Jujutsu Kaisen – 1st Episode Review
Synopsis: A boy fights… for “the right death.” Hardship, regret, shame: the negative feelings that humans feel become Curses that lurk in our everyday lives. The Curses run rampant throughout the world, capable of leading people to terrible misfortune and even death. What’s more, the Curses can only be exorcised by another Curse. Itadori Yuji is a boy with tremendous physical strength, though he lives a completely ordinary high school life. One day, to save a friend who has been attacked by Curses, he eats the finger of the Double-Faced Specter, taking the Curse into his own soul. From then on, he shares one body with the Double-Faced Specter. Guided by the most powerful of sorcerers, Gojo Satoru, Itadori is admitted to the Tokyo Metropolitan Technical High School of Sorcery, an organization that fights the Curses… and thus begins the heroic tale of a boy who became a Curse to exorcise a Curse, a life from which he could never turn back. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Jujustsu Kaisen immediately grabs your attention with its crisp animation, boasting refined and smooth art in every single scene. It then delivers a great balance of comedy and exposition to keep you invested, offering up character development through comedic sequences; like a sulky grandfather trying his best to ensure his grandson will have friends to rely on even after he’s gone or an over enthusiastic gym teacher who goes so far as to tamper with our hero’s student club application in order to recruit him to track and field. This second example is how the series indirectly lets us know that our hero, Yuji, is highly gifted with physical strength and skills. These sequences are played out with great aplomb and charm, doling out tit bits of information indirectly while also bringing on the laughs, making for an all around entertaining premiere.
Tom: This isn’t my first rodeo with Jujutsu Kaisen. I reviewed the series back in 2018, when it was first added to the jump line up. At the time I had a number of problems that kept me from becoming enthralled. The manga’s art was a bit stilted at times, and the story at its core is fairly bog standard shonen. The biggest issue was beyond the series’ control, as Western Jump was still only offering 3 chapter teases for any of the new titles, forcing readers to only pick one new series for every three new Jump titles introduced, making it hard to get a feel for how any of them might shape up in the long run. All that said, I think the anime improves upon the issues I did have. Namely Jujutsu Kaisen’s first episode is brimming with so much personality and fluidity within the animation it’s hard not to be outright impressed. Even the opening credits feel remarkably memorable, oozing with a sense of style that sets Jujutsu Kaisen as a less typical Shonen offering, even if nothing about the story has changed. Even the comedy has been punched up, bolstered not only by jokes being slightly rewritten, but thanks to strong comedic timing and voice acting that sells the humor so much better than it felt on the page. This first episode is truly a testament to how elevating an adaptation can be if done right.
Linny: While we often harp on shows for having unoriginal leads, the true issue is that those shows do little or nothing to makes their leads feel endearing or charming enough to overcome their more worn out aspects. Jujutsu Kaisen is a good example of how you can have a pretty typical and standard lead aka Yuuji, someone who is physically gifted and has a heart of gold, yet still have the audience fall for him. Jujutsu Kaisen accomplishes this by being a bit subtle with the more emotional sequences and not having him constantly spew stereotypical lines about the importance of friendship or how he wants to be a hero. You realize he’s a good kid because the episode shows him avoiding joining any demanding club so he can have free time to visit his hospitalized grandfather and happily joining in the silly club activities that his occult club friends rope him into. Throw in a fair number of goofy incidents involving him for some light hearted chuckles and you have yourself one rather likeable lead.
Tom: I will say that despite Yuji not going on any Shonen speeches about friendship, his internal struggle over losing his grandfather, and his realization that he wants his friends to all have ‘good deaths’ feels a little… underdeveloped still, even if this heroic ideal feels a tad more unique than usual. Another fear I had with the manga was after 3 Chapters I wondered how much of what it is like in this first episode truly translates to later in the series, especially as Yuji finds his life turned upside down by first episode’s end. I struggled to see how the fun, goofy characters and comedy introduced early on would remain relevant, and that still is an issue here. That said, I’m not going to knock the series for something it hasn’t done yet. Assuming Jujutsu Kaisen doesn’t shift away from the strong comedy, lively characters, and balls to the wall action offered in Episode 1, it’s going to remain one of the Fall’s top new titles.
Linny: As Tom mentioned earlier and as I too will openly admit, Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t all that original overall. At its core, one could describe the show as yet another story where a golden hearted teen is so heroic he puts himself in danger for the sake of a total stranger then turns out to be so pure of heart that he is even able to overcome the control of a super evil being. But by adding some personality and flavour to its narration and characters, including supporting side characters, Jujutsu Kaisen is able to pass itself off as an entertaining watch. The tight animation only furthers boosts its appeal and ultimately makes it one of my personal favourite new Autumn 2020 anime thus far. If you’re always game to try out Shounen aimed stories and shows, while also seeking something with a bit of polish, Jujutsu Kaisen is definitely one of the must try series of this season.
Jujutsu Kaisen is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com