Oof. Talk about a step down. Now, I don’t want to give anyone the impression that “Fluctuations” is terrible, or anything. It’s perfectly fine as a standalone episode of Jujutsu Kaisen. Far from the best that the series has to offer, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker for anyone who has come this far in the JJK journey. Episodic television doesn’t exist in a vacuum, however, and it is difficult to see “Fluctuations” as anything but a pretty significant drop in quality compared to what the show delivered last week. “Red Scale” was a lean, gripping, and exquisitely produced monument to everything that JJK can be when it is at its best. “Fluctuations” is…well, not that.
To be fair, things at least get off to an okay start. Mei Mei’s showcase battle against Not!Geto is a well-done sequence, all things considered. As usual, I found the exposition and narration obnoxious, but even it wasn’t enough to kill the fight’s striking visuals and thick sense of moody dread. There’s one particular cut of Mei Mei that makes her look like a beast rushing out straight from the pits of hell, and I love it. Hell, the reveal about Ui Ui’s role in Mei Mei’s strategy even made me…hm…the word “like” is definitely too strong, but it allowed me to tolerate the kid, which is saying something.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode does not live up to what preceded it. It’s a real shame because there is a lot of potential in the extended fight between the squiddy Dagon and Nanami’s crew (which includes him, Megumi, Maki, and Maki’s uncle Naobito). It has completely different dynamics than the one-on-one brawl between Yuji and Choso, it gives Nanami more screen time (always a good thing), and the sudden shift to the Dagon’s beach domain gives the show a great opportunity to break things up from the dim, secluded, and dreary nighttime subway settings of practically every recent episode.
Despite everything that it had going for it, though, “Fluctuations” can’t seem to capitalize on any of its advantages. The storyboarding and direction become noticeably stiffer and clumsier as the episode progresses, and the animation develops a sluggish and inconsistent quality that makes the whole sequence drag. The garish and washed-out color palette is one of those choices that could have been cool, but it just ends up hurting your eyes by the end of the episode. Dagon himself isn’t a particularly interesting or creative baddie either, so all of the excessive posturing that the episode tries to flaunt with its music and framing ends up backfiring and making the whole affair feel rather silly.
” Silly” isn’t an inherently bad thing, either! I’ve often praised JJK for its excellent sense of humor and snappy comic timing. This isn’t that kind of “silly,” though. This is the kind of silly that forces you to pause the episode that is oh-so-earnestly trying to convince you that it is just as cool and badass as ever to ask yourself, “Okay, but really, though. What are we doing here?” I can’t imagine how hard the MAPPA crew have worked to put this season of JJK together, and I do not begrudge them for doing their damndest to put out a great show with whatever resources they had left after the all-consuming conflagration of last week’s barnburner. Here’s to hoping it works out better for them next time.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is currently streaming on