Jujutsu Kaisen ‒ Episode 23

1 month ago 40

Better late than never, am I right? After spending nearly the entire two-cour run of Jujutsu Kaisen's inaugural season standing in Yuji's shadow, Megumi has finally gotten the opportunity to put his story front and center for a change, not to mention his ass-whoopin' skills. The first part of “The Origin of Blind Obedience” was hilarious and pretty entertaining, but it was also mostly a setup episode for the action to come. “The Origin of Blind Obedience – 2 –“ picks up where part one left off, and allows Megumi the spotlight for almost the entirety of the episode, affording the audience our most complete look at who Megumi is yet, both as a person and as a fighter.

I will say that this is an episode that showcases some of Jujutsu Kaisen's limitations when it comes to the depth and quality of its dramatic writing, specifically in its broad strokes. When it comes to Megumi's past as a bully-beating nihilist, nothing we see comes across exceptionally novel. Tsumiki is the typical saint of an older (step) sister whose comatose state is exploited for maximum drama and motivation on Megumi's part, and his utter disdain for the cruel and phony bastards of the world is Emo Anime Teen Writing 101. Even Megumi's tenuous connection to the Zen'in Clan feels like an arbitrary way to slather even more complication and tension onto his backstory. I especially feel like the nonchalant way the show has dealt with this particular aspect of Megumi's character makes it difficult to understand how significant or surprising it is even supposed to read as on our end.

As always, though, Jujutsu Kaisen excels in the little details that bring a certain amount of charm and character to even the most cliched of story elements. Megumi's hostile middle-school attitude isn't anything special on paper, but the vivid shift in art style blends well with Megumi's particular spin on the old Holden Caulfield Syndrome. He doesn't just hate the vain and arrogant “bad” people of the world; he hates “good people” too, because they go out of their way to forgive the bad for their misdeeds, and then manage to turn their acquiescence into a moral victory. I'm not going to lie, this is a very relatable mood, especially these days, when one gets really sick of the Good Guys™ going out of their way to make nice with the assholes across the aisle, when they could be making more tangible steps towards solving the problem. You know, like punching said assholes right in the mouth.

That might just be the angry and disaffected youth in me talking, now, but to Megumi's credit, he has learned over the last few years that it maybe isn't always that simple. He used to hate how his sister would preach about letting people go their own way in life, only to turn around and chastise him for fighting all the time, but now he realizes that her anger wasn't hypocritical, but borne of love. She made an exception of Megumi because she cared enough about him to challenge him, and to try to guide him to being a better and less self-destructive person. He misses her dearly now, and though he knows that the particular cursed spirit that he and the gang are hunting isn't the root cause of her current condition, he's going to fight like hell on her behalf, anyways.

This leads us to Megumi's big hero moment, which comes courtesy of another flashback, this time to a recent training session that Megumi had with Gojou. While I'm not entirely sold on the expository power-up writing here — the scene takes an awful long time for Gojou to essentially tell Megumi that he just needs to get a little greedy and let himself go nuts on the battlefield every once in awhile — I liked how Gojou tied the day's takeaway into an observation he made during the class baseball game, when Megumi bunted his ball so Nobara could steal the bases and take the spotlight. In an interesting contrast to Yuji's personal motto of heroism, Gojou sums up his lesson by telling Megumi that if he dies in battle, he'll be dying alone. This is the kind of teachable moment that reminds you that Gojou actually is a pretty good educator, and it helps Megumi see how, if he wants to truly match Yuji as a Jujutsu Sorcerer, he needs to start treating the art as an individual sport, where the only thing that matters at the end of the day is survival.

Naturally, Megumi gets the chance to cut loose against the cursed spirit under Yasohachi Bridge, which reveals itself to be a copy of the spirit that Megumi, Yuji, and Nobara fought at that detention center way back in episode four, except it is much stronger now. It's a kickass fight all around, showcasing the excellent animation that MAPPA has been gifting us with for damn near six months now, though the thrills and the visuals really escalate when Gojou's advice kicks in and Megumi literally throws up his hands and shouts, “Screw it!”. For one, Megumi's Domain Expansion, “Chimera Shadow Garden”, has the most wonderfully chuuni name this side of “Black Star of Jotunheim Tulpa”. Also, the maniacal look on Megumi's face when this thrashing goes down is both badass and utterly terrifying. And the dark ocean of demon beasts that Megumi summons to lay the smackdown on the cursed spirit and steal back the evil finger? Hell yeah.

Really, my one major misgiving about this episode has less to do with what it contains and more to do with where it is placed. We have but one episode left to go in the season, and this relatively self-contained arc feels like an odd place to end things. Then again, we did get our first glimpse of Sukuna in a long while, so perhaps the tricky bastard has one more scheme in mind for the Jujutsu Gang to deal with before everything is said and done…

Rating:

Odds and Ends

• This week's Jujutsu Stroll is easily a Top 5 for the whole season, with Yuji, Nobara, and Gojou all freaking out over the very possibility that Megumi is being hit on by a girl. Between Yuji and Nobara's desperate pleas for Megumi's love, to Gojou's entirely inappropriate – but nevertheless smoldering – attempts to steal away Megumi for himself…yeah, it's a crackup.

• There's a whole subplot with Nobara and Yuji dealing with the cursed spirit interlopers that steal them away from the main fight, though I'm sure I'll have more to say on that front next week. The aggressively sensual older brother of the pair has a fucking weird demon face thing going on with his back, though, which is…a choice. Still, it's worth it for Megumi's perfect smugness, I gotta say. They even manage to make a kind of funny joke over how often she gets kidnapped in these fights (it helps that she and Yuji both get nixed from the main event, and that they'll likely have a role to play in the grand finale next week).

• Seriously, this episode's face game is on point:

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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