Shonen anime is the gateway drug into Japanese animation that defined many a childhood. Think Bleach, One Piece, and Naruto back in the day, famed and beloved series that captured hearts and minds with a blend of heart, humor, and action sequences that revealed how lame western shows were with their emphasis on magic non-violence fighting scenes.
The only problem with making a good battle anime these days? The animation doesn’t always capture the water-cooler moments properly that fans love to chat about. Or make numerous AMVs using Windows Movie Maker for, not that I ever did that. Ever. Those golden days of high-octane animated fight sequences are rarely seen in modern anime.
Demon Slayer does a terrific job with its quick-fire sequences, but other shows hit that genre with the grace of a hippo suffering from explosive diarrheah and the budget of a Haitian space exploration program. And then there’s Jujutsu Kaisen.
On the surface, it’s an anime that has an intriguing idea and some flimsy supporting struts underneath its core setup. Its main character has odd motivations and appears to be a paint by numbers protagonist and we’ve seen the idea of Japanese exorcists using wild powers to keep evil spirits at bay in plenty of other series along the years.
But where Jujutsu Kaisen is simply okay, it more than makes up for it with not only some of the most breath-taking action sequences ever animated, but also some of the freshest that its genre has seen in years. Heck, the last time there was an anime show whose more kinetic showdowns had the entire community buzzing, it was the debut season of OnePunch Man.
A perfect storm of talent, source material, and a short episode run resulted in a bald caped crusader who could throw out punches capable of shattering entire planets backed up by a quality in its animation that was frankly obscene, made for a show that dominated headlines. While Jujutsu Kaisen doesn’t have action scenes featuring that level of cataclysmic chaos, every punch thrown or bolt of cursed energy unleashed in each episode still feels like it could bring about an extinction-level event on its own.
Where the show stands apart, is in how it frames action. Amazing combinations of technique and power don’t just look beautiful, they carry a sense of weight and power that has roots in the real world. Hand to hand combat, weapon-based offense, and a giant talking Panda that can shift between various forms of power when it fights a remote-controlled robot, it all feels shockingly real in action.
Jujutsu Kaisen is also aided by a unique twist on power that its most dangerous characters can perform, Domain Expansion. Whereas other Shonen anime focus on explosive releases of power, Domain Expansion is an idea that folds space in on itself to create a world unique to the user and that allows them to wield their signature skills in a small pocket of the universe that bows to their laws.
Plus Gojou is one of the best new mentors on TV since Kakashi introduced Naruto to a thousand years of pain. An almighty force of reality-bending nature who marches to the beat of his own drum, Gojou’s flippant attitude combined with his cocky attitude and unwavering belief in just how much power he actually wields, has created a side character that’s infinitely more interesting than Jujutsu Kaisen’s lead protagonist Yuji Itadori.
That’s the only real weakness that the anime has, as Itadori is about as interesting as a Bleach filler arc. He’s not a bad character, but even the idea of him being both the hero and villain of Jujutsu Kaisen feels somewhat hollow and like an idea that we’ve seen countless times before. Thankfully, he’s backed up by Gojou and a cast of fascinating characters who carry the show on its back whenever he’s out of action.
Jujutsu Kaisen is still a relatively young series. It currently has a handful of episodes available to watch in both subbed and dubbed format and its manga source material hasn’t even cracked the 200-chapter benchmark yet. But if it’s this exciting this early in its current run? Then Jujutsu Kaisen might just be one of the big new anime series to keep an eye on in the months and years to come, as the new generation of Japanese animation creates its own legacy.
Crunchyroll has the first episode up for free on YouTube, with the rest of the current run available through its website.
Last Updated: February 15, 2021