You have to give Jujutsu Kaisen credit where it is due: It promised that the Special-Grade Level Curse incident at the correctional facility would end with one of the first years dead, and by golly, the show kept its word. Elated at Yuuji's refusal to reclaim control over his own body, Sukuna decides to hold his host hostage by plucking Yuuji's heart right out of his goddamned chest. Megumi is eventually able to coax Yuuji back into consciousness, but in severing his tie to Sukuna, Yuuji loses the demon's healing powers, too. He falls to the ground, gore oozing out of the massive hole in his torso, and dies. I mean, he's really dead. The “Spends the rest of the episode as a corpse on a slab in the morgue” kind of dead.
I'm not convinced for even a second that this is a permanent death, mind you. This is a comic book, not Psycho — a Shonen Jump manga like this isn't likely to kill off its protagonist with such little fanfare and switch its focus to a new hero entirely. Still, even if we all know not to get too worked up about it, the Sukuna vs. Megumi confrontation does a great job of selling the stakes, artificial as they may be. As Megumi reflects on the sad fate of his cursed sister, Tsumiki, we learn that he has more in common with Yuuji than he lets on. Despite wanting to operate on a purely logical level as a sorcerer, Megumi admits that he saved Yuuji because he simply likes the guy, and he didn't want to see Yuuji hurt. You get the sense more than ever that Yuuji is the closest thing to a friend Megumi has maybe ever had, and their bond has grown strong enough even in this short time.
Even though he gets his fair share of character development in “Curse Womb Must Die II”, Megumi isn't replacing our boy. Yuuji's going to be back soon enough to reclaim his spot as Jujutsu Kaisen's leading man. Still, Yuuji's end here is sad and painful enough that it still matters; Megumi and Nobara have suffered a genuine loss, and Gojou has even more reason to distrust the motives of the sorcerer leadership that authorized such a suicidal mission for these newbies, knowing full well — and likely hoping — that Yuuji would be conveniently slaughtered. It's not the kind of trick that Jujutsu Kaisen will be able to get away with many more times without the threat of death losing all meaning, but I think it totally works as a dramatic stepping stone to get us to the next phase of the plot.
As for what that next phase is, the second half of this week's episode has plenty of exposition to deliver and threads to tease. As much as I was intrigued by the man scheming with the cabal of curses to take down Gojou and Yuuji, the scene had an odd lifelessness to it, and it didn't feel especially tied together with the material focusing on Megumi and Nobara. It's a rocky transition to be sure, and probably the weakest patch of storytelling we've seen from Jujutsu Kaisen so far, but it isn't without its merits. The spooky medical examiner Ieri looks to be a delight, for one, and I'm glad to finally meet some of Jujutsu Tech's upperclassmen. As much as I've enjoyed getting to know our three heroes, the world of the sorcerers was beginning to seem a bit small.
Zenin is the brassy young woman and Cursed Weapon expert who makes the mistake of calling out Megumi and Nobara's attitude before realizing that they're grieving the death of their horribly murdered friend, which is the kind of awkward social situation any of us can relate to. Inumaki is a withdrawn lad who wields Cursed Speech, and he apparently only communicates by reciting ingredients that go in rice balls, which…okay. Sure. Finally, we've got Panda. He is a Panda. He wears an “I <3 Pandas” arm-band, and only a true baller of a bear would have the stones to rock his own merch with such casual confidence. As I stated a while back, I will stop at nothing until he becomes my best friend.
This new trio's introduction is important primarily because it establishes the Kyoto Sister School Exchange Event, a competition between Jujutsu Tech and its rival academy from Kyoto that sounds an awful lot like a setup for a good ol' fashioned tournament arc. Yuuji is still down for the count, though I'm sure he will get roped into the proceedings somehow, and such an event will be a great way to further expand on the society of sorcerers that Jujutsu Kaisen has only been able to hint at so far. Plus, as long as Panda and Nobara get more screen-time, I'm down for pretty much anything.
Odds and Ends
• This week's post-credits skit involves Zenin roping Megumi and Nobara into an investigation concerning Panda's scent. The bear is deeply offended that his animal musk would be compared to Inumaki's odor, especially seeing as Inumaki has made a habit of avoid baths at all costs. To the girls' shock, Megumi casually notes that Panda's daily regiment of not sweating and blasting his fur with Febreze has him smelling like sunshine. This is funny, but nowhere near as funny as how seriously Nobara takes getting a whiff of Eau du Panda, looking like a bear sommelier and everything.
• Panda is voiced by Tomokazu Seki, a man who was literally born to play the role. Seki is a veteran of the industry; many fans will likely recognize him as the voice of Daru from the Steins;Gate franchise.
• Another great Nobara moment this week: She assures everyone that, if the Sister School Exchange Event is a video-game tourney, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a part of the competition, then her victory is all but guaranteed. Hell yeah.
Jujutsu Kaisen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.