Maybe I’m stupid, or maybe watching the final three episodes of Jujutsu Kaisen while very tired was just a stupid idea. But throughout my time watching this show, and certainly other shows in the same genre, I find myself often struggling to fully understand what is happening on screen and how a lot of the time it doesn’t actually end up mattering by the time it’s all over.
A while back I wrote a post talking about how much I enjoyed power systems in anime, how an audience’s understanding of the minutiae of the inner workings of a power system can contribute towards their investment in an action sequence. How an understanding of the constrains of the rules make seeing them bent or broken all the more thrilling.
It’s one of my favourite things about HunterxHunter: how much detail it goes into explaining Nen and then creates these elaborate conflicts that take place within these constraints. Seeing how different characters work within these rules adds an extra layer of investment from me as an audience member as I wonder how the conflict will resolve, knowing the span of the powers within the character’s reach.
That isn’t to say I can’t appreciate the opposite situation either. What with the Jojo of it all, which also has a system on which its powers are based, and then regularly throws the rulebook out of the window for dramatic effect, which happens a lot in that series.
For me, Jujutsu Kaisen falls somewhere between these two. I have no doubt that this series has a well defined power system that the manga readers could explain to me in great detail, but having watched the first season of the anime, I sure as shit couldn’t explain it to you.
I have no idea what the importance of Itadori’s Black Flash is other than being a particularly strong punch. I couldn’t begin to explain Gojo’s powers beyond gravity (I think?) and I certainly had no idea what the characters were doing during that final episode of the series. But do you know what, it ultimately doesn’t matter. I was carried through this series thanks to its stellar animation and compelling character drama.
Sure, my favourite fights in the series involved Kendo and his very easy to understand power to hit enemies very hard and Todo who could clap his hands to swap places with people. But that goes towards what I said before, because I could understand the constrains of the powers, when the rules started to bend, the dramatic impact was stronger. Not only that, understanding the powers meant that I could spend more of my tired brain power focusing on the character drama in the fight rather that struggling to keep up with their actions.
But did not really understanding what was happening during that final episode hurt my enjoyment of it? Not really. When it comes to a character like Gojo, his very nature of a character is to be this powerful, overwhelming force. So not really understanding what he’s doing just contributes towards his mystique as a character. Me being stupid just further contributes to the narrative of him being this unknowable type of character.
Which isn’t something every character can get away with. Would I have enjoyed the final battle of the series if I understood Kugisaki’s powers a little more clearly? Eh, maybe, but only a little. But part of the problem came from not just her leading the fight, but it coming along with Itadori doing what he does and Megumi unlocking some new domain power too.
Knowing the extent and limits to their powers might have made the reveal of new new aspect of it from a great moment into an amazing one. But that ultimately didn’t impact my enjoyment of Kugisaki as a character in that final episode.
She’s atypical in the genre as being super surly while also having bouts of powerful girlishness when it comes to her interests. But the contrasting sides of her don’t clash within her, she is comfortable with who she is and it makes her a highly entertaining character to me. So seeing her as this almost sadistic badass during the final battle of the series was a great moment to me. Not for whatever powers she displayed, but for the pure character drama that came from it.
Watching her driving nails into herself and looking like a badass while it was great. I hardly cared that I didn’t know why she was actually doing it, just that it looked cool and showed that her character was just as important as her two peers that had gotten much more focus in the story before now.
And that is ultimately where I fall on the series. If I really had a mind to; I could risk spoilers on the series wiki, or go back and read through the manga to better understand how the power system in Jujutu Kaisen works. But that’s not really what ended up making enjoy the series as much as I did.
It was the amazing animation and the highly entertaining characters that drew me in. Like with a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It was the overarching story and sytle that drew me in, and in the end I would take that done well every single time over a series with an incredbly well constructed power system but lacks any style or dynamism. Jujutsu Kaisen is a damn good show, even I realised that having watched most of while half asleep.