While being a messy, complicated, and hounded-by-controversy episode of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2, “Thunderclap, Part 2” still manages to deliver a number of devastating moments. As MAPPA continues to face a barrage of pushback from its animators, directors, and creative team due to poor working conditions and unreasonable schedules, there’s an air of triumph for the episode being run at all. Directed and storyboarded by Hakuyu Go, Harumi Yamazaki, and Itsuki Tsuchigami, the episode is dwarfed by the superior “Thunderclap” when it comes to cohesion, scale, and impact but there’s no doubt the lasting effect works with haunting imagery that seeks to sting.
Perhaps one of the smartest and most emotionally effective creative decisions is to bookend the episode with Yuji Itadori, his wide-eyed innocence permanently stolen from him. In the opening, we’re reminded of his conversation with her grandfather where he made a commitment to be good and try to help as many lives as he is able. In the closing, he begs for death. His desperate, pleading, “die now” directed at himself, not Sukuna, is heartbreaking because we know that even if he wasn’t the one to cause such monumental destruction, he’ll always see the blood on his hands. It’s a simple trick to show us a moment of Yuji pre-wreckage, but it works because the difference between the Yuji we knew who’d had a taste of the evils of the world but had remained clear-minded, who’d retained a level of naivety, is gone. Sukuna releases control of the body, and the Yuji who awakens is battle-scarred by a fight he didn’t actually partake in, suffering the traumatic effects of the senseless, brutal deaths he had no chance of stopping. How does he recover from this?
Junta Enoki’s voice performance is tremendous even in just the small moment at the end as Yuji speeds through reckoning with the gaping crater that’s leveled Shibuya, the sickened grief evident in his delivery. Yuji’s only option is to fight, otherwise, in his mind, he becomes only a murderer. For how convoluted the Jujutsu Kaisen plot can often be it’s always an interesting reminder that while Yuji acts as our main protagonist, he’s one whose mission is to effectively walk towards death and accept that fate.
That said, while the emotional moments hit, the visuals do ultimately leave something lacking, mainly in the fight between Sukuna and Mahoraga. The best animation happens in the contortions of character faces, such as Megumi’s when he lets loose Mahorago in a suicide run, or anytime Sukuna’s morphs into something monstrous. The second best animation is when we get a taste of the full catastrophe of the event such as aerial shots that display the gaping hole left where Shibuya once stood, or the ground shots of the will-be victims who believe they’re going to be saved. But the action loses that comprehension.
There’s no denying that what the animators have managed to pull off in such a short period of time is nothing short of miraculous. There are moments of dizzying highs such as Sukuna’s Domain that unleashes a whirlwind of vibrant destruction, or the way blood bleaches its way across grayscale pavement and a dark world that speaks to obvious skill. But while “Thunderclap” allowed for an industry titan to throw his distinctive, visual flavor into the mix, “Thunderclap, Part 2” is a furious race to the finish line with certain frames looking unfinished. And listen, Neon Genesis: Evangelion is a personal favorite — I’ve seen the lengths gone to adapt and deal with a minimized budget or other constraints. But MAPPA has the budget, has the resources, and while this is certainly an industry problem and not just MAPPA it’s disheartening to see because what they were able to accomplish given the circumstances begs the question of what they could do without those constricting schedules.
The series has yet to delay the release of episodes unlike series such as Nier: Automata Ver1.1a or Zom 100, but at this point, it seems a likely necessity for the wellbeing of staff. Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 has been one of incredible highs of some of the best animation the industry has to offer as well as clunky, unfinished lows. The Shibuya Incident arc remains powerful, and “Thunderclap, Part 2”, after the wreckage, is demonstrative of the human element of the fight and all that’s being lost amidst it. As the behind the scenes continues to face tumultuous conditions, it will be interesting to see how things are rallied as we approach the last run of the season, with the odds both in front of and behind the camera facing mounting odds.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is available now to stream on Crunchyroll.
Featured Image © Gege Akutami/Shueisha, JUJUTSU KAISEN Project
Jujutsu Kaisen — “Thunderclap, Part 2” - 7/10