Jujutsu Kaisen Has The Best Female Characters

Jujutsu Kaisen’s first season was an instant global hit. Its success could be attributed to many different elements -- a great story, excellent animation courtesy of studio MAPPA and some of the best-written characters in recent anime.

A cast of great characters is needed for every good shonen story, of course. But what sets Jujutsu Kaisen apart in this regard is, in part, the equal treatment its female and male cast members receive. The women of Jujutsu Kaisen's first season are complex, memorable and fully fleshed-out characters with goals that are solely their own. This is important to note because many times, female characters in shonen are written only as a means to further a male character’s development; often weak-willed and objectified as an attempt at cheap humor, too.

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There’s none of this in Jujutsu Kaisen. The female characters are just as powerful as everyone else and play an equally important part in the story as their male counterparts. Out of the show’s impressive female cast, here are four of the standouts from the first season.

Maki Zenin

Maki Zenin Jujutsu Kaisen

There’ve been plenty of underdog stories in anime, but Maki Zenin’s definitely ranks among the best of them. Maki has an intimidating personality -- she is very assertive and belligerent but that’s just because she’s had to be that way since childhood. She cares very much about her friends’ well-being and does her best to make sure they all get stronger. In the world of jujutsu sorcery, the amount of cursed energy one possesses could very well determine whether or not they survive an encounter with a foe. Maki has no cursed energy of her own, but she’s proven that she’s skilled enough to be classed with first-grade sorcerers regardless.

Maki was born into the Zenin clan, one of the three great sorcerer families in the jujutsu world, and a clan famed for its wide influence, powerful members and internal power-based discrimination. When the clan elders found out she had no cursed energy, they relegated both her and Mei, her twin, to a life of servitude. Dissatisfied with her lot, Maki left the Zenin clan, but not before swearing to the head that she’d return one day to claim his position for herself. Shortly after that confrontation, she enrolled in Jujutsu High.

The Zenin clan didn’t realize that Maki’s lack of cursed energy was part of a heavenly pact that granted her superhuman physical abilities instead. Maki has greater physical strength as a result, lightning-quick reflexes and after years of training, mastery of cursed tools that is second to none. Her proficiency as a sorcerer was evident enough to secure her a first-grade recommendation at the end of Season 1, taking her closer to her goal of becoming head of the Zenin clan.

Maki's story and goal are not unlike the shonen blueprint for male main characters: the underdog who swears to one day reach the peak of the society they're rejected from. Complex, high-stakes stories are usually reserved for these male characters but with Maki, Jujutsu Kaisen breathes new life into a story that has already been told by flipping the gender roles. Although Maki is dead serious about becoming head of her clan, she doesn't let that desire consume her, either. Her character is much more than just wanting to be the head of Zenin.

Miwa Kasumi

Kasumi Miwa from Jujutsu Kaisen.

Miwa Kasumi might be the most underrated female character in Jujutsu Kaisen, and that’s partly her own fault. She frequently refers to herself as "useless" even though her teammates see her as far from it. Against Hanami, the special grade cursed spirit, Kamo remarked that he’d breathe a little easier if Miwa was around. Despite her self-doubt, she can handle herself in a fight and is a kind and dependable friend to boot.

Miwa’s backstory and reason for becoming a jujutsu sorcerer were a bit more mundane than some, but her motives are just as valid. She comes from a poor background and is therefore training to become a jujutsu sorcerer to earn money to support her family.

Although Miwa is just as bubbly and excitable as any other shonen 'waifu,' those traits never interfere with her duties as a student or jujutsu sorcerer. She’s a huge fan of Gojou Satoru but that didn’t stop her from sternly reprimanding him for disrespecting her principal. When she and her classmates were ordered to assassinate Yuuji, Miwa wasn’t so sure it was the right decision. She hesitated a little in the moment of truth but still attempted a killing strike.

Miwa isn’t the most powerful character, but her combat skills are still impressive. She was able to duel with Maki to a limited extent until she got outsmarted -- a feat in and of itself. She may not have a cursed technique but she can still manipulate cursed energy and is capable of creating a simple domain. Anyone that crosses its boundary is usually unable to escape her attack.

Her decisiveness is in stark contrast with other female shonen characters who are often written (stereotypically) to let their emotions cloud their usually sound judgment. These characters are often berated for lacking the conviction their male counterparts seem to have in spades. The same can't be said of Miwa.

Mai Zenin

Mai might be Maki’s twin but that doesn’t mean she has to like her. In fact, she does everything she can to downplay their similarities, such as dressing differently and wearing her hair in a different style. She even enrolled in her sister’s rival school. Mai always makes fun of her sister for having no cursed energy and seems to enjoy putting her down in front of other people. Her snipey attitude may seem like just a petty sibling rivalry but it actually comes from a place of hurt.

Mai was forced to become a jujutsu sorcerer by her clan elders. Once Maki left the Zenin clan to become a sorcerer, they began to harass Mai just because of her association with Maki. When they started to realize Maki was making her dream a reality, they forced Mai to become one too just so the clan would not be shamed. Mai only revealed this backstory in a moment of weakness following her defeat at Maki's hands in Jujutsu Kaisen's first season. Even though her life was definitely made harder when she was forced to compete with her sister, that wasn’t why she hated her. She only resented her twin because of a broken promise -- Maki vowed never to abandon her when they were kids.

Mai never shared in her twin's aspirations. In fact, she'd always been a soft-spoken child and had a morbid fear of even the most harmless of cursed spirits. Despite knowing she'd constantly have to face them as a sorcerer, Mai handled the elders' selfish decisions with grace.

Even though she had very little cursed energy, Mai also proved to be as capable a sorcerer as any of her schoolmates. She never once complained about the unfair hand she was dealt or expected someone else on her team to take care of her. Mai was the farthest thing from a dead weight; hating the job, but determined to do her best at it anyway. Perhaps she's motivated by a sense of duty to her clan or a desire to prove something to herself and Maki. Either way, Mai refuses to let her fears or circumstances define her story.

Nobara Kugisaki

Nobara fights Momo, Jujutsu Kaisen

Nobara Kugisaki knows exactly who she is and refuses to compromise any part of herself for any reason. At first glance, she appears quite vain and self-centered -- a clichéd, high school 'mean girl' who’s obsessed with her physical appearance and incapable of empathy. It’s only after warming up to Yuuji and Fushiguro that she proves what a loyal friend and comrade she is.

Nobara’s motivation for becoming a jujutsu sorcerer is simple: she wants to live in Tokyo and enrolling in Jujutsu High was the easiest way to realize her dream. She harbored hopes of running into a childhood friend, Saori, in the city, but as she realizes it’s a long shot, never actually pursued her.

Nobara’s reaction to hearing Maki’s backstory in Jujutsu Kaisen was the first time she ever expressed anything close to admiration to anyone apart from herself. She resolved to do her best in the exchange program and gave her teammates her version of a gentle nudge to do the same. Her relationship with Maki is a simple but very welcome addition to the show. The two wholeheartedly embraced each other at first glance with no forced rivalry between them just because they’re both women. It's easier to do this when a series features many central female characters, and not just a tokenistic few vying for the top spot. A female mentor-mentee relationship is quite rare in shonen, but these two have a great dynamic that should only grow in the seasons to come.

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