Jujutsu Kaisen fans know that cursed energy is born from negative emotions like fear, grief, and anger, which can then be used by sorcerers and spirits to fuel their jujutsu.
The concept of cursed energy and jujutsu, although intricately structured, is pretty straightforward; however newer fans and people who went in blind for the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 film found it slightly confusing to understand.
JJK 0 follows the story of Yuta Okkotsu aka the Cursed Child, who believes he is cursed by a Special Grade Cursed Spirit called Rika. Rika Orimoto was Yuta’s childhood girlfriend, killed in a brutal road accident; now her spirit haunts him.
Later in the movie, it is revealed that Yuta isn’t really the Cursed Child at all – it is not Yuta who is cursed by Rika, but vice versa.
Rika was cursed by Yuta. When she was killed, Yuta’s love and grief turned Rika into a cursed spirit. She is simply a manifestation of his cursed energy, which had resulted from the negative emotions that flowed out from him watching her die.
How was Rika cursed? How did she become so powerful?
In the movie, Satoru Gojo wonders how Rika, who doesn’t come from any line of Jujutsu sorcerers, could become such a powerful curse.
It turns out that Yuta, like Gojo, is a descendant of Sugawara Michizane, one of the 3 Vengeful Spirits and a big shot in the Jujutsu world.
When the car bangs into Rika, Yuta repeatedly shouts “Don’t die!”, inadvertently bonding her spirit to him. Rika’s 10-year-old spirit becomes cursed by his pain and sorrow, and is bound to him because Yuta cannot let her go.
Rika thus turns into a mega-powerful Special Grade Vengeful Cursed Spirit, but she is only so powerful because Yuta, a descendant of Michizane, is the one who is Special Grade.
There are only 4 Special Grade sorcerers in the series, Yuki, Gojo, Geto, and Yuta.
Yuta’s curse causes Rika – and himself – years of continued suffering, since the weight of not letting her go makes her spirit malevolent, causing death and destruction in her wake.
Yuta promises Gojo that he will find a way to break the curse.
How did Yuta break her curse?
Gojo says that a powerful curse like Rika cannot be broken with one simple exorcism. Yuta will have to unravel each knot of cursed energy that makes her cursed spirit.
Gojo gives Yuta a katana and tells him that the only way to break the curse is by imbuing the cursed tool, i.e., the katana, with her cursed energy, little by little.
This is when they both believe that it is Yuta who is cursed by Rika and not the other way around. According to Gojo, Yuta can empty himself of the cursed spirit by transferring it into the katana, and then gain control of it.
But as we know, it is Rika who is cursed, not Yuta.
During Yuta’s faceoff against Geto, Geto breaks the katana.
This is when Yuta vows to fully release Rika and all her power in exchange for his own life using a Binding Vow. He promises Rika that he will be with her forever if she allows him to use her cursed energy one last time to defeat Geto for good.
The only way for a curse like this to be broken is if the person who placed the curse cancels the bond and the cursed victim forgives the curser and doesn’t want to seek revenge.
When Yuta sacrifices himself and promises his life to Rika in return for going beyond her power, he severs the cursed bond that made Rika bound to him. Rika, who loves him, does not want to punish him and thus the curse is broken.
Symbolically, Yuta accepts the death of his lover and finally lets her go. Rika acknowledges this and forgives him, and also thanks him for giving her 6 extra years of being by his side.
She finally ascends from her curse after telling Yuta not to be too quick to follow her to the other side.
Yuta and Rika turn the negative emotions into positive – Yuta letting go of his grief and guilt, and Rika understanding that the reason she was cursed was love. Essentially it is their pure love that triumphs, as compared to Geto, who wanted to harness cursed energy for his own power.
Does Rika return?
After watching the movie, manga readers had some pertinent questions: if Rika Orimoto passes into the afterlife and Yuta doesn’t have a Special Grade Cursed Spirit companion anymore, how does Yuta still have access to her power later in the story?
In the Itadori’s Extermination arc, Yuta returns in the main story. Chapter 137 shows Yuta talking to Rika, telling her not to overdo the carnage while saving a little girl from a cursed spirit.
In chapter 178, we see that Rika has remained with Yuta after the events of chapter 0 (or, the events of JJK 0 the film). Rika returns in the sense that Yuta can still use Rika as his cursed technique and can also store cursed energy in it.
Some fans thought that Yuta used his ability to copy cursed techniques to make a copy of Rika. We saw Yuta’s ability in action when he copies the cursed speech technique during the battle with Geto.
But this Rika cursed technique isn’t a copy, nor is it a new Rika based on his memory.
According to chapter 178, the ring that Rika Orimoto had given him before she died enables him to stay connected with her. He can maintain a sustained connection for a total of 5 minutes in which he can 1) use Rika as a cursed technique, 2) manifest Rika completely, and 3) access a supply of cursed energy from Rika.
This explains how Yuta and Rika maintain the same relationship they showed during chapter 0, and why Rika acts in the same way she previously did – as Yuta’s protector.
About Jujutsu Kaisen
Jujutsu Kaisen, also known as Sorcery Fight, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Gege Akutami, serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump since March 2018.
An anime television series adaptation produced by MAPPA premiered in October 2020.
The story revolves around Yuuji Itadori, a high-school student who, despite hating athletics, is insanely fit. Yuuji gets involved in the world of sorcery when he swallows a powerful talisman to protect his friends from its curse.
On observing that Yuuji wasn’t affected much even when inflicted with this curse, Satoru decides to send Yuuji on a quest to save the world.
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