Jujutsu Kaisen: Akutami creates an interesting dilemma by pitting Yuji against Megumi
An interesting development in Jujutsu Kaisen is Yuji Itadori vs. Megumi Fushiguro. Unlike many shonen anime rivalries, however, this one in Jujutsu Kaisen isn't about fighting each other or even being the strongest, but rather about concepts and execution of heroism. The two characters are vastly different in their heroic outlooks and what they hope to achieve.
While Yuji believes everyone should be saved and is driven into a martyrdom complex owing to his need to be a hero, Megumi is almost the opposite - he believes that the basis of human interaction is to avoid impinging on someone's dignity. Megumi has a nearly black-and-white view, making him believe that not everyone can be saved.
This article will examine both dueling protagonists of Jujutsu Kaisen in detail, with specific emphasis on their concepts of heroism and how their personalities clash.
Disclaimer: This article is subjective and contains spoilers for Jujutsu Kaisen, up to and including the latest manga chapters.
Jujutsu Kaisen's Yuji Itadori vs. Megumi Fushiguro: Different heroes, different outlooks
Yuji Itadori: The all loving martyr
Yuji Itadori is Jujutsu Kaisen's main protagonist, and a really self-sacrificial person. This stems from his utter lack of true interpersonal relationships, because he has no real close friends except for his dying grandfather.
In fact, the last things his grandfather told him were to die well and surrounded by others. The problem is that he took the advice far too literally and continues to do so, throwing himself into danger time and again without regard for his own life.
One example of this is when, at the beginning of Jujutsu Kaisen, Yuji impulsively swallowed one of Sukuna's fingers to exorcize a cursed spirit and save Megumi despite only having met the latter for the first time that day. This made him Sukuna's vessel, and caused Yuji's life to spiral downward, especially during the time Sukuna massacred hundreds in Shibuya.
The aftermath of that massacre in Jujutsu Kaisen caused crippling self-doubt in Yuji, who nearly burned himself out fighting and saving people because he felt he was too weak to prevent it. It took being beaten by Yuta and a long conversation with Megumi to help him recover.
All of this ties back into Yuji's philosophy with regard to heroism, as he believes he should fundamentally be able to save everyone in trouble.
He cares for anyone he views as a person, no matter how deep or shallow his connection to them is. To put it simply, Yuji believes that it is morally unethical for him to take another human life and therefore, he saves everyone he can. As stated previously, this isn't healthy, given that he burns himself out in pursuit of it.
Megumi Fushiguro: The black-and-white anti-nihilist
Jujutsu Kaisen's deuteragonist Megumi Fushiguro is his own can of worms when it comes to heroism, as he suffers from self-sacrificial tendencies and a black-and-white viewpoint of life.
This stems from Megumi regularly beating up bullies and delinquents in middie school, which happened so frequently that he would often be found sitting and lecturing them on human dignity. This repeatedly got him scolded by his older step-sister Tsumiki, since she felt that bullying bullies didn't help them towards a better path.
A lot of Megumi's character development can be summed up as a deconstruction of the typical shonen anime rival archetype:
- Megumi's inability to forgive evildoers for their crimes is portrayed as a good thing, since he cares so much about innocent people that he never lets bad deeds go unpunished.
- Megumi is talented and naturally gifted, though not arrogant. So his relationship with Yuji is positive.
- His ultimate technique, summoning Mahoraga, is a death sentence for him and those around him, since he cannot control it.
Megumi does, however, seem to struggle with nuance. While arguing with Yuji over their varying philosophies, he pointed out that saving as many people as possible runs the risk of some of those people becoming criminals. This is directly constrasted with Megumi saving Yuji multiple times, despite knowing how evil Sukuna is. Likewise, it has also forced him to comfort loved ones of people they couldn't save even if he held the belief that they deserved death.
Further, Megumi believes that the only thing that's fair about life is that it's unfair to everyone, and that jujutsu sorcerers are just cogs in the machine of karmic retribution. His desire, in other words, is to ensure that "good people" like Tsumiki receive fair and good lives.
This led him to realize that he saved Yuji out of concern for seeing a good person die. Megumi knew it was a selfish and emotional decision, so he rationalized that he's not a hero. His problem lies in owning up to being heroic and learning that nuance.
The needs of the many vs. Fighting for every life
An interesting contrast Jujutsu Kaisen presents is the heroic philosophies that Yuji and Megumi present as clashing protagonists, in a metanarrative sense.
While Megumi's goal of saving good people as a jujutsu sorcerer is wholly selfless, he acknowledges how paradoxically selfish it is because refuses to save the lives of bad people. It's reminiscent of the idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where Spock sacrificed himself much like Megumi attempted to.
This is highly contrasted with Yuji, who typically believes in trying to save everyone he can and won't kill humans unless forced into the act. There are a few exceptions, like Mahito after Junpei's death, and Sukuna, who he's stuck with. Yuji starts out as an energetic, naive person with a goal of helping as many people as possible, and that leads to plenty of hardship and trauma for him.
Naturally, both men have clashed over whether or not to save criminals throughout Jujutsu Kaisen's narrative. They've also changed as a result, with Yuji becoming cynical and Megumi becoming slightly more positive. After the Shibuya incident, it took Megumi and Yuta giving Yuji a good talk to perk the latter back up.
The biggest change and development both men go through is when their philosophies of heroism are questioned time and again by either failing to save people, or by recognizing the nuances in their actions.
Having a black and white view leads to deaths that otherwise could've been saved and further encourages Megumi's self-sacrificial tendencies, which led to Gojo snapping him out of it. Having a "save everyone" mentality leads to Yuji being broken down when he starts to see that he cannot, and he likewise needs help to get out of despair.
Jujutsu Kaisen shows off quite the heroic contrast between Megumi and Yuji. Throughout the story, the two were confronted with events, people, and other things that shook their initial perceptions of the world.
As of the Culling Games, both the heroes are getting more nuanced and are advancing, as they will need to, given how drastic things have gotten as of the current manga chapter.