Series Review – Jujutsu Kaisen (season 1)

If you have been following the anime landscape over the last few months, then you know how popular Jujutsu Kaisen is. The newest supernatural shonen anime to grace the small screen quickly became a smash hit due to the top notch animation from MAPPA (The God of High School, Yasuke), the intriguing characters, and interesting, yet simple, plot. Jujutsu Kaisen quickly became one of my favorite new anime of 2020 just from its first 13 episodes alone, and the next eleven only solidified my love for it.

Based on the best-selling manga by Gege Akutami, Jujutsu Kaisen follows high-school student Yuuji Itadori. Itadori has inhuman physical abilities, which is particularly strange considering that nothing else about him seems out of the ordinary. After a run-in with a cursed spirit attempting to swallow a cursed object, one of the evil cursed spirit, Sukuna’s 20 fingers, Yuuji meets jujutsu sorcerer-in-training Megumi Fushiguro, who attempts to fend off the spirit so Itadori can get away. However, Itadori can’t just leave him to die, so to save Fushiguro, Yuuji eats Sukuna’s finger so that he can both keep the finger away from the evil spirit and gain a portion of Sukuna’s power.

From left to right: Yuuji Itadori, Megumi Fushiguro and Nobara Kugisaki from episode 3, “Girl of Steel”

Unfortunately for Itadori, the jujutsu sorcerers are now forced to kill him to make sure Sukuna doesn’t take over his body and rise to power again. Luckily, jujutsu powerhouse and instructor at the Tokyo branch of Jujutsu Tech, Satoru Gojo, convinces them to let Itadori use Sukuna’s influence on him to guide them to the other remaining fingers, that way they can kill 20 fingers with one super powerful blast from Gojo’s beautiful eyes (or something like that).

Thus, Itadori is enrolled in Jujutsu Tech so that he can defeat the many other cursed spirits and curse users searching for the fingers as well. Along the way, Itadori meets fellow classmates Nobara Kugisaki, Panda (yes, he is a panda), Maki Zenin and Toge Inumaki, who each have their own unique forms of jujutsu sorcery. Well, except for Maki, who is forced to wear special glasses that allow her to see cursed spirits. Together, alongside the teachers at Jujutsu Tech, Itadori must overcome many obstacles including his hesitance to kill curse users due to the humanity still present within them.

Mahito and Sukuna laughing at Yuuji after a devastating loss in episode 12, “To You, Someday”

The first half of the show primarily is spent building the world of Jujutsu Kaisen and letting the audience walk inside Itadori’s shoes as he discovers it as well. Like most supernatural shonen, this series is not for the faint of heart. People die, sometimes in seriously gruesome ways with little remorse shown by their killer. While the villains are often silly when meeting up by the beach, there are no jokes being thrown around when in battle against the main cast. This is not Mob Psycho 100; the evil spirits are not here to joke around with the protagonist. Some of them are more than willing to rip him limb from limb if it means removing him and Sukuna from the equation. Characters you love could die at any moment (except maybe Gojo because he’s too cool for school).

Because of this, every single fight against Jujutsu Kaisen‘s many antagonists feels like it has serious physical stakes, which is conveyed clearly through MAPPA’s jaw-dropping gorgeous animation. Whereas the animation of The God of High School or Yasuke felt like icing on a poorly-made cake, the quality of Jujutsu Kaisen‘s animation perfectly matches the level of storytelling present in Akutami’s writing. The team at MAPPA did an excellent job adapting the manga, allowing every single action sequence, no matter how vital to the overarching plot, to feel memorable. The last show to leave me feeling like that was Mob Psycho 100 almost two years ago.

Nobara and Yuuji fighting against curse users in episode 24, “Accomplices”

Speaking of the writing, every single major character, especially during the free-for-all school battle arc of the second half of the season, gets their time to shine. Each main member of Jujutsu Kaisen acts as an analog to the main characters of Naruto (as if it wasn’t obvious enough since Itadori and Naruto are both possessed by some kind of evil spirit). Fushiguro takes Sasuke’s personality, but twists it into being a heroic fighter instead of a character constantly conflicted about their ideology. Nobara is Sakura but actually useful. Okay, that might be a bit harsh of a comparison for Nobara. She is an extremely arrogant force of nature who is confident in her own femininity and doesn’t need anyone to tell her what her place is in the larger scheme of things. Nobara and Itadori, especially, are constantly underestimated by their opponents due to their lack of experience fighting special-grade cursed spirits and their weaker appearance compared to their better-trained classmates. This causes the pay-off for when they do inevitably defeat their opponents to feel earned. Together, the three of them form an incredibly chaotic, but balanced, trio.

I may have mentioned him a few times already, but the true show stealer of Jujutsu Kaisen is Satoru Gojo. Imagine Reigen Arutaka from Mob Psycho 100, the authority of Eraser Head from My Hero Academia and the power of Saitama from One Punch Man. Quite possibly the most powerful character in all of shonen anime, it’s hard to truly describe how omnipotent Gojo is. You really just have to find out for yourself by watching the show.

Satoru Gojo being an absolute unit in episode 20 “Nonstandard”

Lastly, Jujutsu Kaisen‘s dub is probably one of the more controversial dubs of recent times due to a hand full of odd script-changes that ultimately change very little about the overall story or portrayal of the characters. Whether you enjoy the dub depends on how much these changes affect your enjoyment. In the end, they didn’t bother me very much due to the voice cast behind my favorite characters.

ADR (automated dialogue replacement) directed by Michael Sorich (Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach), Jujutsu Kaisen found a nice blend of newer voice actors and well-known talent. Adam McArthur, Robbie Daymond and Anne Yatco are all fantastic as Yuuji, Megumi and Nobara. Their deliveries during Jujutsu Kaisen‘s serious topics allows those moments to hit as strong as they should. Similarly, Allegra Clark (Maki), Matthew David Rudd (Panda), Xander Mobus (Aoi Todo & Toge) and Laura Post (Mai Zenin)’s performances only strengthen the show’s many amazing moments, whether dramatic or hilarious.

However, the real powerhouses of this series are the voice actors for Gojo and the primary antagonists, Sukuna and Mahito. Kaiji Tang is an absolute joy as Gojo, and I can’t imagine anyone else voicing him. Much like Tang as Gojo, Ray Chase’s performance as Sukuna is certainly enjoyable, despite the unfathomable evil Sukuna posseses. Ray Chase seems to absolutely love playing the villain. Lucien Dodge, on the other hand, has his enjoyable moments as Mahito, but unlike Sukuna, Mahito is completely despicable. Mahito is Sukuna if he could act with complete freedom and Dodge’s performance can be truly frightening at times. The entire cast, for the most part, does an excellent job conveying the emotion present within Jujutsu Kaisen‘s story.

If you haven’t seen Jujutsu Kaisen already, and if you absolutely love supernatural shonen like Yu Yu Hakusho, Bleach or Demon Slayer, then you will love Jujutsu Kaisen. It is just as amazing as everyone says it is. While not my favorite shonen action series, Jujutsu Kaisen definitely has the potential to become so much more than it already is. It’s popularity is not unfounded. You can watch the first season of Jujutsu Kaisen on Crunchyroll and HBO Max subbed and dubbed.

Rating: 9/10

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