Jujutsu Kaisen 1.2

April 2, 2023 · 0 comments

By Tom Wilmot.

You’ve seen it all before, but not quite like this – or at least that seems to be the general consensus concerning Jujutsu Kaisen, a series that cherry-picks the best elements from popular Shonen Jump properties and blends them all into one thrilling tale. Gege Akutami’s manga has been floating around since early 2018, but the debut of studio MAPPA’s gorgeous anime adaption in 2020 shot the franchise into stratospheric levels of popularity. In the latter half of the show’s first season, the series really comes into its own, introducing us to yet more students of the Jujutsu schools and raising tantalising questions to be answered in future seasons.

Picking up where we left off, series protagonist Yuji Itadori promptly returns to Tokyo Jujutsu High after another gruelling battle. Shortly after being reunited with his sorcerer chums, Yuji faces enemies from within, as not everyone is pleased to learn that the vessel for the powerful curse user, Sukuna, is alive and well. As the young hero participates in a chaotic exchange event with the Kyoto Jujutsu school, the villainous sorcerer Suguru Geto and his cursed spirit followers continue plotting humanity’s downfall.

The latter half of Jujutsu Kaisen’s first season takes a deeper dive into the show’s power system, courtesy of some spectacular battles. Each fight possesses an explosive quality, both in terms of the wild visuals and the loud, abrasive score. The “cursed techniques” that are unique to each character make every fight a chess match of sorts, as sheer power is often not enough to defeat a crafty opponent whose particular skill trumps your own. The season finale offers the perfect example of how a seemingly straightforward fight can be turned on its head, as Yuri and fellow first-year Nobara Kugisaki engage in a deadly game of chicken to outwit a tricky cursed spirit.

As our teenage heroes grow in power, we also get to see them mature as people. Despite his gung-ho, carefree attitude, the weight of the dead rests heavily on Yuji’s conscience, whether it’s those he’s been unable to save or cursed humans that he’s been forced to put down. A poignant conversation between the young sorcerer and Nobara reminds us that the high-schooler is still coming to terms with the violent path his life has taken.

The show succeeds in handling these softer, character-focused moments because of the near-perfect balance that it strikes between action, horror, and comedy. The free-flowing fights are often accompanied by grotesque imagery, whether it be a twisted technique or a monstrous cursed spirit. Yet the horrific can quickly turn to the hilarious, as the show constantly pokes fun at itself and other shonen series with some tongue-in-cheek jokes.

While the show focuses mainly on the talented student sorcerers, Jujutsu Kaisen also pays a fair amount of attention to its villains, all of whom are handled wonderfully. Episode 13 concludes Yuji’s battle with the maniacal cursed spirit, Mahito, the former being aided by fan favourite senior sorcerer Kento Nanami. Rather than killing off Mahito for the sake of showing Yuji’s growth, the series has the villainous spirit live to fight another day after undergoing some significant character development of his own. In fact, very few of the show’s major antagonists have been done away with for good, leaving many of them with axes to grind in seasons to come.

Jujutsu Kaisen’s villains are compelling characters in their own right, with some growing in strength in tandem with our heroes. When not actively pursuing the purge of non-sorcerers from the world, prime antagonist Suguru Geto and his colourful band of followers can be found taking in the sun on a tropical beach. Seeing the show’s antagonists in this relaxed manner is reminiscent of the devious Phantom Troupe in Hunter x Hunter, a shonen jump series that has heavily influenced Akutami’s work. Unlike the brazen Tanjiro of Demon Slayer, who’s unmatched in his ability to find a way to victory, Yuji and co are not refined in their talents, often rash in their actions, and overly reliant on their immensely overpowered teacher, Satoru Gojo. As our heroes and villains continue to grow and learn about one another, we’re left eagerly anticipating their next clashes, with more than a couple of grudge matches to be settled.

The longest arc in the show’s first season follows the much-built-up Kyoto Sister School Exchange Event, which is held in Tokyo, much to the dismay of Nobara Kugisaki. A highlight of the series so far, the event introduces a bunch of new characters and establishes some baffling friendships. Easily the most surprising outcome of the arc is the unexpectedly wholesome though admittedly one-sided bromance between Yuji and the formidable Kyoto-based sorcerer Todo. A shared taste in women, which moves Todo to tears, creates an instant bond between the two, as the more physically intimidating sorcerer makes it his mission to train a bewildered Yuji, his self-proclaimed best friend.

Yuji and Todo’s fraternity is solidified as the two ultimately face off against the planet-loving cursed spirit Hanami, who, along with several other of Geto’s underlings, wrecks the exchange event in spectacular fashion. The subsequent battle showcases some of the best animation in the show thus far, with Todo and Yuji’s tag-team tactics making for an energised and exciting spectacle. It’s also during this encounter where Yuji first unleashes the thunderous “black flash”, a blow so powerful that it distorts space, emitting a red and black lightning-like blast of cursed energy that deals devastating damage – it’s glorious to behold.

It’s a testament to the compelling nature of each character that we can spend a significant chunk of time away from Yuji to explore the relationships and backgrounds of the series’ secondary players without things getting stale. For example, the long-standing animosity between twin-sisters Maki and Mai reaches boiling point during the exchange event, while fellow Tokyo sorcerers, Panda and Toge, offer a welcome helping hand to our motley bunch of first years. Hanging out with these characters is so fun that an inconsequential baseball game between the rival schools is just as enjoyable to watch as the series’ most intense battles.

With a second season already in the works for July 2023, fans of the anime have plenty of questions to ponder until the show’s return. What exactly do Geto and his cursed underlings have planned? Who is the alleged mole within Jujutsu High? And what’s next for Yuji as he continues to suppress the all-powerful Sukuna? With much to look forward to, Jujutsu Kaisen’s first season feels like only the first chapter of a much grander adventure.

Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1 Part 2 is released in the UK by Anime Limited.

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