Jujutsu Kaisen

Art & Story by: Gege Akutami

First issue: March 2018

Genres: Action, Supernatural, Horror

What it's about: Yuji Itadori's easy life changes when he swallows the rotting finger of Ryomen Sukuna, the most powerful among supernatural entities called Curses. Yuck. Now sharing his body with Sukuna, Yuji is approached by the mysterious Curse-fighting people known as Jujutsu sorcerers, who offer him a choice: be executed now, or hunt down and consume all of Sukuna's remaining body parts and be executed then, to end Sukuna once and for all, along with himself.

First impressions: Some of the most successful Jump series of all time — Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto — have this one trope in common: the trope of the protagonist having a clear-cut goal in mind from the start. Young Goku wants to find the seven Dragon Balls. Luffy wants to be Pirate King. Naruto wants to be Hokage. An endpoint is established at the beginning of the story. And the rest of the plot revolves around reaching this endpoint. It's easy to see why this often results in success: it gives top-down focus to the writing, keeps the plot tight.

Jujutsu Kaisen (I always end up calling it Ju Ju Hakusho, for some reason) takes this trope and subverts it by making the endpoint a bleak and morbid one: Yuji's inevitable death. It's a bold move by the writer, and poorly handling the finale either way (either chickening out from killing him or having him die in an unsatisfying way) is sure to result in serious backlash. But for now, it keeps things interesting. It gives everything Yuji does a slightly sad tinge, knowing the end he is actively working towards. Makes you cherish the time you get to spend with him now.

And he's a pretty decent character to spend time with. He's not a loud and obnoxious kid, but instead he's quite easygoing. He's also slightly off in the head, which makes him an overall interesting guy. The way he introduces himself to the principal of the Jujutsu school is priceless:

I wonder if JLaw reads manga?

The humour is one of JJK's strong points. There is a good variety, ranging from the very dry to the very absurd, with some witty dialogue.

Perhaps the least impressive aspect of JJK is its art. Though it's technically competent (although the action is a bit hard to follow), the character designs can be quite generic. Yuji's mentor, Satoru Gojo, looks like Kakashi from Naruto wearing his mask the wrong way. Doesn't help that they're both mentor figures.

Where the art truly shines is in the creepy monster designs. And not all of them are creepy: some are actually rather funny, accentuated by these monsters saying rather strange and absurd things ("Do you need a receipt?", says one Curse that looks like Ugandan Knuckles with spider legs). This mix of creepy and funny, combined with the art shifts, reminds me of Shigeru Mizuki's classic yokai manga Gegege no Kitaro. Perhaps that's where the author gets their name from?

Who will enjoy this: Jujutsu Kaisen is classic action shonen, with elements of horror. You have to be into shonen to appreciate it. There is not enough atmosphere here for fans of full-blown horror manga.

Similar manga: While JJK's premise is closest to that of Parasyte, in terms of tone and feel it is closer to supernatural action-horror titles like Yu Yu Hakusho, Blue Exorcist, Tokyo Ghoul, and Bleach.

How long it will last: Of the three titles mentioned today, JJK is easily the most popular. An anime adaptation by MAPPA has already been announced. It neatly slots into the magazine's 'horror' slot that The Promised Neverland will soon vacate. And with an ending that readers don't really want to see, it can go on for as long as it wants without suffering. This could be the next long-term hit for Weekly Shonen Jump.