Tuesday, December 10, 2019

REVIEW: Jujutsu Kaisen Vol. 1

I've been having too much fun with the new Shonen Jump app. Getting to read chapters of ongoing series the moment they come out in Japan - for free - is too good. One series I've been putting off is Jujutsu Kaisen. The premise sounded interesting, but I'm not big on horror so the cover put me off. With the release of the first volume in the west, I figured now was as good a time as any to check it out.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Jujutsu Kaisen Volume 1 courtesy of VIZ Media. Opinions are my own.

In a world where cursed spirits feed on unsuspecting humans, fragments of the legendary and feared demon Ryomen Sukuna were lost and scattered about. Should any demon consume Sukuna’s body parts, the power they gain could destroy the world as we know it. Fortunately, there exists a mysterious school of Jujutsu Sorcerers who exist to protect the precarious existence of the living from the supernatural!

Jujutsu Kaisen is the first series by Gege Akutami who seems to be taking supernatural manga back to its roots. This first volume feels a lot like earlier chapters of Bleach or even Yu Yu Hakusho. It even starts setting up a bit of a Naruto vibe. Some may say it's unoriginal because of this, but I feel like a lot of manga have gotten out of hand these days so it's nice to see something that goes back to the basics.

The first chapter introduces Yuji Itadori, a high school student with immense physical strength that attracts every sports club in school - but Itadori prefers to hang out with the supernatural club who find a sealed cursed object - one of the twenty fingers of the four-armed demon Ryomen Sukuna.

This finger attracts a cursed spirit that attacks the other club members. Itadori being a lovably stupid manga protagonist decides to eat the finger to prevent the monster from gaining it's power - and hopefully gain some power to protect his friends.

This stems from the final request of Itadori's dying grandpa: "Help people." This inspires Itadori to do whatever it takes to protect his friends. With his grandpa's dying words, his, ridiculous strength, and his ability to control the spirit of Sukuna make him the ultimate candidate for a Jujutsu Kaisen.

The Sukuna thing is one of the coolest selling points of this series for me. Itadori is able to control the spirit, but it's not perfect. Sukuna is able to manifest as a mouth on Itadori's body and has his own agenda for when Itadori "lets him out" to help in a fight. We've seen dozens of manga where the main character is possessed by something, but how often has the thing that possessed them been the main villain?

The second chapter ended with a reveal that had me a bit worried: this is a school manga. I don't really like manga set in some kind of superpower school. It feels like it's been done to death. But here it seems to be a bit more of a Naruto situation. There are only two other students in Itadori's class - very reminiscent of Sasuke and Sakura. The school itself seems to be more of a headquarters and there seem to be more missions instead of classroom lessons. So for now, my worries about the school thing are over.

As I've said many times, I don't like straight horror. But Jujutsu Kaisen doesn't play like a horror. It's more of a supernatural/fantasy series with dark themes. The monsters that appear in this first volume can be grotesque but not disgustingly so. Some of them are even downright goofy. Creepy, yes, but not horror enough to lose me.

Jujutsu Kaisen is a wonderful step in the right direction for supernatural manga. The artwork is crisp and clean, the characters are fun, the worldbuilding is excitingly creative, and overall the whole thing feels classic with enough twists to keep it modern. I'm looking forward to checking out the rest of this series.

Click here to order your copy of Jujutsu Kaisen Vol. 1 and click here to pre-order the second volume.