by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Jujutsu Kaisen ?
“The Origin of Blind Obedience” is the perfect step back into Jujutsu Kaisen's status quo after months of non-stop “Best Friends Makin' It Clap And Also Playing Baseball” action, serving as the expository first half of what is supposed to be a typical investigation for the up-and-coming Sorcerers…but of course we know that something is bound to go wrong. It's also an episode I wish had come a lot earlier in the show's run. Back when Nobara, Megumi, and Yuji first met, we barely had any time to get to know them as a friend group before Yuji died, got resurrected, and was forced by Gojo to marathon movies for months while faking his demise. “The Origin of Blind Obedience” doesn't just offer some much-needed insight into Megumi's backstory and personal struggles, it also features scene after scene of our heroes acting like incredibly loveable and earnest dweebs. Junya Enoki, Yuma Uchida, and Asami Seto have such wonderful chemistry playing off each other as Yuji, Megumi, and Nobara that the show has managed to sell their friendship well enough despite the lopsided focus on character development, but I can't help but wonder how much more powerful this inaugural season of Jujutsu Kaisen would have been if our core trio had gotten more episodes like these to organically develop as BFFs.
I say “trio”, but another thing that “The Origin of Blind Obedience” has going for it is a brand-new character, the young instructor Akari Nitta, who is escorting the gang on this week's mission. She explains that the mysterious and almost certainly curse-related deaths of four different men only share two common threads: All four men reported malfunctions on their automatically-locking doors shortly before dying, and they attended Urami East Middle School together years beforehand. At first, it seems like Akari is going to be a simple repository of exposition, kind of like Ijichi, but she quickly reveals a laid-back and easygoing personality that immediately gels with the main trio's brand of shenanigans. Though she's responsible enough to fret about some of their more reckless antics later in the episode, Akari nevertheless manages to almost instantly feel like part of the crew, and I hope she gets even more to do in future episodes.
The real star of the episode though – insofar as he can be a star – is Megumi, who is called out by some of the school's local punks as a fellow alumnus, which Megumi sheepishly admits to. What's more, he has earned a reputation as the one-man hall monitor of the whole school, having handily beaten up every single punk and bully around. Even the janitor can recognize his face without prompting, and let me tell you, when the cleaning crew knows a kid by reputation alone, that's when you know his place in the school's hierarchy is rock solid. Yuji and Nobara's reactions to this are priceless, too, going from disappointed that it wasn't their badassery that got the punks quaking in their boots to being simultaneously miffed and amused over how little they know about their dearest and most grumpy of boys.
The investigation into the deaths is itself nothing too terribly special, but it unfolds at a predictable and mostly satisfying pace. An encounter with another of Megumi's old classmates, Fujinuma, puts them on the trail of Yasohachi bridge, the school's local urban legend and go-to suicide spot (morbid as hell, I know). The men that got murdered once had a strange and memory-altering encounter there, and Fujinuma has been seeing the telltale signs of the killer curse ever since she and some school chums tried to perform a ritual of courage under the bridge. The twist of the tale is that Megumi's sister, Tsumiki, was also present that night, and is also in danger of being killed by the curse.
I honestly was under the impression that Tsumiki was dead, such is the amount of attention Megumi's character has been given these past twenty-two episodes, and while what we get in “The Origin of Blind Obedience” isn't a whole lot, it's enough to amp up the stakes of the story. Megumi is briefly put on the typical path of trying to go it alone, but of course Nobara and Yuji aren't going to abandon their friend, no matter how much more dangerous this curse has turned out to be. I honestly love these dorks, at this point, and I'm glad we've gotten at least a little more downtime to spend with just the three of them (and Araki, who rules) before the season winds down for the year.
You know who else is glad to get some personal time with Yuji and Co.? Mahito! Or, rather, the poor soul that Mahito forcibly transforms into a hideous Cursed Spirit abomination! Yeah, as if things weren't complicated enough, ol' Mahito has to come and throw a wrench in the proceedings, because he's just a little stinker like that. It's fine by me, though. Even though MAPPA has delivered more than enough iconic bouts since the season began, this is the first time since the show's earliest chapters that Yuji, Nobara, and Megumi have been teamed up in a fight, and I can only hope that they'll get to royally wail on some Cursed Spirit ass together, next week.
Odds and Ends
• This week's Jujutsu Stroll was one of my favorites of the season: The gang rescues a local restauranteur from a purse-snatcher, and she rewards them with the heartwarming story of her family's business, and a taste of their prize gyoza. The punchline comes when Megumi, champion of champions, is the first to speak up and admit that the gyoza was actually kind of terrible. We've all been there, right, when a really nice person served up a dish of some nasty ass food, and you just need someone to acknowledge that you are neither crazy nor a terrible person for knowing it? That's what friends are for, man.
• This entire review nearly devolved into a bullet-point list of all the great comedic shots we got of Miss Araki Nitta and her Class of Idiot Clown Friends, but I couldn't very well do that…so I'll just drop the best ones here, instead!
Jujutsu Kaisen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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