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’Jujutsu Kaisen’ review: “The Shibuya Incident” momentarily stalls out

By September 15, 2023No Comments4 min read
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 Episode 8 The Shibuya Incident

It’s amazing how one, singular sequence can derail the momentum of a story to a grinding halt. In Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 Episode 8, “The Shibuya Incident,” that moment comes by way of a giant locus curse. It’s a bizarrely paced sequence that, despite some character highlights, is indicative of the general, peculiar tone the episode strikes. With some messy animation and a lot of place setting as characters are positioned for whatever is set to come next, “The Shibuya Incident” is the weakest installment of season two so far. 

Part of that is by design of having to, once again, move characters to where they’ll be stationed for the oncoming drama. Itadori is racing alongside Mei to where another veil has dropped near the Meiji Shrine station, and the episode takes pains in showing the beat-for-beat trajectory. There’s no jumping from point A to point B, and instead, the episode shows us the middle portion as well for the fight sequence between Itadori and the Locust. 

It’s on the messier side of things, with too much blurred to manifest a sense of chaos and speed. Despite the lack of flashiness that others possess, Itadori’s muscular style of combat often allows for tremendous feats of animated impact but is let down here. It’s a fight with little stakes — there’s no doubt this will be an easy win for Itadori — but what it lacks in tension and, unfortunately, animation, it makes up for by reminding us of a core element to our protagonist: his kindness. Itadori began his journey with the hope of helping those suffering, to be a beacon so that no one had to die alone. Here, having killed the locust, he kneels beside it, offering a prayer in passage. His generosity and want to help others and the kindness in which he does so (compared to Gojo, who has a similar aim with less considerate execution) bolsters the series — we need a hero like this amidst so much pervasive darkness. 

This is why it’s such a shame the animation is so lacking, especially considering Jujutsu Kaisen so clearly being MAPPA’s greatest focus. There’s similar glaring dissonance in earlier moments too, such as a scene with Mei and Itadori where the foreground fails to marry well with the background, creating a bizarre, video game-style aesthetic for a beat. The episode does better with details — such as Itadori’s face and the minute wince when he realizes the death and destruction that lay ahead of him, done by Mahito’s cruelty. 

The mayhem of the episode and the carnage it leads to is best depicted in the scenes with Gojo, as he faces off with some of those under Geto’s influence, Hanami and Jogo. We’re well aware now of the infinite power Gojo possesses — we’ve heard of it as well as seen it in action. Geto advises Hanami and Jogo that the best way to try and contain that power is to confront him in a busy area, which answers the question as to why the train station is so crucial. With so many innocent, powerless bystanders, Gojo will be hard-pressed to unleash his full might in fear of harming those around him. 

The causalities are already racking up. From Mahito’s transformed victims to those attacked by Jogo and Hanami, the underground scenes capture an overwhelming sense of foreboding, helped still by the time stamps to let viewers know how little time has passed since this arc began. If this is still early in the night, three hours out from midnight, how much worse can this hostage situation get? Jogo and Hanami were told to keep Gojo occupied for twenty minutes, at which point Geto could arrive with something called the “prison realm.” In any other episode, that amount of time would seem laughable, the expectation being that Gojo could easily win this standoff as we’ve seen him win against both before. But again, that ticking clock is a time bomb — literally. Manga reader or not, based on the format and the omnipresent sensation of pure dread, we know something horrific is about to take place. We just don’t know what. But it’s that foreboding that signifies that, for whatever reason, twenty minutes doesn’t seem like enough. 

The scenes with Gojo work to establish that tone and introduce the main antagonist players of what’s to come, the score in particular drumming up our anxiety with notes and cues that seem stolen from Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s score for Annihilation. This is fitting, considering Jujutsu Kaisen “The Shibuya Incident” conjures up a similar pit in your stomach feeling. Itadori’s story might lack due to the mechanics of getting characters to their starting zones, but there’s no denying the tension of the episode as we gear up to watch a nightmare unleash its fury. 

Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is available now on Crunchyroll

Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll/MAPPA

  • ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ - “The Shibuya Incident” - 6.5/10
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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