(Covering Episodes 1-5 of the Anime Jujutsu Kaisen. Minor spoilers ahead)
Jujutsu Kaisen is cool. I don’t mean that in a vague laid back kind of way, I mean it checks all the boxes on feeling hip and edgy.
For one, the main character Yuji Itadori has a chill vibe while being this serious badass. For no reason given in particular, this kid has super human strength, speed and agility. Which, he uses jumping right into battle rocking a hoodie and sneakers.
The show’s setting lends itself to the cool factor as well, taking place in beautiful urban Tokyo. This allows for backdrops full of big buildings and elevated trains that shine in the night. Not only that, but this is very much our world, minus the monster curses (probably). Yuji, reads manga, plays video games and even professes his love for Jennifer Lawrence. These teens curse and brood while having some biting back-and-forths, all of this gives everything a real sense of authenticity.
Next, the show has a meta-bluntness to it that gives it so much of its edge. When Kugasaki shows up to meet the team of protagonists she tells them, “You should be honored, boys. I’m your group’s girl.” Which touches on the one female in the group trope.
All of this is held together with some of the cleanest and most impressive animation you will find anywhere, done by MAPPA. The fights are so fluid, the backgrounds have so much texture to them and even the moments of cgi really land which I am usually not a big fan of.
This show is the whole package of cool.
That being said, there are a few things within the first five episodes that are keeping me from being all in. The story is solid but doesn’t really bring anything that new to the table. It is about three kids joining a school of Jujutsu sorcery, a magic for fighting cursed creatures. The protagonist is able to do things no one else can do. We find this out as he not only is able to ingest a cursed object, but he’s able to control the curse that possesses him. Something we are told, people haven’t seen in over a thousand years.
We have seen these tropes way too often in anime and while they are proven to work, I was honestly hoping this show was going to be about the bumbling Scooby gang-type occult club that Yuji is a part of when the show starts. Sadly they are thrown to the side for the all too often used super power school. An anime staple these days. As mentioned before the show doesn’t have any qualms about pointing stuff like this out about itself, but it doesn’t do enough to play around with these tropes yet either.
That’s not to say there aren’t intriguing story beats. The dynamic between Yuji and Sukuna, the potential big bad, can carry this anime for a long time. The Jujutsu sorcerers must collect the twenty fingers of Sukuna and put them into Yuj in order to execute him and Yuji in the process. This catch-22 is the best part of the story so far, as we get closer to destroying the big bad we also get closer to having our very likeable protagonist die as well. There is also the added element of Yuji and Sukuna fighting for control of the body which plays out intensely in the climax of the cursed womb arc (episode 5), and I need to see more of this.
The magic system, while not being fully developed in the first 5 episodes, also seems to have a lot of potential. There are characters that can possess dolls, use voodoo dolls and cursed nails, and a character that can summon awesome looking monsters out of the shadows. While a full explanation isn’t given on how this stuff works, most of these powers play out really well on screen. I look forward to learning more about this system.
Overall the first five episodes are pretty close to perfect and the show has me wanting more. There are some hints that the overused tropes of the genre will overshadow some of the more unique aspects of the story, but I am hoping that won’t be the case because all of the elements are here for one of the coolest new animes.