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

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.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 03 – Gauging the Crazy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jujutsu Kaisen – 02 – Choose Your Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars