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Athena Scalzi

Understanding the Magic System of Jujutsu Kaisen, or, But Wait! There’s More!

I watched Jujutsu Kaisen last month (on Crunchyroll, but you can also find it on HBO Max), and while I really enjoyed it and thought it was good overall, I had a hard time following the magic system the world is based around, and thought I’d share my complaints with y’all and see if any of you have similar problems understanding exactly how things work in the world of Jujutsu Kaisen. So, this is not a review, but a piece over something I have a problem with within a show I like and would recommend.

Jujutsu Kaisen, released in the fall of 2020, is an anime about a high school boy, Yuji Itadori, who suddenly gets introduced into the world of cursed spirits and jujutsu sorcery because he swallows the finger of an ancient (and evil) sorcerer named Sukuna, and now they share Itadori’s body. Itadori starts attending Jujutsu High and training to become a jujutsu sorcerer, making friends and gaining powers along the way.

Okay, so, jujutsu sorcerers use cursed energy to power their cursed techniques, which are used to exorcise cursed spirits. Cursed energy comes from negative emotions, like anger. Every sorcerer has cursed energy within their body that they harness to use their special powers. These individualized powers are called innate techniques, and are instilled into a sorcerer when they are born. Besides innate techniques (which are unique to each sorcerer), there are also inherited techniques, which are innate techniques passed through the bloodline of sorcerer families. This means that every sorcerer within that sorcerer family/bloodline will have that power. On top of this, there are non-unique techniques that any sorcerer can use, called barrier techniques.

But it doesn’t end there! Aside from the techniques, there are also cursed objects, cursed tools, cursed corpses, and cursed restrictions. Cursed objects are curses that aren’t fully formed so they exist as objects, rather than being objects that are imbued with cursed energy. Cursed tools, however, are weapons that are infused with cursed energy. These weapons can be wielded by someone that is not a sorcerer. Cursed corpses are inanimate objects that have been possessed by curses and become sentient creatures (I feel like these should be called cursed objects instead since they’re taking control of objects and becoming basically alive through them).

We’re not done yet! You can’t forget the most intense technique of all, domain expansion. It’s a type of barrier technique and is the most supreme power a sorcerer can use. It takes practically all of a sorcerer’s cursed energy to create one, and usually only top tier sorcerers are able to conjure a domain. Just like innate techniques, each sorcerer’s domain expansion is unique to them.

Now that we’ve got the basics down, it’s time to remember every character’s special power. You have to remember the name of the technique, what it does, as well as the limitations on the power (such as needing to be able to see to use it, or the power harming the user). Oh, and every sorcerer’s domain has a special name, too. So once you’ve got that down for every single character, you would think you’re good to go.

But wait, there’s more! You thought you knew which powers a character had, but watch as they suddenly gain a new one they didn’t have before! Or are suddenly able to create a domain even though they’re nowhere near top tier level! You thought this character could do this one thing, but now they can do this other thing! How exciting.

Jujutsu Kaisen just has too much going on. They cram all this magic in and don’t fully explain anything. Sure, they tell what something is, but what does that mean? I just have a hard time understanding the true structure of this power system, and don’t really grasp the limitations the magic has. If the magic system wasn’t so prominent in the show, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem, but since the show is all about the magic and all about using these techniques and powers, it’s important to understand how it works. And I just don’t.

Is that a classic anime problem? Sure. But in a world where the power system is so structured and everything is based around their hard magic system, I would think there’d be less of these instances.

And I’m not the only one that feels this way! I have seen many a TikTok expressing the exact same problem as me, one of my favorites being this one from a user named “crustypeaches“:

@crustypeaches

what is a gojo #jujutsukaisen #jjk #gojo #itadoriyuuji #anime #manga #weeb #otaku

♬ you guys should play final fantasy xiv – walnutware

So, all in all, I love Jujutsu Kaisen, but it is not without its flaws. Have you seen it? What did you think? Do you understand everything perfectly, or are you a little on the lost side as well? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

— AMS

By Athena Scalzi

Twenty three year old girl living life.

8 replies on “Understanding the Magic System of Jujutsu Kaisen, or, But Wait! There’s More!”

Yes. I thought it was everything but the kitchen sink. We’ve started watching Vampire in the Garden on Netflix. It’s not bad and so far has a simple more elegant structure.

Maybe this is me being old and having watched a lot of Anime back in the day but I think this is the asic Dragonball setup. Or maybe the Anime Underdog setup? Just coming from the lowest point and then getting more and more stuff becuase you are a “cultivator”.
This probably also has to do with all the Chinese Cultivation Fantasy Webnovels (Xianxia) that are quite popular on the internet.
or maybe you can also compare it to any Sports anime/movie/comic/novel whatsoever. For the next team to beat they just figure out another great technique nobody thought of.

My conclusion: don’t think too hard about it. Just like in videogames, they just reach the next level, get the better weapon or magic spell to Elden Ring their way out :-)

So, the best way to think of Jujutsu Kaisen and arguably many such Shonen material is that they’re superheroes without costumes. There is a system, sure…but it’s primary function is to create a tiered system that grants powers, different status quos and then examines and breaks that system for drama.

Characters who don’t have impressive or dramatic powers that a show will indicate are ranked low in flash or power…and then the show will create situations to reveal that the systems as described to the characters up until that point are either flawed, incomplete or otherwise underestimated (often by heroes and villains alike). An example of this is the character who only uses cursed weapons; she is talked down by both teammates and enemies UNTIL her moment comes to show off her particular skills, narratively.

And it should go without saying that the primary protagonists almost always either break out of the mold of the system that a show develops; so there are indications that the three primary cast members all can do things beyond what has been specificied as ‘normal’ within whatever systems are established, to show off their particular powers when the plot does so for maximum drama.

tl;dr version: the system only has to make sense to allow for exciting fight sequences and dramatic tension.

I know zilch about “Jujutsu Kaisen,” but I can answer crustypeaches’ question: Gojo is a lotion/pumice-based hand cleaner, popular with mechanics because it’s the best way to remove ground-in greasy dirt of the kind you accumulate when, say, changing a car’s transmission.

Yeah, I know that wasn’t the answer they were looking for. ;-) Still, Gojo is good stuff–worth knowing about.

Good god! It sounds like Dungeons and Dragons, combining all the worst aspects of video games and accounting.

BTW Gojo also popular with printers, which I used to do. That ink is a bitch to get off your hands. And don’t even think about wearing clothes you might want to wear somewhere else. The air around a press is always full of black aerosol.

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