Jujutsu Kaisen – 07 – Volcano Head

I’ll say this for Jougo, AKA “Volcano Head”: he’s a confident sonofabitch. Ambushing Gojou on a deserted roadin the night, he immediately engulfs him inflames, only for Gojou to emerge unscathed. Even when Jougo is sure he’s touching Gojou, he’s really only touching the “infinity” (mugen) between himself and Gojou. The closer Jougo’s hand goes into that infinity, the more that hand slows down. It’s like an invisible suit of impenetrable armor.

It’s extremely irritating to discover that not only is Gojou far stronger than Jougo imagined any human could possibly be, but Gojou has no problems whatsoever blatantly demonstrating the sheer chasm in power between them. Gojou is even able to stop by the school bunker and smuggle Yuuji out (while he’s in the middle of Lord of the Rings) so he can observe a high-level battle between a special-grade cursed spirit and the world’s strongest Jujustu sorcerer.

Jougo’s smoldering frustration is ably expressed by veteran seiyu Chiba Shigeru, as the spirit uses “Domain Expansion” to create an Innate Domain around himself, Gojou and Yuuji. Were Gojou not there, Yuuji would have probably died (again), but while the domain looks hella cool, it doesn’t do much against the sorcerer, who then easily nullifies it with his own domain, Infinite Void. He achieves this by removing his mask to reveal surpassingly piercing blue eyes.

While Jougo isn’t about to tell Gojou anything about who sent him, he’s in very real danger of being exorcised. Getou, who was watching from afar, leaves it up to the Groot-like Hanami to save Jougo, and he does so by conjuring a huge field of beautiful flowers, then grabbing Yuuji with a vine, forcing Gojou to rescue him while Jougo escapes.

Getou, Hanami, and Jougo all meet back up at what is apparently the cursed spirit boss’s beach hideout, and we meet their apparent boss, the stich-faced, odd-eyed Mahito. Jougo may be a hothead, but with cooler and more powerful heads among the baddies, Gojou and Yuuji shouldn’t rest easy. For his part, Gojou intends to personally spar with Yuuji in between movie viewings so he’s ready to dominate in the Kyoto Exchange Event.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 06 – Wax On, Wax Off

I wondered how long JK would dare go on insisting Yuuji was dead, but it turns out not long: he’s revived in the first seven minutes of this episode. Turns out he was being kept alive within Sukuna’s Innate Domain. In what is basically his mind, Sukuna lets Yuuji challenge him to a duel. If Yuuji wins, Sukuna will heal his heart without conditions.

If Sukuna wins, there will be conditions, like him being able to take over Yuuji’s body for a minute whenever he says “Extension”. One of those conditions is that upon waking up, Yuuji won’t remember what conditions he promised to. We never learn who won the duel, and Yuuji wakes up just seconds before Ieiri Shouko begins the autopsy.

Meanwhile in an unassuming Tokyo café, the sorcerer/priest guy whose name we learn is Getou continues his chat with the Curse Jougo. One of the waiters flees the café before shit goes down…and shit does go down, with Jougo sets everyone in the café on fire and leaves them to die horrible deaths…just ’cause he feels like it.

Getou estimates Jougo’s power to be equal to roughly eight or nine of Sukuna’s fingers, meaning at this point in time he’s presumably three times stronger than Sukuna!Yuuji. He also recommends the use of the special-grade cursed object, Prison Realm, to seal Gojou’s power away. Jougo takes Getou up on that.

After visiting the dead inmate’s mother and presenting her with his nametag as proof of death, Megumi joins Nobara and the upperclassmen on the school athletic field to train for close combat and other forms of battle neither of them are accustomed to. If nothing else, Maki, Inumaki and Panda seem to be doing a good job keeping the first-years too busy to be sad about Yuuji’s death.

Of course, no one knows Yuuji is alive except for Gojou, Ijichi, and Ieiri, and Gojou intends to keep it that way. He’ll train Yuuji in how to maintain cursed energy levels in preparation for the Kyoto Exchange Event, but won’t reveal that he’s still alive until he makes his appearance there. That’s not just for dramatic effect; it’s so those who “tactfully” arranged for Yuuji’s death at the detention center, including the Jujutsu brass, can’t target him again before he’s ready.

And ready is what Gojou intends to make Yuuji. Using the innovative method of spending all of his waking hours watching movies while accompanied by one of the principal’s cursed dolls, who will punch the shit out of him if he doesn’t maintain a constant stream of cursed energy—not too high or too low. Being able to maintain that stream even under duress is key for someone like Yuuji who, at least for now, doesn’t have any cursed techniques.

Gojou leaves Yuuji in his isolated bunker to train up, but in the middle of his ride home he tells Ijichi to stop and he gets out of the car. Not long thereafter he’s ambushed by Jougo, who knows he needs Gojou out of the picture if the grand plan of replacing humans as the dominant species on earth is to come to fruition.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 05 – Don’t Lose Heart

When Megumi returns to the detention center he senses the Innate Domain has been closed off, indicating the Special-Grade is gone. Only it isn’t Yuuji who meets him outside, but Sukuna. Apparently Yuuji is having trouble switching back, and Sukuna makes it even harder by ripping out Yuuji’s heart, which Yuuji needs to live but he doesn’t.

Even with a gaping chest wound, Sukuna!Yuuji is able to flick away any and all of Megumi’s attacks, and he eventually realizes Megumi is trying to get him to restore Yuuji’s heart. Megumi throws his bird and giant snake, only for Sukuna to beat him mercilessly across the town.

Sukuna ultimately doesn’t take the bait, but Megumi is finally able to get Yuuji to resurface by explaining he saved Yuuji because he couldn’t bear to watch a good person like him die, even if saving him was dangerous.

We also learn about Tsumiki, someone important to Megumi (I’m guessing his sister) who was cursed and died in the hospital as Megumi couldn’t do anything. But as soon as Yuuji snaps out of it, it isn’t long before he dies from having his heart ripped out…and that’s that.

We meet who I presume to be a high-level sorcerer or priest (or both) and three eclectic Curse buddies in Tokyo, then cut to the morgue where Gojou, Ijichi receive Ieiri, who apparently intends to thoroughly dissect Yuuji’s corpse. Finally, we’re back at Jujutsu Tech, where Megumi and Nobara quietly commiserate about the loss of their comrade.

The show is extremely intent on making it known that yes, Yuuji is dead and no he won’t be coming back. To that end, Megumi and Nobara’s second-year upperclassmen Zenin Maki, Inumaki, and Panda meet with them and inform them they’ll be participating in the Kyoto Sister School Exchange Event, basically a competition between the two Jujutsu schools.

Megumi and Nobara are happy for a distraction from their grief, and then we’re back in Tokyo where the sorcerer/priest guy is at a café talking with Curses bent on eliminating the Jujutsu sorcerers once and for all. He tells them that in order to succeed in that effort, they’ll first have to neutralize Gojou Satoru, then get on Sukuna!Yuuji’s good side.

The Curse is confused…isn’t Itadori Yuuji dead? The sorcerer/priest grins, telling him he’s not so sure. Of course he isn’t! Yuuji’s the damn main character, and this isn’t Gurren Lagann; he can’t just stay dead, especially when we’ve seen him heal bits of his body. He’ll be back; it’s just a matter of when and how. No doubt the “how” will involve coming to some kind of understanding with Sukuna.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 26 – Smooth Sailing

Suphia and Shion’s sizing-up duel starts to grow out of control when Albis, transforming into a serpent woman, breaks up their fight. Both she and Suphia are satisfied that Tempest is a nation worth cooperating with. Unfortunately, Shion loses control of her Magic Bullet, which threatens to destroy everything within a large radius. Thankfully, Rimuru is there to swallow up the bullet with Gluttony, further impressing his guests.

That night in the new reception hall, Rimuru throws a feast, but learns that Albis and Suphia are primarily interested in drinking every drop of the apple brandy prepared in their honor. When Rimuru brings up the limits of fruit harvesting, the Eurazanians offer the first trade inroad: their ample fruit crops. As long as the liquor keeps flowing, the Beastketeers will be happy. The rest of their delegation meets with Shuna, the Riders, and the Dwarves, all of whom are happy to share their knowledge.

After the Eurazanian delegations departs, Youm and his men head out as well, just as Benimaru & Co. return from Eurazania with good news. If Tempest has one weakness, agriculture, which happens to be one of their new animal friends’ greatest strengths. Rimuru will have the next delegation focus on farming, and Benimaru tells him Rigur is up to the task of leading that delegation.

With that, Rimuru heads off on his own diplomatic mission, an official state visit to the Dwarven Kingdom, accompanied by Shuna, Kaijin, the Dwarf brothers, the Goblin Riders, and Shion…who threw a temper tantrum until Rimuru allowed her to come. On the way they see how much progress Lord Geld and the Orcs have made repaving the roads destroyed by Charybdis.

King Gazel seems happy to see Rimuru, an indication that things are going very well diplomatically for the Jura Tempest Federation. Of course, there has to be some kind of obstacle to continued success in the future, and we get a hint of that at the very end, as Lord Clayman watches a crystal ball report from Myulan, one of his spies.

Of course, as with all conflicts in TenSura, it won’t be a matter of whether Rimuru & Co. can come out on top, but how they end up doing so, while keeping their nation and its relationships strong. So ends another feel-good, functional, but not particularly exhilarating outing.

Housekeeping: Hortensia Saga and The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter DROPPED

As expected, Hannah and Zane are dispensing with two of the weaker new Winter 2021 anime series this season: Hortensia Saga and The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, to free up more time for far better series like Jujutsu Kaisen and Wonder Egg Priority.

Wonder Egg Priority – 02 – Poached

Episode one was such a feast of beautiful and weird imagery and sound, twisting time and space, and unblinking glimpses of hard truths that we as the audience necessarily needed a little time to find our footing. This week focuses Ai’s new role as plucky heroine saving “damsels in egg-stress”, but also her efforts to connect with the taciturn Aonuma Neiru.

Unlike the other girls with whom Ai has interacted so far, Neiru is both alive and inhabits the same real world as her. Which means Ai can make a real friend! Trouble is, Neiru is singularly focused on processing as many eggs as possible in order to save her little sister, i.e. her Nagase Koito. So while Neiru gives Ai her number, it’s only so they can arrange not to meet.

Neiru makes it clear that while they have similar roles, they’re different people. For one thing, she “loves” herself, while Ai hates herself. We’re reminded of the struggles Ai faces when she comes home to find a therapist is there, and grudgingly goes through as session with her mom present. While we know she’s out doing good in the world, her mom likely suspects she’s engaged in some kind of self-destructive behavior.

Regardless, Ai continues her work, determined to “save” Koito even though “saving her” may not bring her back physically but rather heal Ai—I’d call it an elaborate means of working through the trauma and not allowing it to consume her life. As with last week’s egg, this newest one contains another girl who is already gone, but thanks to Ai, is able to exorcise her demon, AKA her “Wonder Killer.”

In the case of timid Suzuhara Minami, the Wonder Killer is her abusive gymnastics coach. Minami doesn’t like the situation she’s in, but blames her own weakness, and we witness the psychological power of the coach when she arrives on the roof and places a hand on the submissive Minami’s head.

In a nice visual tough, as this week’s “captured maiden” Minami wears a frilly leotard under her hoodie, emphasizing her status as a princess for Ai the knight to rescue. The resigned Minami urges Ai not to bother with her, but as her head is turned, the coach transforms into a grotesque monster.

Ai looks back to when the bullying of Koito started. Koito’ uniform was torn and thown in the mud, which she calls “classic harassment”. The other girls were jealous of the extra attention she, as a transfer student, got from their teacher. She had Ai hide in a locker and film the bullies physically abusing her, but Ai was too scared and didn’t capture any usable footage.

Even so, Kotio smiles her sad smile and thanks her friend for “doing the best she could.” Disgusted that she didn’t do more when it mattered, Ai resolves to save Minami no matter what she says. She heads to the gym, where the monster coach is holding her by the head and repeatedly slapping her in the face.

Of course, the “tough love” the coach is dishing out is nothing more than abuse, and Ai won’t stand by and watch. That said, her giant rainbow key weapon proves useless against the coach. When Minami tries to stop her from hurting Ai, the coach tosses her aside and her yellow ribbon goes flying.

Ai realizes the ribbon is the weapon she needs to use, and while the coach squirts a thick pink liquid from her teat to blind Ai, Minami serves as her eyes, telling her where the coach is and which way to dodge. She eventually lands a coup-de-grace, and the coach explodes in a spatter of paint-like blood.

In the aftermath, Minami thanks Ai for saving her, and wishes they had met earlier so they could have gone out for burgers together. Instead, she vanishes in a puff of smoke just like the first maiden, after asking Ai to think of her sometimes.

While it’s gutting to watch Ai gain the trust of and befriend someone two weeks in a row, only for them to disappear moments after she saves them, that pain is mitigated by two factors: Ai is working towards saving Koito, and she’s met a real friend and fellow heroine in Neiru.

After Minami vanishes, we find Ai in the hospital with her mom, wearing a neck brace. As with last week, the injuries she sustains in her battles with Wonder Killers remain with her in the real world. No doubt her mom is horribly worried for her daughter, having no idea what’s going on. It could also be that nothing we’ve seen Ai do is actually real, but all in her head.

That said, Neiru fares worse than her, ending up in the ICU after trying to handle too many eggs at once. Ai visits her in the hospital and asks if they can be friends. Once she’s recovered a bit, they head up to the hospital roof and discuss what being friends entails. Ai talks about going out for burgers and fries, as Minami wanted to do.

Over sweet-smelling peach-orange sodas, Neiru texts Ai back a thumbs-up, indicating that she’s willing to give this friend thing a try. In a wonderful little piece of elegant animation her resting neutral face slowly turns upward into a gentle smile, and Ai’s smile subtly widens in response.

Even though  I’m rarely sure what’s real life or not (which is likely the point), the scene of Ai and Neiru on the roof seemed realer than most. We’ll see if the two only hang out in between separate maiden rescues, or if they decide to join forces and aid one another in their respective goals. Now that I better know the structure and rules of those rescues, like Ai I feel a lot more comfortable and optimistic.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 04 – You’ve Really Made the (Special) Grade

After the conclusion of last week’s episode, a log entry details an incident involving a Curse at a juvenile detention center to which three first-year Jujutsu Tech sorcerers respond—and one of them dies. 

This episode chronicles that incident, in which our newly formed trio of first-years are immediately dropped into a seemingly no-win scenario involving the very highest level of Curses: a “Special-Grade.” As the coordinator Ijichi puts it, carpet-bombing one of these with cluster bombs merely evens the playing field a bit.

Suffice it to say the Curse inhabiting the detention center is way out of Yuuji, Megumi, and Nobara’s league. But not only do they have to face this threat on their own (Gojou-sensei is away, possibly dealing with other threats), this is usually the norm: there simply aren’t enough high-grade sorcerers available to deal with all Curses, which means students are pressed into service. Talk about School of Hard Knocks.

Still, Yuuji isn’t about to shirk his duties, however insurmountable the odds may be. That’s because he hears the cries of a guardian of one of the inmates. But they enter a house of horrors with the Curse’s illusory abilities twisting the interior of the facility to have impossible interior heights and vanishing exits.

When Yuuji finds the inmate the woman was crying about already torn to pieces, he wants to get the body outside so the guardian knows for sure he’s dead. Megumi tries to get his head back in the game; this is about verifying the five inmates in the center, not rescuing anyone. Besides, the inmate Yuuji would have saved had killed a girl while driving without a license. Megumi makes Yuuji consider the crimes those he saves might commit.

Kobara tries to break the two up, but falls through the floor. When Megumi wonders why the Curse wasn’t detected by his demon dog, he sees the dog smashed into a wall, and a second later, the immensely creepy and powerful Special-Grade Curse appears before them. When Yuuji tries to use his blade, the Curse lops his hand off. Shit just got real…fast.

Yuuji sents Megumi away to save Nobara, who ends up swarmed by weird doll faces and eyeball Curses from above. She quickly runs out of ammo and is nearly swallowed up, but Megumi arrives in time to save her by having a giant frog he summoned pluck Megumi away from the curse with its tongue. Nobara, by the way, hates frogs.

As for Yuuji, he struggles with whether to unleash Sukuna onto this Curse. As Sukuna is “King of Curses”, he’d have no problem defeating it…but Sukuna threatens to kill Megumi and Nobara if Yuuji lets him out, as punishment for not fully relinqueshing control of his body. Yuuji tries to focus his cursed energy into his fist on his own, but the Curse easily blocks his punch.

Then Yuuji hears the howling of one of Megumi’s demon dogs, indicating that he successfully recovered Nobara, and he lets Sukuna out. He tried his best on his own, but the only way to fight a Special-Grade is with a Special-Grade.

Sukuna proceeds to toy with his fellow Special-Grade, and demonstrates that despite technically having the same ranking, the gap between their power is so great, relatively speaking the other Curse is as ignorant of the true nature of Curses as a whelp like Yuuji.

To see a Curse that so easily had its way with Yuuji be neatly sliced with ease, Damien Hirst-style, really drives the point home: Ryoumen Sukuna is a force to be reckoned with. The entire boss battle is a tour-de-force of combat animation.

From those slices, Sukuna pulls out one of his own fingers, which will be the third of twenty Yuuji consumes. But here’s the thing: Yuuji never awakens, even when Sukuna tells him to do it already, before he displays a truly devilish smirk—the same smirk a fox might have if it just gained access to the hen house.

That’s what makes this merely part one of two. Nobara is off to the hospital, while Megumi will head back to the center to wait for Yuuji. It also remains to be seen exactly how “lost” within himself Yuuji is, what devilry (if any) Nobara gets up to while he has more time, and if Megumi gets his wish of a Grade-1-or-higher sorcerer (ideally Gojou) arriving to save the day.

All I can say is the first-years did remarkably well considering what they were up against…and that I hope, if they all get out of this alive, they can get an easier mission next time.