Jujutsu Kaisen Full Breakdown and Character Analysis
Author: Wiley Gillam
Gege Akutami’s Jujutsu Kaisen is the powerful new shounen anime adaptation of the manga which has rapidly risen to the top of the myanimelist.net, or MAL, leaderboards. With an average rating of 8.52 from nearly 700,000 fans (as of February 13, 2021), it comes as no surprise that anime enthusiasts are anxiously waiting for a summary and analysis of the series thus far.1 With 18 episodes currently available of the 24 total scheduled for this season as of writing this, it is important to revisit the many events that have transpired in order to prepare for the heavily anticipated finale.
In addition to a thorough summary of the anime, we will discuss some aspects of the series that make it so entertaining for viewers. Some of which include the “badass” characters, beautiful soundtracks, and captivating storyline. The final factor that secured the success of Jujutsu Kaisen is the magnificent animation from studio MAPPA. In 2021, where the popularity of anime is unprecedented, the quality of animation has improved drastically just in the past few years. While some of this may be accounted for by new developments in technology, it is also a result of elevated budgets. This has led to more scrutiny from fans with even the smallest degradations in quality. One recent example is with the Attack On Titan final season studio change from WIT to MAPPA. Many fans find fault with studio MAPPA’s frequent usage of CGI during fight scenes. However, in Jujutsu Kaisen, the CGI work greatly compliments the action and actually enhances the potential for visuals in the series. With greater flexibility, CGI allows for more creative and fluid action. Jujutsu Kaisen’s success can greatly be attributed to these qualities mentioned above, and will ultimately lead the shounen anime to a long and successful future.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1 Summary
Season 1 of Jujutsu Kaisen begins with the protagonist, Yuji Itadori, a 5’ 8”, 176lb first-year in the Occult Research Club room, discussing cursed spirit activity on campus. While most students and faculty believe the club to be a farce, we quickly learn the findings of the club to be quite legitimate. Before the main storyline of the series begins, the track coach challenges Yuji to a Shot Put competition in a desperate attempt to recruit the boy to join the Track and Field Team. However, Yuji demonstrates his supernatural strength and athleticism by launching the iron ball over 30m from his position. Witnessing the incredible feat, Megumi Fushiguro compares Yuji to an upperclassmen at Jujutsu Tech named Maki Zenin. Megumi then notices the cursed energy attached to Yuji leading him to believe that he is in possession of a cursed object. Before Megumi can even react, Yuji disappears.
Later that night, Yuji visits his grandfather in the hospital where he dies. His final words to Yuji were instructions to use his abilities to protect others. On his way out of the hospital, Megumi intercepts Yuji and asks for the cursed object, but learns that the scent of cursed energy is only coming from the box that contained the item. Yuji explains that the other members of the Occult Research Club have plans to unravel the seal on the cursed object that night at the school. Megumi explains that a dangerous curse will kill his friends if they do not stop them. Frantically, the rush to the school where both Megumi and Yuji detect the tremendous amount of cursed energy emanating from the area. Frozen in fear, Yuji stays behind as Megumi charges ahead. While Megumi is demonstrating his Jujutsu abilities by summoning his Divine Dogs to attack the curse, Yuji is trying to overcome his fear in order to rescue his friends. Remembering his grandfather’s last words, he leaps through the window of the building landing an incredible punch that sends the monster flying.The battle then moves outside where Yuji ends up consuming the cursed object that is Ryomen Sukuna’s finger. The special-grade curse, Sukuna, then takes control of Yuji’s body and demolishes the cursed spirit with a single blow. However, Sukuna then proceeds to attack Megumi, but Yuji suddenly reassumes control of his body, stifling Sukuna’s murderous intent.
Megumi’s mentor who also happens to be the strongest Jujutsu Sorcerer alive then appears and captures Yuji. After a discussion with the higher-ups at Jujutsu Tech, Gojo gives Yuji two options. He can either be executed immediately or train at Jujutsu Tech until they gather all 20 of Sukuna’s fingers and feed them to him. Afterward, he would then be executed in order to remove the dangerous cursed spirit, Sukuna, from the world. Although not particularly pleased with either option, Yuji chooses the latter and his journey as a Jujutsu Sorcerer to eradicate Sukuna begins.
Yuji transfers to Tokyo Metropolitan Curse Technical College, or Tokyo Jujutsu High the next day after receiving Principal Yoshinobu Gakuganji’s blessings. Megumi and Yuji then head out to retrieve their final first-year classmate, Nobara Kugisaki. Unlike Yuji, both Megumi and Nobara have considerable training in Jujutsu Sorcery already. Regardless, Yuji’s natural strength combined with his newfound abilities as Sukuna’s vessel put him in equal standing with some of the best sorcerers at the school. Now that the whole class of first years is together, Gojo sends them on their first mission to defeat the “Slaughter Demon.” The group swiftly defeats the first demon, but then encounters a second which, although weak, proves to be quite the formidable foe. It takes a young boy hostage and threatens to kill him unless Nobara drops her hammer. Fortunately, Yuji uses a surprise attack on the curse from behind and pulls the boy loose from its grasp. The curse then attempts to escape, but Nobara deals with it swiftly, utilizing her Straw Doll Technique (similar to Voodoo magic).
Later that week, the first-years are assigned their second mission to defeat a cursed spirit discovered in a nearby detention center. Upon fighting the curse, they quickly learn that it is special-grade, the strongest ranking for curses. As such, the group is unable to exorcise it, resulting in Yuji’s transformation into Sukuna. In an incredible display of power, Sukuna eradicates the curse. However, Yuji is no longer able to retake control of his body due to overuse of Sukuna’s abilities. Sukuna then rips out Yuji’s heart and begins fighting Megumi. Yuji finally regains control, but due to his injuries, seemingly dies. Just before Yuji’s body is to be dissected and studied, he forges a deal with Sukuna that ends in him being revived. Although the full details on this pact have yet to be disclosed, Yuji will surely suffer the consequences before the season ends.
Rather than informing everyone of Yuji’s revival, Gojo decides to secretly train Yuji so that he will have the necessary strength to compete in the Kyoto Goodwill Event. This event is a competition between the Tokyo Jujutsu High and the only other Jujutsu educational institution in Japan, Kyoto Jujutsu High. While the other first-years are training with their upperclassmen, Yuji undergoes some cursed energy training in which he must constantly control it in order to suppress the attacks of one of the Principal’s dolls. While Yuji is left to this task, Gojo is suddenly attacked by a highly skilled and intelligent curse named Jogo. Unlike most, Jogo is capable of human speech and conveys his murderous intent. With complete confidence in his abilities, Gojo quickly leaves and returns back with Yuji so that his student can learn from the battle. The battle then continues which results in the entire group being carried over into Jogo’s domain via the Domain Expansion technique. However, Gojo quickly asserts his strength by overtaking the domain with his own where he easily crushes the curse. However, just as Gojo tries to exorcise Jogo, another cursed spirit named Hanami distracts him and both curses escape.
Fast-forward a couple days and we are introduced to Junpei Yoshino, a highschool student who is bullied frequently. Trying to make himself feel better, Junpei heads to the cinema. He notices that the bullies are also there, and making quite the noise disturbance. Suddenly, Mohito, a cursed spirit working with Jogo and Hanami, murders all of them in front of Junpei’s eyes. Out of curiosity, Junpei chases the curse down and questions him. Detecting Junpei’s weaknesses, he deceives him into becoming a disciple. He gives Junpei the power to punish his classmates and teachers with cursed abilities. Yuj meets with Junpei and they become friends. However, Hanami intervenes by murdering Junpei’s mother and then redirecting Junpei’s anger towards his bullies and negligent teachers. Junpei heads to school to get revenge, but Yuji stops him. He tries to calm him down with words, but fighting ensues anyway. However, just as Junpei starts to believe Yuji, Mahito traps Junpei’s body into that of a monster no longer capable of speech. Yuji’s anger soars and with the help of Nanami, they almost exorcise the curse. Unfortunately, Mahito narrowly escapes and the battle ends.
After all of this action, the Kyoto Goodwill Event is quickly approaching so Gojo allows Yuji to finally tell his friends of his revival. The Kyoto Goodwill Event then takes place and we learn about the incredible abilities of both the Tokyo Jujutsu High upperclassmen and the students enrolled at Kyoto Jujutsu High. Because this arc is still in progress, the anime summary will finish here. However, something of particular interest in the arc thus far has been learning about the three families of elite Jujutsu Sorcerers. Specifically, the heirs to the Zenin clan have received quite a bit of development which is giving a lot more insight to viewers as to how limited in numbers these sorcerers are in comparison to cursed spirits.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1 Analysis
From the first episode to the present (episode 18), so many developments and battles have transpired. Our protagonist, Yuji Itadori, has changed significantly since the start of the season which allows fans to feel a greater attachment to the anime. In addition, studio MAPPA (despite their work in other projects) provides great animation for Jujutsu Kaisen that involves a beautiful array of colors that make the nighttime battles against curses shine. Finally, Hiroshi Seko’s organization and structure of the series provides a perfect foundation for such a complex series to receive an anime adaptation. Director Sunghoo Park also did a phenomenal job in finding an all-around strong voice over cast.
The first important topic to discuss when analyzing Jujutsu Kaisen is Yuji Itadori. His role as main character flows smoothly with his strong will and go-getter attitude. From the moment he heard his grandfather’s final wishes for him, he vowed to himself that he would spend the remainder of his life protecting others. This is reflected by his decision to help the Jujutsu Sorcerers gather all of Sukuna’s fingers and sacrifice himself in order to rid the world of the wicked curse. Although his only other option was death, it later becomes very obvious that he prioritizes the life of others above his own. This is an admirable characteristic well-befitting of a shounen anime protagonist. Another interesting aspect of Yuji is that, although he possesses supernatural raw strength greater than that of nearly every other character in the series, he is extremely weak as it pertains to Jujutsu Sorcery as a prior civilian. This separates him from nearly every other sorcerer who was either born into an elite Jujutsu Sorcerer family or trained under a mentor since childhood. Considering he already possesses the ability to eradicate certain curses, his potential is seemingly infinite as Gojo Satoru mentions multiple times throughout the series.
The next main character of interest is Yuji Itadori’s mentor, Gojo Satoru. This man possesses the strength to single handedly overthrow the entire council of elites, or so-called “higher-ups.” He frequently expresses his dissatisfaction and annoyance with this group which make his actions quite sporadic. Unlike elite figures like the principal of Tokyo Jujutsu High, Gojo is more human and caring for his students and subordinates. He is also a great source of comedic relief amongst an otherwise intense series. The most fascinating characteristic of Gojo is definitely his Jujutsu abilities. As no opponent has ever produced a challenge for him thus far, he has yet to demonstrate his full power to viewers. From the sliver of strength he has displayed, it is very apparent that his strength is immeasurable in comparison to any other character seen in season 1 of Jujutsu Kaisen.
Although both of the characters mentioned so far are very likeable and unique, some of the other main characters feel hollow. This is my biggest fault with the anime adaptation. While the manga spends time developing these characters (especially when they are first introduced), the anime jumps right into their personalities and after only a few conversations with Yuji, they seemingly have a close relationship. This does not feel realistic and lowers the effect of characters such as Megumi and Nobara. Both of these first-years have a distinct personality that makes them likeable, but the story did not develop them properly. Viewers should not feel like they understand characters until their backstories are revealed later in the series. This is especially true in the case of anime series that have plans for multiple seasons which Jujutsu Kaisen certainly does considering the pace of the arcs. It honestly feels like some of the villains have more character development than the first-years. Overall, it will not be a major issue as the series progresses, but it definitely has an effect on the opening season.
Aside from the character developments in Jujutsu Kaisen, the storyline is structured impeccably. The first episode of the series was a great attention-grabber that made fans want to return for the next episode. It immediately sets the driving force for Yuji’s commitment to protect the lives of the defenseless and an overarching dilemma that lingers in the background of each and every episode: the potential for Sukuna to take full control of Yuji’s body. The story continues to remind the audience of Sukuna’s existence through his appearance during difficult battles. Multiple times throughout the series, Yuji has been forced to make pacts with Sukuna but has not received any punishment for doing so. Dealing with Sukuna is akin to dealing with the devil so this issue will likely rear its head soon. It leaves viewers curious as to how the Jujutsu Sorcerers will deal with Yuji if Sukuna takes control for a long period of time. Obviously, they would be forced to fight him, but would any sorcerer be strong enough to fend off Sukuna without fighting seriously (without the intent to kill him). Although Gojo was able to dominate Sukuna in the beginning, he was not at full strength. In fact, with only 1 of 20 fingers consumed, Sukuna was fighting with only 5% of his full power. It is terrifying to imagine how much stronger he will become upon successfully gathering all of his cursed energy.
Next, although training is a common theme of this anime, it is incorporated into a more interesting arc rather than being the main focus. Having absurdly long training arcs is the most criticized aspect of shounen anime and, even perhaps anime in general. In an attempt to avoid filler content, there are always multiple events occurring simultaneously with another group of characters. For instance, during Yuji’s training under Gojo, we are introduced to the second-years of Tokyo Jujutsu High in addition to ultimately witnessing an incredible battle between Gojo and the special-grade curse with volcanic abilities, Jogo. So far, these couple episodes were arguably the most entertaining of the entire season. This fact alone speaks volumes about the incredibly talented writer and director producing the anime.
Finally, the storyline incorporates battles between villains and sorcerers as well as battles between sorcerers at different Jujutsu educational institutions. In this way, the series feels heavily influenced by My Hero Academia. Having a combination of friendly competition and more serious battles against cursed spirits makes the anime heavily appealing to high school students. This concept of competing with a rival high school is heavily prevalent in sports anime. By drawing ideas from other categories, the anime appeals to an even larger audience. These aspects of the storyline effectively double as clever marketing strategies to attract more viewers than a typical shounen anime series.
Because a large proportion of Jujutsu Kaisen fans come for these specific aspects of the anime, the MAL rating of 8.52 (out of 10) is controversial. Some argue that the rating has an upward skew due to common biases toward the oddly specific audience that the series appeals to. However, in my opinion, this is no different than any other anime. Obviously, viewers will search for a specific genre of interest when starting a new series. In this way, the “biased” rating of Jujutsu Kaisen is no different than that of any other anime. As such, these claims are illogical and false.
Overall, Jujutsu Kaisen is a wonderful anime series thus far and earned its high rating on MAL. However, a personal ranking will also be given in this review. Taking into account the great leadership and hero qualities of the main character along with the exhilarating battles between man and spirited curses, the anime is starting very strong. In addition, studio MAPPA’s hard work on the animation is made apparent in both the openings (and closings) as well as the high-paced battles involving crazy supernatural abilities. Specifically, the battles utilizing Domain Expansion provide some of the most mesmerizing fight scenes I have ever witnessed in anime. The sudden change in setting from a relatively normal location to a more abstract, artificial dimension constructed by that of a sorcerer/curse provides great insight on the personality of the character and his or her true power. One drawback of the series, however, involves character development in the anime with Yuji and Gojo being the two exceptions. Many of the characters’ personalities and relationships feel forced due to an emphasis on fighting. As previously mentioned, this will only really be a problem for this first season because we have just been introduced to the characters, but it does lower my ranking. In conclusion, the series earns a solid 8 of 10 which is still incredibly high for a new shounen anime. I highly recommend you watch Jujutsu Kaisen if you have not already.
Overall Score: 8/10
1MyAnimeList contributors (2021). Jujutsu Kaisen. In MyAnimeList.