Jujutsu Kaisen Episode 1 Review

Title: Jujutsu Kaisen / Sorcery Fight
Length: 24 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Action, comedy, supernatural, horror
Year of release: 2020

That was cool. That was really cool! You might not think I’m the type of viewer to be swayed by style, but rather I’m not one to be swayed by style-over-substance. Maybe it’s not the most substantial anime in the world, but Jujutsu Kaisen’s style matches its substance to a T and is so frickin’ awesome.

I feel like Shounen Jump has been trying to make its image grow up in the past few years, adding in more horror and gory violence to mixed success in Promised Neverland and Kimetsu no Yaiba. Jujutsu Kaisen is yet another of these horrific Shounen Jump mangas breathed to life – and, spoiler: it’s the best animated of the bunch, and that’s not a light compliment at all.

I will say that the pacing of this episode is kinda whack. The direction is guns-blazing speed from start-to-finish and the fun energy, sharp comic timing and darkly lit tension makes it work until you take a step back and realise the fundamental exposition was delivered in the middle of the episode when Itadori is mourning his Grandpa’s death. Up until that point we’ve had him introduced as parentless, a stand-in member of the occult club by him performing divination (ahem, playing Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san) with the other members, and have his superhuman level fitness demonstrated by throwing a shot-put 30 metres like a baseball. Up until his grandpa’s death and he finally slows down, the energy of the episode is like a jig, constantly bouncing between an eerily-lit horror-tone-setter and goofy shounen comedy with larger than life facial expressions, and the stark shifts are actually hilarious.

Itadori is a goofball, so the exposition is something he kinda struggles with hearing. Essentially, he’s got a cursed object and it’s putting people in peril, but it goes a little deeper than that. Worried his friends are about to be killed, he finds the courage to kick his way through a window and fight a gigantic, terrifying monster – and this is where the episode is so damn cool.

Should Itadori realistically have the athletics to pull off the stunts he’s doing? No. I don’t believe it for a second. But I bought it, because the choreography put him constantly on the back-foot, and the slick, fast animation showed him being beaten and getting back up again to try and buy time for his friends and somebody that might actually be able to help. He’s a goofball, but he’s got heart, and he’s not entirely an idiot. I like him, both in the funny scenes where he does his best, and the action scenes, where he’ll do his best no matter what – shown, concerningly, in the cliffhanger, where he becomes a monster to fight the monsters.

Watching fantastically rendered tracking shots round corners is an adrenaline rush. The sheer depravity of the violence is stomach churning. Itadori’s stunts – running, kicking and flailing are awesome. Jujutsu Kaisen has me hooked on style and its stimulating energy, and I have a feeling that now the introductions are out of the way, the show’s gonna even out its writing’s excitedness and continue with those jaw-dropping fights and that absorbing tension. I did worry for a moment there that one of the monsters was groping a female character, but it didn’t last long – please don’t become a trend, because, man, I dug this show’s first episode otherwise.

There’s a great hook to carry the series on with, with his new monster-form having enormous fallout to deal with. If it keeps the pace fast, the comedy sharp and the action blood-pumping, Jujutsu Kaisen will be one not to miss.

Back to Fall 2020

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