Jujutsu Kaisen trades the deliberate cinematography from its previous episode for some real juicy sakuga in “Fluctuations.” The fight to retrieve Gojo is becoming more violent for our sorcerers the further they go into Shibuya station, and “Fluctuations” ups the ante by pulling multiple characters into a single fight sequence against one of the nature manifestations and drawing a sizable amount of blood. Overall, the episode hedges more on a more traditional Shonen brawl than other episodes this season, but thanks to some high stakes and a fun power explanation, “Fluctuations” continues the hot streak that Jujutsu Kaisen has been on recently.
“Fluctuations” starts first by resolving another fight before the opening. Mei Mei and Ui Ui are still trapped in a disease curse’s domain and trying to avoid the threatening guaranteed hit – in this case, becoming inflicted with the disease the curse represents. That nature of domains comes up a bit throughout “Fluctuations,” and it’s honestly kind of impressive that Jujutsu Kaisen has managed to write around the domain concept and get away with it. By design, domains are meant to be an auto-hit on those trapped within it. However, with the introduction of countermeasures like Simple Domain and the skills shown off by the grade 1 sorcerers have complicated that concept greatly.
Case in point: Mei Mei quickly figures out that the domain of the curse actually has stages by instinctively disrupting that flow. She then has Ui Ui take a risk by unleashing his own energy to retarget himself and buy her an opening. This allows Mei Mei to neutralize the domain and curse without needing to fight back with her own. Later in the episode, we’ll see another example of a different way to disrupt a domain as well, and while it does kind of make domains feel less of a threat requiring a stronger one, it does also variate these fights in a different way. This move was probably best for the story, even as it is a bit of a retcon.
After the opening credits, Nanami has caught up with Maki and her shit-talking uncle Naobito Zen’in, the head of the clan that cut her out. He tries to convince Nanami to cut Maki out of this mission as well, but after she points out he’s already drunk Nanami (rightfully this time) decides there’s still strength in numbers and allows her to stay with the group. They encounter the fourth embodiment that hasn’t had much screen time besides being cute to this point, Dagon. Immediately, Naobito begins flexing on his colleagues without even explaining his technique, forcing Dagon out of his cute state and really starts to fight back with his water powers. Once again, the voice performances shine here, as Naobito undercuts Dagon’s attempts to be threatening and self-actualizing with admittedly valid criticism of motion smoothing on televisions and people who keep taking anime clips and reuploading them on YouTube at 60 frames per second. I’m not saying Naobito is a good guy, but he’s not wrong here – it is uncivilized.
It turns out this rant is actually Naobito explaining his technique – Projection. He’s able to break down time into 24 frames of animation and plan out his motions within that time frame and everything he touches also gets put in this perspective. His mastery of the technique makes him incredibly fast despite his age, but what it really does is let the anime show off a bit behind the curtain of production. In demonstrating this technique, Jujutsu Kaisen shows the actual animation frames of the scene, in glorious pencil, then going further by showing a render of an actual anime production page for Jujutsu Kaisen to demonstrate the process. Fourth wall breaks like this is just the right kind of levity and is a great reminder of one of Jujutsu Kaisen’s recurring themes – that our normal common world inspires the powers of the series.
Dagon does drag the three into his domain, putting them all on the back foot and while everything is vivid and well animated, particularly the proper sakuga throughout, it’s harder to call out specific moments like in “Red Scale.” This is mostly owed to “Fluctuations” being a bit more straightforward and needing to keep far more pieces moving, so it’s not bad but it is more familiar. In fact, this section of the season might be the most downright Shonen the series has been in a long while. There’s no end in sight for this trajectory though, as the episode climaxes with Megumi joining the fight and attempting to get his allies out; only for Toji to waltz in with a smug shot that is frankly the best of the episode.
“Fluctuations” is a bit of a downswing from the high of “Red Scale,” but not in a truly negative way. The episode is more in line with what we should be expecting as the arc transitions properly into full on battle mode. What matters most is Jujutsu Kaisen hasn’t lost sight of the most important beats and the animation team is finding new opportunities to stand out from the manga.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is available now on Crunchyroll.
Featured Image © Gege Akutami/Shueisha, JUJUTSU KAISEN Project
‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ - “Fluctuations” - 8/10