What happens when the strongest hero, the last defense in any other situation, is taken out first? Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 Episode 9, “The Shibuya Incident – Gate, Open” preys on that fear, as we watch as Satoru Gojo, the strongest jujutsu sorcerer, is captured and his composure lost. For maybe the first time in the series, we watch as he’s stunned, the shock evident on his face, and takes a step backward as his fate, along with his body, is sealed.
The episode begins with ominous foreboding that also works as a diabolical misdirect, as we’re given footage of what Gojo’s students and peers think of him. Yuji rightfully realizes he’d be dead without him, while Megumi belligerently relents to him being his benefactor. Many call him an idiot, along with being flippant and egotistical. They all agree on one thing though: his undeniable, unshakeable strength.
And we see that strength in action in the opening moment as Gojo continues to face off with Hanami and Jogo, though their threats are comically minimal. We’re given the most interesting design for Gojo thus far, going far beyond pretty as his face contorts and morphs into something near monstrous as he stalks his prey. Unleashed, feral, this is a cat playing with his food. Directed by Teppei Okuda, the initial fight scenes between Gojo, Hanami, and Jogo are instilled with balletic brutality, as Gojo leaps and maims, the dexterity and textural animation seen in the fluidity of his hands as he flexes his fingers before grasping and yanking the branches — eyes — out of Hanami’s skull.
The sequence of Gojo racing around the crowd to kill all of the cursed humans is similarly graceful, the animation working in tandem with the sheer carnage for greater, haunting imagery. There are hints of Devilman Crybaby in the style, from the way Gojo runs, low to the ground and animalistic, to the blood smears that fly through the air, splattering innocent bystanders and would-be victims if his ploy didn’t work. This is a version of Gojo contorted from the inhumane violence he’s witnessed and dispersed. This is Gojo sans his usual composure, it’s Gojo on edge.
And that’s just where Geto needs him. He’s killed 1,000 cursed, transformed humans in 299 seconds. Gojo isn’t defeated, yet, but he lacks his usual, immaculate control, captured by the labored breathing, and the blood on his face that isn’t his own. His domain expansion infinite void would’ve caused irreparable damage to the humans in the vicinity if he wasn’t able to enact his warpath at this speed, so while it may have spared lives at the moment, it also might’ve further damned them as it has now put him at risk.
The strongest element of the episode arrives in the dissonance, the discordance, between the wreckage Gojo just wrought followed by the “sealing” sequence. The laws of this world are often confusing — convoluted even at its worst — but this moment lands because we don’t need to understand the intricacies of the rules to feel the devastation of Gojo seeing Geto, having believed him dead. Now, more monster than man, a stark comparison to how Gojo often veers more god than human, he can hardly recognize the man before him — his old friend. The defiance in Gojo’s stance and in the performance by Yuichi Nakamura, spells out his refusal to accept Geto as he stands, no matter the drooling cursed spirit spooling out of the top of his head.
“My six eyes tells me you’re Suguru Geto, but my soul knows otherwise.”
We very deliberately spent the first part of the season getting to know Gojo better so that when this moment occurs we’re left wholly unmoored, grasping for a level of emotional balance. Gojo is all-powerful, it’s mentioned many times in “The Shibuya Incident – Gate, Open” alone. He is the most powerful jujutsu sorcerer alive. Yet, for now, he’s been silenced. The score by Hiroaki Tsutsumi, Yoshimasa Terui, and Alisa Okehazama adds to the developing feeling of dread, with the first portion of the episode truly dealing with Jaws-esque monster movie influences, slow beats, and mounting pressure. The pivot it takes following Gojo’s frenzied slaughtering adds to that expedited heartache, going from action-movie mayhem to melancholy, to true horror.
We end on a note of foreboding melancholy, with Yuji getting the notice that Gojo has been sealed. Geto makes his parting remarks, promising that “We’ll meet again in the new world.” Gojo being sealed marks a major loss for our heroes who had already been facing impossible odds, aided only by having a near all-powerful god on their side. The episode succeeds by playing on certain expectations — we anticipate Gojo’s win. We watch as he gleefully takes apart his adversaries, exorcizing Hanami is a brutal blast of energy and performs unfathomable acts of might and intellect in order to save as many as he can while understanding he can’t save them all.
Gojo’s not supposed to lose, it goes against what the series has taught us so far. But he does, and with the type of stumbling and incoherence unnatural to him, making his wilted, restrained appearance all the more troubling as he enters the so-called “prison realm.”
The battle has only just begun and hell has been unleashed.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is available now on Crunchyroll.
Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll/MAPPA
Rating - 9/10