by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Jujutsu Kaisen ?
Well, it only took about seven episodes, but “Nonstandard” has finally brought us to (more or less) the conclusion of the Wacky Cursed Spirit Exorcism Race. Whether we'll get much more of the Exchange Event as a whole, I don't know, but it was a hell of a ride, either way, and “Nonstandard” thankfully keeps up Jujutsu Kaisen's winning streak with ease. Did you want more of Aoi being a goofy badass? Well, here you go! Were you in the mood for some more of that sweet, sweet MAPPA action? They're practically giving it away for free! (Except not really, animators are overworked and underpaid all across Japan, and they deserve *way* more than weekly shout-outs from shmucks like me). Are you one of the viewers who, like me, has been desperately craving some more of Gojou's sexy smoulder? Fret not, because JJK has you covered.
Truth be told, I find myself at a bit of a loss when it comes to recapping episodes like this, because I always end up feeling more like a WWE commentator than anything: “What's that? Yuji just executed a triple-Back-Flash combo! My God, that's unheard of for such an inexperienced Jujutsu Sorcerer! Oh, and now Aoi has busted out a brand-new special move! It seems like he can use the power of dramatic clapping to instantly teleport, which is definitely going to be an advantage in this fight. The move seems to be called “Boogie Woogie?” Of course it is! Aoi wouldn't settle for anything less, though Hanami is an exceptionally tough opponent, and she's got all sorts of tricks up her metaphorical sleeves to deal with Aoi's studly claps! Wait a minute…I believe…my God, if we're seeing this right…my God, yes! Aoi just turned around to make it clap once again, but he faked out Hanami, there's no Boogie to be Woogied here! And now Yuuji just vanished, to be replaced by…is that Maki's triple-staff from earlier in the fight!? Aoi can apparently Boogie Woogie anything that emits cursed energy, and now he's — Good Lord, he's bringing the smackdown on the Cursed Spirit! Somebody get the ref out here; this fight is over!”
So yeah, “Nonstandard” is a lot of fun, and it rests almost entirely on the fact that Aoi is absurdly delightful (I never thought I would be saying that when we first met the guy, that's for sure). Not only is every Boogie Woogie clap a thing of beauty, we also get another great peek into Aoi's ridiculous mind palace when a vision of Takada-chan greets him in his Slice-of-Life Fantasy School to help him figure out the best way to deal with Hanami's evil flower bud attack. Aside from a couple of wonky dialogue shots, the animation continues to sell every beat of the battle, too. If you'd told me back in December that Jujutsu Kaisen would devote almost a third of its episode count to just the first game of the School Exchange Event, I would have braced myself for imminent boredom and frustration. That hypothetical version of James is a goddamned idiot, though, and we can only be thankful that his universe was obliterated in the eternal war of quantum probability.
That said, once Gojou shows up to blow up the anti-Gojou barrier with his gorgeous peepers, “Nonstandard” gets a little creaky. You see it often in these kind of manga adaptations, where the show has to fit some intermediary action and exposition somewhere, and it usually ends up getting crammed into the last third of an action-heavy episode. For instance, we got that sweet setup for Principal Gakuganji, the ultimate Boomer Rock Star, and yet his fight against Axe Guy barely amounts to anything before the Principal seems to use the same technique as Toge and explodes Axe Guy's limbs with the power of his voice. Elsewhere, Utahime runs into a weirdo with a hand-sword whose whole deal is that he's kind of self-obsessed, I guess? Mai and Nobara dunk on him a bit, but that conflict doesn't go anywhere either, since Gojou's arrival is the cue for all of the Cursed Spirits to leave. Mahito snatched Jujutsu Tech's hidden Sukuna Finger, so mission accomplished.
Does the sloppiness of “Nonstandard's” back third make it any less of a blast? Heck no! I've always maintained that a show can get away with an awful lot if it still manages to entertain its audience, at the end of the day, and Jujutsu Kaisen is nothing if not extremely entertaining. For as much of a blast as the Wacky Cursed Spirit Exorcism Race has been, I'm eager to see how Jujutsu Kaisen will take us into the final episodes of the season. Whatever comes next, so long as the series can maintain this baseline level of kicking ass and taking names, I'll be as happy as Aoi at a Takada-chan handshake event.
Odds and Ends
• This week's Jujutsu Stroll is brief, but cute, with the cast being interviewed over whether they're a cat or a dog person. The objectively correct answer is “Both”, which means Yuuji gets the closest to winning the prize here, though Nobara sits in close second by repping cats, who always get done dirty by these binary surveys. The loser of the week is Panda, by his own declaration, since obviously everyone must hate him on account of not choosing “Panda”. Poor guy. He's probably right, though.
• Axe Guy has a name, it turns out: Juuzou. “Axe Guy” is a lot funnier, though, so that's what I went with this week.
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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