For the second time in my life, the hype was real! I’m very pessimistic about the chances that something which is all of the sudden wildly popular is actually good, or that it will be as good as everything seems to think it being. But this time the hype delivered, and I couldn’t be happier that it did.
Jujutsu Kaisen is an shonen battle anime with elements of traditional Japanese wizardry, folklore and mythology. It is also an exploration of people who are thrust upon a world that they didn’t know existed and will have to learn to swim very fast or they will sink. The anime is done by Studio Mappa and it is based on a super popular manga created by Gege Akutami, published in Weekly Shonen Jump.
From the very first scene to the end of season one this was an exhilarating watching experience. In one of her essays, Susan Sontag talks about film’s potential to be PanArt. In other words, according to Sontag, film and every other similar media, has the ability to become art that fuses inside itself every other type of art, like dance, music, sculpture, painting, writing etc. And watching this anime felt like I was experiencing PanArt. The fight scenes are always well drawn, dynamic, choreographed. They feel like a mesmerizing dance, animated before your eyes. And some of the poses, especially when Todo arrives later in the show, feel very sculpture like. The music adds greatly to the atmosphere, be it during a masterfully animated fight or adding suspense to a horror like sequence when the kids are facing one of those many villains/monsters.
The shows starts with a very bold in medium res of Goto, for whom we will later find out is one of the teacher in the school our protagonists are attending, telling our central protagonist, Itadori Yuji that he will die, all while he is hanging upside down in a very creepy, exorcist like room. Yuji is part of the Occult club in high school, even if he is a incredibly gifted athlete. Mostly due to the fact that he has a grandfather, sick and old, he needs to take care of. One of the last things Yuji promises his grandfather is that he spend his life helping others. His friends at the Occult club stumble upon a very dangerous, cursed item, a finger form an ancient evil wizard, turned almighty curse called Sukuna. Push comes to show, and to save both his life and the lives of his friends, Yuji, on Goto’s suggestion, swallows Sukuna’s finger.
After that he is transferred to a school for curse fighting wizards, on the outskirts of Tokyo. The school is large, but the amount of students and faculty isn’t. There he meets other students, like Megumi, a heir of a once famous clan, who grew up without his parents mostly, due to his mother not being recognized as a proper member; Kugisaki, a model wannabe, shoppingholic girl from the countryside. Later on they are introduced to other older students, the ones who weren’t suspended. The suspension is mentioned quite a few times in the first season, but it isn’t really resolved or expanded upon. It will probably be a major point of a future season. All of the students have magical/cursed powers that help them defeat curses. For example, Kugisaki uses a hammer and nail as he cursed item and Megumi can project various cursed animals and command them, even fuse them. Later down the line they meet students from another school. I only mention this because one of the students of that school is the before mentioned Todo. Its hard to describe him. He has a type, of woman. And if your type doesn’t overlap with his, you are in big, big trouble because he will beat the life out of you. But he and Yuji have a special connection, that is quite hilarious.
Every single character is really fleshed out, their motivations, life struggles and doubts clearly shown. There is challenges, growth, despair. Yuji is the best example of that. He might strike someone as very naïve or dumb. But in reality he is just a idealist, very inexperienced and throw into a world that five minutes ago he didn’t even know existed. Carried by the promise he gave his grandfather, moments before the grandfather died, he pushes himself to be a person others can rely on, no matter how much it harms him. He will even co-exist with the spirit of a malignant spirit, you to carry out his ideal.
The only exception is probably Goto. Acting as one of the teachers at the school, Goto is also almost all powerful. He is by far the strongest character in the show, and he is far from humble about it. But he is also very aware of what his world is. There needs to be change in this highly structured world. But the elders don’t agree with him. And to quote him “I could rip all their heads off, but that wouldn’t look good”. So he has decided to reform his world through the system, educating young wizards, and molding them into people who will bring the change that he desires to see.
In its totality, I think Jujetsu Kaisen approaches PanArt. Even if you do not find it as much of an artistic achievement that I did, you will still enjoy it immensely on a number of different levels.
If this intrigues you, you can watch the first episode for free below.