Jujutsu Kaisen vol. 6 – Gege Akutami

3 out of 5

As recently as the last tankobon collection of Jujutsu Kaisen, creator Gege Akutami had displayed his skillful manipulation of shonen tropes into something incredibly satisfying on that primal, action-heavy, cheeky level, while also offering a lot of character depth, intelligently applied lore, and fascinating tip-toes into commentary on morality, and intentions, and more. The Tokyo vs. Kyoto school battle featured therein was a blast, and built up to a killer twist in which the Mahito-led special grade curses revealed themselves as sitting on the sidelines…

Volume 6 follows up on that cliffhanger, but Akutami appears to have written himself into a corner at this point, falling back on some of those same tropes he’d been directly avoiding: the non-sensible power-oneupping; the flat, “be the best you can be!” protag dialogue and villainous murmurings; and the kind of senseless, ‘why was that necessary?’ vibe that occurs once the battle is over. There are plenty of positives wended throughout this, as Gege’s improved paneling and scene-setting is maintained across the extended, frenetic battle between Yuji and Aoi and the plant / flower-fueled Hanami curse – although some of the splash panels don’t work well in the tankobon format – and the overall pacing is still to be commended, as, despite its inclusion of cliches, things are wrapped up briskly and paced effectively, but the main things lacking are the organic flow the series has heretofore applied, and the emotional weightiness that’s carried us through all of the antics. Instead, things roll out here as a consequence of being written to this position, and they make sense within that context – Yuji and Aoi play off of each other the way that might be expected, given their personalities – but, again, that position / context feels like very typical shonen fare: Aoi holds back on helping Yuji during a critical battle just so Yuji can go extra-OP; the other curses / sorcerers actions besides Hanami and our lead duo are strictly filler; and Hanami is written rather blandly, much less (hyuck) “human” than he / its come across in previous moments. I suppose when you’re working at whatever the pace Shonen Jump demands, plotting hiccups can happen, but I hope Gege is able to swing us back to a stronger position with the next set of entries.