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Season finale leaves fans in shock
The second season of Jujutsu Kaisen impresses with its animation despite the poor treatment of MAPPA animation staff. Rating: A- Photo credit: Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association
The second season of Jujutsu Kaisen impresses with its animation despite the poor treatment of MAPPA animation staff. Rating: A- Photo credit: Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association

Buildings are destroyed, trains are thrown around like toys, and a joyous Halloween celebration goes amiss. In the financial district of Shibuya, Japan, thousands of innocent civilians are killed. Ruinous curses and curse-users alike join together to capture the strongest sorcerer alive, Gojo Satoru, voiced by Yuuichi Nakamura. The infamous “Shibuya Incident” begins. 

Sorcerer-gone-curse-user, Geto Suguru (Takahiro Sakurai), is supposedly back from the dead, aiming to seal Gojo in a prison realm. Four “Disaster Curses,”  representations of human fear and natural disasters, roam the Earth. Scattered around Shibuya Station, Jogo (Shigeru Chiba), Mahito (Nobunaga Shimazaki), Hanami (Atsuko Tanaka), and Dagon (Kenta Miyake) each take on sorcerers from the Jujutsu world. Various battles are held at the same time or mere minutes after each other. The eighteen episodes cover only five hours of story time— in real time; 7 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2018.

Although the first five episodes of the season, “Hidden Inventory,” are less action-packed and revolve around Gojo and Geto’s origins, this second arc is overflowing with exciting battles between the most powerful characters in the anime so far. The suspense and thrill placed around the fights in these episodes is what pushes Jujutsu Kaisen (JJK) into the forefront of the “best modern anime” discussion.

Though the animation style has varied between seasons, perhaps due to staff changes, I found this arc to be extremely compelling. The Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association (MAPPA) animators were put under immense pressure, with certain episodes being the work of only a few hours. The studio has been criticized for having a toxic work environment, a short production schedule, and poor compensation for their animators. Unfortunately, these issues within the studio are not limited to the Shibuya Incident; these conditions have been present for years, especially when the Jujutsu Kaisen: 0 movie was being animated.

Nonetheless, MAPPA managed to release one of the best 2D animation projects in modern anime. I found episode 16 to be one of the most visually enthralling episodes in the entire series. Early on, when Megumi (Yuma Uchida) and Toji (Takehito Koyasu) are fighting, the color palette shifts to grays and blues, making sense for the physical combat aspect of their fight. Close-up shots of Megumi’s facial expressions had me smiling; being one of the most expressionless characters in the series, I found the added touch of finally showing Megumi’s feelings during an intense battle to be a great touch. Minutes later, the fight between Jogo and Sukuna (Junichi Sawabe) shifts in color again, this time with bright reds and oranges representing their destructive power. Wind quietly flowing in the background combined with aerial shots created a peaceful contradiction to all of the surrounding mayhem. Moreover, the close-ups of Sukuna’s face and the scene where he ascended in the air is parallel to an episode earlier in the season, where we see Gojo doing the same action moments before he defeats Toji.

Sukuna and Gojo lift up into the air in a similar fashion after having a moment of enlightenment.

The adaptation of certain panels from the manga into the anime were much more accurate during this arc, especially the dialogue and art style. During the iconic “I’m you” sequence between Itadori Yuji (Junya Enoki) and Mahito, Yuji’s facial expressions were animated in the exact style as the manga, especially the consistent menacing look he gives Mahito. One of the best things about the anime as a whole is the depth in writing, furthered by the predator-prey relationship that was animated between Mahito and Yuji. The symbolism of a wolf chasing a rabbit in a snowy forest combined with the cold look on Yuji’s face was not only an amazing depiction from the manga, but also a telling point in his character development.

In terms of music and sound design, Sukuna’s theme song created the perfect ambience for his return, as did the strategic use of silence during especially suspenseful moments. During one key point in the story, while Yuji was breaking down, the outro song “SPECIALZ” started playing over his cries. While this scene was controversial among fans, I thought the song fit in perfectly for that scene. It was just another twist in the knife—as if witnessing all of these deaths wasn’t enough—a song written from the perspective of the villain is mocking both the audience and Yuji. The lyrics reaffirm that Yuji can’t do anything to bring his friends back; he’s just a complicit vessel for Sukuna.

The season finale included constant shots of wrecked buildings, empty parking lots, and footage of average citizens reacting to what had happened in Shibuya. While Yuta Okkotsu’s (Megumi Ogata) return makes for a surprising addition to the storyline, everything else about the episode was lackluster. 

The emphasized accuracy to the manga in terms of animation, and the slight modifications of certain plot points is really what put this anime on the top of my recommendation list. MAPPA was able to produce stunning animation, despite restrictive time constraints and hash deadlines. In the next arc, the “Culling Game,” animators deserve to be given better compensation, so that Jujutsu Kaisen can reach its full potential as one of the best current era anime.

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    Adrienne Vera-PerezJan 25, 2024 at

    nanami WILL come back to life TRUST me?