The strongest aspect of the Jujutsu Kaisen season two premiere “Hidden Inventory” is the direction. Directed by Shōta Goshozon, the episode delivers a notable surge in the quality of the direction, something that MAPPA hardly slouches in to begin with. That said, in part due to the flashback narrative and spirit of the arc, the premiere instills a level of playfulness with compositions that nod to everyone from Satoshi Kon to Masaaki Yuasa. Based on the manga written and illustrated by Gege Akutami, fans who are expecting to be reunited with the series main protagonists will have to be patient a little while longer as we go further into the backstory of Gojo and his history with Suguru Geto who, we know from the first season, ends up being our heroes’ main antagonists.
The series has suffered from the start with a pace that refuses to slow down or over-explain itself. Throwing out terminology that relates to the worldbuilding from cursed spirits to domains, it’s up to the viewer to keep up as the popular Shōnen series barrels through without stopping for requisite context. It’s the same in “Hidden Inventory,” though we now have the established, often incomprehensible worldbuilding of season one in our arsenal, making the tasks of these characters all the more understandable as we begin our new journey.
Gojo and his best buddy Geto are still Jujutsu High students, albeit powerful ones, and they’ve been hand-picked for a mission to protect a girl marked for a ritual that will “erase” her and integrate her into Jujutsu High’s mysterious and immortal Tengen. This follows an extended cold open where we see fellow sorcerers Mei and Utahime exploring a cursed property, caught in a maze before outwitting the spirit and escaping. It’s a strong sequence that helps declare both the tone of the episode as well as deliver punchy visuals that demonstrate the aforementioned brilliant direction. Take, for instance, the fishbowl effect as Utahimi explains her theory of how to escape to Mei, or the way the screen is filled with the former’s flashlight as she peers under a decrepit bed, which amplifies the tension of the horror atmosphere.
However, despite the intricate, haunting animation of the first half, it takes Gojo’s arrival to ignite the story.
Satoru Gojo is a little shit and the series thrives because of it. He and Geto together are striking in their differences compared to our usual main trio of Yuji, Megumi, and Nobara. Two of the latter three might be little dumb dumbs, but they still possess a level of morality that seems, at best, flaky, when it comes to Gojo. That feral energy makes him as enjoyable as he is, his lax attitude mixed with an inherent superiority and the sheer power to back it up makes for a character who is a force to be reckoned with and the series understands that and allows his scenes to flourish due to it. The frames literally bend towards his presence.
Of course, fans are going to be attached to the Gojo and Geto friendship, a pair who work tremendously well together until, ultimately, they don’t. For now, though their friendship and teamwork flourish as we get to see more of Geto’s ability — his power the ability to absorb cursed spirits and then wield those powers — along with their dynamic. The OP plays with this dynamic, with a wink and a nudge towards more slice-of-life and romance-style openings, though this is something Jujutsu Kaisen has been playing with since the start. Just think of the melancholy EP of season one’s second cour, where we get to see these very irregular teenagers act like they live regular lives. The series forever presents events through the lens of what should and shouldn’t be acceptable, offering not so much an alternative timeline but a suggestion of what might have happened had the characters chosen different paths.
None of which would work quite as well without, again, the direction which might be some of the best anime direction in ages for how it plays with the format and bends sequences to the will of its content. Geto and Gojo play basketball together as the former misses and the latter sinks two, the camera swinging to give the relatively simple scene more dynamism. The two later saunter towards their next assignment, and that Yuasa fluidity comes into play as Geto slouches and Gojo leers, all languid limbs, as the sidewalks and cityscapes bend to their motion. Having worked on everything from Mob Psycho 100 to Chainsaw Man, series director Goshozono has breathed new life into the series.
“Hidden Inventory” takes a moment to catch its breath before diving straight into the plot’s action, but once it does and once Gojo shows up on the scene, the premiere finds the necessary balance. As we continue to learn about his backstory and the likely tragedy that accompanies it, we can only hope that the artistry remains the same, from Goshozono’s direction to the architectural animation and background scenes. It’s that component that will elevate Jutusu Kaisen from simply entertaining to something greater.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 Episode 1 “Hidden Inventory” is available on Crunchyroll
Featured Image © Gege Akutami/Shueisha, JUJUTSU KAISEN Project
Jujutsu Kaisen - “Hidden Inventory” - 8/10