Jujutsu Kaisen’s Binding Vows Keep His Shonen Power System Under Control

In the fighting shonen manga like Jujutsu Kaisen, overpowered characters can be difficult to write. Especially with a power system as versatile as Cursed Energy, characters can easily approach omnipotence if their power goes unchecked, greatly lowering the story stakes – and readers’ enjoyment by extension. Fortunately, Akutami Gege masterfully balances their characters’ abilities with an in-universe check that has various applications: Binding Vows.

Binding Oaths are jujutsu-based agreements that any creature capable of using cursed energy can take advantage of. These agreements can be placed on oneself as a way to increase one’s own strength, or with another to create contracts that are impossible to default. In some rare cases, binding vows may be imposed on an individual at birth. These are called celestial restraints, making those affected by the power unmatched by others. This power, of course, comes at a high cost.

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How Binding Vows Balance Superpowered Jujutsu Sorcerers

The three characters born with celestial restrictions in Jujutsu Kaisen are the perfect examples of binding oaths used to nerf an otherwise overpowered wizard. Maki Zenin and Toji Fushiguro were born with superhuman physical and sensory abilities. They are both capable of superhuman feats of strength and can take on special quality spirits and wizards without any ingrained curse techniques. More recently, Maki revealed her ability to heal her wounds within minutes. The trade-off for their super strength is a complete lack of cursed energy, but neither of them lack it. Granting either jujutsu would make them unbeatable.

Mechamaru’s binding vow grants him the exact opposite abilities of Maki and Toji. His cursed energy is unlimited and his maximum output level is higher than any other character introduced so far. This unprecedented level of cursed energy allows him to remotely control the puppets through which he manifests his power. Mechamaru’s main body, however, is extremely fragile; he was born without a right arm and is paralyzed below the waist. Any direct exposure to the sun burns his skin. Mechamaru himself is unable to take advantage of his vast reserves of cursed energy and must instead be content to channel his personality through puppets.

Binding vows can also be layered with certain other jujutsu techniques. Domain extensions are characterized by their guaranteed hit attacks and inevitability. However, the domains of Ryomen Sukuna and Fushiguro Megumi manifest without any boundaries. By allowing their opponents out of their domain, Megumi and Sukuna unilaterally invoke a binding vow with them. Their attacks, while no longer guaranteed to hit opponents within their range, suddenly become much more powerful than they already are if they do relate. The lack of borders in Fushigiro’s Chimera Shadow Garden is largely a skill issue, and even he is not yet aware of the unique properties of his half-baked domain. Who knows? He might decide to leave it that way when he learns of the binding oaths.

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How Binding Vows Improve Weaker Jujutsu Sorcerers

Not all wizards are born with celestial restrictions or have binding vows naturally attached to their cursed technique, but they are still able to take advantage of this principle of jujutsu. Nanami Kento constantly limits her cursed energy output during her normal working hours as part of a self-imposed binding vow. In exchange, this production – and all of his abilities by extension – gets a significant boost whenever his duties require him to work overtime. In the night, Nanami exceeds her level 1 wizard status and approaches the special level due to this binding vow.

The most common binding vow used by jujutsu wizards and cursed spirits is to be the revelation of one’s cursed technique. Like most other anime, jujutsu wizards may choose to take some time out of a fight to explain their cursed technique to their opponent. While this makes it easier for the viewer to understand the complex abilities of Jujutsu Kaisen, wizards also activate a binding vow by intentionally exposing the secret of their technique. It increases the revealing wizard’s attack power and, if his opponent is already affected by his cursed technique, its effects are accelerated.