When Jujutsju Kaisen hit the scene in 2020, it was an instant smash, being named the Anime of the Year at Crunchyroll’s anime awards. At first glance, this title appears to be highly derivative of its predecessors, with a premise of fighting monsters and going to a school to learn magical martial arts techniques to fight said monsters. While this series owes a lot to previous battle shonen series Bleach and Blue Exorcist, the series execution allowed it be seen as more than a pale knock-off of the standard supernatural battle series.
The legendary Sunghoo Park, who directed the amazing action sequences of the 2020 anime series The God of High School, created his magnum opus with Jujutsu Kaisen season one, delivering spectacle that could be one of the very few series to rival Demon Slayer. Yuji Itadori ended up being a refreshing protagonist, feeling like believable everyday teenager with hobbies outside of fighting the monsters, being a cinephile and fun lover. Bringing the world memorable characters like Panda, who is not a panda, and Toge Inumaki, who only speaks using the names of riceball ingredients, were ironically quirky characters. Suffice it to say, season one of Jujutsu Kaisen was a must watch for fans of the supernatural battle shonen subgenre.
Unlike season one, season two was not going to feature Sunghoo Park as a director, who left to form his own studio. Replacing him for season two is Shota Goshozono. Did Sunghoo Park’s departure lead to the drastic decline in the action scenes many fans feared? Well, we need to discuss the behind the scenes drama related to the production of this show. If you didn’t already know, the working conditions for the animators was horrific and social media documented a truly harrowing experience for those trying to meet Studio MAPPA’s production schedule. In spite of these conditions, the overworked animators were able to create some of the 2023’s most epic anime action scenes, with again Demon Slayer being its chief rival. Unfortunately, there were episodes that were obviously rushed, and despite lots of great fight scenes, there were fight scenes that were obviously incomplete, leading to less consistency compared to its chief rival for the title of “flashiest action anime.” If you want to see magical martial arts mayhem, season two is almost as much appointment viewing as season one, despite the production issues.
Of course, empty spectacle without a story would not make a great show. This season went in a substantially darker direction, with very little of the comic relief season one had in plentiful doses. The plot for this season can be described in two words, “Yuji suffers.” Those watching should have a strong constitution and be prepared to suffer with the protagonist. As for whether or not the depressing drama was executed well, I felt it a mixed bag, with strengths and weaknesses. If you want to know if I think the season is worth watching, I’ll answer it instantly, yes, but it’s not flawless. The characters suffer and you, the viewer, will suffer. To explain those factors in significant detail, major spoilers will be discussed in the next paragraphs. Pretend the review ends here if you haven’t seen this season yet.
The season is divided into two major arcs, a flashback arc featuring the eccentric mentor character Gojo makes up the first five episodes of the season, while the “Yuji suffers” arc, more officially known as the Shibuya Incident arc, made up the majority of the season. The Gojo’s past arc further developed Gojo’s relationship with Geto, who you may remember as the main villain who died in the movie that came out between season one and two. This arc brings depth to the villain and shows his start of darkness. This arc gave me a better appreciation for the character, who I saw as character with a generic “kill all muggles” goal. The Gojo’s Past arc is just as good as some of the best material from season one.
The Shibuya Incident, on the other hand, had a lot of aspects that frustrated me. This arc involved the villains trying to cause as much death and destruction in Shibuya while our heroes try to stop them. Several heroes fall and this season will probably be most remembered for the deaths. Of course, seeing Kento Nanami, who’s pretty much the audience surrogate for the adult audience watching this show, getting brutally murdered the way he did was upsetting, but his death was not the most upsetting of all. The ambiguous possible death of Nobara was more upsetting as season one seemed to imply she was the tritagonist, but her death seemed like the sexist trope of “fridging” a female character to give a male character angst. This scene infuriated many female fans hoping to see a girl kick butt just as well as the boys. Another plot point that quite upsetting was the unexplained twist of Yuji having a long lost brother in one of his main enemies this season, blood manipulator Choso. Maybe season three can explain how Choso knows he’s a secret brother of Yuji and how Yuji doesn’t know he’s related somehow or another, but this plot point felt like an unneeded addition to an already overcrowded canvas. The final controversial plot point was the reveal that some mysterious monster creature is possessing Geto’s corpse and has taken over as leader of the Curses, as this character does not seem to have as much characterization as the original Geto. It is still possible season three can develop the character, but he did feel like a downgrade.
The main idea of the Shibuya Incident seemed to be that the world would be a better place without Yuji. The “superpowered evil side” is a cliché seen over and over in supernatural battle shonen, but this one used the trope in a much darker way than usual, with the evil being trapped inside Yuji (Sukuna) going on a mass murder spree in Shibuya. We know that Yuji is probably destined to defeat the undead thingey possessing Geto and save the world, but the series does seem to make it look like the best way for Yuji to save the world from Sukuna would be re-enacting the ending of The Exorcist and dying. The bigwigs in charge of Jujutsu sorcery seem to think so, as they have set out to have Yuta Okkotsu, the protagonist of the movie, hunt down and kill Yuji. Season three is promising to deliver on an exciting confrontation.
From the previous paragraphs, this does read like a negative and scathing critique of the season, but that’s mainly because it feels like upsetting fans is by design, as you have to be attached to characters like Yuji and Nobara in the first place to have these sorts of reactions. If you like these characters, you wouldn’t like to see them suffer. Jujutsu Kaisen continues to engage its audience in its grim darkness. There was one moment that was actually triumphant seeing Mahito quiver in fear as Yuji delivers vengeance for Nanami and Nobara. Jujutsu Kaisen season 2 might be the anime equivalent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with enough suffering to make the audience suffer with the characters. The thing is Buffy season six, despite its reputation for darkness, had the goofy evil nerds getting into slapstick antics. Aside from Aoi Todo’s glorious presence, comic relief is almost completely absent.
In conclusion, battle shonen fans will have a lot of fun seeing all the crazy magical martial arts, but they need to bring a tissue to prepare to cry for fallen heroes. The show’s attempt to be a grimdark tear-jerker was indeed successful. If you are the kind of person who likes seeing characters suffer, you will adore this season. If you like your action series light, look elsewhere. This is the grimdark season two of Jujutsu Kaisen.