Jujutsu Kaisen features a large number of fascinating characters, each of whom has their own unique philosophies and motivations. But almost none are as depressing as the series protagonist Yuji Itadori, who was flung headfirst into the murky world of curses and jujutsu.
Considering his journey throughout the series, chapter 200 marks how far Yuji has come since ingesting Sukuna’s first finger. This article delves into Yuji’s journey as a protagonist and attempts to show his character was negatively affected by his traumatic experiences in Jujutsu Kaisen.
Disclaimer: This article contains mentions of suicide and spoilers for the Jujutsu Kaisen manga. All external media in this article are the property of their respective owners.
Yuji Itadori’s character development in Jujutsu Kaisen is uniquely depressing
How Yuji’s beliefs are shattered and warped throughout the series
From the very beginning of Jujutsu Kaisen, Yuji was shown to have a preoccupation with saving people, aggravated by his grandfather’s final words to him. He jumped headfirst into the fray, initially to save the Occult Club members and then to save Megumi Fushiguro from being killed by a cursed spirit. He was shown to be oddly unaffected by the presence of cursed spirits or their exorcism, disregarding them as non-humans.
Even after ingesting Sukuna’s finger and being approached by Gojo to become a jujutsu sorcerer, Yuji’s aim remained to save people so that he would not die a lonely death. Knowing that he was living on borrowed time, Yuji was continually obsessed by the idea of a “good death,” despite not being very sure why he had to die in the first place. Yuji’s confusion regarding why his death was necessary was answered at the detention center after relinquishing control and letting Sukuna take over.
Yuji’s determination to die if the need arises became evident from this point onwards, and his will slowly developed into an urgency as the plot progressed. His idea of a “good death” and apathy towards cursed spirits was destroyed upon seeing Junpei dying right before him and fighting the Death Painting brothers, Eso and Kechizu. Interestingly, each of his epiphanies foreshadowed the horror he was going to witness at Shibuya.
The Shibuya Incident arc of Jujutsu Kaisen became a major turning point for the development of Yuji’s character. After being fed 11 fingers at once, Yuji lost control and unleashed the King of Curses, who destroyed much of Shibuya and killed hundreds of people while exorcizing Mahoraga. The pink-haired protagonist was left to watch the aftermath of Sukuna’s rampage, believing himself responsible for the deaths.
Before he could recover from the event, he witnessed Nanami dying and Nobara being fatally injured by Mahito right in front of him. He was further traumatized by the realization that Kenjaku had possessed his mother’s corpse. He realized that he himself was not fully human, created specifically to become Sukuna's vessel.
The Itadori Extermination arc showed Yuji’s earlier belief systems to have disintegrated, causing him to question if he deserved to live at all. He seemed genuinely shocked and disappointed upon knowing that Yuta had brought him back to life. The only reason he was able to collect himself was because Megumi reminded him of his original aim, which was to save people.
Yuji forced himself to focus solely on saving Megumi by rescuing his sister Tsumiki from the Culling Game. Yuji’s interaction with Higuruma revealed that he still believed himself to be responsible for the deaths in Shibuya and felt that he deserved to die. He was slightly assuaged by Higuruma, who insisted that Sukuna’s actions were not his fault.
But Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 200 revealed that Angel would unseal Gojo only after Sukuna was killed, strengthening Yuji’s resolve to die. He even thinks back to the first time he died in the series, challenging the King of Curses for declaring that he did not have the courage to kill himself.
From Savior Syndrome to Martyr Syndrome
Jujutsu Kaisen shows Yuji’s character comes full circle, but with very different conclusions. The series began with him wanting to fulfill his grandfather’s wishes and save people, and not die a lonely death. He repeatedly mentioned that he wanted to die surrounded by people he had saved, so he would not have as many regrets during his final moments.
But after the Shibuya Incident arc of the Jujutsu Kaisen manga, Yuji was convinced that the death and destruction that came with him being alive was not worth it. When Megumi asked for his help in saving Tsumiki, Yuji clung to it like a lifeline.
Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 200 showed that Megumi has no false optimism regarding how Yuji will deal with the knowledge that Sukuna is "the disgraced one." Moreover, the pink-haired protagonist proved his suspicions to be true. He decided that his death was a small price to pay to save Gojo and destroy more than half of Sukuna’s soul in the process.
Yuji’s obsession with saving everyone also seems to have warped into something that closely resembles Megumi’s philosophy - to save the people he chooses to protect. While he earlier wanted to live to protect people, Yuji now wants to die in order to protect them, especially since almost everyone he wanted to be around during his final moments are already dead.
Negativity does not necessarily mean a character turns evil. In Jujutsu Kaisen, Yuji has become increasingly pessimistic throughout the series, with his self-worth diminishing at every turn.
This negative character arc progression seems to be anticipating that Yuji will die at the end of the series. It will either be while trying to prevent the King of Curses from returning, or being killed after his body succumbs to Sukuna’s control after he ingests the five remaining fingers.