Jujutsu Kaisen – 21 – Naisupitchi!

Guy with the sword with a hand for the grip—who I’ll just call “Guy”—is retreating from the academy through an underground tunnel when a severely injured Hanami smashes through the walls. Guy is ready to put Hanami out of his misery when Mahito appears, telling him that as a human he shouldn’t act alone.

Back on the beach, Hanami and Mahito rejoin Jougo and Getou (and … er … Zoidberg? is still swimming in the ocean). Getou explains to Jougo how Mahito was able to get past the academy barrier maintained by a sorcerer named Tengen: by placing a charm made of Mahito’s Cursed Energy on the finger of Sukuna they collected.

Suffice it to say, thanks to the successful raid on Jujutsu High, their plan is right on track, with Getou setting October 31 and Shibuya as the day and the place they want to unleash the “bomb” that is Sukuna. Meanwhile, the higher-ups of Tokyo and Kyoto meet and agree to keep the theft of the special-grade objects a secret among them, still unsure what the enemy is about to achieve.

We then shift to the infirmary where Yuuji and Nobara are visiting Megumi and eating pizza. This is a momentous occasion, because it’s the first time since Yuuji came “back from the dead” that the three friends have been able to simply kick back! So of course “Big Bro Aoi” has to muscle his way in, leading to him chasing Yuuji around the academy campus.

That brings us to the question: What of the Exchange Event? Rather than be cancelled, everyone agrees it should continue, though with the group event of the first day over, most expect the second day to take its typical form: individual battles. However, when the form of competition is drawn from a box, it’s baseball, so we get a baseball game!

I love baseball, particularly the unique style Japan brings to the game, so I was fine with this! Maki, as you’d expect, can both pitch and hit at an elite level, while Nobara can man the hot corner and beat out a grounder. Kamo Noritoshi (who really should be wearing a helmet) uses the opportunity to speak to Yuuji, who until a few hours ago he was trying to murder.

When Nori hears that the reason Yuuji became a sorcerer, he’s surprised to find it largely matches what his own ostracized mother said to him before they parted ways: save a lot of people so they’ll help you in turn, or even just be with you at your end. After a Nobara hit (off a Mechamaru pitching machine) and a perfect sacrifice bunt from Megumi, Maki socks one out of the park, only for the flying Momo to catch it—which is allowed because they’re short on players.

Maki gets her revenge when Aoi steps to the plate, beaning him as he’s telling Yuuji how he hopes he’ll pitch to him someday, which…there’s just no way to say that without it sounding like something else entirely. (Everyone casually saying “Nice Pitch!” when Maki plunks Aoi is *chefs kiss*.) When Yuuji comes to the plate, the two principals discuss the Yuuji conundrum. The strict interpretation of their laws says he shouldn’t exist, and Gojou’s selfishness kept him alive at the cost of many lives.

At the same time, there’s no denying that Yuuji’s being alive has saved lives that would have otherwise been lost. They tentatively agree to simply continue watching him as they weigh the pros and cons. After all, if they kill him for good they can’t undo it…again…I presume! It’s fitting that Yuuji is the one to hit the homer that puts Tokyo up 2-0, which ends up being the final score thanks to Maki’s lights-out pitching.

The show proved that it can animate baseball (or at least baseball-ish) action just as impressively as it does its battle scenes, while the on-screen graphics were full of great jokes, like the fact that Mei totally stole the ripe mango Kasumi was saving from the fridge…and that despite being able to actually say the word “rice”, Inumaki prefers bread for breakfast.

If there’s one mild complaint I have about Jujutsu Kaisen, it’s that the main trio have been apart more than they haven’t. The preview indicates Yuuji, Nobara and Megumi will be working next case together, which is just what I was hoping for as this second cour starts to wind down.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 19 – Let’s Get Cooking

Kamo, Megumi, and Toge are just treading water against a charging Hanami thanks to Toge’s cursed speech, but when his voice gives out, it’s up to Maki to save their lives by entering the battle with a cursed sansetsukon. She and Megumi go toe-to-toe with Hanami for a time, but they’re eventually overpowered—such is the might of a Special-Grade. Fortunately, that’s when the cavalry shows up: Best Pals Yuuji and Aoi.

At first, Aoi has Yuuji face Hanami alone, and won’t help until Yuuji executes a “Black Flash”. Yuuji is initially trying to let his anger fuel his strength, but Aoi warns him that won’t work, and slaps any and all unhelpful thoughts out of his head. Yuuji’s able to pull off the Black Flash, tearing Hanami’s arms off.

Aoi proudly declares that after simply throwing ingredients he’s never tasted into a pot and boiling them away, Yuuji is now tasting cursed energy and making haute cuisine with it. Whether or not it’s meant as a nod to Food Wars, it’s a pretty apt analogy. With Aoi joining Yuuji in the fight, Hanami decides to remove the bandage on their left arm.

The fight that ensues is a dizzily marvelous display of smooth yet breakneck combat animation, with Aoi and Yuuji bobbing and weaving through Hanami’s tangle of roots and branches and synchronizing their strikes.

Hanami recalls a time on the beach when Mahito accused them of holding back their full strength and not “enjoying” the fights the way curses should. Mahito likens tricking, deceiving, and murdering to be analogous to humans’ eating, sleeping, and screwing, defining instincts that are blended with—but never wholly suppressed by—reason.

It’s clear Aoi and Yuuji are having a blast working together, and Hanami also realizes they’re enjoying this battle to the fullest precisely because there’s no holding back. Of course, we know Aoi is holding back a cursed technique, but with Hanami still coming on strong, that’ll change starting next week.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 18 – Exchange Crashers

This episode’s got a lot to cover, so we jump right into the middle of the duel between the stuffy Kamo Noritoshi, which is basically a battle of creative blood manipulation vs. shikigami. The battle is not only notable for how awesome it looks, but the fact it takes place indoors, and is the first time in a while we’ve seen Megumi and his menagerie of spirit friends in action.

We also check in on poor delightful Kasumi, who is still in a state of shock over being suddenly bereft of her cherished sword. She gets a call from Mechamaru, but it’s Toge on the other line, officially retiring her when he says the word “sleep”. Like Megumi, there’s a lot of pent-up anticipation to watch Toge operate. Like Momo, he plays a key support role.

The faculty notes Kasumi’s retirement, and Utahime heads off to retrieve her (there are cursed spirits still lurking around). We learn that chief among those is a semi-tamed semi-first grade, which Principal Gakuganji tells Kamo will be unleashed upon Itadori Yuuji as soon as his battle with Toudou is over.

That “ringer” demon turns out to be a complete red herring, as no sooner does Toge spot it lurking in the forest is it decapitated…not by any sorcerer, but by Hanami. That’s right, Big Bad Mahito and his fellow special-grade curses have arrived to start some shit, and they’re accompanied by a bald human.

Before their presences is known to Megumi and Kamo, the former ups his game by calling forth a new shikigami he just tamed, a goddamn glowed-up pink elephant that spews forth a torrent of water which blasts Kamou out of the building, where he’s exposed to the aerial Nue’s electricity.

Kamou restrains Nue in blood bindings, but what had the makings of an all time epic JJK battle is rudely cut short by the explosive emergence of a colossal mass of tree matter. Suddenly all of the cursed talismans burn away at once in the faculty viewing room, alerting the adults that something is off.

That something is off becomes far more obvious when the bald curse user with Mahito erects a veil over the group battle area. Gojou, Gakuganji and Utahime race to the veil’s edge before it is complete, but it doesn’t matter: it’s a veil that will allow anyone but Gojou to enter.

This can be seen as either (or both) a means of keeping Gojou from interfering in Hanami dealing with the sorcerers within the veil, and isolating Gojou on the outside so Mahito can take a stab at the guy Jougo couldn’t beat.

When they’re confronted by the bald guy, now weilding a big axe, Gakuganji sends Utahime off to protect the kids, while he stands his ground and removes the contents of the big black case he’s carrying around. Turns out it’s a Gibson Flying V guitar, which not only means we’re in for some epic shredding at some point, but it’s a battle of axe-vs.-axe. So absurdly awesome.

Yuuji, Toudou, The Zenin twins, Nobara, and Momo are all still on their own, wondering what the heck’s going on, while Megumi, Toge and Kamo find themselves being stared down by a particularly intimidating tree spirit in Hanami, who pledges to heal the earth by purging it of humanity. Their individual attacks have no effect, so they’ll either have to get creative with a collab or wait for help from stronger sorcerers.

After all that built up to the interschool competition, the event has been rendered totally irrelevant, while those who were planning to kill Yuuji must shift their targets to the far more pressing cursed threats. Heck, as the stable-for-now vessel of Sukuna, he looks to be instrumental in pushing back Mahito & Co. Good thing they weren’t able to kill him yet!

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