Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 has given the fans everything we could all hope for and more. Just when we think one episode can’t be topped, the next one manages to miraculously raise the bar. Despite claims of the episode being “unfinished”, there’s no denying that what we were given with this episode was nothing short of an action anime masterpiece.
When I think of cinematic anime episodes I don’t just take into account common features that carry over from films such as aspect ratio (letterboxing/black bars), wonderful depth of field (focused subject/blurry background), and high-quality composition. While episode 17 of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 had all the above mostly throughout, the episode was a combination of many things that gave rise to a specific, indescribable feeling topped off with adrenaline and wonder.
Sitting here for the third time watching the episode, nothing in this episode loses its edge. Transitions can be common in anime, but great ones are a rarity. Starting off the episode with Itadori’s grandfather talking to him about being a protector immediately transitioning to Sukuna standing on the rubble of his own destruction was brilliant. It’s simple, but the meaning behind it and the contrast that goes along with it was wonderful directing and storyboarding by Itsuki Tsuchigami.
Not only were the simple few seconds impactful on many levels of writing and character dynamics but to end the episode with Sukuna leaving Yuji in his own wake of devastation with nothing but the windy echo of a desolate city was haunting. There were no colors to make it flashy-looking. There was no crazy animation anymore or a wonderful soundtrack underneath it. It was a crater of darkness that began to consume Itadori followed by the creepy words “you are my special” to kick off the opening theme to wrap it all up. I couldn’t do anything but think this is how the Shibuya Incident arc was meant to be—terror in its worst form.
I think Tsuchigami did the best anyone could’ve possibly done with the ending of this episode and trying to really capture the feeling of being an innocent person looking at the murder and destruction that was done with their own two hands. Not just Tsuchigami himself, but Junya Enoki was left with a difficult task to capture that feeling specifically as Itadori’s voice actor—and he succeeded.
It goes without saying that a recent, and notable, favorite of mine with the Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 production comes from the color script and design. To have basically the entire episode overrun by desaturated colors to the point it’s almost monochrome (grey/white/black) while keeping everything that’s red vibrant is just one of those layers that add more to what makes for great action. Not only was the color script and design magnificent, but it was the ability to keep it consistent throughout the entire episode that gave the action in this fight a completely different meaning and feeling.
Would the emotion and toll of this fight have felt the same if it showed all of the Shibuya lights we’ve been accustomed to throughout this arc? The simple answer is no. The action could have still been as great as it was, but if I saw Sukuna slicing Moroko with karaoke lights shining from a hole in a building, it wouldn’t hit the same. With a heinous thirst for death, this episode wasn’t just made to sit and enjoy some action. It was made to be as malevolent as possible. Once all the destruction was over, the black bars fading away felt like a symbolic way of showing the veil of evil had finally been uncovered.
While some may argue that I’m looking way too deep into this fight, I beg to differ. Fighting scenes are more than just flashy animation and explosions. As I said at the beginning of this article, there are common transitions that are forgettable, the same goes for fights. The memorable ones are those that are backed by many things but the main one is writing. If a fight doesn’t have some sort of good writing attached to it, it ends up being nothing more than a brief adrenaline rush. Luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about that this time around.
The Little Things
The color red itself can be a symbol of many things. More often than not, it symbolizes power, evil, or even both at the same time. Tsuchigami’s desire to keep this feeling of such evil around Sukuna with the help of Harumi Yamazaki and Hakuyu Go, who were also directors and storyboard artists for this episode, continued from last week’s episode with constant skeleton-like shots of Sukuna’s face backed by one of the best voice actors in the industry—Junichi Suwabe.
Suwabe has been deserving of a spotlight episode as Sukuna. While we’ve had his moments from the first season, Suwabe hasn’t really been as able to express himself as Sukuna like he did this time around. With the evil laugh flying through the air and the emotion of enjoying a battle to death, Suwabe gave one of the best performances of his entire career and I’d go as far as to say he’s a huge reason why so many fans love Sukuna as a villain in the first place, despite basically being evil incarnate.
While series creator Gege Akutami deserves the credit (duh) for writing Sukuna the way he is, it’s Suwabe, the animators, and the artists that have brought about a new meaning of evil for his character. This episode didn’t simply give us a jaw-dropping masterpiece of action filled to the brim with sakuga and a glorious team of animators, it was a message sent from the lowest depths of hell below Shibuya engulfed in a sea of red one moment and a dark abyss the next. A giant crater of nothingness was a perfect way to conclude Sukuna’s awakening—leaving no trace of life behind.
The creativity surrounding Megumi at the beginning was looked over for obvious reasons. But let’s not ignore the fact he turned his back on death, smiled, and basically said, “I’ll let death take me first.” I think in his constant state of calmness, we tend to forget that Toji-like attitude that seems to break through the surface when it comes to Megumi having his back against the wall. Some could argue that Megumi is the badass of the series and I honestly wouldn’t even argue it.
And, once again, not only is the theme of darkness surrounding Sukuna and Itadori apparent in this episode but revolves around Megumi as well. What’s darker than death itself? Seeing Megumi basically as a simple spec on a black screen surrounded by his shinigami like they were tombstones just adds, yes, another layer to the endless wave of darkness that this episode spewed from every possible crevice.
The Final Point
If you, as an anime fan, sit back and think of all your favorite fight scenes, it’s highly probable they come with a good layer of meaning behind them. Sure, you remember them for the upfront stuff, but those layers underneath them are what make them even greater. The creative touches from directors and animators. The final decisions from color designers and color scriptwriters. The story written by whatever series creator it may be and whoever is handling the script and series composition for the anime. These are the elements that can make a good fight great and a great fight memorable.
The mountain that episode 17 of Jujutsu Season 2 had to climb after last week, to put it lightly, must’ve been a challenge. Not only did Tsuchigami-san handle the A part of the episode (before Sukuna and Makora fought) and the final scene with Itadori, but he also left part of the episode to Yamazaki-san, who made her episode storyboard debut this week handling part of the major fight. I can’t even begin to imagine the pressure she was put on to deliver in what is now being considered the best action episode of the year by fans worldwide.
I sit here and chuckle in utter amazement because there have been comments made that the episode wasn’t “finished”. Seeing how it “could have been better” left me speechless and wondering what in the hell would have “better” looked like. If what I saw wasn’t even a “finished product” considered by some, then would the finished version have been one of the greatest anime fights of the past decade? 20 years? Ever? I’ve never said this in my years as an anime fan but I’m eagerly waiting for the Blu-ray version of this episode because I can’t even begin to fathom right now how much better it could’ve possibly been.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 Episode 17 Wrap-Up
The Shibuya Incident arc is doing its job of having millions of anime fans worldwide waiting for Thursday to roll around. The hype for the arc was warranted and it has delivered in stellar fashion ever since it began. While some could argue it had a rather okay, or even slow start, there’s no denying that the Shibuya Incident arc is going to end up being defined by its incredible action with episode 17 at the forefront of it all. Now we were left with a Nanami cliffhanger too? Couldn’t ask for more. Thank you to everyone who worked on this episode.
Episode 17 rating: Perfect
Episode 18 of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 will be released on Thursday, November 23. Make sure to vote for episode 17 in our weekly poll! The series is streaming on Crunchyroll with English subtitles.
Screenshots via Crunchyroll
©Gege Akutami/Shueisha/JUJUTSU KAISEN Project