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‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ review: “Premature Death” divides and conquers

By August 5, 2023One Comment6 min read
Jujutsu Kaisen Premature Death

Jujutsu Kaisen delivers what might be its best, singular episode with “Premature Death.” Possessing an abundance of stylistic flourishes and deeply felt character beats that reverberate with the pain and context of what we know of these characters — specifically Gojo and Geto — the episode marks the end of the “Hidden Inventory” arc. By suggesting catastrophic brutality and stomach-churning violence, rather than exposing the wounds and mayhem, the episode delivers an emotional, devastating gut punch that places these two characters on their respective paths. Gojo, the god, whose best friend, the one chasing god status, falls from his positioned grace after being dealt one too many tragedies.

It’s time to talk about the OP again. Buried in it are the depths of despair the series hits, first at the end of Episode 3 and now in “Premature Death.” The lighthearted nature of the opening as we get snapshots of Gojo and Geto’s salad days delivers deep contrast against the reality, that those days would remain in the summers of youth, discarded once the indoctrination Geto shakes from his shoulders manifests into something ugly, and extremist in values. These aren’t memories, so much, in the opening and closing moments, but what might have been had their journey’s not placed them in direct conflict with the universe’s might.

Because, as we’re told by Yuki this week, cursed spirits are caused by cursed energy leaking from humans, built up like sediment. Unless all humans miraculously are able to learn how to control it, the cursed spirits will continue to pop up, resulting in the deaths of friends and comrades and the abuse of sorcerers who can’t control their powers. As Yuki says, they’re “just treating symptoms, not the cause.” The only other way to cure the world would be to eliminate all non-sorcerers in the world.

The animation in this sequence is especially eerie, as we see the shadows and hear the pattern of rainfall before the raindrops begin to cascade against the windows behind Geto. The dark energy, in the form of a storm cloud, has materialized overhead, an idea that hovers in the back of his head until his breaking point.

It’s a breaking point that we’ve been on the cusp of since Riko’s death but is further expounded on in “Premature Death.” Gojo’s significant control of his abilities means that he and Geto have been split up on the field in order to accomplish more. That said, the wear and tear of this become externalized as Geto’s internal monologue processes the ugly repetition of his life, exorcizing and absorbing curses, a method that leaves the lingering sensation of having tasted a dirty rag. He’s lost weight, his hair is drawn to fall limply around his face, and his eyes are underlined with etched shadows. He enrolled in order to become a sorcerer who could save the lives of non-sorcerers, those he now believes are the cause of the torment he and other sorcerers face, the poison of the world that’s leaked up and caused them trouble as they go about their lives.

Jujutsu Kaisen Premature Death

Directed by Atsushi Nakagawa and storyboarded by Shōta Goshozono, the episode visualizes Geto’s descent in patient, increasingly harrowing beats. From the warped angle that closes in on his face as he showers off a day of exorcising and absorbing, to the stripped-down animation that relies on light line work and vibrant colors that swirl like the plumes of smoke in the village after he murders 112 people due to their abuse of two young girls, sorcerers, that demonstrates him having reached the very core of who he is, the animation is stunning in how eclectic and flexible it is.

This is seen too, later, after he’s overtaken the Star Religious Group. The title card that comes up when someone in the audience rejects his demonstration of power, demonstrating how these humans — these monkeys — no longer have a voice to him. They are but mere followers, meek and feeble in their flesh, vessels for pollution.

But it’s not just Geto that is given the time and attention in terms of sheer, dexterity animation. We see this as early as Gojo twirling the pencil in his hands as he further explores his abilities, the fluidity of the motion as impressive as some of the biggest fight sequences. Later, when the camera watches Gojo as he takes in the news of Geto having murdered his parents, along with the villagers, it focuses on the twitch under his eye, the nails that embed so strongly into the palm of his hand he draws blood. This is the first time we’ve seen this character so often cool and assured lose his shit, and even here it’s relatively measured. He hasn’t been present to see his best friend’s descent, unable to believe it until he speaks to him himself.

Which he does in a scene that mirrors a major moment in season one. Standing apart from one another in a busy, bustling crowd, speaking of the world with little actual regard for those around them — both too immersed in their own power or elitism, to pay them any mind. They are their goals. Geto calls Gojo arrogant, accusing him of believing that only he could be capable of achieving Geto’s goal of mass extinction. It’s telling that this is also one of the very few scenes where Gojo’s glasses come off for something other than a display of his full power. This is Gojo at his most human, bearing witness to his friend stopping himself from his own humanity.

The score composed by Yoshimasa Terui is particularly effective, capturing the significance and melancholy of this forced farewell. Gojo can’t kill him, can’t capture him (or, rather, he could but won’t.) But there’s a certain finality to the moment that further delivers that hollowed-out sadness the series is so good at creating. Because this isn’t just a parting goodbye between two friends who have gone different ways but the closing door of an entire portion of their lives as well as, to Gojo, the possibilities of what could’ve been.

It makes the final moments as he’s awoken from his dream — eyes red-rimmed — by Yuji, Megumi, and Nobara a strong closing moment to the first part of the season. Because these three who so mimic the dynamic he shared with his friends have become his future. It started the day he awkwardly sought out Megumi when he was still a child. His past has become his present, a constant reminder of what might’ve been.

Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is available now on Crunchyroll

Featured Images Courtesy of MAPPA/Crunchyroll

  • Rating - 9.5/10
Allyson Johnson

Based in New England, Allyson is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of InBetweenDrafts. Former Editor-in-Chief at TheYoungFolks, she is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. Her writing has also appeared at CambridgeDay, ThePlaylist, Pajiba, VagueVisages, RogerEbert, TheBostonGlobe, Inverse, Bustle, her Substack, and every scrap of paper within her reach.

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