Jujutsu Kaisen continues to expand the scope of the Shibuya Incident arc by branching out into multiple battles during the course of “Dull Blade” but doesn’t miss a beat while doing so. The manga’s brisk but effective pace continues to be reflected well in the anime by finding a way to simultaneously let extremely cool action play out side by side with needed dialogue without cutting away from either too soon or overplaying either end of that spectrum. As a result, the increasingly dire situation the Jujutsu Sorcerers find themselves in feels rich and tension-filled already, even as the groundwork has only just finished laying itself.
“Dull Blade” really is a full ensemble affair, opening first with narration from Nanami as he discovers their support teams have been targeted and doing what he can to save any survivors and jumping quickly around to the actions of other teams to establish that all this is indeed happening simultaneously. Mei Mei brutally finishes up the curse user that tried to hold her back in the Shibuya underground right as Yuji and Megumi finish up releasing the veil preventing sorcerers from moving freely before showing Maki and Nobara have made progress on the interior of the area. These establishing sections really help understand the geography at play. Shibuya is large, but not so large that all these events might as well be in entirely different places, unlike many ensemble battles in anime.
Instead, it makes perfect sense for Itadori and Fushiguro to still be able to see their upperclassman Ito defeated and falling off a nearby building and, as the episode goes on, for Nanami to cross paths with Nobara right as she is taken off guard by assassin Haruta. Nanami’s brutal assault of the man, who only survives out of the fact that his cursed ability is luck itself, is the visual highlight of the episode. Everything from the way Nanami wraps his tie around his hands (signaling to us that this is going to go very differently than his previous fights) to the actual brutality is ironically gorgeous in every frame. The message is clear – the pseudo-salaryman is not playing around this time now that his comrades have been harmed; which lines up beautifully with the loss he suffered during “Premature Death.”
If there is a miss in the entire episode, it’s that Nobara is stuck struggling compared to her classmates, despite the conclusion of last season highlighting that she is just as capable as Yuji and Megumi. Granted, she’s doing what the others are not and protecting someone actively, but she’s basically used to power scale to Nanami for some reason rather than getting to fight for herself. This isn’t helped when Nanami dismisses Nobara’s support outright. This isn’t specifically a gendered situation – Nanami specifically notes he’ll catch up to Maki who’s still up ahead – yet it’s hard not to read it as such, especially since the pacing pairs these events up with Megumi and Yuji’s successes.
However, while Jujutsu Kaisen remains a visual triumph that comes very possibly from the exploitation of talented artists, “Dull Blade” is easily one of the best episodes of the series for the voice cast. This cast is full of iconic veterans but admittedly much of the dialogue from the manga is very straightforward and doesn’t get to flex their range – “Dull Blade” being an exception. Kotono Mitsuishi (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sailor Moon) delivers a monologue from Mei Mei about what drove her to achieve her strength while in the tunnels with the aura of a shonen protagonist but the swagger of someone who is definitely not. Of course, it is Kenjirou Tsuda (The Way of the Househusband, Yu-Gi-Oh!) who steals the show as Nanami beats the shit out of Haruta. The actor has the ability to exude nobility and malice in equal parts and really digs deep for a much more growling Nanami than the series previously allowed before immediately switching back into calm once the deed is done. Bonus points go to Dio Brando himself, Takehito Koyasu. Koyasu has been doing an excellent job in his performance of the hitman Toji who, against all odds, also re-entered the story this week. His very casual dismissal of exactly how that’s happened fits the menacing power that made it possible and it’s my opinion that Koyasu was a perfect choice especially for what’s to come.
What is to come are significantly more substantial battles than the arc has had up to this point – Yuji encountering the first of many curses wanting a shot at him, for one. The Shibuya arc has wavered back and forth in its setup phase but now that all the pieces are in place, Jujutsu Kaisen is set to hit the gas and not touch the brake again till everything is done. Those jokes in the episode previews about Microsoft Excel are probably the last bit of brevity we’ll see this season.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is available now on Crunchyroll.
Featured Image © Gege Akutami/Shueisha, JUJUTSU KAISEN Project
'Jujutsu Kaisen' - "Dull Blade" - 8/10