Jujutsu Kaisen: Classic formula, modern take
Jujutsu Kaisen (JJK) is the latest series that has taken the anime world by storm and successfully made its mark as a popular anime. It is an adaptation of the manga written and illustrated by Gege Akutami. Although the manga was published back in 2017, JJK aired its first episode in October 2020. Produced by MAPPA Studios, JJK is an anime reminiscent of shonen classics like Naruto and Bleach. In fact, the creator revealed being inspired by Bleach.
The plot centers around Yuji Itadori, the strong, passionate yet adorably clumsy protagonist. He is a high schooler that gets introduced to the world of sorcery, or jujutsu, after his school gets attacked by spirits due to the unearthing of a cursed object. During the attack he meets Megumi Fushiguro, a sorcerer from Jujutsu Tech, there to exorcise the spirits and retrieve the object.
Chaos ensues, and following an epic fight scene, Yuji ends up becoming possessed by Sukuna – one of the most powerful cursed spirits of the underworld.
Yuji eventually joins Jujutsu Tech, and we get to meet the brilliant sensei Gojo Satoru, and the headstrong female student Nobara Kugisaki. Megumi, Yuji and Nobara form a team under Gojo Satoru, reminding us of the legendary Team 7 from Naruto. Again, the first few episodes are very reminiscent of the classic shonen anime, with similar themes in terms of character dynamics and traits.
However, just when you think you've got JJK somewhat figured out, you notice the twists. First, you see that a happy ending isn't guaranteed and the main characters don't always win. Secondly, Sukuna is a complete character of his own with his own motives. Previously, we've seen the evil beings possessing the protagonist having some redeeming qualities but that does not seem to be the case here.
Most importantly, you sense the self-awareness of the anime in its storytelling, which is most evident in the way JJK treats its female characters. The shonen genre started off as catered to male viewers and it was obvious when you watched the shows: the female characters always seemed like an afterthought compared to their male counterparts.
With time though, this genre has become popular to both male and female viewers. And the creators seem to have kept that in mind. The female characters of JJK are equally as strong, competent, and interesting as the male ones. They do not exist as mere objects, punchlines, or even tools for the protagonists to seem more "heroic".
There is also no unnecessary dragging of arcs, and the storyline is very easy to follow without being predictable, or worse – mediocre.
To wrap up, Jujutsu Kaisen should be on your list for a few reasons: it delivers to the viewers an interesting story, entertaining dialogues with even pop culture references, an amazing soundtrack, and last but certainly not the least, brilliant animation. The animation, and the modern take on the shonen formula is what makes JJK. With only the first season completed, it's so well-done that Jujutsu Kaisen has proven to be worthy of the word, in its truest sense – awesome.