Jujutsu Kaisen
Episode 13

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Jujutsu Kaisen ?

I've had plenty of nits to pick about Jujutsu Kaisen's general sense of pacing as it approaches the end of its first half, and specifically the climax of the Mahito/Junpei arc. It hasn't been bad by any means, but some of the story's key elements – such as the Curses' ultimate goals, and the specific path to victory that they are working towards – remain too vague for my tastes. I'm also still puzzled by the show's decision to almost completely abandon the School Exchange that it was so keen on setting up (not to mention most of the cast). This has taken a bit of the air out of this multi-episode showdown between Mahito, Junpei, Nanami, even though it is easily the Big Event that the whole season has been building towards for the past thirteen weeks.

That said, I don't think there's going to be much at all for me to nitpick in “Tomorrow”, which is a holy hand grenade of pure badassery that MAPPA is all too happy to throw right into its audience's faces. Almost every single cut of animation we get this week is unapologetic, braggadocious flexing on the part of the storyboard artists and animators who worked on this episode, and goddamn if it isn't a complete wonder to behold. Aside from Nanami's flashback, which breaks up all of the carnage with a bit of introspection, “Tomorrow” is almost exclusively devoted to bringing the Mahito bout to a close, and its success is even more impressive when you realize that it ends with Mahito getting away again, and that couldn't matter less.

This entire review could consist of me just pointing out all of the best sequences that we get, big and small, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Mahito's constantly undulating flesh, and the many excellent facial expressions he displays throughout the fight.
  • The simultaneously disturbing and sad animation of the different Cursed Humans that Yuuji is forced to mercy-kill.
  • When Nanami and Yuuji get wise to Mahito's shape-changing shenanigans, and then proceed to brutally wail on him.
  • The kaleidoscope of handsy-horror that is Mahito's Domain Expansion, “Self-Embodiment of Perfection”.

It's all just really fun to watch, enough to make “Tomorrow” a high watermark for Jujutsu Kaisen purely on the merits of its spectacle, alone. The show doesn't stumble when it slows down to raise some conspicuous death flags for ol' Nanami, either. He is the one that finds himself at the mercy of Mahito's Domain Expansion, which literally puts him in the palms of the Curse's innumerable hands. This is a death trap that even Nanami cannot hope to escape, so instead he takes some time to reflect on how he got here from his previous day-job as an investment manager for the wealthy. His backstory is predictable stuff: Even working in a cushy white-collar environment, Nanami found himself completely consumed with a soul-destroying focus on getting by to earn enough money to justify how much he hates every waking moment of his life. His attempts to treat his clients with basic human decency are laughed off by his co-workers, and he can't fathom how his utterly arbitrary work would earn him so much more than the genuinely nourishing and meaningful work of the lady who runs the bakery he frequents every morning. One day, Nanami decides to use his skills as a jujutsu sorcerer to relieve this baker of the minor curse that has been afflicting her, and her honest thanks is enough to convince Nanami that he'd rather take a crappy job with unreliable bosses and the constant risk of death if that work actually helps people.

Like I said, it's nothing we haven't seen before, thematically speaking, but I'm not going to pretend that I don't appreciate Jujutsu Kaisen's general “Pissed Off and Cynical Millennial” energy. Thankfully, the obvious setup for Nanami's tragic death proves to be a red herring. As Nanami helpfully explains in one of the episode's few moments of clunky exposition, Domain Expansions are meant for trapping victims inside their boundaries, and the assumed victory is such a certainty that a Curse usually doesn't have to consider whether someone might try to enter from outside. Naturally, this means that Yuuji punches his way into Mahito's Domain Expansion with ease. Since Mahito's powers all deal with directly attacking the souls of his targets, Yuuji's arrival ensures that Mahito comes into direct contact with Sukuna, who decides to slice right into the Curse himself.

It's a bit of an anticlimactic way to cap off the fight, thought that is intentional, I think. Mahito slinks back into the sewers, swearing revenge and all like any good manga villain would, while Yuuji has to reckon with the fact that his and Nanami's survival was won not by his own strength, but merely by the whims of the most powerful and dangerous Curse in existence. This, combined with the melancholy reflections from the survivors of Junpei's attempted massacre, raise meaningful questions about what Yuuji is even supposed to make of his role amidst all of the death and destruction around him. What does it mean to give someone a “good death”? What consequences do the ones left alive have to face, regardless? And what kind of strength will Yuuji have to develop in order to find the answers that he needs?

Nanami closes out Yuuji's tough lesson by reminding him that, while he can focus on the dead and dying as much as he wants, there are going to be plenty of living people that will end up relying on him, too. With the Sister School Exchange finally starting up in the next episodes, I hope that Yuuji will be able to reunite with his friends, and further forge the bonds that will strengthen his resolve. In the meantime, I'm probably going to rewind this episode once or twice, because those incredible action scenes are going to have to keep me occupied until Jujutsu Kaisen resumes in a couple of weeks.

Rating:

Odds and Ends

• This week's Jujutsu Stroll is a funny bit involving the other students enjoying a hot-pot meal, where Megumi shows off the meatball cooking skills that he picked up from Yuuji. The ingredients, in case you were wondering, are: Ground Chicken, finely chopped green onions, ginger paste, egg yolks (though the whites are fine, if you're feeling lazy), plus salt and pepper to taste. Don't forget to double the ginger paste!

• Next week's episode looks to be a recap, given the New Year's celebrations, so I'll see you all again with some more JJK Hot Takes around January 16, 2021!

Jujutsu Kaisen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.


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