I wish I could sit here and say episode 19 of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 didn’t layer on the emotion from last week’s heartbreaking turn of events, but I can’t. While some of the animation in this episode was wonderfully done during Itadori’s fight with Mahito, the focus on art direction and the rising action to the unfortunate climax of the episode is what caught my attention the most.
Another Goodbye, Itadori’s Loss
Nobara’s goodbye hit just as hard as Nanami’s did last week. I’d say the direction for each was wonderfully executed and even more so this time around on the artwork side. Her death hit in a different way than Nanami’s and that was also reflected in Itadori’s voice when witnessing both. Cutting to black after hearing “Kugisaki?” from Junya Enoki’s voice was chilling.
What felt like minutes to us as viewers seeing Nobara’s childhood before she landed at Jujutsu High was seconds to her and Itadori in the present time. While some would view showing her childhood as a cheap moment to garner emotions before what happens and might ask, “Why not show this stuff when we were first introduced to her”, I see it as her life flashing before her eyes. Having Nobara’s death stretched out this episode, up until her final moment, hit deeper than her hairpin could ever reach into Mahito’s hollow skull.
Nobara receives a lot of criticism for her character from many fans (god knows why) but this episode did an exemplary job of showing why Itadori and Nobara are so compatible once again on the battlefield. We saw it at the end of the first season and then here in this episode despite being apart from each other. Hearing Itadori calmly say, “Thank you” while turning Mahito’s body into the lifeless scarecrow of Shibuya was incredible voice acting from Enoki. Instead of saying it in a way that gives him excitement or hope of winning a fight like we’d see in shonen, there was that certain level of “calm before the storm” emotion starting to brew.
While it could be chalked up to Itadori’s attitude during the fight, which he described in the last episode as staying calm as Nanami would, there was still some hint of depressing emotion in his tone that made what was going to happen hit a lot harder, especially because Itadori had zero clue he’d be seeing a best friend die right before his eyes just moments after losing a father-figure.
Nobara’s Story and Its Artwork
While animation has been such a hot point for Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 over the past three weeks, and rightfully so, the artwork in episode 19 stood out to me more than usual. The past few episodes all had unique things that stood out: episode 18 had the creative direction from Goshozono; episode 17 had a plethora of talented animators and color script by Hiro Nagasuna, Okacheke, and Shirako; and episode 16 had the animation and episode composition. For episode 19, it was the artwork and framing that shined the most as compared to the other characteristics of the episode.
More than anything, the artwork during Nobara’s backstory was wonderfully done. Even though it was practically meant to show the small town she lived in, there was a level of peace to it that Nobara herself didn’t notice until her death. And I think that’s why there was such an emphasis on those peaceful days and quiet nights that made Nobara smile in the end. A lot of the framing was superb and I even caught myself pausing the episode to look at the detail of the shots below. Credit for that goes to episode director and storyboard artist Naoki Miyajima, who also directed and storyboarded episode 3, one of my favorite episodes this season.
There’s something about visual storytelling that always seems to captivate me. I wrote about the same for Lycoris Recoil when it was airing and I think this time around for Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2, I was able to sit back and really appreciate what Miyajimi and series director Shouta Goshozono did with this episode. It felt like every shot served a purpose and had meaning behind it. So for a big chunk of a 23-minute episode of anime to be able to do that — it is no small feat.
The scene with her and Fumi with the seats around them was basic upfront. However, it was almost reminiscent of Sukuna’s scene with Jogo right before he killed him. The deaths during this arc have all had not only external significance but also internal as well. I always took this scene to be something like: the two found their own people to build a new life around but neither of them knew each other’s life anymore or what they may be doing. Keeping both centered in each of the frames was a perfect choice.
Nobara’s death, of course, hits hard. That was Itadori’s sister. And with each passing moment, it seems like Itadori is losing his family left and right before he can even collect his thoughts. But, what I love about her death is that she’s still a kid. Nanami smiling before dying is one thing since he’s a grown man who endured 20 lifetimes worth of pain.
We’re so quick to forget Nobara is a teenager herself. To meet death with a smile on her face speaks a lot more about how she was a badass all the way to the very end. She didn’t cry. She didn’t beg for her life. She smiled and appreciated her short life and the few people she got to meet. Nobara fought to the very end with no regrets just as Nanami did and I think that could be one of the reasons why it hits Itadori a little more this time around.
A teenager shouldn’t have to even contemplate whether they lived with regret or not. Yet, that’s what makes Jujutsu Kaisen the series that it is. This isn’t a heartwarming story. It never was and never will be. The wonderful writing of Itadori being told at the beginning of the series to protect those he cares about and then losing two of them in the blink of an eye is a level of despair I can’t even begin to fathom. The mental toll of seeing two people you love being brutally murdered right in front of you as a teenager has been expressed perfectly with Itadori in the past two weeks. It’s eerie to think about how Enoki will kill Itadori’s performance next week, yet again.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 Episode 19 Wrap-Up
Usually, animation is the topic of discussion with episodes recently so I wanted to take a different approach to what stood out. There’s no denying there was some wonderful layout work involved with the fight between Itadori and Mahito. Aditya did wonderful work as always as did Harutimu, Shoutarou Tamemizu, and Roccia Nobili.
Episode 19 rating: 9/10
Episode 20 of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 will be released on Thursday, December 7. Make sure to vote for episode 19 in our weekly poll! The series is streaming on Crunchyroll with English subtitles.
Screenshots via Crunchyroll
©Gege Akutami/Shueisha/JUJUTSU KAISEN Project