3 out of 5
The rollercoaster ride of viewing Jujutsu Kaisen as typical shonen fight manga versus something more character- and lore-driven continues… but I think I’m coming to a conclusion: that Gege Akutami’s debut ongoing has developed into a very good shonen fight manga, but that will remain its core. The character spotlights have turned out to be just that – spotlights; temporary asides that show off some between-panel thinkins regarding curse sorcery and Jujutsu school structure and the more rightly ambivalent “nature” of good or evil… but ultimately these resolve into a little bit of noise between crazy acrobatic fights. And though I do think Akutami has a lot of this stuff truly mapped out in his brain, the between-chapter half-assed “this stuff is hard to explain!” editorials have become a bit more eye-rolling than charming; it has started to feel more like an unlearned writing skill as of yet, as opposed to information that is being seeded into the text. I’ve been on the fence on a lot of this, but by volume 10, I think things have swung back and forth enough to convince me of the definitive side on which we fall.
…But that is starting with the bad, and burying the lede of the good which I’d mentioned above: that viewed this way, I can relax and accept that JK is a really solid bit of distraction, with inventive character designs and fantastically visualized spells, and a likeable cast of OP protags. Akutami’s art in this volume is especially good, finding a balance between his sketchy, loose representation of high-kicking motion, and some appreciatively detailed backgrounds and settings. (And / or his assistants have gotten better.) I was able to realize the settings of the arcs in this book – a wild Mechamaru fight, and a violent Gojo-focused underground subway fight – which hasn’t always been the case, but was equally able to follow the choreography. And tonally, Gege was easily transitioning in and out of these moments to dialogue, without the reliance on knee-jerk flashbacks. (Something that, again, I found initially suggestive of depth, but later came to feel like fallback techniques to sidle around consistent plotting.)
It sounds like Gege is taking a break on JK for a while, though I believe there’s still enough material for several more English language tankobons. I don’t know that I’ll be buying them in print, but while the title has proven not for me, I do think it’s a strength that it’s become more identifiable and comfortable in its own skin along the way. The rating on this volume thus could really shoot up for fans who like big battles with some spell gobbledy-gook mixed in, but for me, I appreciated the artistry, but realized I felt really disengaged from Itadori and his finger-huntin’ plight at this point – and for several volumes now. As that was part of the initial draw, feelings above that appreciative baseline have stalled.