Jujutsu Kaisen, like other major shonen series, has its own distinct system and currency of power. Cursed energy forms the basis of both the antagonists in the series and the means to fight against them.
The series began on a comparatively darker note compared to series like Naruto and Hunter x Hunter. Hence, it is no surprise that the power system of this series has its roots in the darker aspects of the human psyche.
With recent manga chapters revealing Kenjaku’s liaison with the West and plans regarding the Culling Game, the significance of cursed energy in the story increases even further. This article attempts to define what constitutes cursed energy, and discusses its nature and role in Jujutsu Kaisen.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for the Jujutsu Kaisen manga.
Cursed energy in Jujutsu Kaisen is born out of negative human emotions
What is cursed energy?
In the Jujutsu Kaisen universe, cursed energy is defined as a power born out of negative human emotions like grief, anger, and fear. But other emotions associated with human vices like guilt, envy, hatred, and gluttony can also create cursed energy in people.
Cursed energy is present in almost everyone, but in a very small percentage of the population, the concentration of this energy is high enough to allow them to see cursed spirits.
Cursed spirits, often referred to as curses, are beings created purely out of cursed energy, born out of an accumulation of negative human emotions. Primordial curses in Jujutsu Kaisen like Jogo, Hanami, and Dagon have existed for centuries, born out of people’s fear of natural disasters like volcanoes, floods, or the terrifying side of nature.
In sharp contrast, Mahito is a relatively new cursed spirit, born from feelings of envy, hatred, and ill will which humans bear towards other humans. Generally invisible to the naked eye, people might sometimes gain the ability to see curses while dying at the hands of a cursed spirit, since the risk of being cursed makes their cursed energy peak.
This is because the concept of cursed energy is fatalistic, depending on both human emotion and the risk to the user’s life.
How cursed energy facilitates jujutsu
In Jujutsu Kaisen, jujutsu sorcerers are people with increased levels of cursed energy, who can see curses and wield their own energy to fight back against them. Since cursed spirits are made out of pure energy, they cannot be killed by normal means, and can only be exorcized using jujutsu techniques.
Early on in the series, Gojo explains to Itadori that cursed energy can be compared to electricity, a versatile fuel that can be used to reinforce one’s body and weapon, and even increase the impact of a physical blow, as is the case in Itadori’s Divergent Fist.
However, reinforcement is not a cursed technique, since it merely coats the object without performing a specific task.
Gojo elaborated that most sorcerers are born with an affinity for specific cursed techniques, which function like electrical appliances and manipulate cursed energy to perform a certain function.
The rank and skill level of a sorcerer in Jujutsu Kaisen usually depends on their proficiency with their individual cursed technique as well as the amount of cursed energy they possess.
Every sorcerer and cursed spirit has a distinct energy signature as well, known in the series as “residuals.” Powerful sorcerers can detect such residuals to identify jujutsu users and cover up their own tracks as well.
Seasoned sorcerers can also sense the cursed energy output of someone using jujutsu, allowing them to gauge how powerful their ally or opponent might be.
Cursed energy as an energy source
Jujutsu Kaisen has dropped subtle clues regarding the true importance of cursed energy from early on in the series. During the Gojo’s Past arc, Yuki Tsukumo discussed how the flow of cursed energy in sorcerers was significantly greater than that in non-sorcerers, who were skilled in preventing energy from leaking out and being wasted.
She suggested that if every single person in the world became a sorcerer, there would not be enough cursed energy for curses to be born.
But it was during the infamous Shibuya Incident arc of Jujutsu Kaisen that the true potential of cursed energy was introduced. Yuki tried to buy time by engaging Kenjaku in conversation, stating that the next stage of evolution lay with separating humans from cursed energy.
But the villain disagreed, insisting that it lay with optimizing cursed energy. This prompted Yuki to point out that such a plan was flawed since both sorcerers and curses were rare outside Japan, making Japanese people the only ones capable of becoming sorcerers.
Kenjaku then used Mahito’s Idle Transfiguration to begin the Culling Game, a kill-or-be-killed tournament for sorcerers.
The immortal sorcerer Tengen revealed that Kenjaku’s intent was to gather cursed energy from participants and force a nationwide evolution of non-sorcerers by merging them with Tengen. But the body-hopping sorcerer’s real plan turned out to be something far more sinister, a major clue for which was dropped in Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 167, showing him at a meeting with Chinese officials.
Jujutsu Kaisen chapter 200 finally pulled back the curtains and disclosed that Kenjaku was rallying powerful countries, including the U.S., to send military personnel to Japan during the Culling Game and abduct the surviving sorcerers.
The chapter explored the possibility of using cursed energy as an alternative source of energy, with the potential to someday replace conventional fossil fuels.
Kenjaku’s meeting at the White House even convinced the officials that a sorcerer as powerful as Gojo might have enough cursed energy to single-handedly power an entire country, leading them to agree to use the abducted sorcerers as lab rats to study cursed energy.
Cursed energy forms the very backbone of the Jujutsu Kaisen universe, being the foundation of everything related to jujutsu. Interestingly, cursed energy itself is completely dependent on human beings, further adding to its thematic significance in the story.
While there are anomalies like Maki and Toji, whose Heavenly Restrictions stripped them of all cursed energy in exchange for superior physical and sensory reflexes, they are not completely free of the bindings of cursed energy, since they have to rely on cursed tools to exorcize curses.