan's line about recently buying land in the mountains and going bankrupt. Therefore, this Rohan must have debuted in 2001. Kyoka is 25, which is standard—almost too standard.
True to his word, Rohan never returns to Millionaire Village after his confrontation with Ikkyu. In Episode 11, however, he thanks the Gods of the Mountain for the burs that allow him to defeat the Eco-Terrorist.
Episode 6: Poaching Seashore
Right from the cover, one of two things becomes apparent: this chapter either takes place in JoJolion's Morioh, or Hirohiko Araki has completely forgotten what the original Morioh's shoreline looked like. This even split between confirmation and bafflement continues throughout the chapter, as Tonio Trussardi (another character from Part 4) shows Rohan a similar map of Morioh with the Twin Pines clearly labeled. Tonio and Rohan visit the Hyogara Rocks, a location briefly seen in JoJolion, to illegally catch abalones. Rohan soon discovers why the undertaking is illegal: a certain Higashikata Family owns the land, and has forbidden fishing in the area. And yet, at the end of the chapter, Rohan calmly enjoys stewed octopus alongside Koichi, Okuyasu, and... Josuke Higashikata. One can only speculate about his place in the matter, and about Rohan's apparent peace around his mortal enemy.
Poaching Seashore is bizarre not only in the references made within the chapter itself, but also in the relatively-plentiful references made to it. In JJL Chapter 72, Jobin Higashikata recalls being unable to book a table at Trussardi Restaurant during a flashback. Later, in JJL Chapter 109, Lucy Steel points out a coastline owned by the Higashikata family where poaching was once punishable by death, echoing Tonio's explanation of his own poaching grounds. It almost gives the impression that Araki is insisting upon some kind of relation. Tonio's restaurant in this chapter reappears in Episode 4 as the backdrop for Rohan's introduction, clearly distinguishable by the multiple bird statues on the mantle behind the manga artist. No other relevant information exists in Episode 4, incidentally.
Kishibe Rohan Meets Gucci/Rohan au Louvre
These two chapters will be considered together due to one key detail: when Rohan mentions his grandmother in Kishibe Rohan Meets Gucci, the icon used to depict her bears the very same appearance as the character in Rohan au Louvre.
Rohan au Louvre, canonically, does not feature the same Rohan seen in Part 4. Araki himself has said as much. Whereas Rohan debuted at 16 in Diamond is Unbreakable, and even in Episode 2, au Louvre instead sees him preparing to debut at the age of 17. The most notorious break from Part 4, however, occurs when Nanase Fujikura falls into Rohan's arms crying, at which point he is tempted to use Heaven's Door to discover her reason... despite not having gained Heaven's Door until April 1999 upon being shot by Keicho's Bow and Arrow. Okuyasu, Koichi, and Josuke appear once again in a brief scene in the middle of the chapter, and once again Rohan does not mind Josuke's presence in the slightest.
The events of these two chapters are never mentioned again, which is odd. Despite Rohan losing his passport, money, and belongings in Meets Gucci, the events are never mentioned again. The same goes for Rohan's youth and trip to Paris in au Louvre.
Episode 7: A Rainy Monday
Upon first glance, this episode appears innocent enough. This first glance lasts around three pages before Rohan mentions the flooding of the Ichio River, a river seen on the map of the Morioh in JoJolion whose equivalent in Diamond is Unbreakable remains unnamed. Close examination reveals the early portion of this chapter to be a watershed moment in the series, as all manner of relevant logos are utilized with callous disregard. Take, for example, the man in the cap and woman in the hoodie, both of whom wear clothing labeled with the Seiten Birdies' name and logo... except that the logos on both travelers' clothing do not match, and furthermore neither matches the logo for the team seen in JoJolion. Or take the man in the ponytail during the same sequence sporting the logo of Part 4's Morioh on the back of his leather jacket, despite a pillar on the station platform instead bearing the logo of Part 8's Morioh.
What we are to gather from this is unclear. Perhaps Araki had a motive in utilizing these seemingly-irrational symbols in the way he did, or perhaps he simply did not care about their meanings. Are we to assume he cares any more about evidence found in previous chapters, or in future chapters? Incidentally, the Morioh shown in this chapter is shown to be heavily developed compared to Diamond is Unbreakable.
Episode 8: Deoxyribonucleic Acid
In Episode 8, Rohan is distracted throughout his appearance by a baseball game, specifically one in which the Seiten Birdies are playing with their star pitcher, "Ah-kun." "Ah-kun" is, of course, an alias of Atsunori Iwakiri, who is featured in JoJolion. And unlike in Episode 7, Rohan himself uses the same logo seen in JoJolion for the team. Yukako Yamagishi features in the episode, but again her relationship with Rohan seems much less tense than in Diamond is Unbreakable. Rohan goes so far as to take a perverse interest when she refers to "the sperm of a certified healthy male." Once more, Morioh takes on the appearance of a proper city in this chapter.
Episode 9: The Run
Rohan's showdown with Yoma Hashimoto takes place on the eighth floor of the Morioh Grand Hotel, Morioh Landmark #4 from Diamond is Unbreakable. It does not appear to have eight floors in Diamond is Unbreakable. Once more, Morioh resembles a city more than a small suburb. That is all of the relevant information in this chapter.
Episode 10: Hot Summer Martha
The year is 2021. Kyoka Izumi remains 25, inexplicably. Besides the callbacks to Mutsu-kabe Hill and Mutsu-kabe Shrine mentioned previously, the main point of interest in this chapter is Rohan's cell phone. Following the first time skip of the story, Rohan checks the message app on his phone, which bears the logo of Part 4's Morioh. This logo has not been seen since Episode 7, where it was used alongside JoJolion's logo for the town.
Rohan's dog, Bakin, is introduced in this chapter. He sticks around for Episode 11, his lifespan being a relevant topic to the chapter, and is even mentioned in The JOJOLands.
Episode 11 has been fully covered at this point, so we will move on to an overall analysis.
Episode 16 is fairly straightforward: it is set in the first continuity. This could easily be retconned by another incident forcing a month-long hiatus from Rohan, but in the absence of one its status is fairly indisputable. As for the rest, however...
Episodes 2, 5, 10, and 11 are bound together by the pairings of Episodes 2 and 10, and of Episodes 5 and 11. Much of the information provided by Episode 2, as well as Bakin's appearance in Part 9, would suggest that these chapters take place in the second continuity, but the logo seen on Rohan's phone calls that into question. Taking Episode 7 into account, however, it is possible that both of these logos simply coexist with different meanings. The status of these chapters is unclear, but leans toward second continuity.
Episode 6 is undoubtedly set in the same world as JoJolion. Both the chapter and the part are strangely insistent upon that fact, despite Tonio's reappearance. Episode 4 is roped in with Episode 6 as well, due to Tonio's restaurant appearing identically in both chapters.
The status of Episode 7 depends heavily on whether you trust a leather jacket more than a sign on a train station pillar. Scientists will undoubtedly continue to ponder this for decades. The use of the correct Birdies logo in Episode 8, alongside the namedrop of its star pitcher, leans its status toward the second continuity, despite Yukako's appearance. After all, Rohan is in both Parts 4 and 9. Episode 9 features similar views of Morioh to Episodes 7 and 8, so its status is heavily reliant upon those two chapters.
Kishibe Rohan Meets Gucci and Rohan au Louvre are, as always, the odd ones out in this consideration. Most of what we know of Rohan in these chapters boils down to him not being the same Rohan from Part 4. It is rather tempting to jump to the second continuity conclusion, but considering that au Louvre conflicts with Episode 2 as well, there is some level of ambiguity.
To summarize, nearly every numbered episode from 2 onward leans toward second continuity, either by association or by implication. Episode 16 leans toward first continuity, and Meets Gucci and au Louvre are ambiguous.
When Araki first drafted At a Confessional in 1999, he might never have considered that Rohan's story would span far beyond the initial 46-page one-shot and become a series in its own right. And yet, when he revisited the concept eight years later in Millionaire Village, it proved popular and flexible enough to spawn sequel after sequel, adaptation after adaptation, and even influence the main series through its locations and scenarios. To this day, the distinction of being featured in both the The Louvre and SPUR within two years is a rare feat, and yet to Rohan it came effortlessly. This inclination toward the unreasonable and unattainable is a large part of the reason why Rohan persists as a prominent character even outside the scope of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and likely why Araki found himself unable to replace him in JoJolion. Rohan writes his own place in the world, regardless of its scale or its other bizarre happenings. He moves for no one.
That said, having been dragged back into the JoJo series once more, he would do best to watch his back.
- ↑ TJL Chapter 4: Vs. Rohan Kishibe
- ↑ TSKR Episode 16: At a Confessional, p.3
- ↑ TSKR Episode 2: Mutsu-kabe Hill , p.4
- ↑ TSKR Episode 16: At a Confessional, p.5
- ↑ TSKR Episode 16: At a Confessional, p.14-17, 62
- ↑ TSKR Episode 10: Hot Summer Martha, p.2
- ↑ TSKR Episode 5: Millionaire Village, p.13
- ↑ TSKR Episode 5: Millionaire Village, p.6
- ↑ TSKR Episode 11: Drip Painting Style, Part 2, p.29
- ↑ TSKR Episode 6: Poaching Seashore, p.1
- ↑ TSKR Episode 6: Poaching Seashore, p.8, 12
- ↑ TSKR Episode 6: Poaching Seashore, p.23
- ↑ TSKR Episode 6: Poaching Seashore, p.47
- ↑ JJL Chapter 72: North of the Higashikata House. The Orchard, p.7
- ↑ JJL Chapter 109: The Radio Gaga Incident (1941), p.19
- ↑ TSKR Episode 4: The Harvest Moon, p.3
- ↑ Kishibe Rohan Meets Gucci, p.5
- ↑ Rohan au Louvre (May 2011)
- ↑ Rohan au Louvre, p.5
- ↑ Rohan au Louvre, p.37
- ↑ Chapter 320: Let's Go to the Manga Artist's House, Part 3, p.14
- ↑ Rohan au Louvre, p.42
- ↑ TSKR Episode 7: A Rainy Monday, p.5
- ↑ TSKR Episode 7: A Rainy Monday, p.16, 19
- ↑ TSKR Episode 7: A Rainy Monday, p.18, 38
- ↑ TSKR Episode 8: Deoxyribonucleic Acid, p.7, 17, 23
- ↑ TSKR Episode 8: Deoxyribonucleic Acid, p.12
- ↑ TSKR Episode 9: The Run, p.47
- ↑ Chapter 284: Koichi Hirose (Echoes), Part 1, p.1
- ↑ TSKR Episode 10: Hot Summer Martha, p.5
- ↑ TSKR Episode 7: A Rainy Monday, p.21