Jujutsu Kaisen vol. 9 – Gege Akutami

4 out of 5

And so I continue the ride of not caring about Jujutsu Kaisen, …and then suddenly caring very much. Back and forth, I keep thinking this title is just another shonen fight manga, but Gege keeps poking and prodding at potentially deeper and more interesting things, and then will turnaround – as he does in the chapters in the last half of this volume – and use those things to make us better understand the characters, and appreciate the story.

Volume 9 is almost all flashback, following up on Satoru Gojo’s time as a student (the hidden inventory arc, started last tankobon), and pretty much doing the “average” Jujutsu thing at first of just pitting sorcerers against curses and having people fly across the screen and unleash crazy attacks and yadda yadda fight manga. On the plus side, it’s a prime version of this stuff: I’m either fully understanding of Akutami’s style, in which he crops out a lot of the image and zooms in very intensely on little blips of motion or a character’s response to something that’s occurring off panel, or the creator is getting better at illustrating his intentions, but the motion and action all reads very cleanly, here. I no longer feel like we’re just whipping out powers to draw something cool, and instead, the choreography and showdown feels motivated. It’s entertaining, just not anything much beyond that surface entertainment.

However, the outcome of this first half proves to be what informs Suguru Geto’s shift toward “the dark side,” and that’s where Akutami’s strength with more emotive, intelligent dialogue comes around again, and dammit, yes, I will continue wishing this was a more consistent component of the title. In most manga – or indeed most comics, or cartoons, or whatever, in which we have people we’d consider “good” and “bad” the inciting event that triggers someone to switch sides and the actual switch are all often pretty black and white. It’s something that happens suddenly. And while it’s not like Gege draws this out over hundreds of pages, the way he expresses Geto’s shift is very believable – it’s grounded in rational thought, and not a kneejerk reaction. This syncs really well with what we’ve seen of his personality in the present timeline, and I’m hopeful that Akutami will explore the character a bit more, although we do catch back up to current events in the final chapter.

The juxtaposition between the two halves of volume 9 really shows the two “styles” of Jujutsu – the wild, inventive action and the more thoughtful, character-based aspects – and thus also happily drives home what has, on occasion, set this title apart. My dream is for Gege to more tightly bind these styles together, which I feel was the case earlier on in the series, but as long as there’s at least a backbone of the latter supporting the title, it remains entertaining, and surely worth a read.