Jujutsu Kaisen – More Than a Battle Anime

Jujutsu Kaisen, one of the newest additions to the shonen “battle anime” genre, has gotten praise for its incredible characters and stunning world. Is it up to the hype?

Jujutsu Kaisen - More Than a Battle Anime

Battle Anime Basics

Among anime fans, a certain type of anime is always a cut above the rest in terms of popularity. Shonen battle anime is the genre home to classics and big names like Dragon Ball Z or Naruto in the 90’s. Now, battle anime are (arguably) even bigger than before. Shows like My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer took the world by storm, and for good reason. Their action-filled plots and ridiculously engaging pace can rope even the most reluctant viewers in.

What Makes “Good” Battle Anime?

Battle anime is easy to make decent but very difficult to make good. Most battle anime tend to slip through the cracks, never quite getting the level of fame as Naruto or My Hero Academia. But, from an objective standpoint, popular battle anime aren’t all that great. They have formulaic and repetitive plots, two-dimensional characters, and oversold emotions. However, in a roundabout way, those are all the things that make a great battle anime so popular. They generally toe the line of repetitive, creating plots that are addictively comforting. You know the protagonist is going to win, so it doesn’t require much forethought. The characters are generally archetypes rather than fully fleshed-out beings, which means exposition isn’t required. You know exactly how the secondary mentor figure is going to act before you even know their name.

What is Jujutsu Kaisen?

Now, there is a new battle anime juggernaut–Jujutsu Kaisen, a horror-tinged action anime about the secretive order of jujutsu sorcerers. Physical manifestations of negative emotions, called curses, roam around Japan, causing death and destruction. Itadori Yuji, an abnormally strong high schooler, consumes one out of the twenty fingers of the king of curses. As a result of his new abilities, he becomes a jujutsu sorcerer whose goal is to eat all twenty fingers, essentially removing the king of curses from the streets. Over the anime’s currently lone season, there are intense jujutsu battles, moments of light-hearted humor, and a lovable cast of characters.

Its characters and magic alone are enough to watch this anime. The way the characters interact is never-ending in its entertainment and always deliberate. Side conversations tend to allude to mysterious events in the past. Witty conversations often drop the subtlest hints that make the world feel alive. The magic system—filled with ‘cursed’ energy and techniques—feels fresh and well-thought out. Artistically, there is a dedication to a unique art style that is fascinating to watch, especially during the high-octane battles during which colorful flames of cursed energy are shot back and forth.

The protagonist himself, Yuji Itadori, feels distinctly separated from his counterparts like Izuku Midoriya. While he’s still a scrappy underdog with a severe hero complex, he brings something new, too. The death of his grandfather at the beginning of the show instills in him a fear of death and a sudden realization that people die, and often not in admirable circumstances. In fact, the entire show confronts the varying levels of good and bad. Junpei Yoshino makes decisions from his anger at the world, but shows a sympathetic side early on. Even antagonists are shown passionately and with respect to where the come from.

Breaking Tradition

One of the things that seems to make Jujutsu Kaisen stand out among the hordes of battle anime is what the creators are trying to do. From very early on in the show, you can tell that the writers are going out of their way to betray expectations. They might lure you in with seemingly predictable story arcs, but turn around at the last second to reveal the true nature of the story. Sometimes, the characters don’t always pull through. Occasionally, there are fights they have to step away from. And, perhaps most surprisingly, the teenage prodigy isn’t always allowed to take on the over-leveled antagonist. It’s refreshing to see so many tropes overturned by a single show, especially in a genre built on tropes.

The well-rounded characters can’t always fit into anime archetypes, either. For instance, most shonen female characters fall into the trap of lazy writing and being the love interest. Here, the lead girl, Nobara Kugisaki, is an outspoken fighter who can more than hold her own in a fight. She grows and learns with the rest of her cast, leaving behind whatever part might have been reminiscent of Naruto’s Sakura. Or, for another example, the brooding and introverted friend, Megumi Fushiguro, is slowly but surely revealed to be more than a misunderstood kid.

A Perfect Storm

In short, Jujutsu Kaisen is an exciting new anime that revolutionizes the shonen genre while staying loyal to its predecessors. It learns from the mistakes of Naruto, allowing its characters to mess up and get hurt because of it. It goes past the surface-level plot twists of My Hero Academia to create a story you want to keep watching. All in all, it’s an exciting peek into what’s to come for the battle anime genre.