Jujutsu Kaisen – 03 – Gauging the Crazy

Here I thought we’d be spending more times in the woods of Tokyo’s outskirts, but Yuuji joins Gojou and Megumi to Harajuku to pick up Jujutsu Tech’s third first-year student, Kugisaki Nobara, voiced by Seto Asami of Chihayafuru fame.

Her first act in Tokyo is to try to browbeat a modeling scout into signing her, and her first reaction to meeting Yuuji and Megumi is to let out a blatant sigh. I immediately came to like her, and while she’s short-tempered and mercurial, she and Yuuji soon bond over love All Things Tokyo.

Unfortunately for them both, sightseeing and sushi (revolving or otherwise) will have to wait, as Gojou has the two of them enter a curse-infested, graveyard-adjacent abandoned building in Roppongi. Nobara exhibits her lack of patience with Yuuji and unwillingness to work together.

They split up, with Yuuji starting at the bottom with the miniature Buster Sword Gojou gave him. He has no problem with the Curses he encounters, but as Gojou tells Megumi (who is sitting this one out), this is more a test for Nobara anyway. She’s used to country Curses, but in the big city where there are more people and negative energy to draw on, the Curses are on a different level.

Nobara learns the hard way that “level” means more than cursed energy, but also cunning. After she uses her customized hammer and nails to defeat a mannequin Curse (using the hilariously bad catchphrase “Nailed it”), a scared child hiding behind boxes is taken hostage by another Curse.

After weighing her life and the little boy’s, Nobara tries to get the Curse to release him by dropping her weapons, but the Curse won’t bite. Fortunately Yuuji arrives in the nick of time, punching through the (unreinforced) concrete and slicing off the arm of the Curse that was holding the kid.

With the kid safe, Nobara finishes off the Curse by using a voodoo-like straw doll to hammer a cursed nail into its heart as it flees, defeating it. I hasten to add that no one has made hammering a nail into a straw doll look cooler than Jujutsu Kaisen! She then proceeds to ask Yuuji how the hell he managed to punch through solid concrete.

As the ordeal is resolved, we learn a little bit about Nobara’s reason for leaving the countryside. The brass tacks (pun intended): when she was in first grade she met Saori-chan, a beautiful girl from the city who was ostracized by the townsfolk to the point she was forced to leave. Nobara simply didn’t want to be in a place that did that to her friend.

After earnestly thanking Yuuji for his help with a bright smile, she seemingly devolves into first-grade mode, telling him they’re even now. As for her more superficial reason for joining Jujutsu Tech? She likes Tokyo, but didn’t want to deal with the considerable expense.

With that, the field test is passed, and the group escorts the kid back home and then they grab some grub, though Yuuji and and a hangry Nobara bicker over the kind of sushi place they should go to. Megumi remains aloof the whole time, giving the other two the opportunity to bond over their mutual vivaciousness.

Nobara makes for a fine addition to the Jujutsu first-year class, alternating between frolicsome fervor, coarse sullenness, and everything in between. She’s a blast, full stop, and I can’t wait to watch the full trio in action.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 02 – Choose Your Hell

Fushiguro is about to summarily execute Yuuji, only for Yuuji to wrest control of his body back from Sukuna. Fushiguro’s teacher Gojou Satoru arrives to take control of the situation, and asks Yuuji to switch to Sukuna Mode for ten seconds. During that time, Gojou (the self-proclaimed “strongest” sorcerer) is able to easily keep up with Sukuna!Yuuji, and when time is up Yuuji reliably regains control.

That tells Gojou that all is not immediately lost for Yuuji. When Fushiguro asks him to find a solution that doesn’t involve immediate execution, Gojou finds one: rather than die now, Yuuji has the choice to track down and absorb all twenty of Sukuna’s fingers (he had four arms), then be executed along with Sukuna forever.

Gojou gives Yuuji the day to think about it. He visits Iguchi in the hospital, who’ll be fine once healed by a sorcerer, and assures Sasaki what happened wasn’t her fault. He then must oversee his grandfather’s cremation, and gathers the ash and bone fragments into an urn. As Gojou warns, that solemn task is a cakewalk compared to the shit he’d get up to if he agreed to become a Jujutsu sorcerer.

Now that Yuuji is aware of the threat of Sukuna he can’t stand by, or ignore his gramps’ dying request, so he’s in. He eats a second finger Gojou gives him without incident, and they head to the picturesque Tokyo Metropolitan Jujutsu Technical High School, located on the woodsy outskirts of the metropolis.

Yuuji learns that while he can still control his mind and body fine, Sukuna still “leaks out” from time to time in the form of a mouth that can emerge anywhere from Yuuji’s body to make some snide or rueful remark. Gojou then tells Yuuji he’s to meet with Principal Yaga, who will decide if he’s Jujutsu Tech material.

Yaga immediately throws Yuuji off by sewing cute plush dolls when they meet, but the principal can infuse his Curse into the dolls and use them as weapons—which is exactly what he does while asking Yuuji why he wants to enroll. As the kappa doll beats him up, Yaga makes him realize that “because by gramps said so” isn’t enough: it’s because Yuuji is the only one who can absorb Sukuna and survive.

One Yuuji realizes this himself (and pins the kappa), Yaga passes him, and has Gojou show him to his spacious dorm room. Yuuji learns Fushiguro Megumi is his next-door neighbor, and along with an incoming female student, the three of them are the only first-years at Jujutsu Tech.

In addition to being the vessel for Sukuna, Yuuji also serves as a Sukuna Radar. That said, some fingers will put up tougher fights than others, especially those that have already been absorbed by other Curses. No doubt he’ll be relying not just on his fellow first-years (the third of whom we’ll meet next), but the upperclassmen and faculty like Gojou.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Otherside Picnic – 03 – It Takes a Village

It’s just Sorao and Toriko this week, as Otherside Picnic sticks to a simple formula: the two meet up, go to the Otherside, encounter something dangerous, then make it back safe and sound. Rinse, repeat. Throughout each of the three visits we’ve watched, Sorao wonders if she really should keep hanging out with Toriko, but hasn’t been able to keep herself from doing so—in large part because Toriko is fun and pretty.

This week while searching for the supply point where Toriko first found her gun, the two go into the nitty-gritty of how to search for glitches along their path. Wide shots of the two give a sense of scale of their surroundings, but because they’re rendered in clunky CG it pulls me out of those scenes every time.

The “Big-Heads” who inhabit the village are initially creepy, but as soon as there are dozens of them rendered in CGI, they look more goofy than anything else. And while they end up chasing the girls, one could argue they had a right to be mad about their friends getting shot by intruders.

During the ensuing chase, the girls stop numerous times while Big-Heads don’t, yet they’re never caught.  Also, both Sorao and Toriko stumble, but neither of them help the other up. They end up escaping back to their world through a miniature shrine, showing that there are many different ways in and out of the Otherside.

It’s somewhat deflating that even after Toriko expresses genuine affection for her, Sorao ends up in the precise same headspace as the beginning of the episode: wondering whether she should rethink continuing these excursions with Toriko. The kids chasing each other in masks that were the same colors as the Big-Heads was a neat little detail. Otherwise, three episodes in I must admit I’m getting a little bored with this.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 01 (First Impressions) – A Troublesome Curse

Itadori Yuuji, the necessary third member of his school’s Occult Club, is a freakishly talented athlete, but he fends off demands from the track team coach because he’s done with Occult Club activities by 5 PM.

Yuuji wants to be done club as soon as possible so he can spend more time with his grandfather in the hospital. Little does Yuuji know that by requesting a certain item, his fellow club members Sasaki and Iguchi are playing with some very ancient and dangerous proverbial fire.

Unfortunately, we only get to spend one afternoon with Yuuji’s delightfully cranky gramps before he kicks the bucket. In what ends up being a dying wish, he tells Yuuji, who is strong, not to die alone like him, but help and save as many people as he can so that when he dies, he’s surrounded by those people.

When Fushiguro from “Jujutsu Tech” asks Yuuji about a certain cursed item, Yuuji only produces the box; the actual item is a finger being unwrapped of its ancient, no-longer effective seals by Sasaki back at school. Once she does, the finger attracts a horde of grotesque (and thankfully not CGI) “Curses”, or monsters.

After a fairly goofy shounen anime start with no shortage of exposition (especially from Fushiguro), we get some properly creepy monster action, as both Sasaki and Iguchi are in the process of being slowly swallowed up when Fushiguro arrives with his two wolf shikigami.

Unfortunately, Fushiguro apparently isn’t that great at exorcising Curses? He needs to be bailed out by Yuuji, who is close to death due to his grandfather’s recent passing and thus can see both the Curses and shikigami, and proceeds to blast through the window to kick the shit out of said Curses and save his friends.

Fushiguro explains a little more, then Yuuji prepares to hand over the finger, but before he can the Curse boss arrives, grabs Fushiguro, and smashes its way out of the school. It’s not looking good for Fushiguro, so Yuuji does something very stupid, yet in keeping with honoring his gramps’ wishes: he swallows the cursed finger, thus gaining its power and enabling him to obliterate the boss with ease and style.

The boss may be gone, but now Ryoumen Sukuna, a particularly evil demon who was the original owner of the finger, has hijacked Yuuji’s body. Sukuna, however, is surprised to find Yuuji is not entirely suppressed, but fighting to get control of his body back from the demon. Fushiguro prepares to exorcise Yuuji as if he were a garden variety Curse, which is a fine way of thanking the person who saved your life…

I’m an entire season and change late to Jujutsu Kaisen, the top-watched anime in 71 countries (topped only by Black Clover, which I will not be watching). I missed it when the Fall cour aired, but wanted to know what made it so popular, and I can see the appeal.

The protagonist is a likeable enough so far, the demons are super creepy and the production by MAPPA is of above-average quality. It gets demerits for Fushiguro’s excessive exposition and a silly detour to the athletic fields for a shot put competition. I also like the idea that Yuuji’s overarching “curse” was bestowed by his grandfather: the curse of helping others. I’m thinking this is worth catching up to.

Rating: 4/5 Stars