Can You Enjoy Netflix’s Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan if You Haven’t Seen Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure?

Dept. of Spooks & Specters


I’ve watched my fair share of anime in my time. I’ve seen at least four seasons of Bleach. I loved FLCL and Attack on Titan, even if I’ve yet to watch their latest seasons, but of the most popular anime, the one I probably have the least knowledge about, is Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure. This leaves me in a bit of pickle when it comes to Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan.

I had no idea who, or what, a ” Kishibe Rohan” was before watching Netflix’s latest “Original Anime Series.” Those scare quotes are necessary by the way, as despite the “Netflix Original,” label, this “season” consists of four preexisting OVAs (original video animations), themselves adaptations of four of the eight one-shot issues of the Kishibe Rohan manga.


Each episode focuses on a standalone tale recounted by the titular Kishibe Rohan, a manga artist (from Season 4 of Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure?) who loves to adorn himself with manga pen nibs and maintains such dedication to the research for his stories, that he’ll go bankrupt buying up all the property in a mountain range, just to prevent developmers scaring off a ghost he wishes to investigate.

In each episode, Rohan relates a horrific tale he encountered to Manga magazine editors, and what I assume must be the supporting cast from Jojo’s.

As far as horror goes, the stories focus more on anxiety, panic, and the absurd, rather than fear itself. For example, the first episode features a vengeful spirit that challenges a man to toss three pieces of popcorn high into the air and catch them in his mouth… or face death. The depictions can be grotesque, with the colour palette changing to accentuate the nightmarish, but it always stays in the bright garish end of the spectrum, rather than veering into darkness.


Rather than focus on terrifying visuals, suspense, or dread, the series focusses more on the horror of the various characters, as they scramble to deal with the inconceivable. The show also builds tension very well, as in one episode where a character desperately tries to clean up blood that won’t stop gushing from a corpse they are frantically trying to hide while their relatives very, very slowly approach their front door. Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is a lot more anxiety inducing than scary.

I’ve no idea as to the metaphysical model of Jojo’s, but as Rohan faces evil spirits, mountain gods, or an “avatar of the god of muscle,” the reveals can start to feel a little unsatisfying. A little too out of left field.

This feeling is amplified by the fact that Rohan is a pretty self-centered, vainglorious protagonist. In these four episodes, he doesn’t do anything to combat the forces he faces or stop them harming anyone else. Once he’s got enough research for his next manga, and has made sure he’s out of harm’s way, he’s done.

Knock-Knock-Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

I still don’t know who the guy with the hat is.

Appearances by what I have to assume are other supporting characters from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable might entertain fans of the main series, but did absolutely nothing for me. Likewise the series’ refusal to explain Jojo lore like what “Stand Users” are, or what exactly Rohan’s “heaven’s door” ability is, or how it works, only leads to confusion, not interest. The series does explain these a little in later episodes, but it would have helped considerably if it had provided some explanation along the way.


All of which leaves Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan in a sticky spot. I don’t know if the character is popular enough to fans of Jojo’s that they are clamouring for more, but as a taster of the main series, it didn’t do enough to draw me in.

With that said, I have now watched the first four episodes of Jojo’s, also on Netflix, and found them far more interesting, but that has far less to do with Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan and more to with do me finally ticking something off my watch list.

All four “episodes” of Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan are now streaming on Netflix, which also has the first season of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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