Welcome all, to Jujutsu Kaisen’s swansong. One way or another this the beginning of the end for the season. Either it stays strong and Itadori saves everyone at the last moment or, much more likely, everything starts to fall apart, visually and narratively. We have a fair amount to talk about, so lets dive right into it!
Starting off lets just come out and say it, this was clearly meant to be an event episode. Something along the lines of Mob Psycho Season 2 episode 5, it was supposed to be a statement. And in a lot of ways, it was! This was one of the most ambitious episodes of the entire year, not just from Jujutsu Kaisen but anime in general. A star-studded cast of animators from Vincent Chansard and Hakuyu Go to Hironori Tanaka and Hayato Kurosaki, as well as many more, contributed to it. And unsurprisingly, that lead to some absolutely stunning cuts and incredibly evocative imagery. Sure it had some standard issues, like ghosting and dimming, but those are just what happen to TV anime, they aren’t MAPPA’s fault. But you know what is MAPPA’s fault? Everything else that held this episode back from being the event it was meant to be.
What do I mean by that? Did I not just praise the animators work? Yes, I did! And I stand by that. What we got was, overall, quite good. The issue though is that none of it really came together. This didn’t feel like an episode of Jujutsu Kaisen. It felt like a highlight reel, a compilation movie of fantastic, and largely unfinished, scenes stitched together without a care. Many of them clearly didn’t lead into one another, not caring at all for where characters were before/after each cut nor for the styles of the animations themselves. And the unfinished bit? Just look at things like the crane or rubble panning across the screen as a still frame, or shots literally falling to 1-2 fps. Those were clearly meant to be so much more but, for whatever reason, were unable to be finished on time.
It’s a damn shame really. I harp on it because you can see what this episode could have been, a statement, an “episode of all time” as a friend called it. But instead we’re left with this skeleton. All the while if you pay attention to twitter, or the animation/anime community in general, at all you’ve probably seen the very public fallout of it. Animators like Vincent Chansard and Hakuyu Go, as some of the bigger names but most certainly not the only ones, calling MAPPA out on twitter for their abysmal working conditions and terrible schedules. There was even a rumor for a while that this episode would get postponed because of production troubles. Now luckily this didn’t happen, but it’s clear that Jujutsu Kaisen’s production is not healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had colored manga panels by the end, assuming it finishes at all.
Getting into the actual narrative, this was fine. I liked Fushiguro’s plan to summon the Makora. Guy basically resigned himself to death and decided hey, if he was going to die he was going to take everyone else with him. And what better way to do that than to summon a Shikigami that no one can beat! And for once, the actual rules around it made sense. To bind a Shikigami you have to summon and defeat. You can have as many people as you want help, and summon it as many times as you’d like, but unless you defeat it alone you don’t gain control of it. Simply put, it’s a retry system built to allow someone to practice against an opponent until they can defeat it, and you cant bind something stronger than you. That’s nice!
Of course it should come as no surprise that Sukuna then saw this as a challenge and decided to have some fun. The whole thing around “So long as the ritual is ongoing Fushiguro isn’t dead yet” seems kind of convenient, but hey I’ll take it. Outside how the fight looked though there wasn’t much going on here. No real narrative, just a big flashy fight. I don’t think the abilities of the Makora were explained/demonstrated very well, I still don’t really know what it does. Seems like it gets hit by something, the wheel on its back turns, it heals and now its immune to that form of damage? Is that it? Because that’s what I got from Sukuna’s ramblings as he beat the crap out of it.
That said there is one cool narrative thing that came out of this fight, and that’s Itadori. Sukuna, total monster that he is, decided the best thing he could do after reducing Shibuya and everyone in it to a wasteland was to dump Itadori back into his body right on the edge. To force him to look at what his screw up cost them. This was… Dark. I liked it. A nice capstone to the fight, a good way to reintroduce Itadori to the arc and get him invested not only in what’s happening here but in getting stronger in general. Junya Enoki, Itadori’s VA, did a great job here as well. Good performance, could really feel the anguish and disgust.
So yeah, all in all this episode was… It was meant to be a visual spectacle, and for the most part it was. But it was a flawed one, very rough around the edges, with clear signs it not only could have been better but wanted to be better. And while maybe things look fine if all you see is the anime, paying attention to the news surrounding the series on twitter and other social media, it’s very clear that things are about to get much much worse for Jujutsu Kaisen. Hopefully it manages to limp across the finish line, Jujutsu Kaisen fans deserve to have the season completed. But in my opinion? There’s a non-zero chance it doesn’t.