Despite positing Yuji Itadori as a well-fleshed-out protagonist, Jujutsu Kaisen has decided to cut his sole love interest, Yuko Ozawa. Here’s why.
Romance isn’t a major element in the action-packed world of Jujutsu Kaisen, especially in the coming-of-age arc of protagonist Yuji Itadori, which is why a particular character was cut. Based on Gege Akutami’s serialized manga, Jujutsu Kaisen delves deep into the world of cursed spirits and professional jujutsu sorcerers who are responsible for controlling the flow and release of Cursed Energy in their bodies. As most of the explosively popular anime series is centered upon the plan to postpone Yuji’s death sentence until all of Ryomen Sukuna’s fingers are consumed, the show has understandably has touched upon Itadori’s love interest as of yet.
Much of Itadori’s character development in the anime is centered around him adhering to the philosophy of “the value of life”, one that allows him to gauge his connections with those around him. Generally fair, ethically grounded, yet quick to anger, Itadori carries a sacrificial streak within the ambit of his actions, most likely triggered by his grandfather’s final words. Post his enrollment in Tokyo Jujutsu High, Itadori developed a plethora of skills, along with the exceedingly rare ability to contain Sukuna’s soul. Hence, due to the nature of the show’s subject matter, and the innate focus on converging plotlines, Jujutsu Kaisen has completely omitted Itadori’s only love interest, Yuko Ozawa.
In the original Akutami manga, Yuko was introduced for the first time as Itadori’s classmate while they were in junior high school. Yuko was initially a timid and reserved character, and appeared to have a crush on Itadori after she found out that he liked her during a difficult time when others would pick on her for her weight. While Yuko harbored feelings for Itadori for some time, she decided she would not reveal them to him after they had a conversation, though she did muster up the courage to ask to take a photo together on their graduation day. In chapter 64 of the original manga, when Itadori and Yuko again meet up, she finally decides to reveal the true nature of her feelings to her friends Megumi and Nobara – who confirm that Yuji was still without a girlfriend. After learning that Yuji has a preference for tall girls, Yuko is emboldened to a certain extent but ultimately decides not to reveal her feelings in the end. All in all, this is something that hasn’t happened in the anime and may not for some time, if at all.
Despite playing a small role within the ambit of the manga’s ambitious storyline, Yuko’s presence is interesting, as she is posited as Itadori’s only love interest. While her omission in the anime series does stand out, it is possible for the showrunners to introduce her character in some capacity in the near future. Apart from bringing intricate characters and breathtaking action sequences to life, Jujutsu Kaisen is well-loved for the nuanced portrayal of its female characters, as epitomized in the Kyoto Goodwill Event Arc. Keeping this in mind, it will be interesting to witness the possible ways in which romance can factor into the narrative as a whole, along with whether Itadori’s potential love interest will be fleshed out in a meaningful manner.
Irrespective of whether romance is in the cards, Jujutsu Kaisen has managed to revolutionize the shonen genre by challenging and subverting established genre norms and formulas. This is best exemplified in the treatment of Itadori, who, unlike the mold of most shonen protagonists, is limited in his ability to protect those he loves. Submitting to the power of a malicious demon, Itadori aches in his innate powerlessness, doing everything in his power to do right by the values he holds dear. It is precisely due to these reasons that Itadori has emerged as an individual – an everyman – worth rooting for.
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