Manga featuring the occult and supernatural are a dime a dozen in the Shōnen genre, but Jujutsu Kaisen has been making waves as the new kid on the block with something to prove. Running in the Shōnen Jump magazine for over a year and growing a passionate and vocal fanbase in that time, Jujutsu Kaisen has already established itself as a solid title. With the recently announced anime adaptation fast approaching, that popularity is set to explode. So now that the first volume is finally here, does it have the potential to be the next big Shōnen hit? Read on to find out if Jujutsu Kaisen volume 1 is worth reading!
I’m from Jujutsu Highschool
As I mentioned earlier, Supernatural fiction is no stranger to the pages of ShōnenJump. Perhaps most famously with the likes of the smash-hit Bleach. Even more recent examples like the action-orientated Blue Exorcist and comedy focused Mitama Security: Spirit Busters prove this. There is lots of room to explore the concept and plenty of potential to tell both serious and comedic storylines. It was a pleasant surprise then, to see from the very first page of chapter 1 of Jujutsu Kaisen that we see a unique mix of both. We meet our protagonist, Yuji Itadori, in the middle of what looks to be serious occult club business. In reality, it’s just a bunch of friends goofing off (much to the chagrin of the School Council President!).
This charming humour pops up quite frequently throughout the first chapter, and continues throughout the volume, making for a very entertaining read. That being said, this is by no means just a comedy manga. Indeed, in the first chapter alone, we see some pretty rough stuff happen to our protagonist. Like the sprinkles of comedy we receive, these hardships continue throughout the volume.
Gege Akutami has done a remarkable job in creating a unique tone for this series. Comedy and action are both intertwined, which immediately stands the series out from the standard Shōnencrowd. But Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t done surprising just yet. As the inciting incident that spurs our hero into action might just be one of the most bizarre I’ve ever encountered in manga!
Jujutsu Kaisen Volume 1 spoilers
So, the Occult Research Club that Itadori is a member of, stumble upon something big: a Special Grade cursed object. More specifically the finger of the ferocious demon Ryomen Sukuna. While Itadori is dealing with family business, his fellow club members decide to lift the seal covering the finger. This releases it’s cursed energy in the process, attracting terrifying monsters known as curses to feed off it’s energy. Itadori then teams up with a reluctant first year from Jujutsu Highschool, Megumi Fushiguro, to save his friends and exorcise the curses. Unfortunately, the pair find themselves in a pinch against a powerful curse. In order to fight back and protect his friends, Itadori decides to swallow the finger of the demon. Thus gaining its cursed energy power, but becoming a vessel for Sukuna in the process!
He’s crazy up here
Aside from the comedy, the next thing that’ll stand out to you when reading Jujutsu Kaisen is the characters. By the first 3 (or so) chapters, Akutami successfully introduces us to the core cast of characters through the lens of Jujutsu Highschool, humanity’s headquarters against the world of curses. First of all is the protagonist, Yuji Itadori is a pretty easygoing and straightforward guy. He has exceptional athletic abilities and is also remarkably adaptable as he finds himself dragged into the world of Jujutsu sorcerers and curses. His happy-go-lucky (and perhaps slightly unhinged) nature and loyalty to his friends make him immediately likeable. He compliments the other unique personalities in the core team nicely. Without giving too much away, his fighting technique for taking on curses is unlike anything else we see in this manga!
Next up is Megumi Fushiguro, the first Jujutsu sorcerer Itadori (and the reader) meets, as well as his (and our) gateway into curses. He’s very much the straitlaced, no-nonsense type when compared to the rest of the cast. But, when push comes to shove, he can be as much the hero as Itadori. There’s more to be explored with Fushiguro’s character, so I’m excited to see how Akutami handles him going forward. Also, his chosen method of fighting is summoning various animals to assist him in battle, pretty darn cool!
The last member of the core trinity of Jujutsu Highschool first years is Nobara Kugisaki, and she definitely steals the show. She’s bombastic and self-confident, but we see she’s got the skills. Oh, and a badass cursed hammer to back up her big talk. It’s clear that she has a big heart too, and isn’t afraid to let loose once in a while. Much of the comedy in the later chapters come from Itadori and Kugisaki bouncing off each other, with Fushiguro usually sighing in dismay in the background. They make for quite the trio!
Finally, there’s Satoru Gojo, the mentor for the three knuckleheads mentioned above. He’s a real quirky dude, friendly and outgoing. From what little we’ve seen of him in action, he’s an absolute monster in terms of fighting power. He’s the glue that ties the above group together, and as far as the teacher character-type for these Shōnen character’s go, he’s a delightful character. Like Fushiguro, I hope we see more of him in action as the series continues!
Let it all out
You’ve got the compelling characters. You’ve got the surprising humour. The real kicker for any successful Shōnen battle manga is incredible action. I’m happy to report Jujutsu Kaisen delivers upon that in spades! First off, you’ve got the battle system of curses themselves. Even just among the core cast we see a wide variety of techniques for battling the various curses. It’s explained to us that curses are generated from the various negative emotions and energies produced by humans in different areas. There are also cursed objects, like the one Itadori encountered in the first chapter, and the cursed spirits themselves, which he also encounter. As the volume continues we get a better idea of all of these different categories, as well as the various power levels that separate them. It’s a very comprehensive system with unlimited possibilities. I’m very excited to see how Akutami utilizes it all going forward!
This complex system works wonders when it comes to the action itself, which is fantastically frantic. All of our core cast are pretty formidable fighters. Still, we see them going up against some truly terrifying curses, resulting in some intense battles. There is a mortality and vulnerability to the first year Jujutsu team (they are only human, after all) that increases the tension behind the curse brawls exponentially. It reminds me a little of another recent ShōnenJump hit, Chainsaw Man. Main character Denji is also a strong fighter but in no way invincible against the hellish devils that he takes on. The real question is, are chainsaws cooler than cursed hammers?
Akutami has a sharp and rugged art style, which comes across in the action pages, and enhances the pace of the battles further. It all adds up to a very satisfying visual combo. Seriously, the fight towards the latter half of the volume had moments that completely caught me by surprise. As a result, I was turning pages like a madman! By the time I got to the end, I was genuinely furious… mainly because it was over too soon! It left me hungry for more of this decadent dish of superb Shōnen gourmet!
Is Jujutsu Kaisen volume 1 worth reading?
Yes Indeed! For a first volume, this was one heck of a tasty treat. It ticks the boxes for compelling characters, complex battle systems and rip-roaring action. The surprise dash of comedy is just the icing on top of the cursed cake. (What’s with all these eating analogies?). I can’t remember the last time a series hooked me this quick. I’m hoping going forward we learn even more about curses, and the ins and outs of everybody’s fighting techniques. I’d like a little bit more depth to Fushiguro, I’m pretty sure this will come naturally as the story continues. As for now, colour me impressed with volume 1, and excited for what comes next!
If you want to enrol in Jujutsu Highschool yourself, you can check out the first volume through the links above. Additionally, the first 16 chapters and the latest releases are available digitally if you’re a member of Shonen Jump. The remaining backlog of chapters to be filled in the future. The first three chapters are also available for everyone to read FOR FREE through Shonen Jump. So if any of my words above have piqued your interest, it’s well worth a look. Get on board this cursed hit on the ground floor!