It’s a challenge for an anime series to stand out to a degree that viewers are overwhelmingly buzzing about it. They typically release seasonally with dozens of new series as well as returning seasons and OVAs (Original Video Animation). There’s a lot of competition and sometimes a season won’t have a notable anime. The last series to put people in a frenzy was Attack On Titan, which has returned for its final season. Now, there’s Jujutsu Kaisen, a Crunchyroll original which began in Fall 2020. The show has many similarities to previous animes, but thanks to its pacing, animation, music, and characters, it also manages to carve its own unique path.
A Hero’s Valiant Origin Story
Jujutsu Kaisen follows Yuuji Itadori, a physically strong teenager leading an ordinary life. But when his classmates are attacked by curses, he eats a cursed finger belonging to Ryomen Sukuna, the “King of Curses.” This causes him to take Sukuna into his body. Itadori attends the Tokyo Metropolitan Jujutsu Technical High School to learn how to fight curses with his fellow first-years, Megumi Fushiguro and Nobara Kugisaki, while keeping the evil Sukuna inside him under wraps.
The series draws comparisons to shows like Bleach with a strong teen who assimilates into a world they aren’t prepared for to save the ones they care about; but, Itadori is mostly alone, lacking the familial connections that Bleach‘s Ichigo had.
The one family member we encounter, Itadori’s grandfather, passes away after telling his grandson to help others with his strength. Itadori tries to live by that request, therefore the choices he makes are driven by others’ safety over his own. This explains him eating Sukuna’s finger to protect his classmates and Fushiguro. It also fuels his decision to find Sukuna’s fingers and save others from horrible deaths.
Travels, Thematic Thoughts, and Pacing
Jujutsu Kaisen travels to darker places like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, touching on issues of bullying and what defines human beings. The shows share similar pacing to a degree, but Jujutsu Kaisen moves somewhat faster, which might be off-putting for some viewers due to anime’s typical drag. We’ve all watched shows that spent 5-10 episodes on one fight with unnecessary recaps of the previous episode. This anime’s pace, by contrast, is amazing and more realistic for those who like things to progress faster.
Also, like Fullmetal, we slowly start to wonder what the difference is between curses and people. The Jujutsu Kaisen curses believe they are the true human. Hanami, a curse who speaks backwards, wants to eliminate people because, among other reasons, they are destroying the environment.
Jujutsu Kaisen also shows a trio of first-years—Itadori, Fushiguro, and Kugisaki—who are under the tutelage of Gojo. The latter, a show favorite, stands out with his white-haired appearance and sense of humor that masks a significant amount of power and determination. This teacher-student dynamic is similar to Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke with Kakashi-sensei but the characters tackle different circumstances.
Itadori and his comrades are sent on high-stakes missions like, for example, rescuing people trapped in a detention facility with a curse on the loose. They encounter philosophical questions and tackle the idea of negative energy fostering itself into curses, the living embodiments of this feeling. It’s a concept that’s honestly not too far outside the realm of reality.
The Wonderful World-building of Jujutsu Kaisen
As a recent anime, Jujutsu Kaisen’s artwork is predictably striking and lush. The creators don’t emphasize every aspect of a scene or background, instead opting to focus details on key specifics like Jogo’s drops of blood hitting a barrier before splattering Gojo’s face. One scene radiates the energy surrounding Itadori’s Black Flash attack. Even the opening credits are comprised of beautiful, arresting imagery, yet stylistically different from what you see in other animes.
The world-building is exceptionally detailed with students training to fight curses. Like regular school, they receive different skill ranks which show what level of curse they can handle. And each student has different abilities and methods for fighting. For example, Kugisaki uses a hammer and nails while Inumaki uses curse speech. Inumaki cannot talk like a normal person, instead only speaking in onigiri ingredients when he’s not in combat.
Jujutsu Kaisen’s group of villains and their leader Mahito, whose temperament is similar to Gojo, have a clear plan of action. However, because Itadori houses Sukuna inside him, we know there is an even bigger bad lurking with their own agenda. The curses have variety of sizes, color shapes, and overall designs with some speaking while others cannot. These rich characters leave a lot to explore in the future for this series.
Sounds and Scenes of the Land
The opening rock songs “Kaikai Kitan” and “Vivid Vice” amp the listener up for action. Those tunes accompany the visuals well with glimpses of future characters and their abilities from the curse speech user pulling down their zipper to speak to another student loading a gun. The underscoring and incidental music blends perfectly with the fight scenes to heighten excitement and tension. It feels like destruction on beat.
The closing songs also stand out. “Lost In Paradise” gives a vibrant, dance party feel, showing off the personalities of our lead characters with Itadori doing hip-hop dances, Gojo with his natural swag, and Fushiguro walking casually. The subsequent song leaves us hoping and praying that Itadori gets to live a fun life with his new friends.
Jujutsu Kaisen has everything to become the bar for shōnen anime to surpass in the future. It captures parts of beloved shows and gave us something stellar without the drag. There is no definitive renewal information at this time but a prequel film, “Jujutsu Kaisen 0,” will drop in Winter 2021. Hopefully, this show continues to dazzle and maintain its momentum.