All Work and No Play – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Nine)
And so Jujutsu Kaisen finally deals with one of the most horrific subjects: going to the movies (*lightning crash sound effect*). Okay, so it maybe isn’t for the same reasons that people are avoiding the movies (an other public gatherings) in the year 2020, but my point stands. Although, global situations would be on the back of anybody’s mind if they saw three high school students who had their heads contorted much in the same way a three-year-old child plays with Play-Doh. It’s…not a pretty sight. I mean, the students in question were jerks who beat up a kid and made him eat a cigarette butt—in the hopes of letting them “bang” an equally cruel classmate of theirs—but they still probably didn’t deserve to have their skulls crushed like an empty can. The fact that we know anything about these jerks is due to our insight into Fringe (that isn’t his name, I just haven’t remembered it yet…and he has a fringe). As the one being bullied in the aforementioned scenario, Fringe has mixed feelings about the mysterious curse who murdered the bullies. Though Fringe doesn’t seem to be an inherently evil character, it’s interesting to see how his trauma leads him to strike up a conversation with the curse—even asking if he could injure in the same manner. A big part of establishing Fringe (whose name I will eventually learn) as a complex character is his own somewhat-twisted philosophy: “If there was a button that would make everyone I hate die, I probably wouldn’t push it. But if there was a button that would make everyone who hated me die, I’d push it without hesitation.” Though definitely a dark thought, it shows that his anger is decidedly born from fear and frustration; he doesn’t care about vengeance, only retribution. Although, that’s a fine line to walk when people are being stretched like Blu Tack.
Outside of school drama, this episode also gives Itadori a little time back in the spotlight; although, not as much as his new mentor, Salaryman (again, not his name, but I’ll learn it eventually). I was honestly surprised with how much time we spent inside Salaryman’s head, learning about his personality and the unique way in which he sees the business of sorcery. Though he definitely exists as a foil to Gojo, he is quirky in his own specific way and plays well amongst the cast. Also, his ability to land a critical hit on any opponent as long as he strikes the seven-to-three ratio point is an awesomely interesting one. Salaryman himself states how this allows him to injure opponents above his own power level, showcasing just how impressive cursed techniques in this series can be—especially since he uses a blunt blade to slice an opponent in two. Itadori also get the chance to show off his personal technique, which is an odd combination of both his strengths and weaknesses. Apparently, Itadori’s cursed energy can’t keep up with his raw power, resulting in a lag that cause his strikes to impact twice (once with physical power; once with cursed energy). The concept that Itadori’s flaws make him a sorcerer to be reckoned with is pretty in tune with the series—as is the case with his empathetic nature. That being said, it’s nice to see that the more stern characters still show compassion to Itadori’s mindset, such as when the doctor made sure he knew that his technically-human opponents were dead before Itadori even fought them. Oh, did I not mention that Itadori fought humans? Well, he kinda did. See, apparently the curse who killed those students can warp humans into an approximation of a curse, complete with cursed energy. It’s messed up, no two ways about it. Oh, he’s also a special-grade apparition—a curse born from a collective fear held by humanity. Remember Volcano Head? Yeah, him and his crew were born from humanity’s primal fear of the planet’s environments. And the guy who killed those kids? He was born from humanity’s fear of humans. That’s some deep, twisted stuff right there, and whatever those guys are planning can’t be good…though I still want to see it. You know, because it’s fiction and can’t actually hurt me…right?
To Dai With Pride – Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai (Episode Nine)
Dragon Quest just pulled off its best episode yet. The final battle with Crocodine was absolutely insane, and we finally got the pay off with Popp refusing to be a coward any longer—stepping into the fray in epic fashion.
With our heroes being left in some truly dire straits suffering the energy blast attack from Crocodine in the previous episode, things looked almost entirely hopeless. However, having witnessed the blast from across town in his hiding spot, Popp realizes that Dai and Maam are well and truly in danger. After receiving some advice from the fake-hero party’s mage, Popp realizes his shame and cowardice and decides to finally become a true student of Avan and charges into battle.
This is where the weeks of frustration I had with Popp finally paid off big time. After seeing him run from battle after battle and leave Dai to die, we had little reason to like or care about Popp. He just didn’t seem to be cut from the same cloth as Dai or even Maam, and it begged the question: what did Avan see in him to begin with? But here we see Popp finally understand Avan’s teachings of what it means to be a hero. Popp says that living as a coward who let his own friends die is more humiliating than dying to Crocodine and is willing to sacrifice himself for both his pride and his friends. He just straight up challenges Crocodine to battle him one-on-one, which he accepts.
Crocodine quite quickly overpowers Popp, but he had a plan. Using what he calls the greatest spell invented by Avan, the Glimmer spell, he frees Brass from the influence and control of the Dark Lord and evens the playing field for Dai, who once again transforms into his Dragon Knight form after seeing Popp’s sacrifice and now knowing that Brass is safe. Popp and Maam are both on death’s door now, but Dai finds himself rejuvenated by his transformed state and, as Popp notes, this form is fuelled by his anger—and Dai is undoubtedly well and truly pissed off right now.
Crocodine ruminates on throwing away his pride and using dirty tactics against Dai and realises he has no choice but to fight on to the bitter end now. In what may be the series’ best sequence yet: Maam casts a heal spell on Popp, which allows him to throw a sword to Dai, who catches it and answers Popp’s cry to use their master’s special move. Dai unleashes the ultimate Avan Strash, defeating Crocodine in glorious style.
After the battle has ended and the dust has settled, Crocodine voices his regret and apologises to Dai. He knows he has shamed himself and his pride as a warrior; he is glad to die by the hands of Dai. Stumbling in pain, Crocodine falls from the balcony of the castle, seemingly to his death. However, we later see the Furfang legion monsters recovering his near-dead body and retreating from the Kingdom, seeming to indicate it may not be the last we have seen of old mate Crocodine. I still hope that Crocodine can return and join Dai. I just like him too much as a character to see his story end here.
As for what lies ahead, well, next week’s preview seems to hint that we will be meeting another student of Avan as Dai and party continue their quest onwards. The series is really hitting its stride now, and I am well and truly on board with these characters and their quest. Popp really earned his stripes here. Good job Adventure of Dai, you made me like the previously utterly unlikeable Popp. I like that.