Jujutsu Kaisen Review
Written by Sara Acuna and Jun Shen
Graphic by Tiffany Huang
In a world where curses live amongst humans, a society of sorcerers rises to fight against them. Jujutsu Kaisen follows Yuuji Itadori, a teenager with unusual physical abilities, when, in an attempt to protect others from a curse he unwittingly unleashed, eats a cursed finger and becomes the host of the King of Curses himself. As he struggles to walk the tightrope between powerful people in the jujutsu world calling for his execution and an oath he swore to his dying grandfather to help as many people as he can, Itadori agrees to help find the other nineteen cursed fingers and eliminate the threat they pose to the world. But curses are getting stronger, and even worse, allying with each other as they put together the ultimate plan to bring back the era of curses.
The manga, by Gege Akutami, is being released on a weekly basis, and had its first set of episodes turned into an anime by Studio MAPPA.
Jujutsu Kaisen, which most literally translates to sorcerer fight, is considered to be in the dark fantasy, action genre. The story is fast-paced and action-packed, with dynamic, chaotic fight scenes and an expansive cast of unique and interesting characters, and explores themes of rebellion against a conservative institution and what a life is worth. Jujutsu Kaisen is a surprisingly insightful introspection on how society is run, highlighting those human flaws which, in this universe, foster curses.
The pacing of this story is absolutely breakneck; it breaks genre tropes of how stories like these should be paced, starting with complete chaos and only escalating from there. This pacing can be a little too fast for some, and the speed of it means that some important character- and relationship-building feels like it’s missing. This is most obvious in the first few arcs of the manga, where the lack of time spent on the growing relationship between Itadori and his two classmates sometimes makes their relationship feel hollow in the emotionally intense moments when they’re meant to be tested. There’s also a constant influx of new information, world-building, and character information that can make it hard to understand what’s going on and why things are happening the way they are.
Beyond that, the worldbuilding is quite good, with plenty of thought put into the internal logic of its magic system and supernatural society. Characterizations are deep and extremely well fleshed-out, with every character having something to say about the Jujutsu world, colored by their unique backstories and strong personalities. The story handles its female characters extremely well, giving them the same care and depth of characterization as each of the male characters, and the ways the characters bounce off each other when they interact add so much emotional depth to the story.
Akutami is also a deft hand with mood, striking a dark tone that’s well-balanced with moments of levity. The art reflects this, able to both lay bare the teeth-grinding anxiety and horror of the dark subject and also depict the light-hearted and sometimes absurd hilarity of some of the situations and characters. To summarize the tone: Slightly-lighter than Tokyo Ghoul with the occasional humor of One Punch Man.
If all that sounds like your cup of tea, Jujutsu Kaisen should definitely be on your to-read list. Or, if you prefer visual media, the first season of Jujutsu Kaisen is on Crunchyroll (24 episodes, with absolutely breathtaking animation). It can be watched subtitled or dubbed in five languages (German, Portuguese, Spanish, English, French).
I actually watched the anime before coming to the manga, the episodes were not enough, and I couldn’t wait for more content. The manga compared to the anime is not that different, although there is some information that is interpreted differently in the anime than in the manga. Plus in the anime you get lighthearted fillers/bonus content. Overall though, the story is just as captivating, and I really like the black and white aspect of manga.
This story has really opened my eyes to a lot of topics that I hadn’t thought about deeply. Although you don’t want to think about death, it is something inevitable. Thinking about what you think is the best way to live it, either it being to contribute to society, or simply living for those close to you. Both are completely okay ways of living, but it simply depends on what you, as a person, would like to achieve, and what kind of morals you want to uphold. These kinds of shows always make me emotional, especially as I age, because even though I’m only a year or two older than what the character’s would be, I feel empathetic towards what they have to go through, even if they are just fictional characters...
Like Sara, I watched the anime before reading the manga, and the anime absolutely was what hooked me on the series. The animation is just gorgeous, with insane action scenes and impeccable comedic timing, and the voice acting is absolutely perfect. In just two episodes, I was absolutely hooked.
The manga and the anime are really very similar, though the anime does have the advantage of having easier-to-follow fight scenes and more obvious characterization. But other than the obvious difference of animation and color, the anime and the manga are pretty close to identical, with all of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The one real problem I have with the manga is the pacing; though it’s not strictly bad, it can get a little too fast at times, and the way it sacrifices characterization and relationship building for plot does cause some problems. I mostly noticed this when watching the anime, which has only so far adapted the first few arcs of the manga. In the anime, it really felt like the story jumped way too quickly into the chaos without setting a status quo first, which, combined with the lack of strong relationship building and characterization, made the story feel a bit thin. After having gone to read the manga too, I realized that the story jumped into the chaos so quickly because the chaos only escalated from there, and starting slow would’ve felt like a drag in retrospect. However, this still doesn’t excuse some of the very obvious problems with the characters and their relationships.
While all of the interactions and dynamics set up between the very well-written characters are really fun, interesting, and well-written, the relationships suffer from a serious lack of time dedicated to letting them grow. As a result, a lot of intense moments that were obviously meant to pull at my heart feel hamstrung by the fact that while I intellectually knew that these two characters were very close, I didn’t feel like those two characters were very close. And that ended up diluting the experience for me.
That’s not to say that the manga is bad — it’s certainly not. Even the extremely fast pace of the plot serves it at times, creating a feeling of not being able to rest, constantly being thrown from crisis to crisis as things just keep getting worse and twist after twist are thrown your way. It’s extremely effective, and it really is what makes the dark tone feel so believable. It’s not just that things are bad and people you care about die, it’s that things are bad and people you care about die, and there’s never a moment to rest and process any of it. Things just keep barrelling forward. This is perfectly balanced out by the humor; characters, actions, and twists frequently cross the line into the absurd, and the story is not afraid to laugh at the absurdity.
Overall, I really recommend reading Jujutsu Kaisen, though I’d probably recommend watching the first season on Crunchyroll first, just for the spectacular animation and impeccable voice acting. But reading the manga is also definitely worth it. If you like dark fantasy and action with a side of absurdity, and don’t mind re-reading chapters to catch what you might have missed, you should definitely give Jujutsu Kaisen a try.