There are characters who stay for a short time in the story but win our hearts regardless. (Nanamiiiiin T_T) And then there are characters who stay for a long time and make us want to stab them more every time they appear. One of the most prominent antagonists of Jujutsu Kaisen belongs to the second category. And you know him very well. Let’s pretend you didn’t read the title for a second, hey.
Mahito is every bit annoying and a menace to literally everyone. We have villains like Geto whose actions arise out of heartbreaking nuances, but…Mahito. His only goal was to be thoroughly evil and make Itadori’s life a mess. As much as I want to watch Nanami and Itadori punch him over & over, we can’t deny Mahito is an incredible character. So, it becomes all the more interesting to analyze his relationship with his ‘mortal enemy,’ Itadori. I’d rather not elaborate on this, and let’s get into it instead.
Of Mahito, the philosophical villain
Mahito has a very skewed outlook on humanity – after all, he is the embodiment of human resentment. The stark contrast of his beliefs is evident in his first interaction with Junpei itself. Humans don’t have a heart; they just have a soul. Everything that is living can be attributed to a soul, so a curse and a human are not very different. To him, ‘lives’ don’t mean anything much. It is like a game of whack-a-mole, but he keeps changing his hammers.
At the very base, Mahito is curious. His wonderful experiments of how big or how small he could make humans is just an example. He wants to know what happens when souls change. Why do humans hold onto such a fleeting thing so dearly? Since Mahito knows the shape of his soul and can see it, he follows what his following instincts tell him. Pain and suffering to humans is the origin but also the purpose of Mahito’s existence. He solemnly believes that there is no worth to “life.” Just like the universe exists and all the other things in it, like rivers, exist for no reason, so does life.
This ideology brings him to the conclusion that there is no life worth protecting. There are millions of souls, and all of them are practically the same to him. However, it also concerns another part of his thought. He finds humans repulsive because they take pride in their life. As a species, we declared ourselves superior to any other. Why? Only because of our intelligence and our ability to differentiate between good and evil.
Mahito rightfully, to some extent, asks an important question. What really IS good and evil? If everything is made of souls, what right do humans have to call curses evil? Even curses exist as a natural occurrence. What difference does it make if Mahito is a curse and Itadori is a human? Is it okay for Mahito to die but not for a human? In fact, intelligent curses have the same factors that humans take pride in, reason and decision. Shouldn’t this mean their lives are equal? And thus, the curses should also have the freedom to live and act upon their instincts. Also, have a natural death like humans.
You could even call Mahito a nihilist to a point. But then he uses this nihilism to excuse his murders. In his eyes, nihilism allows him to fool around with his little game of whack-a-mole. Because there is “nothing” to life, I can change the appearance of souls. After all, there is nothing significant to it. However, the very idea of X is like this, so I can do Y is a contradiction of nihilism. Mahito is not indifferent; he just thinks he is.
An essential aspect of Mahito’s character is his drive to grow. He is so inquisitive about the true form of his soul that he disregards everything else. Even the brink of death is an opportunity for him to realize a different part of himself. Talk about considering everything character development. The journey of self-discovery is highly related to his encounters with his (least) favorite human, Yuji Itadori.
And of Yuji, the naive shaman
Itadori was oblivious to a lot of things; we can’t deny that. It makes sense, too; he was just a child forced into this jujutsu business out of nowhere. Damn you, ojii-san. Itadori’s firm resolve from the get-go defined his character. He wanted to protect human lives and make sure they have a natural death. Does Itadori have a hero complex? In the beginning, I believe he did.
The problem was not that he was oblivious; it was that he was ignorant of his obliviousness. A good contrast to Itadori is Megumi. He knew how he had to function as a shaman, and he said it too: he is not a hero; he is a shaman. As much as Itadori wanted rational reasons behind actions, he was proved wrong at nearly every step. Megumi understood this fact very well. Remember the cursed womb arc where Itadori wanted to carry out that man’s dead body? That is where we first understand that despite agreeing to Gojo’s warning, Itadori did not understand the weight of his life ahead.
All the other things aside, Mahito is the one who puts Itaori’s rationality in question the most prominently. His primary reason for shamanism was to save precious human lives. His resolve precedes his own self too – he will die at the end, but at least he will save people. So, his reasons for getting strong (and self-discovery) take root from selflessness as well.
But, there is a huge problem here. Itadori wants to save as many people as possible, yes. So, Junpei very rightly inquires the point of mindlessly saving people. Until then, Itadori had never thought about this entirely new aspect of shamanism. Even Gojo had to tackle this fact after Suguru’s defection. I can only save people who are prepared to be saved. This incident was just one reality Itadori had to face, though.
His clear line of distinction between curses and humans was the next thing he had to counter. Like I said before, Itadori would tear curses apart but save humans at all costs. But, sentient curses threw this classification into chaos. Itadori has had to go back and forth between what really separates him, as the vessel of Sukuna, from the other curses, too. Itadori is not your usual shounen protagonist for a plethora of reasons. He learns from pain (poor boy) and realizes how flawed ideologies can be. Any idea and reasoning in this world can be countered against and that is exactly what happens in Itadori vs. Mahito.
How did Itadori vs Mahito change both of them?
Itadori and Mahito’s clashes are not a mere coincidence; they both serve as antithesis for each other. From the above two character analyses, you might have gathered it too. This heated rivalry undoubtedly gave room for Mahito and Itadori to grow. But, it also gave Jujutsu Kaisen a chance to deal with some philosophical and spiritual ideas.
Let’s go back to where it began: Junpei Yoshino. Albeit a little twisted, Junpei found two “connections” in his life at a crucial point in life. Itadori and Mahito both involved themselves very closely with this special case.
Mahito validated Junpei’s emotions and told him to act upon his instincts. As we saw, Mahito had no particular value to attach with life. On the other hand, Itadori wanted Junpei to believe there is worth to each life, even his own. Both Mahito and Itadori are two extreme ways to look at life, which is why Junpei served as the perfect catalyst.
Mahito is a fearful curse because of his ability, yes. But even scarier was how he incessantly grew within a short period. Funnily enough, his growth potential was even higher than Itadori. It was so extraordinary that Jogo himself attested to it in the Shibuya arc.
Just like Kenjaku, Mahito also saw growth in chaos. Only Itadori, his mortal enemy, who could also understand souls, could fulfill his desire to grow. And thus, he began his cruel experimentations to torment Itadori and push him into a corner. Through Mahito, Itadori learned, for the first time, the true face of curses.
Itadori had quite boldly refuted Nanami calling him a child. But, he was a child in his way of thinking. Mahito saw the chance to exploit that quite well. Because of Mahito, Itadori also came face to face with another reality. He had to kill transmogrified humans. But they WERE humans whom he had failed to save. This point is when he finally began accepting that he cannot turn back some things. He cannot hold everything in his hand. Junpei’s death only drilled that in his head in the worst way possible.
However, Itadori also managed to change Mahito’s goals. From wanting to get Sukuna on the curses’ side, Mahito zeroed out on killing Itadori. He wanted to realize his true form and then kill Itadori. Wish me a happy birthday, Itadori. As a literary masterpiece, Mahito was extremely in tune with the peak human quality: selfishness. So, he found Itadori’s efforts absolutely garbage.
Itadori was not looking for a journey of self-discovery. He only wanted to get strong to save more people. But Mahito inadvertently pulled Itadori along. On this journey, Itadori has to face inhumanity and lack of reason. More and more. He learns he has to become a little inhuman. And that there is nothing other than “nothing” behind the existence and goals of curses. So, in a way, he adopts part of Mahito’s ideology. It is pretty evident in what he tells to Mahito in chapter 132:
“…I don’t need to find meaning or a reason. Maybe a hundred years after death, the meaning behind my actions will become apparent. In the grand scheme of things … I’m probably nothing more than a cog. But I’ll keep killing curses…for as long as I can. That’s my role in all this.”
On the contrary, even Mahito contradicts himself. He wants to be indifferent, thinks he is, but the appearance of Itadori changes all that moral preaching. Ironically, he had mocked Junpei for the same lack of indifference. Evidently, in chapter 126, Mahito represents this. He says: “It’s a battle to determine who will be left standing in a 100 years.” He is no longer concerned about the goals he began with.
But, this fight also turned him into the true embodiment of the mirror of death. Death is a mirror for humans. Mahito is that mirror. As we saw, Mahito is the embodiment of the dirt and ugliness of humans. And only in death do humans recognize such a thing. The very fact that Mahito was living was a horror. It was as if death itself had come to life. Mahito was also proof that as long as there are humans, there will be resentment. And there will be curses.
Another important element of Itadori and Mahito’s brawl is the Black Flash. It is a simple concept of jujutsu, but it meant a thread that connected Mahito and Itadori. Both of them grew from this technique – Itadori eventually deciding he had to hit Mahito with a Black Flash to end him. The fight between Itadori and Mahito came to a close in the most poetic way possible. Mahito had appealed to and used Junpei’s vulnerable side. So, in the same manner, Kenjaku had gotten the better Mahito’s hunger for growth and used him. Both times, Itadori remained a spectator while they were crushed: once his target of hope and the other time hatred.
Understanding why Itadori and Mahito are sides of the same coin
Before their fight ended, Mahito said something peculiar. He told Itadori that they were the same. “How even?” must have been your reaction, too. But, it is true. Mahito and Itadori are indeed two sides of the same coin.
Mahito himself explains a little bit of it. Itadori mindlessly saves people because of what he believes is right, and because he wants to uphold his justice. In the way, Mahito kills people like flies because he also believes that is his purpose as a curse. He even asks other curses to be cunning like curses should be.
Both of them had a higher sense of value, too. Itadori felt that since he had the power, he also could see a broader perspective and take the right decisions. Mahito, as well, considered himself superior to humans and had absolute faith in his ideology.
They are both similar in the utter rejection of the other race. Mahito hates humans. Itadori hates curses. They don’t understand (nor do they want to) the existence and purpose of their counterparts. And what plays into this is the fact that Mahito is created from HUMANS and Itadori has a CURSE in him. So beautiful.
The one difference that sets them apart is, ironically, human reasoning. Itadori leans on his sense of humanity while Mahito acts on his instincts. The way both of them are each other’s character foils reminds me a lot of Sukuna and Gojo. They also have a mere difference of reasoning between them.
In essence, Mahito and Itadori are two halves of a whole. As humans, we have both of these traits in us. We are selfish and selfless. And we are also cunning and naive. There is no way only one of them exists without the other. Mahito and Itadori just represented the archetypes of living life with different world views. What we have to do is accept both of these sides, as Itadori did: “You’re right Mahito. I’m you. I wanted to reject you. Convince myself that you were wrong. But that doesn’t matter now.” Only then can one accept themselves.
Mahito and Itadori just might be the most astonishing literary piece by Akutami. The characters were incredibly well-written. Despite Jujutsu Kaisen having a fast pace, both of them got ample time to give out extremely deep ideologies. What did you think of this rivalry? Did you enjoy their dynamic? Don’t forget to put down your thoughts in the comment section! Until next time, then.