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Here’s Why the Meaning of ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ Gets Lost in Translation

Gojo Satoru discovering Hollow Purple while fighting against Toji Fushiguro in Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2.

Many manga readers and anime viewers of Jujutsu Kaisen rarely refer to the series’ English title because it’s not widely known, but those who do know about the English title also find the translation strange. So what’s the meaning behind the title that gets lost in translation?

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A lot of popular anime and manga are often referred to by their English title by international fans, albeit with some concepts getting lost in translation. Jujutsu Kaisen is translated as Sorcery Battle by some, though Jujutsu Kaisen remains the official title even in English sources. Simple enough, Jujutsu (呪術) translates to “sorcery, magic, or incantation.”

The first half of Jujutsu (呪) is the character for “curse” and the latter character (術) refers to “art, technique, or skill.” For a series that’s all about powerful sorcerers who use their magical abilities through their various forms of cursed techniques, the first half of the title is as straightforward as it can get based on its root words.

The second half of the title, Kaisen (廻戦), is where translations get tricky.

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To simplify the concept with the word “Battle,” as the English title suggests, doesn’t do the original Japanese justice, but there are hardly any direct translations for the whole word. The term Kaisen isn’t used anywhere but is a combination of two words that could roughly translate to a “cyclical battle.” This may be the case, given the references to Buddism and the samsara cycle throughout the manga, as well as the chaotic yet inevitable battles that occur in the world of sorcerers and curses.

The first half of the word Kaisen (“Mawasu,” 廻す) means “to circulate.” This character is also used in the Buddhist term of samsara (“Rinne,” 輪廻), which is the cycle of life and death. The latter half of Kaisen (“Sen,” 戦) is a direct translation of the suffix “war” or “battle.” Merged, the term Kaisen might be an attempt to emphasize the circular nature of war and struggle against curses. It’s not wrong to call it Sorcery Battle in this case, but sticking with calling it Jujutsu Kaisen leaves a lot of context intact—now that you know it.

(featured image: MAPPA)

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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) is a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue. She graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in Japanese Studies. She speaks three languages, but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. As a mixed race bisexual woman, she frequently writes about race, gender and sexuality both academically and professionally. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.

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