Jujutsu Kaisen 001-003 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Yuji Itadori is desperately wanted by the track and field team due to his extreme athletic abilities, but thanks to the kindness instilled in him by his Grandpa, Yuji would rather join the Occult Club desperately in need of more members otherwise they’ll get shut down. However, things take a sudden turn when one Megumi Fushiguro arrives, claiming to be after a cursed object. As Yuji gets a crash course lesson in the existence of curse monsters, things go south and even this Megumi Fushiguro isn’t able to contain things. Yuji finds the only way to save his friends– is to eat a cursed object himself and gain its power. How could that possibly go wrong?
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t particularly original. It shares a lot in common with other spirit, supernatural, high-school fighting manga. You’ve got the generic, goodie-goodie main character with a tragic past, a hardened, colder guy who acts as the ‘guide’ into the hidden spiritual world and a couple gag characters to round things out. What works well for Kaisen, despite this, is its appealing attitude.
Jujutsu Kaisen manages to generate some fun humor alongside characters that are charming and enjoyable. Yuji Itadori is likable, if a bit generic. He’s got a laid-back personality that keeps him appealing and non-angsty (he’s like a cross between Ichigo and Luffy perhaps.) He doesn’t have much going in the way of flaws, ensuring he’s more so a catalyst character (leads who influence those around them, Goku being a primary example) if utilized properly. Yuji Itadori isn’t totally angst free though, suffering a tragic loss of his grandfather midway through the first chapter, helping to set the message of the series as one distinctly grounded in kindness and togetherness. It’s a sweet, if largely simplistic message.
Fushiguro, Yuji’s cold-shouldered partner, is less memorable, lacking anything truly defining to set him apart from similar characters. He mostly exists, for now, as Yuji’s introduction to the world of cursed objects and the people who combat their affects. Otherwise the only other characters worth latching onto are Yuji’s supernatural teacher, Gojo Sensei, who exhibits a fun, cocky personality. He feels like a more lively Kakashi for example, a little more proud of his abilities and braggy.
Outside of a couple fun personalities however, and the manga’s general attitude, there isn’t too much else to latch onto. There’s a fun twist where Yuji Itadori gains curse abilities himself through an unexpected development, but it ultimately turns him into the classic “character with a dark power hidden inside of him.” The end result is he feels like a more lively, well-liked, less down-trodden Naruto or Ichigo.
Another issue is that while Jujutsu Kaisen does offer up some appealing elements, it’s still all set up, even by the end of Chapter 3. We aren’t offered a look at what the manga will largely feel like week to week, failing to even introduce it’s entire main cast by third chapter’s end. We know there’s at least one more main-stay character, Nobara Kugisaki, a girl who only briefly shows up at the end of Chapter 3. Chapter 2, which could’ve worked to introduce her, was instead focused on setting up the other half of the plot and working us even closer to Jujutsu Kaisen’s status quo, what’s needed to actually craft an ongoing story. Chapter 3 is then mostly establishing the new setting. It’s not very efficient, nor it is bad, but it’ll be 4-5 Chapters before we have any idea what Jujutsu Kaisen is truly like chapter to chapter. (It’s a lot like Yu Yu Hakusho in that way.)
However it’s not that hard to guess how Jujutsu Kaisen might ultimately play out week to week. Since it still feels so generic as a spirit, supernatural, high-school fighting manga, it’ll likely follow some very classic templates. School training, a few monsters of the week, and the eventual introduction of some big bad who also seeks the cursed objects, the fingers of Sukuna, that Yuji Itadori already started ‘collecting.’
Jujutsu Kaisen is a promising start, flawed, but rife with potential if it can surprise the audience and not be absolutely generic in its move forward. The art also needs to improve. Currently panels vary from good to stilted and stiff. At certain times the characters look largely blocky and unnatural. There’s an undercurrent of what feels like Horikoshi (My Hero Academia) inspiration in the style, particularly in the way the hands are drawn, but without the smoothness associated with his artistic direction. What I will say however is that the cursed monster/creature design is very cool and appealing. It’s the one visual element that helps to give Jujutsu Kaisen it’s own, unique, flair.
Ultimately Jujutsu Kaisen feels like it has little chance of making it to the West in a weekly capacity. If it doesn’t die a quick death in Japan’s Shonen Jump (and it could indeed surprise me still) Western Shonen Jump is already full, with little room for anything but the most stellar of titles. I’d love the chance to see if Jujutsu Kaisen is capable of crafting a more unique version of itself in the coming weeks, but sadly that seems unlikely to be.
That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Jujutsu Kaisen in the comments below!
Jujutsu Kaisen is published as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.