Review: Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1 (2020)
Updated: Feb 14, 2021
I had been tempted to check out the manga a while back but put it off, and now I thoroughly regret it as I'm hooked on the show and don't need another series of books to dump money on right now. This show hits me in kind of the same way as Demon Slayer did as it's another example of the rise of the 'good boy' protagonist figure, and I am entirely here for more good boys.
The story follows Yuji Itadori, an affable high schooler who visits his dying grandfather everyday in the hospital. His grandfather leaves him with the idea of always helping others, and to die surrounded by people. These instill Yuji with the idea that everyone deserves a proper death, something that becomes more relevant as he's pulled into a strange world of curses and spirits.
Yuji soon meets a sorcerer who is attempting to track down a cursed talisman at his school. In this world all living things emanate cursed energy which flows from negative emotions, and these energies can eventually coalesce into Curses. Curses are generally mindless creatures that can become violent and are drawn to cursed objects.
Attempting to save his friends, Yuji swallows the talisman to keep it away from the Curses. It turns out though that the talisman was actually one of Sukuna's fingers, remnants from one of the most powerful Curses to exist. Yuji bucks expectations and instead of being completely controlled by the dark spirit he can actually suppress Sukuna's influence. This makes for an interesting conflict as our protagonist is also our most feared antagonist, because while Sukuna can't exert complete control he can still manipulate Yuji from within while other Curses are seeking to free him.
While the protocol of the sorcerers would have Yuji executed as the dangers of Sukuna can't be ignored, the teacher Satoru Gojo proposes to postpone the execution so that Yuji can absorb the other fingers of Sukuna so they have a better chance of wiping out all traces of the evil. As such, Gojo gets Yuji admitted into the Jujutsu sorcery academy so that Yuji can train to control and use his powers.
The series has an interesting balance between the dark nature of its horror content and what becomes a teenage school battle comedy of sorts. It's nicely paced to give us breaks from each tone and also offers a ton of great fight scenes with incredibly smooth and vibrant animation.
As the series progresses we also get a great range of characters rolled out, from Yuji's classmates, other teachers, new sentient Curses, and more. They all add very interesting layers and sub-plots to the show as they incrementally build the world and lore up.
In the end though what really pulls me in is Yuji's character. It's interesting that while he has a literal inner demon that he suppresses, he himself is a really grounded if somewhat dense person. He's not blind to the cruelty of the world, but he's just so good natured in his concern for others that he becomes a great moral center for a lot of the themes the series explores. They also side step any tropish aspects of the 'inner demon' aspect of the story as Yuji never really has to struggle with his own morality. Sukuna is truly a separate entity and not some sort of 'dark aspect' of Yuji's personality, which is something I hope they maintain because it's currently an engaging conflict and sub-plot that I find really enjoyable.
We're only at episode 14 of a run of 24 and I'm thoroughly hooked. I'm also interested in the rising popularity of shows like this and Demon Slayer, two programs that are very separate and unique but share a vast number of thematic similarities. The general focus of enduring and overcoming difficult times through the lens of supernatural horror and an affable lead character is something very telling of what strikes a chord in audiences today.
Plus hey, the more good boys the better.