by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Jujutsu Kaisen ?
Another week, another chapter in the School Exchange Event Arc, and I hope I'm not repeating myself too much when I say just how impressive it is that we've gotten five whole episodes of what is essentially an extended battle sequence, and I'm still not getting bored or impatient. Sure, if you put a squeaky hammer to my head, I might tell you that I think we're getting to the point where I'd like to see things start to wind down sooner rather than later, but still! I've sung the praises Hiroshi Seko's skill as a screenwriter of manga adaptations, and I'll say again that his talents are on full display in Jujutsu Kaisen, where the pacing has rarely faltered even when the show is indulging in all of the usual battle manga tropes.
I think what has the School Exchange Event feeling so fresh is how the show has consistently switched up the rhythm of the fights and used them as opportunities to develop the cast of characters and their chemistry. Yuuji and Aoi's fight provided some of the usual “How 2 Level Up Your Skillz” stuff, not to mention some great comedy. Panda and Mechamaru's battle saw the show getting willfully bizarre with its character writing and world-building, which is always fun. The battle royale between Mai, Maki, Kasumi, and Nobara was just plain radical to the max, dude, and last week didn't slow things down as it focused on Megumi vs. Noritoshi, especially since Hanami and the other Curses' intrusion really started to shake up the formula.
If anything, I could maybe nitpick about how “Back Flash” doesn't take at least a minute or two to check in on the teachers, since last week teased some major action on their part, and it would have maybe helped the transition between this fight and Principal Gakuganji's inevitable rock-n-roll throwdown to be reminded of where everyone is, and who they're squaring off against. Then again, that might have denied us some of the wicked beats of Hanami's four-on-one brawl against Noritoshi, Megumi, Toge, and Maki, and I'm not about to complain about how much badass choreography and fluid animation it offers up, no sir.Seriously, it's one of those things where I almost don't know how to continue praising the animation and direction of the action scenes anymore, because you all know how it goes by now. Hanami is among the coolest and most creatively utilized of the Cursed Spirits so far, in my opinion – her use of nature elements in her attacks is great, and I love more tactical powers like the cursed-energy parasite bulbs that she implants in Megumi's stomach. Absolutely vicious. Also, RIP to Kasumi's sword, which shatters on Hanami's exoskeleton like it was made of sugar.
And really, this whole scrap is just setup for the real centerpiece fight; Maki even says as much when she's nearly choked out by Hanami. They're just buying time for Yuuji and Aoi to arrive, and when they do, the episode shifts gears into the type of fight where there's a lot of inner-monologuing and in-between-punching dialogue that sets up Yuuji's fancy new power and whatnot. This kind of battle manga storytelling is what I usually have less patience for, but again, it helps that Jujutsu Kaisen is just so goddamned pretty to look at, even when it's more concerned with beefing up its protagonists' move-set than moving the plot along. The titular “Back Flash” is a move that Aoi has managed to teach Yuuji in the last couple of hours, and it's a doozy, one of those superhuman feats of strength and reflex where Yuuji channels a preposterous amount of cursed energy into a single hit that strikes within a millionth of a millisecond, or something like that. Basically, it's strong enough to distort reality every time Yuuji uses it, and that's pretty cool.
You know what's cooler, though? Yuuji and Aoi's hilarious bromance, which reaches its peak here after Aoi offers his new best friend a painful slap to the face, in order to snap Yuuji out of his anti-Mahito rage in the middle of the fight. Not only does Aoi pinpoint the source of Yuuji's rage as being how the Cursed Spirits “have rained on your honeymoon with me, your best friend”, but after Aoi slaps Yuuji again to empty his mind of any distracting thoughts, Yuuji responds with an enthusiastic, “Thank you so much, best friend!” I remain eternally thankful that JJK has learned the most important lesson of overly-technical shonen manga superpower nerdery: You can wax philosophical about your made-up nonsense punch magic all you want, so long as you keep it entertaining.
In the end, that's what has made this Exchange Event Arc work so well, when it could have easily become monotonous or unfocused at any point along the way. It's just really freaking cool to watch, and I have faith that Sunghoo Park and the cool cats at MAPPA will continue to bring the noise and get down with their bad selves. And I know that MAPPA is basically animating every mega-hyped adaptation from here to Mars already, but if they are ever in need of an easy project that will make them billions of yen overnight, they can rest easy in knowing that a 100-episode long slice-of-life bromantic comedy about Aoi and Yuuji's adventures in ass-kicking basically writes itself.
Odds and Ends
• This week's Jujutsu Stroll sees that wacky Axe Guy going into very specific detail about how he quite literally wants to use Gojou's bones to fashion himself a tasteful Coat Rack of Death. I can't say I want Gojou's inside-bones to become outside-bones, but at the same time, I hope this creepazoid can continue to live his best life.
• Speaking of living their best lives, Hanami gets an absolutely adorable moment where she understands the newfound sense of purpose that Mahito found in getting his ass beat into the ground by Yuuji and Nanami. You go, girl.
• Sorry for any errors I've made with all of the characters' names – I'm trying to be consistent in which characters go by their first names in my reviews, and which go by their last. That said, I've been referring to Kasumi Miwa as “Kasumi” in this review, even though I've used “Miwa” in the past. It felt weird that she would be the only Kyoto Tech student that I didn't use their given name for, especially now that we're five episodes into the arc.
Jujutsu Kaisen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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