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 – 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.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 11 – Once More Unto the Breach

A haunting dream in a field with Odin transitions to Claudia waking in the morning with a gorgeous smash cut of her outstretched arm. Her eyes are full of tears, and then the camera jumps to each of the other Valkyries: Miko doing her morning dojo routine, Azu not being a morning person, and Sono watering her sunflowers as the sun that nourishes them rises like a beacon of hope for the day.

All this pure and lovely imagery is somewhat marred by some blatantly shameless fan service of the girls disrobing and changing into their flight outfits, but the mood is salvaged when the quartet proudly marches onto the tarmac, high-five their mechanics, jump into their cockpits and take flight for a parade sortie.

Like the Valkyries, the rookies, the old farts, Satomi and his CIC staff haven’t won anything yet, but they are intent on starting off the day as confident in victory as possible. For one thing, they trust in the cute genius that is Komagome Azuzu. For another, humanity is putting everything they’ve got left into this battle. This is their second shot at the Fuji Pillar, but there won’t be a third.

Odin is similarly smug in his woody god cave, sitting on his Yggdrasil La-Z-Boy while watching the battle unfold on his waterfall TV. Visiting Claudy again in a waking dream, he offers her and her alone a chance to come over to his side. She answers this offer by thrusting her katana into his throat, and he laments his beloved daughter’s foolishness.

Part of Azuzu’s strategy is to keep humanity’s most powerful weapon—the four of them—out of the fighting for as long as possible, saving them for when things get serious. Everything goes according to plan, with the rookies and fogies reaching beyond Point C before the Valkyries relieve them.

Despite the progress, and the fact his secondary pillars are being engaged all over Japan in a coordinated attack, Odin is unconcerned. He still has his wing of Zombie Valkyries and Thor and his hammer. The first hammer attack misses the base, but they can’t let it get off too many more if they want to come out of this alive.

Azuzu has been able to predict all of Odin’s moves thus far, which only inflates her ego further. Miko trusts “her Azu” from head to toe. Sono is embracing her tough side. Claudia has embraced the other three as her sisters and Tateyama as her home, and you can bet your ass she’ll fight with her last breath to protect those people and that place she’s come to love.

And while Sigrdrifa has broken our hearts a couple of times during its run, I highly doubt it will be so cruel as to withhold a victory for humanity. Especially in his gaudy new getup, Odin is a villain specially engineered to be brought low by the heroes and done in by his own smug arrogance.

Akuma no Riddle – 09

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Isuke may have played Tokaku for the sweetfish last week, but unlike that relative of the smelts, Tokaku probably won’t be fooled like that again. But the fact remains, Isuke is pressing her attack, and Tokaku is not only wounded and separated from Haru, but a hazy memory of another storm continues to keep her from plunging her knife into Isuke during this current one.

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In order to finally rid herself of that “curse”, she has to arrive right at death’s door, where Isuke deposits her by tossing her out a glass skyway. The hazy memory finally comes into focus. Her inability to kill wasn’t a curse; it was a wish, both from her mother and her mother’s twin sister, Mako, meant to protect her.

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The sisters, you see, didn’t want Tokaku to have anything to do with the Azuma family business, which is, you might have guessed, assassination of the finest quality. None of this would be an issue if they were famous bakers. Actually, I might watch a show about a class of people trying to out-bake each other. As long as they know what they’re doing.

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But I digress: Tokaku’s grandmother had big plans for her, and they involved systematically molding her into a soulless killing machine whose name would make the entire world cower in fear. Granny was a monster, and she wanted to make Tokaku a monster too. As Tokaku’s decision to protect Haru proves, she failed. You lose, evil granny!

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Akuma’s murder-blocking memory is of Mako bringing her to a shrine, where she tells her to always remember if she should want to kill something; to remember that her mom will always be watching her, protecting her from squandering her soul on murder. But now Tokaku has found someone to protect. And sometimes protecting means being prepared to kill.

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Meanwhile, many a door was bashed to bits this episode, not from the typhoon, but from Shinya, who single-handedly decimates the school’s door budget for many years to come. But Haru refuses to be taken out so easily. Her scars are proof she’s a survivor, and that’s what she does, even when she’s afraid Tokaku is dead.

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It’s also pretty clever how Isuke uses Shinya’s deep-rooted trauma of bright lights (having been locked in a cellar as a child and photographed by evil men) to shut her down when she no longer needs her. Now even Isuke is out, leaving only the prim Sumireko and Nio, whose body is covered in terrifyingly awesome tattoos. We’ve seen some bad-ass assassins, but Akuma may have saved the best for last.

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Kyousougiga – 08

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As the Mirrored City continues to crumble, a portal opens and the Chief Priest of Koto and Inari’s organization arrives with his adjutant, declaring that the city, or “13th plane” was illegally created for Inari and Lady Koto’s own selfish purposes, and it must be destroyed to keep the other 12 planes from being destroyed. Aun and Inari’s familiars turn against him, and Lady Koto is wounded protecting him. Koto despairs at everything being her fault, but before the familiars can get to her Myoue shields her and snaps her out of it. With her hammer at the Chief Priest’s head, Koto demands he help her save her mom and the Mirrored City, or she’ll destroy all the planes herself.

“I feel no uncertainty. I know what’s most important to me.” So says Inari after smashing his fox mask, and with it the “observer” position he surpassed long ago. His boss isn’t moved and dismisses his speech as nonsense and stupidity, but then what he deems most important is far different than Inari. He seeks order and balance among the planes he looks over; the Mirrored City is an anomaly that threatens all that. But Family was what was most important to Inari, a family he was never meant to have but made anyway.

While out preserving the world he built for it, he and Lady Koto had a daughter, who inherited her mom’s not insignificant powers. Once Koto stops blaming herself for being born, it’s simply a matter of properly leveraging those powers to get what she wants: to save her family and preserve the city. There’s no shortage of people telling Koto how special she is, and the time has come to prove it. Is there a way to get what she wants without the rest of the universe suffering? Surely there must be.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

 

Kyousougiga – 03

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Koto visits the Kurama temple, lending Shouko her hammer, Aratama, and meeting with Shouko’s assistant Fushimi and the Chief Priest Kurama. In a flashback, Yakushimaru meets the siblings his father created for the first time. Kurama excels at his studies, calligraphy, and woodworking, and his father creates the Mirrored World so Kurama and Yase can visit the capital. Shouko loses her PSP, in a retelling of the second OVA. Meanwhile, Kurama is hopeful the arrival of Koto could lead to the fulfillment of his dream: to see the outside world.

This series is taking events from the earlier OVAs and adding material around them that augments and refines the overall story. It blends events in the present with Koto to events of the distant past with the three siblings, this time from Kurama’s perspective in both timelines. He was clearly designed to be a model older brother; when his siblings sobbed when their parents were suddenly gone, he took up the dual mantles of family head and watchful guardian of the town. He keeps Myoue and Yase in the loop, but he runs things.

Kurama sees Koto, the first-ever visitor to the Mirrored City, as his possible key to the outside world. He envied his brother’s actual humanity; and envies Koto’s as well. He’s pretty much achieved all he can in the Mirrored City; and yearns to leave the drawing and return to the real world he only had the slightest glimpse of as a child. That could have untold ramifications for both worlds, but we really can’t see Kurama as a villain executing a grand evil scheme here. He has just as much right to follow his dreams as Myoue, Yase, or Koto.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)