There are two standout combat sequences that exemplify the strength of an artist’s vision in Jujutsu Kaisen “Thunderclap.” While there have been standout sequences of animation since the start of the Shibuya Arc, “Thunderclap” is the strongest, most consistently animated episode since the season’s opening, prequel arc. Moving with grace and fluidity of motion that settles into a distinctive, hypnotic rhythm, Season 2 Episode 16 is the strongest episode of the series barring “Premature Death,” which continues to be an astonishing standout.
Directed by Itsuki Tsuchigami, the episode is infused with his electric style, evident by the very first standoff between Toji and Megumi in a stylized fight that plays off of the frenzied movement of Megumi in particular. There’s both a visual delight in him calling upon his Rabbit Escape as well as a narrative one. Watching as the rabbits are torn to pieces and their martial arts allows for a dynamic sequence that flies through the air in tandem with the rabbits. It also, however, plays with Megumi’s realization of Sakuna’s presence in Shibuya. He is the prey, and Sukuna is the apex predator, with Toji himself being no easy feat either.
Their standoff which really is just Megumi having the shit kicked out of him — again — is superb, shot with the right about of weighted physicality, and Megumi’s body is throttled and slammed into passing buildings and cars. Toji’s strength is immense and the direction captures that while also utilizing a balletic style of direction. The rippling lines that hint at his musculature and the way his walk suggests danger. Megumi makes it out of their battle alive, but just, and it’s because of Toji’s soul realizing who Megumi is that spares him.
However, our relief for Megumi is short-lived, with Haruta jumping him in a final moment, somehow having survived being bashed in by Nanami episodes prior.
The Toji and Megumi brawl introduces one of the strongest aspects of the episode that heightens it to its grandiosity which is how it approaches scale. From shots from the floorboards that creak and crunch under Toji’s power, to the way in which Panda and Kusakabe are framed when they confront followers of Geto’s original doctrine, there’s a scaled aspect of the direction so that every threat looms larger. From a fly that’s caught in the wavelength of a sorcerer, to the way glass melts when compressed by the power of Sukuna and Jogo, the details of the episode are proven just as integral in demonstrating the sheer destruction wrought.
Because the final battle between Sukuna and Jogo is suitably catastrophic. Energized with a kinetic, whiplash energy as Sukuna takes to the skies to evade Jogo’s attempts, there’s never a doubt of who is the cat and who is the mouse in this scenario. We see this in the animation of Sukuna’s facial expressions, devilish and gleeful in setting an entire city ablaze when its destruction was hardly a second thought, happy simply to revel in the mass death he’s brought with his awakening. His pervasive evil is best shown when he forces Panda, Kusakabe, and co., to stand idle as a meteor rapidly flies towards them, only allowing them to make a desperate run for it in mere seconds to save their lives.
The meteor itself proves another example of clever animation. It engulfs the city to a degree where, for a moment, it looks like day has broken before it all is consumed in smoke and ash and nightfall once more. The work of Tsuchigami in “Thunderclap” cannot be understated, his singular vision bringing with him the most visually distinct and playfully rendered episode of the season. There’s contained chaos in his direction, from the way Sukuna prowls the floors of skyscrapers in pursuit with horrific results, to the flames he later weaves to draw a bow and arrow made of fire.
The episode is big, and bold, and maintains coherency despite the unraveling action. Jogo dies, Megumi is on the brink of death, and Sukuna continues his reign of terror as his followers begin to come forth. No matter how action-packed the episode is, there’s no denying the increasing, overwhelming sensation of heart-pounding dread that “Thunderclap” inspires. Our protagonists, out one Gojo, are entirely out of their depth to the point where it’s beginning to feel hopeless. Tsuchigami bottles that dread, that hopelessness, and delivers an episode that captures that unsteadiness as the action quakes with the same fear as bystanders to the rampage.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is available now to stream on Crunchyroll.
Featured Image © Gege Akutami/Shueisha, JUJUTSU KAISEN Project
Jujutsu Kaisen - “Thunderclap” - 9/10