Less than a year before its release, Jujutsu Kaisen had already been talked about by the likes of the weeb side of the internet. The series, drawn by manga-ka Gege Akatumi, started in the year 2018 and has since then swept polls and charts with its rising popularity. One of the many reasons for its success, apart from its amazing fight scenes and the high-level graphics by MAPPA, is how relatable and modern the characters are for a show of the Shonen genre.
It’s true – Jujutsu Kaisen presents us with a plethora of characters that break the old shackles of typical anime tropes and society with more modern concepts and dialogues. Even the ending songs have elements like Yuuji recording all of his last memories on a smartphone, vertically aligned – a style made famous recently or finishing the first ending with the Tik-Tok famous dance step “the woah”.
Though highly hyped and praised, many have criticized it for its characters whose looks resemble ones from older anime and though it may be true that similarities do exist, one way is to look at how Jujutsu Kaisen may have borrowed from the old to reform it into something better.
Here are a few moments from the first season and some reasons why the anime was as ground-breaking as its modern watchers.
1. A Realistic, Well Written Female Lead
One of the freshest and revolutionary additions to the archive of anime characters is perhaps Nobara Kugisaki – strong, bold and reliable without being one of the “not like other girls” fictional trope. She handles her own ground and is able to take enemies singlehandedly – all without having to abandon or look down upon traditionally feminine things. Unlike the typical anime trope of girls competing over one guy, Nobara is a lover of all women and stands to both protect and fight alongside them.
When confronted by Momo about the hardships of men versus women in the Zenin clan, Nobara boldly counteracts, stating “I don’t care about “men” this and “women” that. I love myself when I’m pretty and all dressed up! And I love myself when I’m being strong!”. Truly, Nobara can easily be declared a feminist.
2. A Manly Queer ‘Ally’
Mockery and ridicule of LGBTQ+ characters is no news to the anime community. For years, the only representation fans have had of supposed queer characters in anime are all either comical, predatory, or accompanied with an extremely tragic fate or background – unless it is anime of the BL or GL genre; none of which are popular enough to be part of mainstream media. Another popular comic trope is of a “manly” guy whose way of living is to be “manly” in every way.
Jujutsu Kaisen’s “manly” man is Todo Aoi, who fills in all the requirements of the said trope, except one – despite his behavior, he has no problem with same-sex relationships, stating, “If you prefer men, its fine too” when asking Megumi about his type of women. Though subtle and just a dialogue, the sense of casualness of the existence of the LGBTQ+ community, coming from the traditional “manly man” trope guy is the right kind of representation one would want as a member of the queer community.
3. Healthy and Strong Female Friendships:
Is there anything more wholesome than seeing women lift each other up? In contrast to other popular mainstream Shonen, Jujutsu Kaisen has its fair number of female friendships – all touching to see and with much deeper meaning than bonding over the understanding of liking one guy at the same time (a popular trope in both Shonen and Shoujo anime).
Nobara’s motive to come to the city is finding Saori – the older sister-like figure she has great adoration for. She even grows up to have great respect for her senior Maki, whose conflict with twin sister Mai is touched upon in an emotional turn of events – something not commonly focussed on.
Momo too keeps Mai in high regard and understands the difficulties women of her clan face. The concept of brotherhood is well present in many anime to date, but to see sisterhood emerge in between powerful women with stories of their own to tell is definitely a game-changer.
4. The Power of Friendship Does Not Win Over Everything
Junpei Yoshino was introduced as a character with a lot of potential. We were made to indulge deep into his story – his struggles as a social outcast, the loneliness he possessed until the arrival of Yuuji in his life, the never-ceasing desire of revenge that he nurtured inside – until everything was ended in a single moment by Mahito. One would think Junpei’s transformation into a curse was temporary – surely, someone who had even been shown crucially in the ending of the opening song cannot die this soon?
That is where fans were wrong. Just like the unpredictability of life, Junpei was written off as dead – right when he had reached a higher conscience. Junpei’s life was a tragedy and unfixable to the very end – unlike how a lot of things can be won over in anime with the ‘power of friendship’.
Though it is a hopeful and wholesome theme, the fact that things like bullying and trauma are easily cured in a moment’s instance is a plot hole in many anime, especially when experiences like these scar a person for life. Jujutsu Kaisen does the opposite and gives the situation a realistic end – something most anime seem to shy away from, in hopes of disappointing fans.
5. Gender Norms are Dead in Jujutsu Kaisen:
Apart from all the Jujutsu Tech girls being unbothered by the expectations from society when it comes to being a strong sorcerer, the men of Jujutsu Kaisen – or shall I say Juju Stroll – are not a bit hesitant about putting on skirts or crossdressing when required. Besides, the fact that they pull off such antics does not make them any less popular in the fandom – with carefree and unpredictable Gojo Satoru being a fan favorite.
Even the villains with their leader Mahito, are once shown in a small skit, dressed in sailor school uniforms. Jujutsu Kaisen also breaks the trope of female monsters/villains being oversexualized with the introduction of Hanami – a cursed spirit who is difficult to take down even with Yuji and Todo’s strength combined. Her form is similar to what a male curse’s body would be with no extra addition of feminine body parts which is a common phenomenon in the animation itself. It is nice to see that things that are supposed to be feminine are not made ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’ in the name of fanservice.
Jujutsu Kaisen is a treat to fans of modern anime – with references and jokes about relevant things from today and characters that talk and behave more like young adults today. Sure, the main character swallowed a finger and is destined to die, but it does not stop him from poking fun at the situation while also understanding the grueling responsibility he holds with it. If you are looking for something fresh and visually pleasing, while also having the interesting plotline of a Shonen anime, Jujutsu Kaisen is the watch for you.