There's a lot of new lore to cover in the macabre new Shonen Jump series Jujutsu Kaisen. Terrifying monsters invisible to the naked eye and cursed sorcery abound -- and Yuji Itadori, the protagonist, is thrust into all of this with no prior knowledge. For anyone just as lost as he is, let's clear up some confusion. Ahead of the popular new manga's anime adaptation, here's everything you need to about the technical aspects of how magic and Curses work in creator Gege Akutami's world.
Curses (also referred to as Cursed Spirits) are supernatural beings that are made of cursed energy, which in turn, is generated from negative emotions (such as hatred, fear and jealousy). In other words, when many people direct their negative feelings towards the same thing, Curses are born from that sentiment. For example, Curses can be borne out of humanity's fear of natural disasters, or from an individual’s intense hatred of another; when humans die, they can also become Curses as a vengeful spirit.
Since they come from the accumulation of cursed energy, Curses tend to be accidentally created in populated areas such as schools and hospitals where many people tend to have negative emotions. Although they are found all over the world, they cannot normally be seen by the naked eye. In addition, because they are made of cursed energy, they are only visible to regular humans under special conditions. These include life-or-death situations, or under the influence of cursed energy.
Curses can take on a variety of forms, ranging from the monstrous to the almost-human. They also tend to stay in a certain region after being formed, although some have the ability to haunt human beings, making them capable of attacking remotely. In addition, even if they are hurt, they may also be able to regenerate from ambient cursed energy. Broadly speaking, the more intelligent and powerful a Curse is, the more human it may appear: Sukuna, the all-powerful demonic Curse that inhabits Yuji’s body, has a generally human face and limbs, and is able to hold an ordinary conversation.
Curses can only be effected by using other curses, meaning a Cursed Spirit must be exorcised using some form of cursed energy -- this is where Sorcerers come in. Also known as Shamans, they are individuals who are trained and employed by a private magic high school to secure and exorcise Cursed Spirits. They are able to do this because Sorcerers are resistant to Curses, as they can manipulate their own cursed energy for offensive and defensive purposes.
Ordinarily, cursed energy is constantly leaking from the human body into the environment. However, Cursed Sorcerers are trained to keep cursed energy from leaving their bodies, allowing them to accumulate it and use it when needed. In addition, they are trained to use cursed tools, which are effective for subduing Curses. In some cases, a Curse that is too powerful to be exorcised must be sealed away using charms or talismans that are also imbued with cursed energy. Certain Cursed Spirits, such as Shikigami, are useful to Sorcerers as servants or tools. They are subdued and bound by cursed energy to serve their master.
Accumulated cursed energy can be used in techniques, which help channel it into a more manageable and convenient form; normally, cursed energy is extremely volatile and hard to control, almost like static electricity. Cursed techniques are extremely varied, ranging from creation, manipulation, and even from using words. Because of the versatility of these techniques, they can be very personalized and even coveted by others. They are also often inherited, which is why many Sorcerers form families. Sorcerer clans pass down techniques from generation to generation, which is how they preserve their knowledge.
There is also a special method by which Sorcerers can vastly boost their powers. This is done through shibari, also known as a Binding Vow, which involves making a cursed contract that restricts the curse user based on certain rules that are either harmful or otherwise limiting. These usually apply to actions taken by oneself, but may also apply to other people. When abiding by these rules, the user’s abilities are heightened based on the level of restriction involved. For example, explaining one’s own powers and techniques to an opponent can increase one’s power because of the inherent risk associated with divulging information to the enemy.
All beings and vessels capable of using cursed energy are ranked from Grades 1-4, with lower numbers corresponding to weaker powers. Sorcerers or Cursed Spirits with immense energy and unpredictable abilities are ranked even higher, falling into a category known as “Special Grade.”
Both high-level Sorcerers and Curses are capable of using a technique known as Domain Expansion, which creates a special spatial pocket in which the user’s abilities are both strengthened and guaranteed to hit the opponent, although it may be deflected with cursed energy. It is said to be nearly impossible to escape a Domain, although it is possible to fight back by creating a more powerful Domain of your own.
Currently in the manga, there are only two living hybrids that have been introduced: novice sorcerer Yuji Itadori and antagonist Choso. However, the ways by which they came into existence are completely different. Yuji willfully swallowed Sukuna’s finger, becoming a host to the powerful Curse but also gaining the ability to borrow that power for good; he is also physically and mentally tough, making it possible for him to contain a tremendous amount of cursed energy in his body.
On the other hand, Choso and his two brothers, Eso and Kechizu, were born from Cursed Death Painting Wombs. Cursed Wombs by themselves are mysterious fetus-like apparitions that have the potential to mutate into high-level Curses. Although the processes by which they are formed are unknown, three Cursed Death Painting Wombs were created by aborting the fetuses of a girl who could give birth to children who were half-human and half-Curse.
With the existence of hybrids, the boundary between the human world and the spirit world is blurred: the connections between cursed energy, human souls and death grow ever clearer as the story progresses.