Ever since the ending of Bleach's manga, many shonen fans have wondered what would take its place in Shonen Jump's Big 3. Its contemporaries in this triad were Naruto and One Piece, with the former's ending a few years back leaving an even bigger void. Several other manga have been suggested as Naruto and Bleach's successors, such as My Hero Academia, Black Clover and Demon Slayer. The latter is now removed from the running due to its recent ending, while Black Clover is generally considered to be more popular than it is actually good.
On the other hand, Gege Akutami's Jujutsu Kaisen has now more than ever been a contender to join the current Big Three. Its manga is incredibly successful both critically and commercially, backed up further by the similar achievements of its new anime. The fact that the quality actually matches the hype and vice versa certainly help in that regard. Featuring a sometimes violent horror-filled world that recalls past shonen classics, Jujutsu Kaisen may very well deserve to stand alongside hits like One Piece.
Jujutsu Kaisen - Shonen Jump's Next Big Thing?
The story of Jujutsu Kaisen follows high school student Yuji Itadori, who joins his school's Occult Research Club. The club had unfortunately unsealed an ancient talisman, which attracted a number of personified paranormal curses to the school. Unable to defend against them due to his lack of any real supernatural powers, Yuji swallows the talisman (a rotting finger) to protect his friends. This binds him to Sukuna, an evil spirit of incredible power.
This makes Yuji a target for exorcism from surrounding sorcerers, despite his uncanny ability to maintain control of his own body. Hoping to stave off Yuji's exorcism and execution, Satoru Gojo devises a plan: have Yuji locate and consume the rest of Sukuna's fingers, allowing the spirit to be truly killed when united. This leads to constant battles against the supernatural, with the other members of the Occult Research Club all having their own otherworldly powers with which to fight with.
What Makes Jujutsu Kaisen So Popular?
Given that it could fill a void first left by Bleach, it's ironic that Jujutsu Kaisen is seen by many as being reminiscent of both Tite Kubo's series as well as '90s series Yu Yu Hakusho. This resemblance to two of the biggest names in shonen over the last few decades has definitely won the series some fans, and its horror and dark fantasy setting easily sets it apart from the lighter and many times superheroic premises of other popular manga.
This more macabre tone is solidified by the often graphic violence of the series, which is a far cry from the more cartoony My Hero Academia or One-Punch Man. That hasn't kept it from developing its own complex power system, which has kept its action just as exciting as other entries in the genre.
Yuji is also an incredibly likable protagonist, which can be particularly difficult to find in shonen. Unlike heroes like Naruto, he has no interest in being the best there is. Despite lacking this particular ambition, he's still unquestionably heroic, being the first to stand up no matter what. He's also fun in an organic way, fawning over celebrities and getting beaten up by a weird doll. This adds a degree of comedy to the character, and the series in general, without making things too irreverent or silly. The fact that the hero and the villain share the same body is also an interesting concept that's different from what's currently seen in mainstream anime.
This good source material has so far made for a great anime adaptation, which is perhaps the biggest reason for the property's current spotlight. The show features consistently slick and smooth animation provided by Studio MAPPA, accentuating the already fantastic fight scenes, making them look even cooler than they did in the manga.