Every once in a while, there come stories that burst out with popularity. Their manga sales are incredibly high; people are discussing it all around, forums bubbling with excitement and probably an adaptation of it in the works. One such series is the Jujutsu Kaisen manga franchise.
Since its release in 2018, it has gathered an incredible number of fans, finally reaching a peak with the anime’s release in 2020. Not only that, but Jujutsu Kaisen has also become one of those ‘even you don’t watch it, you know it’ series. People even praise it as the new generation shounen legend.
However, as its popularity rises, and more and more people recommend reading it, a question arises. The same question about many series that take the community by a storm:
Why should you read the Jujutsu Kaisen manga?
Is it worth reading the Jujutsu Kaisen manga? If I were to answer you in short, I would say yes. Well, if you are into battle shounen and okay with a bit of gore, that is. But I assure you that the manga is much more than just that – which is why I could write this article in the first place.
If you are still wondering if you should read it, keep reading to clear your doubts. Don’t worry; this article does not contain spoilers from the anime or manga. However, it is a given that these reasons and explanations are personal to my experience as a reader. And yes, I love Jujutsu Kaisen, so I will use this chance to praise it a lot. After all, fangirling is what this article is all about, isn’t it? Then, let’s start!
1. Dynamics of the characters
Unlike some other series, Jujutsu Kaisen focuses on a small main cast, more specifically a trio: Itadori, Megumi, and Nobara. Even the list of side characters is not that huge. Despite that, Jujutsu Kaisen’s characters are the drivers of its story. The characters are incredibly unique, with well-defined personalities. While some mingle with each other perfectly (read: Itadori and Nobara), some provide us with valuable conflicts.
The characters’ responses to each other indisputably influence their own growth and perception. In fact, the antagonists boast beautiful detail while remaining cryptic. And when they do strike, they don’t just challenge the good guys’ strength. They provoke them (and us) to think about their morals and opinions.
A major chunk of the story revolves around an antagonist and his ‘mortal enemy,’ who differ entirely in their worldviews. They both serve as character foils for each other, growing with every clash. Their enmity and moral discord are so well written that one can analyze it to its smallest details.
Moreover, Akutami is an expert in judging when the story needs what kind of character, be it a mentor or an antithesis. Even the less intense and more slice-of-life moments come naturally between characters, rather than seeming forced. We can even say that the character dynamics bring out the true personality of these characters. The relationships they share are not explicit often, and you have read between the lines sometimes.
And between the characters, we also experience a lot of emotions. There is grief, rivalry, trust, longing, and whatnot – which is remarkable because the story is devoid of any romance. But one thing for sure is that the mangaka has the ability to make the readers fond of their characters in a very short period.
What is more, is that you begin feeling their emotions with them and will keep feeling them for a long time. That also brings us to the next aspect:
2. Character development
What good are great characters if they remain static? Thankfully, Jujutsu Kaisen manga gives us enough character development with its cast. Most of this character development does come through interaction with others, but personal experiences and fights add quite a bit too. For some, character development comes as taking one step ahead, while for some, it is the shattering of their perceptions.
You must remember that character development does not necessarily mean growth. There are characters in Jujutsu Kaisen that choose to walk darker, more morally gray paths.
The most surprising aspect is how seemingly actualized characters have profound stories behind them. And a long way to go to have a proper sense of self. If you notice, there are plenty of nuances that hint at the reasons (or the lack thereof) behind the characters’ actions.
It is like Akutami is peeling an onion very slowly to take us through every detail. This slow unfurling is vital to understanding some of the major characters and is incredibly satisfying. But that does not mean the side characters get the shorter end of the stick. In fact, I would say that a couple of characters that appeared only for a few chapters left a deeper impact on me as a reader.
Moreover, some points in the story just leave you spellbound. There are times when a character says something completely in contrast to their previous self. Such little things speak volumes about the characters and their progress in the story. An added bonus is that there are many female characters in this story who are also headstrong and powerful. It is a delight to see them develop and grow as independent characters.
Another thing that must be kept in mind is that the world in Jujutsu Kaisen depicts quite a few years of the characters’ lives. As such, the timeline shifts its focus on characters throughout before landing on the aforementioned trio.
This long timeline also means that for every arc, there is a new character that shines the most, which is honestly a great move. The events of these arcs become personal to each character, offering the reader an up-close, unique, and personal insight into their development.
One cannot help but marvel at how intricately these characters respond to the dreadful and grim jujutsu world. The appreciation of Jujutsu Kaisen’s characters is quite evident from the plethora of discussions on different platforms like Reddit.
3. Power system & scaling
Let’s be real now; we all crave a good power system in a shounen manga. There is nothing quite like pitting characters against each other to rank them according to strength. And I agree! A well-defined power system can make or break a story in this day and age. Well, Jujutsu Kaisen absolutely nailed it when it comes to the power system.
The characters in the story use “cursed techniques” to fight against the villains or “curses.” Every character uses some form of cursed technique – including the villains. Yes, you guessed it right; even the small-time characters get their own techniques. And so, there is a fantastic list of powers that one can have a field day dissecting.
In fact, what makes these powers even more remarkable is the effort Gege Akutami has put into them. Each cursed technique makes sense (in the jujutsu world, of course) by way of real-life disciplines. While the article will later discuss more about it, but these cursed techniques sometimes employ astronomy and physics as well.
Plus, another clever move is that the powers are very dependent on a character’s development. So, the more a character grows, the more we know about each technique. This fact also means that along with character development, information on cursed techniques is pretty much cryptic too. Yet, that does not sabotage your enjoyment; instead, it pushes you to play a game of guess.
If you are not satisfied yet, the power system boasts so much detail that you can compare techniques independent of their users too. So, there is perfect logic behind ranking these characters/techniques and plenty of scope for speculation. To add, even the strongest characters and techniques have a long way to develop in the story.
4. References and philosophy
Akutami is widely popular for incorporating several references in the Jujutsu Kaisen manga. It makes sense, too, because the basis of jujutsu itself is Buddhism. So, there is an abundance of events, characters, and even names that draw from Japanese mythology directly. Sometimes these references are quite obvious, like the Hyakki Yagyo but sometimes hidden in plain sight like hand signs.
No matter how hard or easy they are to find, they surely contribute to the richness of the story. And what’s more, they allow the readers to analyze the story in-depth and even speculate what could happen! This was just about Japanese mythology, by the way. Akutami’s finesse truly shines when he uses concepts from other disciplines in his storytelling too.
For example, until now, we have seen him incorporate these disciplines: physics, math, geography, astronomy, tarot, and Japanese Shinto rituals, among other things. These references are not too complex to lose the reader’s interest; instead, keep them engaged. In fact, such references enrich the reader’s knowledge in a subtle and fun manner. I, personally, am a sucker for learning new concepts through media consumption.
To add, there are numerous pop culture references here as well, from Jennifer Lawrence to Itadori wanting a Kamehameha type of attack. Akutami has also often addressed how Jujutsu Kaisen is a product of his inspiration from legends like Naruto, HUNTER X HUNTER, and Bleach. In a recent chapter, he went ahead and even drew a few panels in the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood style. How cool is that?
That is that, but what if I tell you Jujutsu Kaisen manga also touches upon some seinen themes? You read that right. Despite being a shounen story, the story has successfully and seamlessly adapted some heavy themes. There is an archaic & patriarchal society led by higher-ups that oppresses young people (and women) to begin with.
The setting of the story itself is the strong foundation it needed to talk about some moral issues as well.
The characters of Jujutsu Kaisen so brilliantly display these themes – each possessing a different one – that it makes it all the more special. Jujutsu Kaisen takes us through an identity crisis through Itadori, ethics through Geto, power through Gojo, and much more. However, none of it falls out of the storyline. It sews events together to present a near-perfect portrayal, sometimes drawing you in enough to question yourself as well.
5. Art style
Next up we have Gege Akutami’s Gege-Akutami-art-style. The art style of Jujutsu Kaisen manga is certainly not ordinary. It is different but in a good way. In fact, a great way. The manga is weekly, but even then, Akutami has maintained a consistent art style. The only thing inconsistent is that it has only gotten more refined from the prequel to the current arcs.
The color pages and double-page spreads we get often are a blessing. They have immaculate details that make the whole experience worthwhile. Furthermore, if these details are somehow missed in the weekly publication, you can be sure the volume release will have more detailing woven into it. It means that even after the weekly chapters go out, Akutami spends time revising his art.
The art is also pretty neat. In a setting where fights are quite common, it is a clear challenge to make good art. Nonetheless, Akutami delivers with his tactful stacking and paneling. There is no doubt that you might take a few chapters to get used to the fight scenes in Jujutsu Kaisen. But once you are habitual, you will realize that Akutami’s art stands out in speedy fights.
Also, his portrayal of the vast array of cursed techniques and their uses is fabulous. What makes it so extraordinary is that complex concepts flawlessly intertwine with good illustrations. Had that not been the case, the power system would have failed to impress the readers too. It is also insane to think that every arc until now has the same (if not better) quality of the art. Add the alluring cover pages to that, and you have a treat there.
6. Foreshadowing and little details
You might think that if the story is so packed, the mangaka would surely miss out on something as simple (but tough) as foreshadowing. Sorry not sorry to burst that thought bubble, but no. If one reads carefully, there are frequent hints to future events lying in the smallest corners. It could be a single mark or a single line – but it is there.
As a matter of fact, the story’s cryptic progression and selective reveals provide a solid base for foreshadowing. All the reasons you have read (and I have written) contribute to hints. And these foreshadows are not just related to the plot but also to techniques and character development.
At any point in the story, there is enough suspense to keep you guessing. Thus, it creates opportunities to analyze panels and dialogues with re-reads in case you miss anything. The JJK fandom is quite fond of connecting dots through the hints, whether right or wrong.
In short, there is no dull moment when it comes to the story. It is simply fun to realize what you missed or did not when an event finally happens. And then you proceed to praise Akutami for his skills, of course! Plus, there are a lot of things that the story leaves open for the reader to interpret. So, every little “I noticed this” always seems productive.
7. Pacing of the series
We’re already at the last reason. I swear I haven’t talked enough if that makes sense at all. Uhm, let’s go back to the topic, though!
There are stories that take their sweet time building their universe and character depth. Then there are stories that cut to the chase without wasting time and dive straight into it. Although the latter might sometimes miss out on detailing, thus forgoing plausible impact. However, the Jujutsu Kaisen manga has managed to find that sweet spot between these extremes.
At the time of writing this, JJK is at the 158th chapter with four minor and one major arcs already behind it. The prequel, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, begins one year before the present events, while the volumes ahead take us into the past again. Despite this meandering, the story moves at a very fast pace, barely wasting time on slice-of-life moments.
Also, there are a few obvious time skips to fit the story. But mind you, the few time skips that the story does offer do not break the flow of character development.
The introductory arcs (which the anime adapted in Season 1) are logically a bit slow. However, post that, the story absolutely does not give the reader any time to breathe. It hits you with great arcs after great arcs that may leave you empty. Emotionally damaged, albeit in a good way.
To tell the truth, the mangaka has expressed his regrets about not spending enough time on storyboarding. Even then, most of the fandom agrees that the arcs have not been any short of 10/10. There is plenty of build-up and emotions involved in each of them. And they also prove crucial to the plot, making us believe everything in the story is very relevant to the plot.
If I had to encompass all of it at once, it would be that you won’t even realize how many chapters you read in one sitting. It is possible that, just like me, you will end up reading 50 chapters while staying up till 1 AM! In a more sophisticated manner, the manga is a fast and easy read making it easy to catch up as well.
Satte, those were all the reasons that make the Jujutsu Kaisen manga worth reading. As I said in the beginning, these stem from my personal experience of catching up to the manga only one arc ago. Of course, other readers might find different reasons more exciting. Or there would be some readers who would disagree with the reasons this article listed. However, all that is merely a matter of personal preferences and tastes.
Despite these occasional differing personal opinions, most of the community agrees that Jujutsu Kaisen manga is indeed a masterpiece. It is not just challenging the genre it is in but also expanding its bounds. So, if you were looking for a sign, trust a stranger on the internet writing this and pick up the manga! If you are looking to read it post the anime, start reading from Chapter 64.
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section if you read the manga. Enjoy!