You know, it’s episodes like this that really show just how much good direction can cover for a melting production. Because make no mistake, despite some well composed shots and good ideas, melt this episode of Jujutsu Kaisen did. From absolutely abysmal proportions to less and less detail on screen, seriously who needs faces, Jujutsu Kaisen is finally starting to feel the burn. Like usual, not all of the issues are their fault. Dimming and ghosting are just the price of doing business on TV in Japan, as much as it sucks I don’t blame MAPPA for that. Everything else though? From Todo T-Posing to victory too those absolutely terrible backgrounds inside the train? Those I do lay at MAPPA’s feet. And while there were some pretty cuts in places, for the most part the episode moved like I do when I first wake up in the morning: Poorly.
Getting into the actual narrative, this was fine. The highlight of the episode was definitely Todo’s arrival, the guys just fun. His speech to Itadori was kind of bullshit, a long winded way of saying “If you give up now their deaths were for nothing”, which I guess is fine. Not the most compelling thing, but it let Itadori stand up and got us back to the fighting, so I’ll accept it. Moving on to the fight itself, again, Todo is fun. His power is silly, and there are some scenes where it doesn’t make sense (What did he clap when he was holding Mahito’s swords with his hands I wonder), but again for the most part I had a good time. Todo’s VA, Subaru Kimura, brings a lot of charism to this energetic meathead and I’m here for it.
As for Mahito, him I’m not as positive about. Similar to Todo, he’s fun and his VA, Nobunaga Shimazaki, is great. Stellar delivery on pretty much all of his lines. But as a character he’s… Let me put it this way: Mahito and Itadori are being billed to us as mirrors of each other, opposites of the same coin. And maybe in the authors head they are, maybe that’s what he wanted them to be. But in practice, it just doesn’t work. Mahito doesn’t mirror Itadori as he’s written, but rather the idea he’s meant to be. The same goes for Itadori for Mahito. They’re like two mirrors setup opposite each other, each one angled by 45 degrees. They reflect the idea, the semblance, of what Gege wants them to be, but not what the show actually presents them as. Simply put, I don’t think Gege has the writing chops to make this relationship work the way he wants it to. And it’s suffering here and now, with these poorly constructed metaphors, because of it.
Finally we come to Nobara… Oh Nobara. Even in death, Jujutsu Kaisen doesn’t let you go. I’m just going to say it, Jujutsu Kaisen is baiting us right now. Giving us a glimmer of false hope that Nobara is alive and can come back. But you know what? And feel free to skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read it, because this is a minor manga spoiler: She doesn’t. In fact, Jujutsu Kaisen never brings her up or mentions her again. She enters a sort of limbo where the author refuses to acknowledge whether or not she’s alive or dead. Combine this with the treatment of Maki this episode, basically having her call herself useless, plus his general treatment of his female characters, and you start to wonder how he really feels about them. I know he hates Gojo, but what about the rest of the cast?
So yeah, spoilers aside, all in all this was a step down for Jujutsu Kaisen. The production is finally starting to give, though it’s impressive they lasted this long, and the narrative simply isn’t strong enough to support what it’s trying to do. If you just want to watch someone suffer before getting launched into big fights, it’s fun definitely. But this is around the point where, when reading Shibuya for the first time, I started to notice all the cracks in how it was written. In the character motivations, their actions, where Jujutsu Kaisen even wanted to go with it. It’s a shame, because Hidden Inventory is still great, it’s the best Jujutsu Kaisen has ever been. I just wish the series could recapture what made that arc so great. Because this one isn’t, and hasn’t been for the past few weeks.
P.S. Thsi is easily my favorite shot of the episode. I love the hair silhouette.