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Book Review – Jujutsu Kaisen Key Animation Volume 1

A while ago I got a message on IG from a reader asking me when I’ll put up my review for the Jujutsu Kaisen Key Animation Volume 1 book (Japanese version). I was genuinely surprised because that book came out in May 2021 and I was pretty certain I already wrote a review. Turns out I only posted a few pics on IG but completely forgot about the review thingy. Sorry, my bad! Thanks for reminding me to do stuff I said I’d do “in the future”, because I’m forgetful, plus a lot of the time I need prodding before I can get my lazy ass to work the keyboard.

Alright, now that the apologies have been said, let’s get to it:

(English continues after Japanese) 

アニメ原画集「呪術廻戦 KEY ANIMATION Vol.1」。解説みたいな文書さえ載ってないが絵だけでMAPPAさんの情熱が伝わり、最高傑作と絶賛したアニメがより好きになりました。表紙だけでもカッコ良すぎて額に入れたい! Vol. 2の出版、待ち遠しいですね!

Beautiful Jacket Art

The first thing that struck me with this book is that the cover art is breathtakingly beautiful. In terms of size, the book itself isn’t massive, slightly wider than A4 (letter-sized) and less than 2cm thick. The jacket is gorgeous, though, unfolding in one continuous picture, featuring Yuji Itadori vs a grinning Ryomen Sukuna. 

Unfolding the book jacket. It’s deliciously frame-worthy.

There’s a matte texture to the cover paper, with a watercolour-like effect to the illustrations. Parts of the jacket feature traditional Japanese patterns such as umenohana (梅の花 plum blossom), sensu (扇子 hand fan), and botan (牡丹 peony), amongst others. The back part is almost covered by Sukuna’s white robe, which had been given a spilled-paint look. 

Yuji Itadori looking on with grim determination

Removing the jacket reveals a black, matte cover with shiny, semi-embossed outlines of Itadori in front and Sukuna at the back.

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Back cover with Sukuna. Front is similar with Itadori on it.

On the first page is the 校章 kosho or school emblem. Table of Contents shows us the book is arranged by episode, thirteen in all to cover the first half of the Season 1 anime.

First page is an ink outline of the Tokyo high school emblem

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

First off, let’s get to the point of the entire book: It is 99% made up of pictures, or to be more precise, drawings and sketches of the anime-in-the-making. We can say the book is “full-colour” in that every page has some colour in it, but that doesn’t mean we have vibrant paint fills. Instead, we have sketch after sketch, or rows of panels, of iconic scenes in the anime. Low-saturation colours are mostly used as a means of shading. 

A sketch-based look of Gojo and Sukuna’s iconic fight

It’s like every second of movement is frozen in 2D, meaning we get to see a frame-by-frame of, say, a punch. 

Plenty of Jogo sketches

On some of the sequences, there’s a tiny screenshot at the bottom of the page to show the completed picture, in full colour. Basically, it’s made crystal clear how a mere few seconds of action, or a contorted facial expression, requires an entire array of drawings.

Sketches of Yuji with his heart ripped out. Injured Megumi Fushiguro.

There are small, handwritten notes everywhere, so we get a feel of what the animation staff was thinking behind the scenes. 

All the interior pages have a matte, uncoated texture. 

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Heaven for Wannabe Animators & Anime Big Fans

This book, I think, is a heavenly resource for wannabe animators or anyone who wants to work in the manga/anime industries. Fan art creators will also probably love this book, as it can be used as a reference. 

Yuji’s varied expressions, plus him punching, frame by frame. Beautiful ink sketch covering half a page.

The point it drives home is that A WHOLE LOT OF WORK goes into every frame of the anime. This book gives plebes (myself included) an idea of just how much effort goes into the making of a hit show. 

(LEFT) Gorgeous pencil sketches of the backdrop of Yuji’s old school. (RIGHT) Megumi with his divine dogs, running.

I feel this book is meant for fans who truly love the anime. However, I don’t think it’s a book for casual viewers, who might feel disappointed with the lack of shiny coated pages or brilliant colours or explanatory notes by the anime staff.

This is what I call fan service: our favourite sensei with his beautiful face, in large panels on two pages.

Speaking of which, I’d like to mention again there is nothing to read in this Key Animation book. It’s a picture book in every sense of the word. 

To Buy or Not to Buy

For those who’d like to read interviews and commentary by the anime director and staff, a more appropriate book would be the Jujutsu Kaisen Anime Complete Book Season 1. Read my review of this other book, which is smaller and more affordable than the Key Animation book, and has plenty of pages filled with the written word.

For those who adore the anime, however, I highly recommend this Key Animation Volume 1 book. It’s perfect for super fans who enjoy analysing the little details of the anime, as well as getting a peak at the behind-the-scenes artistic process.

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Gorgeous book for anime lovers

For me, this book helps me appreciate all the blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of one of the best anime shows of the decade. I was already a big fan of JJK when I bought this book, and after reading – no, gazing at would be more precise – the book, I’ve come to love the anime even more. The dedication and skills of the MAPPA staff is made obvious in this book, and I don’t think any fan needs massive amounts of technical know-how to appreciate all the thought and care that went into creating a contemporary masterpiece.

Where to Buy the Jujutsu Kaisen Key Animation Volume 1 Book 

Jujutsu Kaisen KEY ANIMATION Vol. 1 is sold in most anime/manga specialty stores in Japan, as well as larger general bookstores with a good selection of manga. You can get a new one as well as pre-owned ones from the specialty stores. See my Shopper’s Guide for store suggestions.  

The book retails at JPY 3,960 (tax incl). I’ve seen used or pre-owned ones starting from JPY 2,100 up.

A Tsutaya bookstore stocked with the Key Animation Vol 1 book

The Key Animation book is also available new at Tsutaya bookstores around the country. They have a special collab with JJK, offering exclusive plastic file folders to go with the book. I bought my copy from Tsutaya and have framed the pair of folders. Retail price for the set is JPY 5,280.

Tsutaya-exclusive file folders

For those living overseas, you can also get a hold of this book, both new or pre-owned. Check out my Shopper’s Guide for getting worldwide shipping.

Search key phrases:

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呪術廻戦 KEY ANIMATION Vol.1

呪術廻戦 設定資料集

呪術廻戦 アニメ 原画集

Jujutsu Kaisen Key Animation Vol. 2

Second volume should be up for sale sometime in December 2021. Here’s a look at the cover art as well as the Tsutaya-exclusive folders (lower middle of the photo).

Tsutaya bookstore with an ad for the upcoming JJK Key Animation Volume 2. We can see Gojo on the cover. Photo taken October 2021.

That’s it for my quick review. In a nutshell –

  • Q: Do you LOVE the Jujutsu Kaisen anime?
  • A1: “Yes! Absolutely! Positively! With all my heart!” Then buy the book.
  • A2: “It’s okay…” Then don’t buy the book.

Simple, eh? 😉

Thank you so much for reading! Please take a moment to share a thought or two in the comment section below. Your comments give me life and are a real source of encouragement. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for daily manga/anime posts! xoxo – hana

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