Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Dropped

With a full slate of shows to follow this Spring, I needed Combatants to really knock one out of the park in its third week to justify keeping it around and…it just didn’t. It was a dull, dreary affair, full of sloppy character models, sketchy animation, unfunny comedy, and a cast that are rehashes of Konosuba characters, only less likeable. Agent Six it probably the show’s biggest misfire, as the show is well aware that he’s supposed to be an dishonorable bastard, but gives us zero reasons to want to watch him.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! – 02 – Assembling a Team

With far less exposition to dump on us, this week’s CWBD is an improvement, flowing much better structurally and focusing on its kooky characters, like the artificial combat chimera Rose and Grimm, archpriest of Zenarith, god of undeath and disaster.

While both are eccentric to say the least, Alice deems them two of the more powerful assets at their disposal. With their ultimate goal of defeating the Demon Lord in mind, they can’t be picky about personalities.

And just like KonoSuba, there’s nobody here whose personality you’d call “normal.” Alice comes closest, but she’s an android. Six continues to be a cad, racking up Evil Points. Rose is a timid glutton who has a sinister chuunibyou side. Grimm wants a man, and Six would seem to do. Grimm and Rose were both exploited by the military as frontline weapons.

The newly-formed party first tastes battle after harassing a demon lord army supply train, which distresses Snow because she wants more exciting frontline combat so she can affort to pay off her sword (the news she clawed her way to where she is from nothing makes her character more interesting).

Then two of the Demon Lord’s Elite Four arrive: the voluptuous Heine of the Flame (whose “cosplay” reminds Six of his comely bosses back home), and Gadalkand of the Earth, who straight up murders Grimm, just like that!

Even though his sole interaction with her was catching a glimpse of her thong, Six still wants to avenge Grimm, but Gadalkand and Heine both withdraw before he can fight them. Then he learns from Snow and Rose that due to her demon blood and position as Zenarith priest, she comes back to life no matter how many times she dies…which should prove quite handy!

While Six continues to be, for the most part, pretty scummy, he comes off far better this week, especially when he sits vigil over Grimm’s corpse in the temple of Zenarith. When she wakes up, she’s surprised he’s there because he didn’t want her to be lonely.

The episode closes on a sweet note, as Six orders her a spiffy new Kisaragi-brand wheelchair and the two go on an adorable date racing through the wastelands and breaking up couples in a village. This is still no KonoSuba, but I came away from this second episode feeling like it’s starting to find its own voice, and liking everyone just a little bit more.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 17 – Twinception

I think I’m in love. The opening act of this episode is all Zenin Maki, and at no point does she ever lack the upper hand in her duel with Miwa Kasumi. I like Kasumi just fine, but she got some bad advice from Mai about Maki’s limitations. “Grade Four” may be her official classification, but she’s a damn sight better than that, as Kasumi learns the hard way.

Overwhelmed by Maki’s superior strength and reach, Kasumi tries to draw her into her mini-domain in which she auto-attacks anything that comes within a just over two-meter radius. That plan fails when Maki snaps her polearm in two, throws the individual segments at her along with a hidden kunai Kasumi never saw. Maki ends up stealing Kasumi’s sword from right under her nose. All Kasumi can do is weakly ask if Maki will give it back (she won’t).

With that battle pretty much decided (seems someone kind and “normal” as Kasumi would take a sound defeat over having to kill anyone), we shift to Nobara vs. Momo AKA Ghibli Witch. While Kasumi kept things all business, Momo isn’t above trash talking Nobara for her lack of “cuteness”, a quality the Ghibli Witch believes is crucial for a female sorcerer.

Momo rants about the higher-ups demanding not strength from women, but perfection. Meanwhile, Momo can’t fight 100% against Nobara because a part of her is constantly distracted with using her cursed energy around her ears (to prevent a cursed speech ambush from Inumaki).

When Momo goes into Mai’s difficult upbringing, Nobara doesn’t want to hear it, because Maki—whom she comes right out and says she loves—suffered the same treatment. I love how there’s no love triangle between the two lead dudes and Nobara. Maki is light years better than either of them.

Nobara basically recites her mission statement as a person here: “I don’t give a damn about ‘men’ this and ‘women’ that! I love myself when I’m pretty and all dressed up, and I love myself when I’m being strong!” Realizing once she has her Straw Man Technique all lined up, she switches out her metal hammer for a plastic squeaky one and beats the stuffing out of her opponent, which is the kind of LOL/WTF absurdity I live for.

Were it just Nobara vs. Momo, the former might’ve claimed the win, but the subject of Momo’s sympathy Mai ends up retiring Nobara with a rubber bullet from maximum range. Since Maki is done with Kasumi, she hops into the treetops to face off against her twin, minutes-younger sister.

Through flashbacks we learn that Mai was a scaredy-cat around demons and would’ve been content to accept the Zenin family higher-ups’ estimate of the twins as ultimately good for nothing but servitude at the household. Among the two, only Maki fought against the menial destiny laid out for her and sought out her own, leaving Mai behind. Ultimately, Mai resented her sister not just for lying about remaining by her side, but forcing her to put i the effort to be a Jujutsu sorcerer—something she never wanted to be.

While I sympathize for the way both sisters were treated simply for being women, twins, and lacking the usual qualities of Jujutsu sorcerers, I maintain that Mai is being a whiny little brat. Once she’s fired all six bullets from her revolver, Maki thinks she’s won, but Mei uses her secret ability “construction” that turns her cursed energy into matter—in this case, a seventh bullet.

Just when it looks like Maki is about to get shot in the face, she reaches out and catches the bullet with her bare hands, revealing that she has a unique talent too. In what is essentially the opposite of Mechamaru’s situation, she was was bestowed with superhuman strength in exchange for having no cursed energy whatsoever.

Since Mai can only create one bullet per day, she loses…but doesn’t go quietly, ranting about what was so bad about being ordered around back home, and why Maki didn’t “stay at the bottom” with her. Maki doesn’t mince words: if she did that, they’d still be together, but she’d hate herself. Instead, they’re apart, and Mai hates her instead.

P.S. In this week’s Juju Stroll omake segment, Kasumi gets out of bed for a midnight snack, only to find Momo and Mai eating her edamame. Momo proposes an alternative snack in the form of a seafood ramen cup that’s given richness and an extra kick with milk and red chilies snipped in with scissors. It is indeed tasty…but perhaps a bit too heavy for a midnight snack!

Jujutsu Kaisen – 16 – To Panda or Not To Panda

The new Bromance for the Ages is off to a good start, with Toudou eager to teach his new best friend how to use one’s mind, body, and soul as one, in order to eliminate the lag inherent in Divergent Fist.

Yuuji proves a quick study, much to Toudou’s delight, as it means he doesn’t have to use kid gloves. At this point it seems unlikely Toudou will carry out Principal Gakuganji’s order to kill Yuuji, or even allow anyone else to do so. What kind of friend would he be if he did?

From Yuuji vs. Toudou we shift briefly to Panda/Nobara vs. Momo, who looks for all the world like Kiki’s buddy and is voiced by Lil’ Taiga herself, Kugimiya Rie. The odds are evened when Ultimate Mechamaru emerges from the soon-to-be-felled trees. Panda estimates the robot to be somewhere in the Grade 2 range like him, but Mechamaru corrects him, saying he’s more of a semi-Grade 1.

It’s appropriate for the two most different sorcerers from among their peers would go up against each other, but throughout their hard-hitting battle, Mechamaru continues to look down on Panda as “just another Cursed Corpse”, when in reality, Principal Yaga created the first CC with emotions.

Mechamaru, meanwhile, is merely the robot remote-controlled by a human born with profound physical disabilities. He lies in a tub surrounded by tubes and covered in bandages, virtually immobile and in constant pain. The trade-off for such an existence is a ridiculous level of cursed energy that can be used at range.

Panda has a couple other secrets that give him the upper hand in their battle. First, unlike most CCs he has not one but three cores in his body: his “panda” core, his brother’s “gorilla” core, and his “bashful” sister’s core, represented by a flash of light. Mecha disables two of the three, but Panda is still going strong in Gorilla mode, and manages to trash the robot before it learns the location of his last core.

On the one hand, this was a fun battle between two extremely quirky characters that pulled double duty in explaining who and what they are and what makes them tick. On the other, part of me was perfectly fine with neither of these characters being explained beyond “one is a panda and one is a robot.” Now that the show has answered a bunch of questions about the two, there’s less mystique there.

Finally, the Panda vs. Mechamaru duel was the one I was least invested in compared to the three others that bookend the episode: Yuuji vs. Toudou, Nobara vs. Momo, and Maki vs. Miwa. I’m probably not alone in this, which may be why the show chose to resolve this battle first.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 15 – My Best Friend

The first group battle of the Exchange Event begins, and is ultimately notable not just for its various character pairings, but for what it lacks: Sukuna, the ultimate target of the Kyoto sorcers, barely makes a peep, and the only demon that’s slain is a small frey that got in the way of Toudou’s fist, and incidentally, saved Yuuji’s life. Even Gojou is only appears at the beginning to start the battle and at the end of the omake.

That means the episode belongs to the Tokyo and Kyoto students, and both as complete groups and once split up, they very ably and entertainingly carry the day with scene after scene of badass and/or hilarious interactions, starting with Toudou Aoi and Yuuji. Yuuji lucks out by having the same type (tall, large posterior), which temporarily sents Aoi into a kind of idyllic school drama daydream in which he gets shot down by Takada-chan but comforted by Yuuji.

They are now best friends, so when Aoi’s Kyoto classmates, led by Kamo Noritoshi, converge on Yuuji with the goal of assassinating him, Aoi uses a cursed technique to make Yuuji and Noritoshi switch places, then tells Nori and the others to buzz off. This is his fight, he’ll say when he’s done, and he’ll decide—not Nori, not the principal—whether Yuuji dies.

It’s clear the Principal has more to contend with than the threat of Sukuna if his own elite students are in such disarray. Much to Yuuji’s confusion, they scatter as Aoi commands, while their witchy comrade Momo’s air superiority is suddenly nullified by Megumi’s Nue. They were counting on her for the actual group battle part, involving locating and defeating demons.

Once the Tokyo kids realize the Kyoto kids are trying to kill Yuuji, they rethink his use as a decoy. Inumaki is sent to start exorcising, Panda and Nobara keep Momo busy, and Maki ends up with Miwa Kasumi, by far my favorite and the most “normal” person in perhaps either school.

Yuuji takes off the kid gloves and demonstrates to Aoi’s boundless joy that despite being way skinnier he packs a lot more raw power. Of course, Aoi’s gotten to the point where he can focus that power a lot better than Yuuji, and in any case has a whole bag of cursed tricks at his disposal. Aoi is having fun until his thoughts linger on how Yuuji’s Divergent Fist feels, and decides, quite loudly and emphatically, that it is WRONG.

Kasumi would really rather not kill Yuuji or anyone else, and makes it known to Maki that she’s not an asshole like the others; she just wants to do well in this event so she can get good recommendations, ascend the ladder to a well-paying position, and move out of the poorhouse with her two brothers. Maki is both admiring of Kasumi’s wholesomeness and mortified by the fact Kasumi must spend considerable time with Mai.

As for Aoi’s problem with Yuuji, he flat-out tells him it won’t be enough to defeat him, cool name, signature move or no. As soon as it starts, their BFFship is threatened. Yuuji doesn’t really care about that, but he does care about winning. He was never going to be satisfied simply buying time for his comrades. If he could hold out against a monster like Mahito, than he should be able to beat a fellow human.

I’m looking forward to more of their forest sparring, which was superbly directed and animated, as one expects of Jujutsu Kaisen by now. But the mood-lightening omake ends this week’s episode on a funny note, going through everyone’s different romantic types. Kasumi seems to put the most thought into it, and she’d be absolutely over the moon to learn that she’s exactly Gojou’s type! Great stuff.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 14 – Meet Bizarro Jujutsu Tech

As Jougo and Mahito plan to attack Jujutsu High to secure Yuuji, the Kyoto team arrives in Tokyo for the Exchange Event. Aoi, Mai and Miwa Kasumi we’ve already met, but they are joined by the haughty Kamo Noritoshi, the witch-like Nishimiya Momo, and the robot-like Ultimate Mechamaru, who seems to be Kyoto’s version of Panda: a character who simply will not be explained further.

Between all the introductions (we also meet their head teacher Iori Utahime) and Gojou handing out souvenirs, and the start of the competition, Yuuji’s return is kind of lost in the shuffle. Sure, he pops out of a box, but the looks on Megumi and Nobara’s face are less elation and more…mortification?

While I’m sure they’re glad he’s back, Megumi doesn’t show it, while Nobara expresses her joy through anger. All I’ll say is fantastic to see the three finally reunited. It’s even treated as a meta gag that they were apart way too long, though I guess it’s only been about two months total.

With the Tokyo team now at six members to match Kyoto’s, the two teams are informed of the first group battle, involving the exorcism of a second-grade cursed spirit released in a designated area, supplemented by various third- and lower-grade curses. Whoever exorcises the second-grade, or failing that, exorcises the most total curses wins. There are no other rules, so you can bet it will be a free-for-all.

Kyoto’s Principal Gakuganji is not happy Yuuji is still alive, and immediately orders his students to kill him at the first opportunity. Some, like Kamo, are eager to kill him anyway as he deems it unacceptable for someone of such low breeding to be a Jujutsu Tech student. Others, like Miwa, don’t like the idea of having to kill a fellow student. And then there’s Toudou, who just wants to watch his tall idol on TV.

Still, most if not all of them will presumably follow their principal’s orders and go after Yuuji. Since Yuuji remains hesitant to harm fellow humans, this will be a test of how all-out he’ll go. Perhaps, as Nanami has said, “moderate effort will suffice” here, but considering Aoi’s power alone, I really doubt it.

At any rate, if all of Kyoto is focused on Yuuji, that gives the other Tokyo kids ample room to breathe. Using him as a decoy could be the key to victory. Sadly, I won’t be able to find out for a couple days, since now I’m all caught up!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 13 – What Is a Proper Death?

Yuuji is in the fight of his life, but he’s also in the middle of a lecture. Nanami may not be a teacher, but he’s still going to coach up the young buck so he doesn’t get himself killed. Yuuji, for his part, pays attention. He’s not the kind of hero who’s going to defy his sensei because he thinks he knows better or thinks he’s strong enough.

Nanami’s plan with Mahito is simple: wait for an opening, then rain blows upon him with Yuuji. It takes a little under four minutes, but the two jujutsu sorcerers eventually get the timing right, and then it’s open season. That’s when Mahito plays dirty, unleashing a trio of deformed humans on Yuuji, knowing he doesn’t have the heart to kill them.

Only, to Mahito’ surprise, he does. It happens offscreen, but Yuuji deals with the humans before they kill him. That’s when Mahito decides to push all his chips into the pot with Domain Expansion, engulfing only Nanami while Yuuji is trapped outside. Nanami, all but certain this is the end for him, looks back on how he got back into sorcery in the first place.

We watch him live his life in a pinstripe suit stealing money from wealthy people in order to make other people wealthier. It’s a job he’s good at but gives him no joy, and he believes no one would miss him if he simply ceased to exist. Then, when a cute young woman at the bakery has a low-level curse on her shoulder, he exorcises it, she thanks him profusely, and he decides right then and there to give Gojou a call.

Of course, while more rewarding and a better use of his time and talents, jujutsu sorcery was always going to be a higher-risk proposition. Mahito thanks Nanami for getting him to unleash his domain, but Mahito isn’t interested in the gratitude of a curse. He’s gotten enough thanks from people like the bakery lady that he has no regrets.

Only before Mahito can do Nanami in, Yuuji successfully busts through the domain from the outside, which is far easier than trying to break out. Because Yuuji is the vessel for Sukuna’s soul and Yuuji is now within Mahito’s domain, Mahito touches Sukuna’s soul a second time, and Sukuna punishes him—a flick of his hand puts a gaping gash across Mahito’s chest.

With his cursed energy depleted from summoning the domain, Mahito puts everything he’s got left into making himself as big and fat as possible. Yuuji proceeds to put everything he has into a Divergent Fist, which pops Mahito like a balloon, but crucially does not kill him. He’s able to slip back into the sewers. Nanami has his colleague Ito try to track him down, while Yuuji passes out from exertion and his many wounds.

When Yuuji wakes up he’s back at the school, specifically the morgue, where he reflects on the human life he was forced to take, and how it led to the realization that while he’s been trying to ensure everyone gets a “proper death”, he has no idea what that is. Nanami has news for him: no one does. All he knows is there will be many more people like him who will need him, so he’d better not die improperly himself.

Back at the late Yoshino Junpei’s high school, the lead bully Itou is called out by his peers filling out surveys, and the ineffectual teacher who looked the other way for so long develops a spine. He knows both he and Itou bear the crime of killing Yoshino’s heart, and will have to keep bearing it the rest of their lives. While Junpei died far too early, his death wasn’t without purpose.

Meanwhile, Yuuji is back on his feet and above ground at Jujutsu High, meeting Nanami and Gojou in the hall as a full-fledged jujutsu sorcerer. While Mahito & Co. will surely go after him in hopes of releasing Sukuna (who Mahito believes can singlehandedly usher in the “Age of Curses”), his more immediate concerns are reuniting with Megumi and Nobara (at last!) and participation in the Kyoto Sister School Exchange Event.

As for this episode, I consider it the best of Jujutsu Kaisen yet, an absolute tour-de-force of combat animation and sakuga, staging, pacing, atmosphere, peril, and sweet, sweet near-victory. Nanami’s backstory was well-timed, efficient, and effective at giving the guy some dimension, while Mahito remained an entertaining adversary to the bitter near-end.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 12 – Shape of the Heart

Last week barreled through a rapidly-created friendship between Yuuji and Yoshino Junpei, yet despite that story being told at breakneck speed, it still worked; i was still emotionally invested, and like Yuuji was dearly hoping Junpei could be saved.

Granted, that wasn’t going to happen without a little bit of tough love in the form of a physical showdown between the two. At first glance Junpei seems as bad a matchup with Yuuji as Mahito vs. Nanami: he can use his jellyfish shikigami to dull Yuuji’s blunt-force blows.

Well…until he can’t, and Yuuji punches the shit out of the jellyfish. Junpei tries to explain while he fights why what he’s doing is right and just, but like myself Yuuji wasn’t really listening, and in any case isn’t buying what Junpei is selling about nobody having hearts, or people being free to kill those who wronged them.

But when Junpei breaks out the jellyfish cutlery, Yuuji fails to dodge on purpose, because he realizes he’s dismissing Junpei’s point of view from a place of ignorant privilege. Especially considering how short a time he’s known Junpei, Yuuji admits he doesn’t know the full story about what’s going on…which is why he stops fighting and asks Junpei to tell him.

Once he does, Yuuji suggests Junpei come to Jujutsu Tech with him, not only to hone his abilities, but to find out who cursed his mom and bring them to justice the right way. Junpei might even have been receptive to such an offer, as he’d no longer have to attend the school where he’s so horribly bullied. Alas, it’s not his call…it’s Mahito’s.

Mahito arrives with all his usual immaturity, vivaciousness and swagger that make him Gojou’s cursed spirit counterpart. Without hesitation, he uses Idle Transformation on Junpei, transforming him into a grotesque monster that called to mind both Made in Abyss Attack on Titan, and of course Parasyte: The Maxim.

It was one thing to see a curse sneak up on Junpei’s mom; her death happened off-camera. But to see Yuuji’s new friend, someone who was just a kid being led down the wrong path by a literal curse, cruelly disfigured beyond repair was f-ing hard to watch. The transformed Junpei attacks Yuuji, who tells Sukuna that he’ll do or give up anything if only he heals him…and Sukuna refuses.

This shocks Mahito, whose entire plan (or rather Getou’s) was to back Yuuji into a corner so he’d have no choice but to form a pact with Sukuna, whereupon Mahito and his friends would introduce themselves to the King of Curses and seek an alliance in the war against humanity. Instead, Yuuji remains Yuuji, and Junpei dies (from the shock of the transformation) while clutching his friend.

From that point on, Yuuji has HAD it with Mahito, explodes with shounen energy and starts whaling on the guy. Of course, physical attacks are of limited efficacy against a curse that can change his physical shape at will, but that first punch makes Mahito’s nose bleed, which is something.

Unfortunately, Mahito has something for Yuuji too; part of being able to change his shape means he can transform into any number of frightening weapons, from a chain of razor-sharp blades to piercing spikes large and small that riddle the reckless Yuuji with holes.

Throughout this fight, in which Mahito hangs in there in a rather bemused state, still feels he can salvage the plan. Yuuji made clear he doesn’t want to exorcise Mahito, he wants to kill him, so if he can’t kill him alone, he’ll have no choice but to switch out with Sukuna.

Mahito is even fully prepared to transform every student in the school until Yuuji is enraged enough to switch out. However, when Mahito gets an opening, he can’t resist trying to use Idle Transformation on someone who is “aware of the outline of their soul”, as Yuuji is.

It doesn’t go well. Rather than touch Yuuji’s soul and transform him, Mahito is shunted to Sukuna’s Innate Domain, where Sukuna sits upon his giant throne of bones, looks down on a frightened Mahito, and gravely warns the “fool” to “know his place.” He’ll let him off with trying to touch his soul once, since they both shared a laugh at Yuuji and Junpei’s expense. But ther won’t be a second time.

Mahito ends up back in the outside world, and his failed technique opens him up to a series of brutal skull-crushing headbutts from a committed Yuuji. Mahito stops playing around and slips out of Yuuji’s hold, and is about to bash him with a giant cudgel arm when Nanami swoops in to absorb the blow.

Next, Nanami asks for a report from Yuuji, and is irritated when Yuuji reports that he couldn’t save two people (Junpei and his mom) before reporting on his own physical status. To Nanami and many other sorcerers, looking after oneself trumps worrying about others. I’m sure he hopes it’s something he can exorcise from Yuuji, but for now, he recognizes that he’s still just a kid. A kid full of holes.

Now that a capital-A Adult has arrive at the scene, we’ve arrived at the beginning of the endgame to the Mahito battle. Nanami has already determined his attacks are ineffective, but he is able to limit his movement. Combined with Yuuji’s ability to make him bleed, hopefully the two of them working together can defeat the patchwork curse…or at least force him to retreat. If not, heck…maybe they’ll get a surprise assist from Gojou.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 11 – Let the Hate Flow

Nanami has no intention of working further “overtime” than he needs to, so he executes the attack that has the best chance of disabling Mahito and then retreats when he has the upper hand. He does this by basically removing the limiter to his cursed energy and then depositing it into a wall, which crumbles atop Mahito after his right foot is sliced off.

Nanami recognizes that Mahito is a threat that requires more than just his abilities to contend with; Gojou, who doesn’t appear this week, would seem to have been proven right that the old fogeys in charge of sorcery have been caught flat-footed. For now, a lightly wounded Nanami calls for Ijichi to come pick him up.

It’s then that he learns Yuuji isn’t with Ijichi, but went off to talk to Yoshino Junpei. Unable to reach Ijichi for further instructions, Yuuji simply swings from the hip, asking Yoshino if he has any other info about the theater incident. The two start immediately bond over their love of movies, then Yoshino’s mom passes by and invites Yuuji to dinner.

For one lovely evening, Yuuji and Yoshino are friends, joking around about movies while Yoshino’s mom joins in the fun but drinks too much beer and falls asleep at the table. Yoshino asks if Yuuji is a Jujutsu sorcerer, and if he’s ever killed anyone.

Yuuji has a very eloquent reason for not wanting to ever kill: if it ever becomes an option for him, it will be too easy for it to turn into the only option, clouding the value of life and tainting his soul in the process. Alas, Yoshino’s mom wakes up to find one of Sukuna’s fingers on the table, and is then visited and then killed by a cursed spirit.

That spirit may well have been human once, and the creation of Mahito. Later he and Getou admit they placed the finger there to lure the curse, as they never intended for Yoshino to be anything other than a lure with which to bait Yuuji. Yoshino suspects one of his bullies to be responsible for killing his mom, and so lets Mahito drops a cursed veil over the school.

Dressed in black that mourns both his mom and his old life, Yoshino steps around all the other students who are passed out to get to his long-time tormentor, then lifts him into the air with cursed energy and starts beating and torturing him right back. Yuuji arrives in time to witness Yoshino’s apparent heel-turn. Everything is going according to Getou’s plan: forcing Yuuji to draw on his pact with Sukuna in order to stop Yoshino.

Just like that, I’ve only got one more episode of JK’s Fall cour. This week’s omake reinforces that there are currently two shows running in parallel, but we’re only privy to Yuuji’s show while Nobara and Megumi’s training proceeds off-camera. I imagine this Yoshino situation will reach some kind of conclusion in the Fall cour’s twelfth and final episode, and only after that will Yuuji reunite with the others.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 10 – Working Overtime

It’s pretty bold to spend the first three episodes of your anime introducing your core trio, only for them to be together in part of just one episode, then keep them separated for the next six episodes, and likely more. It’s a risk a two-cour series can afford to take, and while part of me is miffed by the withheld gratification of watching the trio reunite at last, I can’t say I dislike what the show is doing in the meantime.

To live a day in Yoshino Junpei’s shoes, you have to take a look at the whole Jujutsu sorcery profession and say to yourself “So what?” He encounters cursed creatures just as fearsome as the sorcerers, only his are fully human. It’s what makes him such a good fit for Mahito’s mentorship: Mahito is among those cursed spirits who believe his kind to be the true humans, because at least they’re honest.

Human monsters like Yoshino’s peers who disguise themselves as high school students doesn’t fly for Mahito, who makes both study and sport of disfiguring the bodies that surround their souls. He’s made one human two stories tall, while another fits in the palm of Yoshino’s hand. But again, Mahito’s experiments are no sweat for the already horrror-attuned Yoshino.

When Yuuji and Ijichi track down Yoshino, the kid has just been given sanction by Mahito to kill someone he hates as if he were eating because he was hungry; life is meaningless, so you might as well do what you want. This is another form of the fundamental “honesty” Mahito and the other cursed spirits believe makes them more human than humans.

One of Yoshino’s teachers also tracks him down, and scolds him for not attending the funerals of his tormentors. This teacher saw Yoshino being bullied by those same three students, but seemingly chose to see it as four friends just messing around. For this, Yoshino is on the cusp of killing him as Mahito gave him leave to do, but Yuuji interrupts, using the low-level curse to test whether Yoshino can see and fight curses.

Meanwhile, Nanami encounters Mahito in the sewers and the two face off. The former severs the latter’s wrist with his weak-spot technique, but Mahito quickly heals by using his soul to maintain the original shape of his body. Mahito’s “Idle Transformation” is a bad matchup for Nanami, who relies on his technique to create debilitating wounds that last.

It appears that Yoshino can see the curse (which tracks, since he can also see Mahito), but the teacher doesn’t think Yuuji can possibly have anything to say to Yoshino that’s more important than what he’s saying. So Yuuji steals the teacher’s pants and runs off them. The teacher gives chase, but Yuuji is fast enough to loop around back to Yoshino.

Yoshino is willing and even intrigued to have a chat with Yuuji, who intrinsically sensed that Yoshino hated the teacher he was talking to. I’m still holding out hope Yuuji can save this kid before he goes too far down the cursed rabbit hole with Mahito, whom I can’t imagine truly has Yoshino’s best interests at heart.

As for Mahito, he starts getting confident that if he simply makes physical contact with Nanami enough, he’ll eventually be able to control his soul and transform him into one of this living sculptures. He also uses disfigured humans as weapons, extending the battle.

But lest we forget, Nanami is a former salaryman, and thus religiously sticks to the 10-to-6 business day model. Once his watch hits six, he goes into “overtime”, which means the kid gloves come off. The next stage of their battle should be pretty cool—as all battles in this show have been so far.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 09 – The Accumulation of Little Despairs

Yoshino Junpei is the victim of bullying by three thuggish guys, egged on by one girl who they think will let them bang her if they sufficiently impress her with their casual brutality. Yoshino starts skipping school and seeks refuge at the movies, but the bullies are there too, making a big ‘ol racket.

While Yoshino is too mild-mannered (not to mention just plain scared) to confront them, Mahito has no qualms about teaching them manners by disfiguring their faces to death. Earlier Yoshino said he probably wouldn’t push a button that killed everyone he hated, but would push one that killed everyone who hated him.

It’s an interesting distinction, and now it seems to be a reality thanks to Mahito. The question is whether Mahito and Yoshino just happened to cross paths, or if the cursed spirit sought to recruit a young follower. In any case, Gojou leaves the investigation of the theater killings to his pal Nanami Kento, with Yuuji riding shotgun.

Nanami is about as no-nonsense as Jujutsu sorcers come, and he insists that a overly gung-ho Yuuji only use “moderate effort” where it will suffice. He also makes it clear he considers Yuuji a child while he is a full-fledged adult. This is in stark contrast to Gojou, who is as much a big brother as a sensei to Yuuji.

Nanami teaches Yuuji how to sense and see “residuals”, the residue of cursed techniques, which lead them to a rooftop battle with a couple of curses. He shows off his ability to slice up a curse with the blunt end of a heavily-wrapped knife, while Yuuji demonstrates his “Divergent Fist”, the cool name Gojou gives to the natural inclination for his punches to hit once physically and then again with cursed energy for a double whammy.

But something’s off about these curses, and Nanami orders Yuuji not to finish them. Ieiri later learns that they were humans that were somehow transformed (and possibly given the ability to use cursed energy) by a particular cursed technique. (Quick PSA: do not play a drinking game whenever someone says “cursed” in this show, or you will surely die.)

As Mahito further schools up Yoshino on his elemental pals (Joujo, Hanami, and Zoidberg) from his sewer lair, Nanami instructs Yuuji to track down Yoshino with Ijichi to possibly learn the location of the culprit’s hideout. But as he confides in Ijichi, Nanami already knows exactly where the culprit is; he just doesn’t want to take a kid like Yuuji into a potentially lethal situation.

We’ll see if Yuuji’s emotional intelligence can break Mahito’s hold on Yoshino, or if the two lads are fated to become enemies in the slowly-brewing human-curse war. Apparently, Yuuji carrying around a small cage containing Boglin-like curses has something to do with the mission…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. I realize nine episodes in and I haven’t commented on the OP, ED, or omaki segments. All three are excellent on all counts, with particular praise going to the jaunty beat and expressive dance animation of the ED and the omaki skits’ ability to drop all pretense and simply have more comedic fun with these colorful characters.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 08 – Twisted Sister School

After being entirely absent from the previous episode, Megumi and Nobara stick around for the lion’s share of the eighth. While I understand that plot-wise it makes more sense to unveil Yuuji at the Exchange Event, there’s still a sense of dissatisfaction from the fact the central trio has been apart far longer than they’ve been together, and Megumi and Nobara of them are still in the dark.

The delegation from Kyoto arrives at Tokyo Jujutsu Tech, and their third-year ace Toudou Aoi decides to pick a fight with Megumi, while Zenin Maki’s twin sister Mai restrains Nobara. Toudou decides to beat up Megumi for no reason other than he finds him boring, especially when it comes to his non-specific taste in women. Mai…just wants to shoot a bitch?

Megumi tries his best against Toudou, hoping his ranged cursed techniques will let him keep his distance. But it doesn’t go well, and the outmatched Megumi ends up beaten bloody before Inumaki and Panda come to the rescue. Toudou is content to end the fight there, but it’s clear that Kyoto’s sorcerers-in-training are far crazier and more violent than Tokyo’s (Granted, we haven’t met any of the third-years).

Mai proceeds to shoot holes in Nobara’s brand-new tracksuit, to teach her a lesson in “manners”, but Maki arrives to stop her twin sister from putting any bullet holes in Nobara’s body. Nobara demands Mai leave her uniform behind as payment for ruining her tracksuit, but Toudou whisks her off, as he doesn’t want to be late for the super-tall idol Takada-chan’s handshake event.

Maki confirms to Nobara that she doesn’t have any cursed energy, while Mai doesn’t know any cursed techniques. You’d think that considering together they possess the two qualities that are typically crucial to being an effective sorcerer they’d work together…but you’d be wrong. As for Nobara, she gains a heightened respect for her senpai, affectionately leaning onto her as they walk.

Kyoto’s principal Gakuganji is waiting with his attendant Miwa when instead of Principal Yaga, Gojou enters the room, having intentionally changed Yaga’s schedule so he could have some time along with the Kyoto bigwig. Gojou simply wants to impart his dissatisfaction with the stuffy, tradition-obsessed higher-ups.

Between stronger cursed spirits and stronger students, terms like “special-grade” will lose all meaning, and the fogies aren’t prepared for what happens then. Gojou, on the other hand, intends to be. Miwa comports herself well, but “Inner Miwa” is going completely gaga over Gojou. Akasaki Chinatsu and some excellent character animation really bring a seemingly bit player in Miwa to life. Finally, Toudou gets to meet Takada-chan.

A month passes, and we transition to a movie theater where three high school students ended up killed and their heads severely deformed. One witness spots the apparent culprit Mahito, whom we met on the beach last week. Then Yuuji appears for the first time this episode, along with an older guy wearing Batou-like glasses. Looks like Yuuji is being given one more mission to break him in before heading to the Exchange Event.

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.