At its finest, Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is a concentrated attempt to bring the directors’ visions to life in every way possible, from the most dramatic scenes to the smallest details. However, it’s also always about fighting against an oppressive timetable. Let’s catch up on one of the year’s biggest, coolest, and most problematic productions.
An influential voice in the anime business, before Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 even aired, brought attention to the real harm that the previous film, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, had allegedly already done to laborers. Even though the film may not always withstand technical analysis from experts, it was a huge hit with the large audience it was promoted to, despite the fact that very little time was spent on its creation or even planning. That person wasn’t speaking in ignorance; they knew a lot of the people who were in the movie, they continued to collaborate with that team following JJK0’s success, and now they found themselves responsible for ensuring JJK2 fulfills almost insurmountable timelines. They speak from personal experience when they claim to be able to sense that the success of ill-conceived projects like JJK0 has given cutthroat producers more confidence.
If nothing else, such stern reminder adds value to the discussion on dirty labor and productions, which is missing an entire aspect. Although you might believe that it doesn’t really matter if viewers are aware of these subtleties and of the production conditions overall, the studio would disagree. It’s no secret that part of their formula for success has been to position themselves as winners. This is why they’ve recently threatened to sue these creators for keeping a production in the intensive care unit because they weren’t being forthcoming enough about their struggles. They did this not only to the individual who made the original comment, but also to some of their peers, who responded with eloquent rejoinders like “if you don’t want workers to speak badly, why don’t you create an environment that won’t make them do it” or outright advice to young employees to ride their well-known titles to establish themselves and then leave them forever.
Keep in mind that no one’s experience is necessarily indicative of what the process was like for everyone. You could end up the unfortunate guest of honor in a project that is doomed to fail, get screwed up in a production that goes mostly smoothly, or just endure the particular difficulties associated with a particular position. Regretfully, the sentiment behind all those grievances is consistent with nearly every remark I’ve heard from JJK2 workers. Not just the outspoken creators, not just the more reserved ones, not just the team members I’ve spoken to every day for months—pretty much everyone is affected, particularly if they work in a core staff role where they must ensure that all materials are delivered and at least minimally technically polished.
It is a testament to the talent and effort of the team behind it that so many people, including the frequently harsher artists and animation nerds, find themselves enjoying a great deal of the final product. Don’t get me wrong, though: JJK2’s planning has been blatantly cruel, and despite the staff’s brilliant vision, their execution is fundamentally flawed; what began as flaws they could easily get past developed into sharp edges they couldn’t just ignore, and by this point, even placeholders for completely missing or incomplete cuts are a persistent problem.
A team of apologies artists who know they’ve nerfed some of their more ambitious and compelling ideas in the rush to meet deadlines, or left them on the cutting floor altogether, is bound to leave you with mixed feelings, even if the work is still far better produced than you could reasonably expect given its schedule. When you witness some of them hold themselves responsible for this predicament due to their own ambition—which is what helped them stand out and secure a spot in such a prominent production—it leaves a sour aftertaste. Everyone who truly bears the blame for this debacle will, in the meantime, walk away from the project unharmed, if not outright strengthened. Everyone on the committee deserves a slap on the back for yet another work well done, and MAPPA will continue to be the leading action animation studio of the present. Because of this, the original comment was to caution readers against it, which is why these businesses want to regulate the conversation surrounding their names.
Now that I’ve addressed the obligatory warning, let me clarify one thing: despite those circumstances, JJK2’s first arc is brilliant. It is not as though those production issues appeared suddenly at a later stage. Rough edges in animation can be thought of as an omnipresent high-frequency noise that everyone can hear at varying thresholds, grow somewhat irritated by, and find overwhelming. It is something you can train to be more aware of, unlike your hearing. That’s a professional deformity you might not want, though, as some in the industry and ardent viewers will attest, as it can be challenging to switch off that area of the brain.
The delivery of the first five episodes in the Hidden Inventory/Premature Death arc was so captivating that I was unable to take a moment to consider the buzzing noise of any rushed or poorly done aspects. Its flawless execution captures the evolution of an artist we’ve profiled on this site, from a promising newcomer to a technical trailblazer and finally a fledgling director who expanded on all that had made him unique in the past. Even though this is Shota “Gosso” Goshozono’s debut effort as a series director, he has already proven himself to be a full storyteller of the kind you can’t take for granted in TV anime.
It’s easy to compare JJK2 to its predecessors because it attempts to reinvent the series, which is uncommon in a highly successful, active property like this one. And I will make every effort to refrain from doing that. Not only because I believe that JJK2 is full of work that stands out as exceptional on its own, but also because I believe that it’s built in a way that significantly benefits from holistic appreciation—it’s not only the sequel’s team that had to deal with questionable planning.
We can examine specific elements that have undergone significant change, frequently linked to a change in the head of a particular department. Some are personnel changes, such as the appointment of Eiko Matsushima as the real color designer, while others are new hires who can be directly linked to the director, like Yasunori Ebina, the new sound director—a role he held in Ousama Ranking, where Gosso really established himself as a director.
Even taking into consideration the specific modifications that I find most noteworthy and visually appealing—such as Sayaka Koiso’s more stylized reworking of the character designs—looking at them separately falls short of demonstrating the brilliance of the decisions that went into making them. I can claim that I like their appearance better or that they’ve made this problematic production a little easier to handle by emphasizing evocation and easily understood silhouettes over frequent, explicit representation. However, you can only truly appreciate how well they work with each other like a puzzle piece when you see the show.
By using this design example, you can see that the designs do more than just work well with other visual elements like the moodier lighting; they also contribute significantly to the storytelling endeavors. For instance, they give the animators a perfect medium ground in which to switch between comedy and horror as the narrative demands, whereas a less precise level of stylization would not be able to create the impression of an organic pivot. While I didn’t think this was actually the case before, I will grant that there is one that encapsulates why I feel so strongly about this team’s approach: all components of JJK2 come together to form not only one universe, but also one worldview. This is now genuinely Gosso’s Jujutsu Kaisen.
It’s simple to demonstrate what all of this actually implies in practice if we start with the first episode of season 2. Geto’s shifting shadows as he walks are immediately highlighted by the moodier lighting and more realistic processing of how it interacts with bodies; nonetheless, small elements like the natural jitter in the 2D background animation keep it grounded in a handcrafted vibe. We get a close-up of his face as he talks about the monotonous routine that is wearing him out and the lonely grind that is making him crazy. It seems to be staying fairly close to the spirit of the design sheets despite evoking realistic concepts through deliberate and well-considered adjustments. Gosso’s mastery of three-dimensional environments is used to frame the world as oppressively as Geto perceives it, while monochrome tones embody the repetitive nature of his actions—illuminated in bright, colorful blue flashes only when he uses his sorcerer powers—and an increasing buzzing noise that matches his growing unease. Many of these decisions are obvious and effective right away in interpersonal communication; they only become more sharp when they start to form the foundation of JJK2’s vocabulary. That’s what Gosso brought to the program.
It is crucial to emphasize that JJK2 is not stylistically monotonous despite having a lot more distinct personality. It’s actually the complete opposite. It is able to continuously shift registers in a more poignant, dramatic way while maintaining the impression that it is only a foot’s distance from its natural state since it has that distinct sense of self and brings design elements to a more natural pivoting point.
In the first episode, a flashback from the hint of Geto’s demise to a younger Utahime’s assignment at an obviously haunted mansion plays with ideas from horror films. Fantastic representations of genre clichés are there, such as an amazingly real discovered footage video and framing choices like the repeated above shots that suggest they’re being watched. Thanks to experts like Hokuto Sakiyama, it is able to control the degree of realism in the artwork and generate similar emotions through the unnatural smoothness of Utahime’s entry into the mansion on the 1s. This is made possible by its greater awareness of the specialized toolset of animation. The arrival of the real protagonists—an even more irreverent young Gojo, an incredibly carefree Shouko, and Geto, whose eventual turmoil we’ve already been introduced to—marks a harsher pivot, though one that still feels like it’s staying within the boundaries that have been established. This transition takes us from a more realistic 3D rendition of the environment they’re trapped in to a Paprika-flavored cel bonanza as they escape.
The two lads in the group, who were already very strong, are soon given the responsibility of guarding a teenage girl, eventually leading her to her demise since she is intended to be a sacrifice in order to preserve the status quo in the world. We learn about their positions on these themes through their briefing and symbolically prepared, yet very naturally portrayed, interactions. Unexpectedly, Geto is the one with the stronger moral compass; nevertheless, as this storyline will reveal, this trait paradoxically makes him more vulnerable to having his worldview challenged.
This kind of deliberate delivery demonstrates that the group Gosso heads makes meaningful decisions not only during the storyboarding, directing, and animation stages, but also that, at the peak of the program, they will have already rewritten the script to fully utilize those moments. Consider a different moment-to-moment aspect such as the sound direction, which was demonstrated in the opening scene as being used more cleverly this season. Funny audio choices are used to highlight the contrast between a seemingly deadly mission and the absurd situations they keep running into as they begin their mission to protect soon-to-be-sacrificed goofball Riko Amanai. However, the best examples are those that also demonstrate the deliberate use of the craft at a higher level.
As assassins pursue Riko, the episode—which is this time helmed and directed by Yosuke Takada—reminds viewers that she should be in music class. The explosive conflict that follows after Geto stops one of those assailants is revealed to be the assassin’s reunion with his childhood dog. Is the chorus music preparing him for the joke, which is that he’s just witnessing his life pass by? Yes, but it’s also because the episode doesn’t lose sight of the wider context it studied; thus, the music doesn’t stop after his beatdown and finally transforms into diegetic sound. Yes, Riko was at the chapel. Here, the cartoon treats us to yet another hilarious turn for an endless supply of hilarious anecdotes. The flamboyant execution of this entire arc is evident, but even more noteworthy is how thoughtful each decision that came before it seemed to be, even if it was only setting up a humorous scenario.
The amount of trust that has been placed in young, inexperienced employees making their debuts is another facet of this production that becomes clear very immediately; this is understandable considering that Gosso is also spearheading a project for the first time. The number of individuals directing and storyboarding an episode for the first time is the best example of this, which is both an exciting and risky proposition. We get a wonderful taste of that possibility even though the first arc of the series is still at its pinnacle of excellence. Although the aforementioned Takada wrote his first storyboards in the second episode, Naoki Miyajima’s first storyboard and episode director debut in the third episode is the best early example.
The episode feels especially focused on capturing moments as Gojo strives to ensure Riko enjoys her last days; in doing so, it highlights the importance of the color script, one of the tools this season has brought to improve that cohesion, but one that each director is interacting with differently. It should come as no surprise, considering Miyajima’s body of work, that when things start to go wrong, we’re treated to some amazing action—especially since it comes from the hands of masters like Kosuke Kato and Keiichiro Watanabe. What makes an episode like this such a welcome surprise, though, is the deft handling of the more nuanced parts of storytelling. You can never assume that Miyajima’s ability to animate effective acting will translate into the capacity to support the narrative you’re conveying from a higher vantage point, even though it has been demonstrated that she possesses this talent. Debuts such as this one exemplify the benefits of believing in emerging creators, much like Gosso is doing in terms of series direction. Isn’t it lovely if things were always this way?
Of course, there are other people leading the charge besides young people; occasionally, the series director has a friend who is a world-class action star from their previous work, which is why Arifumi Imai is in charge of the fourth episode. Despite this fact, Imai hasn’t had much experience directing films, but his work on Attack on Titan has already placed him in a position where he can choose how to tell a story through animation. The way Imai completely defined an action style that is now well-known worldwide, as we have often discussed in our coverage of the series, and the way he would storyboard pivotal moments himself as early as during the promotion cycle, already gave him responsibilities far beyond what is typically expected of an animator. Although it may not be shown on his resume, he did direct.
It’s crucial to appreciate that experience in addition to the fact that he brought so much stylistic baggage from that series with him, which is why, in my opinion, a truly devastating episode had an odd amount of humor floating over it. Like everyone else, I was furious to see that Riko’s choice to continue living was greeted with a very ill-timed gunshot. The larger action setpieces seemed suitably Imai-esque as well, especially as Geto snapped back. But I didn’t realize I was actually watching an episode of Titans until I saw images straight out of Tetsuro Araki’s book. Gojo has finally mastered his powers and is now genuinely the strongest, even though in some ways it’s not as polished as the rest of the arc. It uses those Araki-esque traits to introduce the most high-concept lore so far, driven by rage and his near-death experience.
The storyboards by Gosso himself then lead us to the conclusion of this arc, encircling each and every concept that the narrative and his directing decisions had established. A year later, it is evident that Geto and Gojo are still very much impacted by Riko’s passing. The storyboards that always distinguish him remind us that the former has trained tirelessly and in the process has simply transcended humanity—an alienating posture by nature. The storyboards, which had emphasized his duality with his companion since the season’s opening scene, suddenly actually reverse it to highlight his development in contrast to Geto’s decline. His mental state is deteriorating, as indicated by familiar auditory cues, but the animation director does a fantastic job of explaining why that occurred.
After witnessing a group of common people take Riko’s life so brutally and carelessly, and after being demoralized by a job where his colleagues could perish at any time, Geto has become fixated on the idea that the people he is meant to defend are filthy. Geto’s subjective vision is represented through the hyperrealistic character drawings, particularly those overseen by Takuya Niinuma in the first half of the episode, though Souta Yamazaki nicely expands on similar ideas in the second. The first episode already alternated between degrees of stylization in the drawings to evoke specific moods. Such masterful drafting is admirable in and of itself, but this is the kind of program that invites you to consider the particular decisions that have resulted in visually striking scenes such as these.
A masterfully crafted dialogue with renowned weirdo sorcerer Yuki Tsukumo reveals that Geto’s hate of the general public is still very much alive and well. However, this is only one of the pathways that lie ahead of him, much like upholding his moral convictions still is. Regretfully, bringing this up also brings Geto closer to his breaking point by increasing his awareness of the potential for him to lash out.
Why do more of his friends perish? For the sake of nasty people, in his opinion, who attack individuals who possess extraordinary abilities only because they are different. His current point of view is revealed by the dehumanizing framing as he watches one more act of cruelty. Recall how his shadows switched in the opening scene of the season? Yuki had said that he would face two alternatives, which are now symbolized by two candles and two shadows, one of which is by much stronger than the other. The only thing remaining once he makes his choice is his genuine sentiments going ahead, exactly as she had explained. The violent yet elegant artwork portrays his massacre of a whole town. Everything has been colored blue, the same hue that gave the show’s opening sequence life. The first minute and a half of this arc already covered everything.
Everything starts to move as soon as the first domino piece falls. While Geto is, to put it mildly, a bit more genocidal in his attitude, Gojo also feels the need to reform the world that has brought about this scenario. His more sympathetic approach will try to destroy the systems of power from within. However, this narrative has shown that he is more than just a happy mass murderer, so there is still some warmth to his reasons. Geto was once a man of great convictions, but he was broken by blatant cruelty and a broken system that separated a person in need of companionship. A gripping story, enhanced by incredibly well-executed work. I have the impression that this will go down in my memory as one of the best shounen anime storylines ever.
And thus the Shibuya Incident occurs; it is, in a sense, the incident of the Shibuya Incident. Being a lover of Yoshihiro Togashi’s writing, I was certain to love an arc in which Gege Akutami leaned heavily on Hunter-esque storytelling, leading us step by step through the villains’ plot to seal Gojo through a storyline with many threads. Though I must admit that I am enjoying it, it’s obvious that it’s not reaching its full potential like HI/Premature Death did. This is where, in my opinion, it becomes necessary to revisit the theme with which we began this article: the team’s aspirations being thwarted by terrible planning.
Some of them blamed themselves and their lofty goals for some of their troubles, but as I previously stated, that is the incorrect way to look at the situation. The fact that MAPPA consistently chooses individuals who have never held the position suggests that their selection of directors for initiatives such as this is not driven by the knowledge that they will do admirably in it. Rather, their most evident similarity is that they are both striking animators, the kind of gravitas that draws other ostentatious, driven artists to head a project. That doesn’t mean they can’t choose exceptional storytellers despite the reasons, as Gosso has demonstrated, but it’s important to consider the background of all this.
It is difficult to hold individuals in groups like these responsible for their lofty dreams when they are up against the merciless wall of deadlines. these is due in part to the wall’s unreasonable proximity, but also to the fact that these networks of driven artists are sought after for precisely these attributes in the first place. In HI/Premature Death, Gosso had the opportunity to make significant cuts, perhaps losing some of the meticulousness that permeates every part of the work to give later episodes more leeway. However, doing so would not have made the timetable pleasant; perhaps more importantly, if he were the kind of creative who liked to economize, he probably wouldn’t have been given the chance to direct this show in the first place. Placing the blame on him or any other episode director involved in the Shibuya Incident fails to recognize the true causes of conflict.
That being said, Shibuya Incident maintains the same level of ambition as the first arc. It may even be more so in certain instances, which isn’t ideal given how rapidly the output is failing. It’s kind of like keeping the ceiling the same—so high that you sometimes question if it exists at all—but having the floor fall in all directions. Shibuya Incident fails to safeguard a very high baseline level of technical excellence across HI/Premature Death from the outset. You can eventually’t even be sure whether some shots you see on screen are even close to the original idea; having seen the materials for some of those axed shots, no, they are not. It shows up as a declining quality of the in-betweening, a deterioration of the cohesiveness that made the start feel so special, and an increasingly uneven level of draftsmanship to the drawings.
I’m pleased to disappoint anyone who was hoping for me to focus on specific cases; it wouldn’t make sense to spend a lot of time discussing how artists are victims of events beyond their control before criticizing the outcomes. There isn’t as much room for depth in this arc as there was in the first because it is much more action-packed and clear, but the underlying ideas are still the same. As you might expect from an assistant series director who previously assisted Gosso in the first episode, Ryouta Aikei begins it with an episode that plays shockingly true to his book. It really hits its stride when a student who was smitten by Yuji’s candor reunites with him and is compelled to engage in some self-reflection of her own. The highlight that really launches the arc, though, is a deftly edited scene that exposes the villain’s mole among the students; I almost wish they had reversed the colors so that Yuji opened a red, empty room while Mechamaru’s actual location was bathed in green. The complementary lighting is a great trick used in the sleight of hand. I guess comedy can’t always prevail.
The next episode, despite its rough edges, is notable for choosing to match the mecha theme—as Mechamaru fights back against the villains he made risky deals with—to a wealth of Kanada-style animation, a common broad approach to the genre. We are largely indebted to Yooto, the storyboarder and debut co-episode director, who had previously animated a number of cuts in a similar fashion for other episodes. Unfortunately, the villains advance with their scheme to seal Gojo’s deadly talents because it’s not yet the right time for bravery to pay off. Their idea is to take advantage of the large number of people that come to Shibuya to celebrate Halloween, so now is the time for my favorite part of the episode: Takafumi Mitani’s realistic crowds, which have a real horror movie feel to them as they go from partying to panicking when they realize something is obviously wrong.
As the plot progresses, the heroes’ lot grows harder, and the crew behind the show suffers even more. The following episode, which has Gosso’s return to storyboarding responsibilities, is the one I think best illustrates this rather than the one that is perhaps the most contentious in Hiroyuki Kitakubo’s #08. Even now, he remains a brilliant storyboard artist, employing clever techniques like humorously recasting a flashback to show the villains plotting the operation as a casual game of mahjong. A few minutes after the strategy to exhaust Gojo is realized, Geto shows off his real winning hand. It’s not the yakuman I would have picked to signify gates because chuuren poutou is right there, but it’s still a neat delivery. The battles take place in a three-dimensional, mind-bending world, as you might anticipate from his storyboards. Daniel Kim’s last sequence is particularly impressive in terms of expressivity, as it captures both the horrific aspect of an unrestrained Gojo and the tangible despair of Mr. Volcanohead.
Episodes like this one serve as a reminder that, despite Gosso’s ambitions in the previous arc being so close to being fully realized, the execution is no longer able to live up to the creators’ vision. This is true not only in terms of ambition alone, but also, for a character like Gosso, in terms of his ability to connect the dots like HI/Premature Death did. Similar to how we’ve seen him lead consistently superb work, Takada returns for episode #10, but at this point, his contributions are primarily sporadic bursts of brilliance.
We’ve gone into almost pure action at this point in the arc, which is helpful in a way. Granted, this implies that each episode is extremely demanding in terms of production value, but many members of this crew have a unique talent for bruteforcing outstanding fighting in a short amount of time. Episodes like #11, which center around experts like Hayato Kurosaki, have a lot of exciting action even though the more somber aspects are drowned in a sea of growing technical problems. Despite their rougher edges and storyboards that don’t always connect, the spectacle is still evidently there for everyone to enjoy. To be honest, it should come as no surprise that JJK2 continues to be regarded by many as a generally successful endeavor. People shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the outcome is still incredibly eye-catching just because they are aware of the problems that lie behind the scenes and how they subtly show up on screen.
However, this trend toward creating a space where only forceful bombast has a chance to flourish really makes me want to draw attention to the moments of nuanced brilliance that are managing to survive this collapse. Shunsuke Okubo, the renownedly witty and opinionated storyboarder and episode director, made his debut in Episode #12, serving as both a top animator and a key animator. I have the impression that Yamazaki’s corrections of Nanami, which made him the sexiest man on Earth, will be the main thing remembered about it. Fewer people will recall—and probably even fewer saw the episode in the first place—how Okubo’s ideology permeates the entire production, giving some appearances—like this climactic one with Nanami—more significance than others.
Those who have followed Okubo’s career know that, because to his work at Toei, he inherited the naturalistic, effective acting of Yuki Hayashi and Soty. If you pay closer attention to his social media posts, you may also see that he laments the absence of subtle foundations like these in the industry at large and is a big fan of Kyoto Animation’s works. Naturally, Okubo’s episode emphasizes comfortable, natural positions, even though JJK2 is not in a position to nail those aspects due to time constraints and other priorities. An episode such as this one seems to be defying not just the trends in this production but also in anime generally because TV anime is restricted in how it places people to the point where it is difficult to properly discern characters as such.
One of the better examples of this naturalness, considering the amount of fighting, killings, and general mayhem that has been occurring, is, well, people who are dead or unconscious on the ground, always in very different ways. The value of this concentrated effort comes through contrast as well—in a world of natural posture, flamboyant people gain a unique kind of appeal. This helps the characters and setting feel more subtly authentic. Meimei’s walk—particularly the cut at around 35 seconds—is another fan-favorite part of the episode, thanks to an uncredited animator who you would expect to work with Okubo. Her character has always enjoyed performing for an audience and receiving a substantial payment; nevertheless, this has never affected her as much as when she is surrounded by naturalistic demeanors. Her antics—like that of this villain, or even Nanami’s little flash of brilliance—glow more brightly because a great deal of work went into a detail that is hidden from most viewers.
In this way, the last episode we’ll discuss finds a perfect harmony between obvious, flashy coolness and subtle, clever design. JJK2 #13, created by Takumi Sunakohara and Kazuto Arai, is best defined as the spiritual continuation of the second FGO Camelot film. As we detailed in our coverage of the movie, Arai approached the direction of the film by eschewing production standards in favor of what he called a more Disney-like approach: character-coded animation assignments, with the twist that the individuals assigned to a particular character were his close friends, and that instead of just drawing them, they would essentially serve as chief directors for their pertinent portions of the film. Sunakohara was one such friend, and even though the final product had some imperfections, it was truly remarkable.
So how do you follow up on that? You might conclude that JJK2 #13 is philosophically very different from Camelot after reading Arai’s extensive and fascinating account of the show’s creation. After all, we’re moving from a film in which individual animators were granted autonomy at the director level to an episode in which adlibs were practically outlawed and an animator’s primary responsibility was tracing. But at the core of both of them lies a similar idea: the complete manifestation of an artist’s ideas, which is the same objective that Gosso has been pursuing in his own unique manner throughout. Sunakohara’s second half of the episode, which relies on his incredibly detailed storyboards intended to be layouts already, and Arai’s first half, which is based on lengthy 3D previs and live-action footage he filmed with his buddies, approach it in different ways. While this episode partially lessens the importance of certain animators, it nonetheless channels their energy toward a goal that everyone should be happy to contribute to, much as Camelot did.
So what is that concept? You shouldn’t be shocked to see that this episode borrows ideas from Kizumonogatari and Cyberpunk Edgerunners, as Arai has previously made jokes about being prepared to be labeled a ripoff. He also enlisted Kai Ikarashi’s assistance during the planning stages of episode #06, which he said was the origin of it all. Ikarashi was even supposed to have a significant role in the episode, but he ultimately was unable to work around an unfriendly schedule. Kizumonogatari’s presence is as unavoidable as Edgerunners’ impact is made evident by the rim lighting, thanks to the rain’s representation and the few but significant pauses. They even went so far as to imitate the methods used in that movie, with Sunakohara creating incredibly versatile layers of droplets, much as Oishi’s crew had done for that one.
Because of the diverse range of inspirations and unconventional production methods, the episode has a distinct vibe right away. The action doesn’t feel particularly anchored in Shibuya, even for an arc with that name, until this episode; the settings are inextricably linked to the props, and even the violence is grounded in the actual objects that Arai and crew recorded their scenes around. It’s fascinating to observe how even the style and visuals are drawn from the real place, beginning with the opening views, which also happen to be the first of Arai’s 101 layouts that he personally animated. The repeated use of these symbols foreshadows Yuji’s demise in this episode, which is symbolically broken by a second diagonal line. The direction signals, which are frequently employed to symbolize the shifting tides of combat, might be taken to mean similar things. Even those outside impacts are diegetically depicted; for example, the cyberpunk neons don’t start until Choso kills the conventional lights, and then they respond dynamically to the location and level of decay.
Furthermore, the action storyboarding is just plain awesome, and the methodology they used—as difficult as Arai claimed it was—reduced the possibility of mistakes in the end. There were a few unreadable closeups that serve as a patchwork for intricate choreography that was supposed to be there, as well as some odd stiffness to some bodies in an otherwise very dynamic battle, which may have been signs that some shots weren’t completed as intended. Still, Arai and Sunakohara created an action spectacle that seems astonishingly complete for something that shouldn’t have been crammed into these limitations by purposefully keeping the execution so near to what they’d imagined and personally produced to a big extent.
That’s pretty much all, even if this is by no means a special episode of Shibuya Incident. The staff is working really hard to make up for a plan that led them to failure. The team’s limitations are more apparent than I would like to be after an almost flawless first arc, especially considering that they are still producing occasionally jaw-dropping work. This crew is deserving of nothing but respect, and those who placed them in this situation should feel the exact opposite.
Arai humorously put the record of his events as “We’re beyond critical, huh? “, even though he finally framed it as his own duty due to his ambition. Now come at me, MAPPA!” And that’s the only silver lining in an otherwise gloomy situation: a bunch of creators rebelling against every producer who will wear this show’s popularity as yet another badge of honor, not just a studio. The last thing anyone needs is for producers to conclude that planning projects like this is something they can get away with, especially as these issues are beginning to significantly bleed into the public realm. At the very least, I hope the person with whom we opened this piece doesn’t end up being right again.