「 懐玉」 (Kaigyoku)
Jujustu Kaisen continues to be a tour de force in the anime space – its excellence in direction and sublime animation make it seem easy as it pulls you in with little effort and retains your immersion while holding it like a chokehold. Begging you not to look away.
HOUSE OF SPOOKS
Episode 01 of Season 02 or in essence Episode 25, starts with Mei-Mei (Mitsuishi, Kotono) and Utahime (Hikasa, Youko) going about investigating a haunted house that has rumors of people going missing and typical internet 2ch accoutrements. As they drive to the location, they play a 4:3 video adding backstory, while using it as a stylistic choice.
I found the episode doing a wonderful job with its direction, at least the first part reminds me of movie-level quality, where it pulls you in like a horror movie. More than that – it’s a very good thriller. It holds that tension quite well and even supports itself by having a jump scare fake out, or a red herring if you will. But more on that in a bit.
As they enter the building, they realize it’s full of trash bags and appears to be abandoned. Mei-Mei assigns Utahime to explore the house on her own, with the latter charmingly trying to get out of it. The show uses these sequences to build tension and get you invested in the story.
As Utahime explores, she barges every door with gusto, the first door she opens has a noose hanging from the ceiling, corroborating the story that the owners of this estate long ago committed suicide, the episode doesn’t go graphic and shows us the hanging body.
Instead, the episode does an excellent job of portraying the house’s creepiness, as Utahime explores the rooms, discovering clothes left on the bed. With these elements, the show asks viewers to imagine what happened and piece the clues together, creating a sense of mystery and dread.
This shot reminded me a lot of the noose scene in Silent Hill 2, as the camera frames Utahime outside the loop, showing her discomfort. Unlike James, she’s not part of the situation, and both the camera and framing make that so. She lets out a small war cry, as she barges through every door – once again the show is relieving tension asking us to lower our guard, by using its funny bone. When she reaches the final room, she comes up to a set of well-made beds, with clothes left on the bed frame, another hint of suicide.
For a moment, we might believe the specters – should I say curses – are peering themselves below the bed. What’s scarier than having to look under the bed? The episode pulls at our primordial fears – it’s something everyone was scared of at some point. The boogyman hiding under your bed. It calls references to movies like Ju-On, or even calls back to the original Ring novel by Koji Suzuki. Might be a little bit of a stretch, but certainly Jujustu Kaisen holds itself against the J-Horror that precedes it.
Of course, it’s a fake out and Utahime runs away from the silly cute rats currently burrowing under the bed. The tension is pulled and we might find her reaction comical, but every fake-out needs a jumpscare following it, in this case, Mei-Mei touches Utahime’s shoulders and she screams her heart out. To us all of this is just typical Jujustu fun! But poor Utahime shoulders the burden of your one-two-three jumpscare rule.
Mei-Mei mentions Utahime might be the next Scream Queen – as tempted as one might be to point this out as a reference to the Ryan Murphy TV show. Not quite so. I think it’s a reference to the genre of horror itself. a Scream Queen refers to a young damsel in distress – she has the looks and the brains – and is a common term referring to women who play this type of role in horror movies. It’s an inside joke for those looking into the meta. It’s a reference to the genre of horror itself.
As the episode continues, we discover that the sorcerers are stuck inside a looping corridor. In a surprising move, they realize that they can break the cycle by running at full speed in opposite directions. It’s an innovative solution to their predicament, and it’s made possible by some ingenious cinematography.
The episode features a static shot set by a window, showing Mei-Mei and Utahime running past several times. It’s a clever use of a common technique – anime often employs static shots to save on animation costs, but this one serves a purpose. It’s a bold choice on the part of the filmmakers, and it adds a unique touch to the scene.
As the sorcerers run along the corridor, we get our first glimpse of “Sakuga” animation – highly detailed and fluid moments that stand out from the rest of the episode. The corridor twists and turns and the camera work becomes even more complex. There might have even been a dolly zoom used, adding to the dramatic effect. In fact, the scene reminded me of the twisting corridor in the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time or the rotating corridor in Inception.
Finally, the curse that’s tormenting Mei-Mei and Utahime emerges from the depths of the house. It’s a powerful moment and one that showcases the animation team’s full range of talents.
OP: 「青のすみか」 (Ao no Sumika) by (Tatsuya Kitani (キタニタツヤ))
After some old favorites make an appearance, Ieiri Shoko (Endou, Aya), comments that the barrier had been concealing them for two whole days! As they come to terms with this fact, the rest of the episode starts to take form. We see a more carefree Gojo, if anything we start seeing the rivalry Gojo holds with Suguru Getou (Sakurai, Takahiro) and we can already start to see the fruits of his descent into evil – the roots of his hatred towards non-sorcerers! In essence the truth behind his actions. I’m in love already!
I thought I was going to miss Itadori, but knowing this prequel will only be for a short while. I think Gojo holds out the main character quite well, we will see Itadori before long, but the fact Gojo can carry the show alone is enough to give a sigh of relief.
The rest of the episode pretty much serves to help us understand the plot behind the Hidden Inventory arc. Tengen-sama. I might not want to talk about him just yet to avoid spoilers, but all you need to know is that he’s immortal, and is looking for The Star Plasma Vessel, which is a candidate for him to transfer his consciousness into. Gojo and Getou are tasked with protecting her. A group of terrorists only known as Q are after the Star Plasma Vessel, things take a turn when Getou is going up to her room only to find that a bomb has been placed, thankfully The Star Plasma Vessel is fine and just thrown out the window, Getou saves her promptly, and Gojo has to fight a guy with knives! But before the episode ends Fushiguro (Koyasu, Takehito) makes an appearance, you might know him as Zen’in, only for the credits to roll after his face reveal!
As I come to a close, I want to reiterate my love for the return of Jujutsu Kaisen. It’s a truly wonderful experience, and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you readers. I can confidently say that this series deserves all the love and acclaim that it’s received so far, and I’ll do my best to capture that in my future reviews. If you’re a fan of the series, or even if you’re just looking for a fantastic anime to watch, I highly recommend it. Come join me on this journey, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Here’s to an exciting and enjoyable ride!
Full-length images: 60.
ED: 「燈」 (Akari) by (Soushi Sakiyama (崎山蒼志) )