Jujutsu Kaisen – Introduction Arcs (Episodes 1 – 13) Review

Jujutsu Kaisen is the latest Shonen Jump! anime to hit airwaves across Japan (and … internet waves elsewhere?) and while it does fall victim to the clichés of its genre, it does also break free from some of them as well. That being said, sometimes it doesn’t matter is something isn’t entirely original so long as it’s good, and is this the case for Jujutsu Kaisen? Let’s find out!

Synopsis:

Idly indulging in baseless paranormal activities with the Occult Club, high schooler Yuuji Itadori spends his days at either the clubroom or the hospital, where he visits his bedridden grandfather. However, this leisurely lifestyle soon takes a turn for the strange when he unknowingly encounters a cursed item, triggering a chain of supernatural occurrences that  thrusts Yuuji into the world of Curses—dreadful beings formed from human malice and negativity, and the Jujutsu Sorcerers that fight them…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Our lead protagonist punches a monster in the face… erm, well, one of its faces, I guess…

Sometimes how much I enjoy a Shonen series is based entirely on how much I like the central protagonist, and while sometimes the world and side characters can make me overlook this to a degree (hello Naruto!) it’s more often than not a deal breaker, and thankfully Yuuji Itadori is a likeable lead. He’s not fight-obsessed and there wasn’t any scenes of him eating a crazy amount of food in front of shocked faces, so he avoided the biggest clichés, though he does prioritise saving the lives of innocents above all else, and has an evil spirit inside him that he must eventually learn how to control, or face off against it. So not entirely original, but it’s hard to be. He’s more Ichigo than any of the usual Jump! protagonists, so that’s good.

Actually the Bleach comparison is a good one, because the set-up has a lot of things in common (much like Bleach had a lot in common with YuYu Hakusho at the start too!) as Yuuji begins his journey fighting an evil spirit (or “Curse”) that was attacking his friends at school, his just-died grandfather’s last words of “save people and die a good death” swirling in his head. He runs into Jujutsu Sorcerer Megumi Fushiguro but the two are soon backed into a corner, so Yuuji eats a powerful finger artefact that the Curse was holding in a desperate bid to save his life, and it works! … but he also becomes entangled with Sukuna, one of the most powerful Curses in history, so it’s not all good news. Megumi’s teacher and classic eccentric-but-powerful-Master archetype Satoru Gojo appears and before you know it Yuuji is enrolled in the Jujutsu school to be trained how to use his new powers, though Gojo makes it clear the higher ups just want him to eat more Sukuna fingers and then get executed so the powerful Curse can’t be resurrected.

Gojo shows everyone that he doesn’t just act like a cool and powerful comedy teacher, he is one!

This leads to several smaller stories as we’re introduced to the wider world of Jujutsu Kaisen, including Yuuji’s classmates: the previously mentioned Megumi (quiet and antisocial, but clearly a nice guy) and Nobara Kugisaki (quick to anger female type), plus more Jujutsu Sorcerers, like Kento Nanami (great character, very sarcastic and straight-laced, but with a sweary temper sometimes. Really enjoyed his scenes) and Yuuji’s upperclassmen Maki Zenin (no Cursed energy, so uses Cursed items), Toge Inumaki (can only speak specific cooking ingredients due to a vocal Curse power he has) and Panda (a walking, talking panda…) I’ll give author Gege Akutami credit on the last two, they’re unique to me! As for the villains, we have distant and secret head villain Suguru Geto, Mahito, child-like Curse who can change his body shape, and a Curse with a volcano for a head named Jogo, amongst other small fry. It’s quite the odd cast, in a good way.

During the course of these mini-arcs we have a battle where Yuuji had to give him body over to Sukuna, leading to his own death when he failed to come to a deal with the powerful Curse… only for them to make a deal and Sukuna to resurrect him (though Gojo has decided NOT to tell his classmates for now, letting them think he died in the line of duty while training our lead protagonist) Speak of Gojo, he takes on Jogo and shows that, yes, he is indeed the classic comedy teacher who is actually a super-powerful bad-ass. Curses and people with Cursed energy can create a barrier/void called a “Domain” where they are all powerful, and we see both Jogo’s lava-filled one, and Gojo’s … weird, infinite void one, which again, was damn cool. The last few episodes focus on the previously mentioned child-like Curse named Mahito, and has several big battles featuring Kento and his laidback office-worker shtick which as I mentioned I really enjoyed. It also has the tragic story of Junpei, who was your prototypical “always bullied at school so manipulated into hurting the bullies back” character, though in this case Mahito manipulates him, uses his mother’s death as motivation, and then when he starts to bond with Yuuji, he flat out kills him using his weird body-morphing powers. Damn that was tragic end to that kid’s life!

Mahito is defeated, but not killed, which is good because he’s an entertaining villain. Overall the first thirteen episodes have flown by, with enough drama and comedy to supplement the often violent action.

The Bad:

He just wants to be loved, damn it! Well, actually he just wants to kill humans, but still…

The only thing that really stood out to me is a guy from the third year of the Jujutsu school that gets introduced by the name of Aoi Todo. I like a bit of weird or eccentric-ness in my characters, but he just takes it a bit too far. He beats Megumi to a pulp because his taste in women is “boring”, aggressively shouting about liking big arses or some such. Adding in a generic muscle-head, flexing persona and there just wasn’t enough normal to justify his weirdness, and so it just came off as a desperate attempt to create a “funny weird” character that ended up just being weird for the sake of it. Admittedly, this could change going forward, but for now that just made me roll my eyes a tad…

Also as much as Jujutsu Kaisen has been bucking some Shonen trends, coming up next is a tournament arc, so… Yeah. I guess that’s more an issue with the next 13 episodes, mind you…

Overall Thoughts:

Sukuna in charge of Yuuji’s body, a.k.a. “having a good laugh getting to slaughter things again.”

Jujutsu Kaisen has been a fun series to follow so far. While it’s hardly free from the tropes of the genre, it does do enough things a bit differently for me to happily invest, plus I do enjoy the character designs for the show (or the manga, I guess!) and some the fight animation has been fun too. An easy-to-recommend show, if you’re looking for some Shonen action, even if you may have become over-exposed to the sub-genre like myself…

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