Jujutsu Kaisen's Sukuna is a major problem as an overpowered walking disaster, as its creator, Gege Akutami described him at one point. The demon currently using the main protagonist Yuji Itadori as a host has a lot of mystery and menace surrounding him.
Most fans, however, probably don't realize the sheer amount of mythological references that come with the character. There are a number of legends and myths that depict the legendary Sukuna in a more positive light, despite the fact that the name Sukuna refers to a character in Nihon Shoki who is only mentioned in one paragraph.
This article will examine all of the myths and legends surrounding Sukuna from Jujutsu Kaisen.
Disclaimer: This article will contain Jujutsu Kaisen spoilers. It will also contain speculation and depictions of gruesome acts. All opinions belong to their respective owners, including the author of the article.
Jujutsu Kaisen's Ryomen Sukuna's various mythos, explained
The mythical Sukuna vs. the anime
The earliest historical mention of the mythological Sukuna reportedly originated in Nihon Shoki, a document composed during the Nara period in 720 AD by the then-ruling Japanese Imperial family. The tome was edited by Imperial Prince Yamato Toneri.
This version of Sukuna shares many physical characteristics with its Jujutsu Kaisen counterpart, including two faces, four arms, an additional pair of legs, and is at least three meters tall.
The mythic version was portrayed as a murdering demon who killed thousands and this rampage was only stopped when the Emperor sent General Takefurukuma no Mikoto to kill him. So far, it seems to describe Sukuna in Jujutsu Kaisen perfectly as the self-proclaimed King of Curses has a massive body count and super strength and took the lives of countless sorcerors before he was finally stopped.
The comparison, however, draws an interesting contrast as some locals of the Hida province (now the Gifu Prefecture) worshiped Sukuna as a benevolent deity.
While Jujutsu Kaisen fans will be hard-pressed to see any benevolence in the insanely arrogant spirit portrayed in the anime, the mythological Sukuna was said to have introduced Buddhism to the province and built the ancient temple of Senkou-Ji.
Some folklore even state that he was one of the incarnations of the Boddhisatva of Mercy, Kannon. The contradictions can probably be blamed on the Imperial Yamato Family who invaded and took over the territory and then spread propaganda to subvert the Hida beliefs.
This is where the moniker "Ryomen" originated.
Ryomen has been translated as two-faced, referencing both the literal two faces and contrasting reputations that Sukuna has.
Urban Legends of destruction
The pop culture version of Sukuna has mostly stayed in line with the Nihon Shoki interpretation wherein Sukuna is portrayed as a demonic force hellbent on wreaking havoc wherever he goes.
Jujutsu Kaisen creator Gege Akutami cited a 2005 urban myth as one of the sources for his antagonist, where the idea of a walking calamity originated.
The mythical mummy of the urban legend shares all the physical traits of Jujutsu Kaisen's king of cursest - two pairs of legs, two faces, and four arms. Anyone who laid eyes on it met extreme misfortune, from poverty to mass illness to sudden death. Catastrophic disasters like fires, floods, and earthquakes were guaranteed to strike any area where it was spotted.
This more than fits Jujutsu Kaisen's version of Sukuna, as the urban legend revolving around the mummy states it caused the devastating 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that caused well over 100,000 deaths.
Fans are probably not surprised, given that Sukuna showed off that he can pull the same thing in Shibuya during the Shibuya Incident arc.
The idea of an urban legend that forecasts disaster isn't unusual in many cultures. Likewise, the idea of a living mummy is an older horror staple. For this reason, the anime version of Sukuna fits more in with the urban legend than it does with any sort of positive connotation.
So, here's something a little outside the box: a four-eyed mummy can be seen in the garb of Buddhist monks called a sokushinbutsu in the first chapter of the Jujutsu Kaisen manga cover art.
The term describes a particular sect of monks who would seclude themselves in the mountains, fasting and chanting mantras until they die with the goal of reaching enlightenment.
Due to the monks' strict diet, which was typically pine needles, resins, and seeds, their bodies would shrivel up much like mummies. The only supposed positive was that they'd become resistant to decomposition, thus preserving their remains even centuries after they passed.
The idea of a mummified appearance already echoes back to what was said earlier about the mummy's curse and resistance to decomposition accurately describes Sukuna's cursed fingers.
While this might not be a direct influence, the whole idea of the misappropriation of holy garbs is something Sukuna would definitely appreciate. Some manga elements of Jujutsu Kaisen are definitely influenced by sokushinbutsu. The shriveled cursed objects that are Sukuna's fingers and Sukuna's body itself shriveling up and decaying likewise more than resemble the practice.
Sukuna may not have reached enlightenment with his vast amount of power, but his body being unable to contain his spirit definitely does more to push that idea out there.
Again, going by the urban legend and this, Sukuna being a cursed spirit and mummy makes more sense than anything else given his malevolent intent and hostility.
Is Sukuna one person, or two people?
One theory states that Nihon Shoki's version of Sukuna is the fusion of the two brothers Oousu no Mikoto and Ousu no Mikoto.
The two were considered twin brothers in Kojiki -- literally Japan's oldest surviving historical document. As with many stories involving twin brothers, such as Cain and Abel, it's not a happy one.
The story goes that the elder broker Oousu acted out a lot and their father had enough. Ousu was asked to teach his twin how to behave. In the end, Ousu supposedly cut off his brother's limbs and disposed of him in an unmarked grave and was renamed Prince Yamato Takeru.
This sort of gruesome story is most definitely in Jujutsu Kaisen's version of Sukuna's wheelhouse.
The idea that this gruesome story inspired Sukuna's ruthless nature and his strength is one theory and interpretation that many have adopted into the canon.
Another fan theory proposes that Ryomen Sukuna was the first of twins and consumed his twin while still in the womb. This fits with the story told above and would explain his extra appendages and bloodlust for human flesh.
Regardless, it's a theory that some have chosen to latch onto. Despite Sukuna getting Megumi's body in the manga and now being free of Yuji, he's still not at the top of his game. That might have something to do with his Cursed Energy being suppressed thanks to Megumi, and likewise needing to recover. It's a battle of brothers, and much like the story Sukuna tried to dice Yuji into pieces but failed.
Jujutsu Kaisen's Ryomen Sukuna has plenty of mythos behind him in terms of what has been seen in his backstory in the manga. Even though the manga is reaching critical mass with the character, there are still a lot of backstory questions to find out regarding him.
Regardless, a large amount of mythology is already there and references are more than enough to write several books about them. If any kind of reference was missed about Jujutsu Kaisen's resident King of Curses, the audience is more than welcome to add them in the comments.