by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 24 of
Jujutsu Kaisen ?
On its surface, “Accomplices” seems like an odd fit for Jujutsu Kaisen's season finale. Really, the whole of this Yasohachi Bridge mini-arc has felt less like the grand culmination of this first season's efforts and more like setup for future story developments, and even then, the elements it has been working with have been rather broad. Megumi's time in the spotlight was officially taken care of with the “Origins of Blind Obedience” two-parter; he spends almost all of “Accomplices” unconscious by the riverbed, while Yuji and Nobara take care of the cursed entities that have exploited the ordeal at the bridge to make a grab for Sukuna's finger-jerky. As villains, the brothers Eso and Kezichu make for fine opponents, but their entire history and relationship is only given this one episode to play out. Their fight takes up the majority of the episode, and by the time it concludes, “Accomplices” only has a few minutes to feel like a proper season finale, and its ambitions there are surprisingly low-key.
Heck, the main villains only show up for a single scene, albeit a funny one. Geto and Mahito's game of Life is interrupted when the third cursed brother, Choso, has a brief outburst of game-ruining violence after he realizes that (spoiler alert) his siblings got super murdered by Yuji and Nobara. After that, there are a couple of beats that hint towards where future seasons of JJK might go — with the biggest being that Mei and Aoi recommend that Yuji, Megumi, Nobara, Maki, and Panda all get promoted to First Grade ranking — but that's about it, really. No shocking twists, no grand moments of character development, and nothing super substantial to chew on when it comes to lore and world-building. Not bad, but not mind-blowing.
In execution, however, “Accomplices” is a rip-roaring climax that kicks unholy amounts of ass, all while retaining the pathos needed to make its story really sing. These final episodes still suffer from their somewhat awkward place as in-between chapters for JJK's bigger story arcs, and “Accomplices” in particular stumbles whenever special powers or enemy backstories are in need of expositing. But goddamn if all of that isn't so much easier to swallow when Yuji and Nobara are serving up a full seven-course meal of exquisitely crafted ass-whoopin' to their enemies.
Like I've mentioned before in these reviews, I think anime can get a little lost in the weeds when it comes to explaining how powers work, revealing hitherto unseen aspects of heroes' moves, and so on. Some of this is simply a matter of localization hurdles, naturally, but I also think the tropes themselves have become overblown as the years have gone by. It takes a few minutes for “Accomplices” to establish what exactly is going down throughout the fight, but it basically boils down to a few key elements: Eso and Kezichu have the Rot Technique of Decay, which means that they can use their vile blood as a kind of venom that will turn Yuji and Nobara into corpses from the inside-out in a matter of minutes (it also gives them some delightfully extra temp sleeves of spooky flowers and thorns, which is always appreciated). Given that he is hosting Sukuna's spirit and powers, Yuji has a natural resistance to all poisons, which makes him immune to the hindering effects of the Rot Technique, though he's still, you know, slowly decomposing with every passing second. Still, it means that Yuji can use his Glowy Fist and Back Flash techniques to punch the Demon Bros. Real good.
What really elevates this fight, though, is how Nobara takes a more hands-on approach with her Straw Doll Technique. Since the brothers' blood is literally flowing through her veins, she can essentially use herself as the straw-doll, and she goes full Scary Badass Face mode by hammering her nails into her own arm to deal damage to Eso and Kezichu. As Yuji, Megumi, Mahito and Panda have proven throughout JJK's run, you just know shit is about to go down when characters' faces start getting twisted into the horrifying visages of bloodthirsty psychopaths, and Nobara's turn at the wheel might be Jujutsu Kaisen's crowing achievement, in that regard. That's before the episode becomes a full-on Butt Rock AMV, with Yuji and Nobara's tag team tear-up culminating in a fully-choreographed music-video beat-down. I was worried a couple of weeks ago when it seemed like Nobara was going to be sidelined for yet another battle, and reader, I cannot tell you how glad I am to have been proven wrong. The over-the-top shenanigans might be corny as hell, but I don't care – I was out of my seat and fist-pumping along with the music all the same.
There's also a lot of good emotional content here too, despite the limited amount of real estate it has to work with. Eso and Kezichu's brotherly bond elicits some real sympathy, and it becomes all the more tragic when you learn their actual backstory: A hundred-and-fifty years ago, the great patriarch of the Kamo clan took in a woman who was cast out for having delivered Cursed offspring. The bastard exploited this ability by committing what really sounds like rape nine times, and forcing the woman to abort the resulting pregnancies nine times. Eso, Kezichu, and Choso are three of those undead fetuses brought out of their slumber by Sukuna's power and the scheming of Geto and Co. It's heavy shit, to say the least.
Less heavy, but no less effective, is the debrief that Nobara and Yuji have after taking out the two brothers. Yuji isn't new to killing living entities, as he reveals to Nobara, but he still feels conflicted about taking part in what he sees more as murder, compared to the usual exorcisms they perform. Nobara is much more pragmatic about the situation, acknowledging that there are only so many people you can make room for in your heart when your job is all about fighting and exterminating evil, but she also recognizes Yuji's perspective. The way she calmly assumes a role as Yuji's “accomplice” in the grim work they've had to do is a perfectly Nobara way to demonstrate true, meaningful loyalty, and it may or may not have caused me to tear up a little.
When you combine these wonderful little emotional beats with the jaw-dropping production values that MAPPA keeps showing off with, “Accomplices” starts to feel much more appropriate as the conclusion to Jujutsu Kaisen's barnburner of a first season. There are still a whole lot of narrative threads for the series to play with and pay off, and thankfully MAPPA just announced an upcoming film adaptation of JJK's Volume 0 prequel manga, so we won't have to wait much longer to be back in Gege Akutami's weird and wonderful world. In the meantime, Jujutsu Kaisen can rest easy in knowing that it has built an incredibly compelling world and populated it with an equally engaging cast of loveable, well-realized characters that can all kick each other's butts with style to spare. I can't wait to see what kinds of adventures they all get up to in the years to come.
Odds and Ends
•If I had to give this first season a grade in my current mood, it would be a comfortable 4.5/5. Its structure and pacing weren't always perfect, but the experience of watching each episode week-to-week was never anything less than good, and often it was great. Sung Hoo Park and the crew at MAPPA should be damned proud of the spectacle they have crafted, and the strength of Akutami's source material means that they should have plenty of material to bring to glorious life when the film comes out later this year, and whenever the series itself returns (which can't be soon enough, in my opinion).
Jujutsu Kaisen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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