Cultural References In Culling Game From Jujutsu Kaisen!

Junpei and his shikigami

Gege Akutami’s love for incorporating cultural references in Jujutsu Kaisen is evident. The very basis for jujutsu is Buddhism, and we even saw Geto as Buddha once. There are several other references, too; Nobara’s Cursed Technique, for example, is inspired by the Shinto Strawdoll rituals.

In fact, Akutami is quite fond of using phenomena from various disciplines, not just religion, in his story. The mangaka has put much thought into small aspects like the cursed techniques, an example being mathematical principles for Gojo’s Limitless ability.

With the latest developments in the story, we came across a new addition: the culling game. Just like Kenjaku himself, Gege Akutami also thought this sort of tournament out. He has left clues for the culling game at various places. And using them, we came across a couple of possible references that Gege might have used for the culling game. Let’s see what they are!

Fishes in Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen has cleverly placed an important symbolism, the imagery of fishes, at various places. Be it through the anime or manga; the fishes foreshadowed a lot.

The first place we see the fishes is in both the openings of the series itself. These fishes are the Juvenile Emperor Angelfish that seem to hold some important place. Well, they certainly are! As the story begins, Junpei’s story proves to be a pivotal arc not just in Yuji’s life but also in the jujutsu world as a whole.

The Juvenile Emperor Angelfish depicts Junpei in the openings, which becomes evident as the story progresses. One of the introductory panels for Junpei also features the striking marks of the Juvenile Emperor Angelfish in the background.

The markings behind Junpei are strikingly similar to those of Juvenile Emperor Angelfish
The markings behind Junpei are strikingly similar to those of Juvenile Emperor Angelfish

The chapters centered around Junpei are also titled “Young Fish and Reverse Punishment,” which correlates to the “Juvenile” Emperor Angelfish. Furthermore, Junpei’s mother also talks about quite a significant thing to Junpei, quoting an example of fish tanks and oceans. While the Juvenile Emperor Angelfish is an inhabitant of the Indian and Pacific oceans, it is quite common in fish tanks too.

Junpei's mother comparing life choices with fish tanks and oceans
Junpei’s mother comparing life choices with fish tanks and oceans

Even Junpei’s shikigami ability turns out to be jellyfishes with poison. But why is Junpei so important? The awakening of Junpei’s cursed technique was a foreshadow of the things to come. He was the beginning of humanity’s forced evolution and Kenjaku’s real intentions.

Another place we see fishes is the Hidden Inventory or Gojo’s Past Arc. In the unfortunate story of Riko Amanai, there was a small window of happiness for her. It was a trip to Okinawa with the strongest duo and Kuroi accompanying her.

Perhaps in this arc, one of the most impactful panels is Riko standing in front of the aquarium. Hidden Inventory was also another important event that led to the current happenings. The failure of Tengen’s merger was an indispensable requirement of the culling game. You could even say that Riko died for the sake of an unimaginable future of the fishes in that fish tank.

Riko's visit to the aquarium on her trip to Okinawa
Riko’s visit to the aquarium on her trip to Okinawa

Abortive Migration

Well, you must be thinking how all this business about fishes relates to the current events. Reddit user birbdechi pointed out that the name for this culling game is Shimetsukaiyū. The translations for this Japanese name are Death Game, Annihilation Migration, or Abortion Migration.

Abortive Migration, as explained by this website as well, is an ecological happening that takes place due to the flow of the Tsushima Warm Current. These warm currents make the colder waters of the Pacific to be inhabitable. The ocean’s warm currents cause many tropical and subtropical marine creatures of oceans south of the Pacific to migrate.

Tsushima Warm Current via Oki Islands UNESCO website
Tsushima Warm Current via Oki Islands UNESCO website

However, in winters, the Sea of Japan’s temperature drops again even with the warmer currents. The migrated fish now have the task of migrating back to their original habitat. Since the water temperature drops close to 12° C, the fishes without migratory traits perish in the cold.

As this post explains, the tropical fishes that migrate to the Sea of Japan are called Shimetsukaiyū-gyo, clearly taken from Shimetsukaiyū. Therefore, if the Shimetsukaiyū-gyo and their eggs end up not migrating, they are annihilated. 

Abortive Migration refers to this “annihilation” due to natural factors.

Abortive Migration and the culling game

Like the Shimetsukaiyū-gyo forced to new areas, Kenjaku forced the culling game’s players into a new territory of cursed techniques. The rules, just like the warm currents, govern the players now, and they have to fight their annihilation.

Annihilation Migration depicted by fishes in Chapter 145
Annihilation Migration depicted by fishes in Chapter 145

The winter and cold temperature can be symbolic of the cursed technique removal of the players. If they don’t score points in 19 days, they will face the cold temperature and die. Fishes, or players, without migratory traits, i.e., survival of the fittest, will perish.

Using this small but impactful phenomenon as the basis of the culling game is a brilliant idea. Akutami’s placement of fishes throughout beautifully ties in with this new concept.

However, there is another Buddhist concept which might come into play here. Let’s see what that is!

Paramis and Paramitas

Buddhism as a religion places strong focus on nirvana and ascension. There are several principles and ideologies that all lead to crossing over to the other side. The religion also holds people who have crossed the boundary of “humans” in high regard.

If we think about it, Kenjaku’s ideas are also similar to these principles. As stated before, he wants humans to achieve a higher state of being through evolution. There are many ways Buddhism offers to ascend, but they all have few common values. One such “path” to ascension is the Paramis and/or Paramitas. The reference for this concept is this website.

Paramis means perfections and is parallel to the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path. These Paramis are certain qualities that one must hone to achieve nirvana or enlightenment. While they mean the same thing, Southern traditions call these qualities Paramis and the Eastern and Northern traditions, Paramitas.

As stated before, Buddhism places importance on virtues one must possess. So, the Paramis and Noble Path have quite a few common qualities too. According to the source, the following are the 10 qualities or Paramis:

  1. Generosity – giving help and benefit to other living beings
  2. Morality – live an ethical life
  3. Renunciation – renounce worldly pleasures
  4. Wisdom – achieve a right understanding of life and the world
  5. Energy – persistent effort and not being discouraged by failures
  6. Patience – patiently accept life’s ups and downs
  7. Truthfulness – honesty, and truthfulness in all things
  8. Determination – unwavering determination to progress on the path
  9. Loving-kindness – show benevolence and compassion to all things
  10. Equanimity – develop a perfect mental equilibrium. 

The Eastern and Northern Paramitas only slightly differ from the Southern Paramis. The Paramitas are Generosity, Morality, Patience, Energy, Meditation, Wisdom, Skillful means, Resolution, Power, and Knowledge. They essentially mean similar things. Following the Paramis or Paramitas, one can become a Samma Sambuddha or self-Buddha.

The ten colonies for the culling game throughout Japan
The ten colonies for the culling game throughout Japan

How does the Paramis come into the picture for the culling game? We know that Kenjaku’s true objective is to merge humans with Tengen. With the merger, he wants the humans to cross over to the other side. For this, the culling game has 10 colonies that are connected by a line.

Each colony may represent each of the Paramis and Paramitas. By fulfilling the objective of each colony, the humans will ascend. Even the concept of self-Buddha is applicable here. Kenjaku wants the survival of the fittest, and in the game, it is every man for himself.

"Crossing over to the other side"
“Crossing over to the other side”

So, what do you think of these references? Are they a fit for the story? I really enjoyed reading about them! Gege Akutami has done so well with them. Also, do you think there are more or other references? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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