I’m always a bit cautious when someone recommends me a new anime because I’m not the biggest fan of some of the stuff they have done in recent years. Not necessarily because of the writing or the overall quality, but rather because it is not my personal preference and that is understandable. Having said that, Jujutsu Kaisen was a pleasant surprise and an anime that caught my attention in ways that more recent stuff in the medium hasn’t done.
The manga started in 2018 and the anime adaptation in 2020. Created, drawn, and written by manga artists Gege Akutami (a pen name), Jujutsu Kaisen is set in modern-day Japan, but there is an element called Cursed Energy that all human beings emanate. This element can accumulate and creatures known as Curses, who feed on negative emotions, want to hurt humanity for their benefit.
To face these creatures, there are people known as Jujutsu Sorcerers, who are capable of controlling and perceiving Cursed Energy, thus creating their techniques, all according to their sense of individuality, and they are called Cursed Techniques. This is the context of Jujutsu Kaisen and their main character Yuji Itadori, a teenager with freakish amazing athletic qualities and who can perceive Cursed Energy, making him a candidate to become a Jujutsu Sorcerer. His grandfather recently died and his passing makes him reflect on the kind of life he wants to have as his grandpa died with only Itadori by his side, showing how much of a lonely existence he led. But after meeting a sorcerer called Megumi Fushiguro, and several events involving his friends being at risk against Curses, Itadori ends up eating the finger of a powerful entity known as Ryomen Sukuna and develops a bit of duality in his body, with the demonic creature trying to take over.
That’s how Yuji Itadori’s journey to becoming a Jujutsu Sorcerer begins, with him joining forces with his teacher Gojo Satoru and his teammates Nobara Kugisaki and the aforementioned Fushiguro.
The best and worst thing about Jujutsu Kaisen is the pacing. The different arcs you see in the first 24 episodes of the anime (so far) have flown overall with ease and by the end of it, you feel you have gone through a great journey. You become familiar with the characters, but there are some specific characters, like the conflict between sisters Maki and Mai in the Kyoto Goodwill Event arc, where it feels that they were developed too quickly and you don’t feel any natural progression.
This is particularly telling because while the fight scenes are entertaining, it’s in the characterization where the story shines. Akutami cares a lot about explaining every character’s motivation and what makes them tick, especially in the case of the main character, Itadori, with the death of his grandfather being a very human and realistic catalyst for a lot of the decisions he makes through his journey.
The same goes for the characters of Fushiguro and Nobara, who perhaps don’t go through massive character development like Itadori, but they steadily progress, you grow to care about them and you want to know more about their motivations. Add to that a vast world-building, a lot of different conflicts, layers, and mysterious yet fascinating characters like Gojo Satoru and many others. It is a great formula for success.
The author drew influence from Naruto’s structure of three students and a teacher with white hair is a direct inspiration from the team of Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura with Kakashi at the helm. And while there are some notorious similarities, I would say that the main characters of Jujutsu Kaisen are distinct enough to be their own separate thing.
Every arc naturally expands on what happened in the previous one and as it progresses, you get a wider perspective of what’s at stake and all the different enemies that the characters are discovering. Which is great, because you want to know more as you’re given little nuggets of the conflict throughout.
But I think the one thing that makes Jujutsu Kaisen most interesting is that it manages to surprise you. When you believe something is going to happen one way and then you’re thrown a curveball that gives the story a degree of excitement that is very palpable. And that is a very good trick in storytelling that can be overdone, but in healthy amounts, like in this anime, it can be very positive.
Overall, Jujutsu Kaisen is a very good anime and one that is set to have more seasons and movies in the coming months, so I’m looking forward to knowing what is going to happen next. It has great action, a great concept, and great characters. What else could you ask for?