3 Episode Rule is a series in which I watch the first three episodes of a new anime and decide whether to stick with it or drop it based on those three episodes alone.
If I was a little on the fence when it came to how I felt about Wandering Witch, I’ve fully fallen off onto the side with the greenest grass when it comes to this second anime. It’s kind of refreshing to be honest. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been so on board with an anime this quickly in a while. Jujutsu Kaisen unabashedly knows what it is and I can totally respect that as it satisfies the neanderthallic itch at the base of my skull perfectly.
This 24 episode series, based on the manga by Gege Akutami is set in a seemingly normal world where our main character Yūji Itadori accidentally stumbles into a world of demons, or “curses” and irreversibly changes his own body in order to save his friends, inserting himself into this world of sorcerers and monsters as he transfers to Tokyo Metropolitan Magic Technical College and beginning a journey to rid the world of as much of the curse as possible.
Right away, I was struck by the impressive framing and visual style this anime carries throughout. It makes repeated use of strange camera angles and visually striking environments to make it difficult to take your eyes off the screen, especially when something strange and otherworldly is happening.
Although, aside from a great cold opening, the show does start normally enough. Yūji Itadori is a relatively normal high school student, albeit one with superhuman strength, speed and endurance. At first, I kind of thought his attributes were being played off for laughs, but not. It just seems like all of the other kids his age are just nonplussed by their superpowered classmate. Itadori is a part of the occult club rather than any sports team because it means he can leave school early and visit his grandpa in hospital.
The only family Itadori seemingly has left, his Grandpa is a curmudgeonly old grump who yells at Itadori for spending time with him instead of making friends. In the end, he makes a speech to his grandson, telling him to be good to others, to make their lives better so that he can die surrounded by loved one. Instead of dying alone like he is going to, and then he does just that. Leaving Itadori all alone.
Before the death can really settle in, he is approached by Megumi Fushiguro; an edgy high school student who tells Itadori that his occult club has stumbled onto something truly terrible and all of their lives are in danger. Because he handed off the mark to his fellow members, both of them make a mad dash back to the school to stop whatever monster is about to be released. While Itagori gets a little bit of exposition along the way, learning that humans consume these cursed items to gain power.
It’s here where shit gets crazy and I realised that I was really in for the duration. The two kids at school release some kind of monster playing with this cursed object, and monsters in this series seem to be signified by creatures with a hell of an excess in mouths and eyeballs. They know just how to make it all as unsettling as possible. But if the visuals were not already striking enough, we start to get into the action and holy crap it looks good.
The action sequences in this show are insane. There is a lot of computer support in animating these scenes, but it’s really not that obvious, as the hand-animated look overlays it perfectly. Dynamic camera swings whip around characters as they run along a corridor in animation so fluid I had to go back and watch it a second time. Fushiguro simply running through the school corridors looks fantastic, and that’s even before the actual fights begin.
While Itadori is told to wait outside the school where it’s safe, he has a flashback of this grandfather’s final words to him and realises he can’t simply stand by where there are people who need help. And so he crashes through the window in heroic fashion and starts fighting the Curse, able to put up a surprisingly good fight due to the fact that he’s Captain America. Although it’s ultimately not enough to do much for long.
Remembering a conversation he had with Fushiguro on the way to the school, Itagori shallows the cursed finger that caused this whole mess in the first place, becoming possessed by the spirit of the demon it belonged to and killing the curse monster with ease. But then seemingly losing himself to the demon who changes his body and starts monologing about how much hell he’s going to cause.
At which point Satoru Gojō shows up; Fushiguro’s sensei at his school. Before he really needs to get involved though, Itagori just supresses the demon and goes back to normal. Gojō, his rocks not gotten off and the audience needing to see how much of a badass he is, asks Iragori to release the demon again for a few seconds, just to show how good he is, before knocking Itagori out and taking us back to the cold opening. And that’s mostly the set up for the series.
Itagori is recruited into this same school as these two new characters attend/work at, and is given an ultimatum. The only way to destroy powerful curse items like the fingers of Ryoumen Sukuna, is to kill a person who has consumed them. So Itagori is told to choose to either die there and then, or help them consume the remaining 19 and then get killed. (Ryoumen Sukuna had four arms.)
While it doesn’t seem like much of a choice, Itagori’s grandpa’s final words still ring in his head and his powerful sense of justice and doing the right thing override the pretty bleak situation he finds himself in. From here we’re introduced to the principal of the school Itagori is now attending and the third student in their entire year; a standoffish tomboy girl who is introduced in the third episode.
These three episodes nicely introduce the world, the powers on display and the main cast of characters who’ll be carrying us through the majority of the first series. And throughout we get that typical blend of shonen style goofiness combined with badass action sequences. It’s not doing anything strikingly different with the genre, but it’s doing it all exceedingly well, and I was up for it right from the first episode.
Verdict: Hell Yes!
So this is just Naruto, yeah? I mean you’ve got your goofball main character; who has a strong sense of justice and a monstrous demon living inside him, your second banana/rival who is hella broody and looks like he listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails. You’ve got your girl Tsundere character who is a bit of an airhead herself while also hugely violent to the main character. And then you’ve got your white-haired teacher, who has a good chunk of his face covered and has a laidback/mischievous personality covering the fact that he’s one of the biggest badasses in the entire series.
Not that I’m complaining, I love Naruto, but the comparisons are too blatant to ignore. Also not that I’m going to let that bother me in the slightest, because I already really like this show. In no small part to just how damned good the action sequences look. While nothing in the third episode managed to come close to the crazy good animation of that first episode, it still looked really good. At which point I’d been taken in by the characters anyway. Not to mention both the opening and endings are fire.
I’m a real sucker for a good shonen, and while Tower of God and The God of High School were doing something different in the previous two seasons, I haven’t been this hyped for a new show since I started watching Demon Slayer. I’m tempted to do episodic review of this series, unless any of the other shows I’m planning on writing about this season blow me away even more.