OP: 「KAIKAIKITAN」by Eve
「両面 宿儺」 (Ryomen Sukuna)
Despite sporting a lanky frame, Itadori Yuji (Enoki Junya) is exceptionally fast and strong, and joins his school’s Occult Club to avoid being dragged into the Track and Field Club by an overbearing teacher. There, he spends blissful days with his senpais messing around and having fun researching Occult matters. But he has an ulterior reason for joining the club. It is one of the very few clubs that finishes activities early – allowing him to leave at 5pm so he can visit his dying grandfather in hospital. In what becomes his final visit, his grandfather leaves behind two wishes before he dies – ‘Help others if you can’ and ‘When you die, die surrounded by people. Don’t die alone like me’.
He immediately gets a chance to follow up on the first wish, when it turns out that occult matters are not merely make believe – with fearsome supernatural evils lurking amongst everyday society. Unfortunately, his seniors get their hands on a cursed finger and unravel its ancient seal – causing horrific monster and curses to manifest. But with the help of Fujishiro Megumi (Uchida Yuuma) – an exorcist from the Tokyo Metropolitan Magic Technical College – Yuji is able to save his seniors from certain death. But Megumi is unable to defeat these monsters using magic and ends up being left on the verge of death alongside Yuji. Remembering his grandfather’s wish for him to help others, Yuji eats the finger, avoids dying and gains unimaginable powers. But at what cost?
First off, I can’t really comment on the music as a whole yet, but the opening theme was excellent and was probably my favourite OP theme so far in the Fall season. Secondly, the artstyle and animation are extremely on point. MAPPA have done an amazing job bringing this series to life, and I’ve preferred this kinetic audiovisual experience over reading the manga – which doesn’t happen often. As for the story, it’s nothing new to those familiar with shounen. A hidden cabal of curse destroyers (Soul Society in Bleach), an academy for these curse destroyers to develop their skills (Hero Academia, Ninja Academy) and the protagonist fighting off possession by evil (Naruto by the Kyuubi, Ichigo by his Hollow, Ken Kaneki by his half ghoul nature).
However, the tonal presentation is a lot darker – reminding me of Tokyo Ghoul, which isn’t commonplace for a shounen title. I was left in suspense at the possibility that Yuji’s seniors would really suffer gruesome deaths, and didn’t consider the possibility that the series would try to pull its punch. The end result, while not so tragic, remains interesting. It looks like Yuji still has some degree of autonomy over his body. That said, living with a formidable incarnation of evil threatening to take over at any waking moment doesn’t sound comfortable or safe.
As for the characters, we’ve had limited exposure so far. But I really liked the inclusion of Yuji’s grandfather even though he’s not going to appear again. He’s immediately established as this huge positive influence on Yuji’s life, who Yuji really cared about. Their interactions clearly demonstrate Yuji’s hero origin story and the motivation that drives him forwards – a strange yet kind and caring boy who wishes to protect the people he cares about. And it goes without saying that someone as forthright as Yuji will live his best life trying to honor his grandfather’s request – which he even describes as a curse, one which perhaps even roots his identity and helps him avoid being utterly consumed by Sukuna. So we can expect the series to revolve around Yuji’s attempt to respect his grandfather’s dying wish (and other elderly advices in potential flashbacks) while fighting off succumbing to the evil influence that dwells within his body.
That felt like a strange mish mash of different shounen inspirations. Yet Jujutsu Kaisen stayed true to itself through wonderfully unique presentation – with the first episode being a stellar production from MAPPA that captures the original spirit of the source material and arguably improves on it. I would be extremely excited to continue following a person’s struggles to overcome an internal evil, while existentially questioning the meaning of their existence. But I don’t think it will become angsty, because Yuji has a uniquely bright personality that should continue to shine through and provide some modicum of happiness or hope – even if the series continues presenting dark and difficult situations for our protagonist to overcome. Some fair warning in advance. Despite enjoying this premiere, in all likeliness I won’t be continuing coverage of this series. But I hope this post provides a perspective that can give readers an idea of what to expect, and guidance on whether they want to keep up with Jujutsu Kaisen or not.