Manga to Anime; Jujutsu Kaisen Episode 1 Review.
My personal review of Jujutsu Kaisen anime Episode One: Ryomen Sukuna, in comparison to its manga source material.
October 2nd, 2020 marked the beginning of Gege Akutami’s hit manga, Jujutsu Kaisen’s ascension to television. Produced by Toho Productions and Animated by Studio MAPPA, Jujutsu Kaisen has already begun to stand out in the anime community. In a series of pieces I will highlight the differences displayed between Jujutsu Kaisen’s Manga and Anime mediums. Discussing what additions studio MAPPA may have added; what they may have taken out, and how it influences the atmosphere of the story will be he main focal points for each review piece. My intention is to compare and contrast the two mediums pointing out the good and/or bad that comes with an anime adaptation.
Episode One of Jujutsu Kaisen follows the first chapter of the manga from beginning to end and even took on the same title but starts off much differently. Firstly, I feel it is important to express the level of detail MAPPA placed in creating a aura of suspense and mystery to the first episode. Unlike the first chapter, MAPPA’s first episode starts with Yuji waking up tied to a chair in front of Gojo surrounded by tailasmen, the scenery we see in the beginning of Chapter Two of the manga. This is a subtle yet drastic change to the initial atmosphere given by Akutami, but this is far from a bad change. The audience gets automatically thrown into the stakes that Yuji Itadori is in by seeing he is set to be executed but with no prior information as to why which then the episode proceeds into a flash back containing the contents of Chapter one.
In adapting Chapter One MAPPA brings life and a breath of fresh air to the introduction of Yuji’s character by adding anime only scenes with Yuji calling his Grandfather in the Hospital from Home. Here we get to see not only where Yuji lives, but also how he lived on his own while his Grandpa was hospitalized. Also we see Yuji’s Grandpa yell to the Nurses that he shouldn’t come to visit him and that he should be focused on going to his club. This is obviously MAPPA adding more depth to Grandpa Itadori’s last words to Yuji, expressing that he doesn’t end up like him and die alone. This to me was the first indication that MAPPA has studied the source material beyond just adapting it panel for panel, but in a way that gives them full awareness of the emotional depth of the story.
From here on there are very little changes aside from certain perspective changes and Sukuna’s Awakening. What MAPPA begins to focus on from here is creating a palpable atmosphere around curses and Yuji’s regular school life with the Occult Club. For example, Megumi notices a Grade 2 curse on the Rugby field and MAPPA takes the liberty of showing the curse crawl up the field pole while in the manga it was a single panel almost shown to surprise the readers. This is another change that shakes the atmosphere by giving off a “skin crawl” feeling while watching the curse’s movements.
Simultaneously, we get Yuji’s interactions with his classmates and dialogue about his popularity, the humor in Jujutsu Kaisen and Yuji’s willingness to stay in the Occult Club because it makes it easier for him to see his Grandpa while still fulfilling his desire for Yuji to be apart of a club. It is the little details that MAPPA seems to have a focused on which creates a space for manga readers to feel as if they are watching something new while not compromising what they already know and even amplifying it.
The death of Grandpa Itadori was handled in a way that felt more emotional than in the manga due to the Soundtrack, the choice to make the background silent and only Yuji’s tears being heard, plus the amazing voice acting. This moment was meant to show Yuji’s first loss of his family and felt closer to a moment of development for his character in the anime, than just a moment of unfortunate circumstances like in the manga. While Akutami’s panelling and word choice created an atmosphere that appealed to the reader’s natural sense of sympathy due to Yuji’s loss, MAPPA made the audience feel more connected to Yuji’s personality in a way only anime adaptations can.
Actually hearing a character’s goofiness feels much more real for people than reading, and when you see these characters have emotional moments it feels more in depth, relatable and at times saddening. It creates an atmosphere for first time watchers to question who Yuji is and what affects him on an emotional level. This continues in his moments alone outside the school when the curses attack, where MAPPA shows Yuji in more scenes contemplating the fear he was feeling than Akutami’s original.
When adapting a Battle Shonen manga, it is obvious the action is one of the most important factors and MAPPA does not disappoint. Taking the simple movements of Megumi running up the school stairs and turning it into a moment of suspense and chills takes true talent. From the crisp animation of his summonings, to the voice acting and execution of cursed energized attacks immerses you in the series beyond what any regular anime adaptation could. Expanding on the ending action scene of Chapter One, and having Yuji actually fight a curse and be put in a situation where it felt almost necessary for him to consume Sukuna’s finger while also not compromising the the feeling that Yuji must be slightly insane for making such a drastic decision.
Overall, Jujutsu Kaisen Episode One was beyond my personal expectations and the expectations of many other viewers. MAPPA’s debut of Jujutsu Kaisen has found a way to feel like its own entity while clearly staying true to its original source material. The animation was fantastic but the voice actors and sound board team has brought that animation to life using their respective skill sets. If first episodes are indications of the entire seasons, then MAPPA has clearly expressed their passion and hardwork will make Jujutsu Kaisen flourish. One cannot help but be excited for more and as a long time fan of the manga I feel grateful.