Jujutsu Kaisen – First Impressions: An Awesomely Action-Packed Supernatural Shōnen Series that Shouldn’t Be Missed (Fall 2020)

Jujutsu Kaisen (呪術廻戦) is a shōnen, supernatural, dark fantasy anime adaptation of the original manga written and illustrated by Gege Akutami. The series is produced by studio MAPPA, directed by Sunghoo Park and written by Hiroshi Seko with 24-planned episodes for this Fall 2020 simulcast season. My introduction to Jujutsu Kaisen came via a friend that loved the manga series dearly. Upon hearing them talk so excitedly about it, I became rather intrigued and decided to add the anime to my seasonal watchlist. Lucky for me, the pilot did not disappoint at all and I can’t wait to watch more segments as the season goes on.

Jujutsu Kaisen is about a teenage boy named Itadori Yūji who’s a typical teenager that tries to be free-spirited while caring for his ailing grandfather. One day while visiting his gramps, tragedy strikes, leaving Yūji to ponder the nature of life and death. Meanwhile, the two members of his occult club from school end up falling into a spot of shady shite when they unknowingly release an ancient and deadly supernatural entity. In order to save his friends’ lives, Yūji will have to undergo a formidable and treacherous Cursed power, placing his own existence in wretched jeopardy.

If I had to choose one thing that stood out to me the most during the 24-minute first episode it would have to be the action and animation style. Yūji is a very athletic and agile dude who is admired by his peers for his strength. The animation surrounding his highly-energetic movements and highly-spirited personality were done rather excellently. Later in the episode when the action veers towards fighting supernatural beings, I found myself fully enthralled. Everything was so fluid and engaging while being aesthetically pleasing and awesome. There were some minor scenes where the quality dips a tiny bit, but it’s honestly so miniscule that it shouldn’t bother the typical watcher unless one is actively searching for things to nit-pick.

I appreciated that the show didn’t back away from the gorier elements of the violence, or disturbing imagery, particularly when the supernatural spoopies were trying to consume certain human things. There isn’t a humongous amount of blood and gore (akin to Hellsing or Parasyte), however, there’s enough there to flesh out the action and give some meat and suspense to the fighting. As someone who absolutely loves violent anime, I would welcome more with open arms, especially since it is Halloween Time.

Other titbits I liked about the animation is the attention to detail and the almost seamless use of computer graphics to enhance certain scenes or environments. I feel like MAPPA is one of the few studios who improves their implementation of hand-drawn and digitally crafted illustrations with each new show they produce, and I love to see that sort of artistic growth.

Storytelling-wise, I feel Jujutsu Kaisen has lots of potential to be a phenomenal hit this season. The episode began in a typical high school anime fashion. We meet Yūji and his club members, followed by a brief introduction to his grandfather and what will essentially become the backbone of the character’s driving motivation as the series goes on. Everything unfolded quite marvellously from one scene to the next, from one narrative element to the next, transitioning from carefree to darker and more sinister in a supremely natural fashion. I didn’t feel stressed or uncomfortable watching the episode at all. I didn’t feel frustrated or impatient for it to end either. The pacing was wonderful, and I found myself quite saddened once I reached the end credits.

I did have a personal musing while watching that I think is kind of interesting. Yūji reminds me a lot of the main character from the manga series, Black Torch, whose name is Jirō Azuma. Similarly to Yūji, Jirō ends up obtaining a supernatural power that everyone around him sees as a gigantic threat. The parallels between the two individuals were difficult to ignore and I couldn’t help but wonder if there similarities between the two individuals will transfer here as well in terms of how they (the main characters) help people around them or maybe with regard to how they must deal with the horrid consequences of what they have become. Black Torch was a series that I really liked quite a bit, so I don’t mind the commonalities between the two at all. It was just an observation that popped into my mind whilst watching.

Anyhoo, overall the first episode for Jujutsu Kaisen  was superbly promising and I cannot wait for the second segment to drop. It’s a pleasantly dark, supernatural series with badass action and a decent balance of humour and serious undertones. While I’m looking forward to seeing how the story shall progress, I’m also excited to see how the animation shall fare once we get into heavier fighting scenes and situations. All in all, I highly recommend y’all check this series out if you like shōnen dark fantasy anime and don’t mind a spot of blood and guts to go with it.

You can catch Jujutsu Kaisen on CrunchyRoll and VRV on Fridays.

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