There is nothing that can justify the amount of intrigue or sleight that is associated with Kenjaku in Jujutsu Kaisen. Not only has he been a flamboyant schemer, he has always managed to hold his cards close to the chest, all the while making others dance to his tunes (read Mahito and Jogo).
While he was mostly on the sidelines initially, he turned out to be the primary antagonist as the Shibuya incident unfolded, much to my surprise. The moment he consumed Mahito was when I realized that he had been pulling strings from the dark all this time.
Seeing that all the pieces had fallen into place during the Shibuya incident, Kenjaku proceeds to awaken the players he had marked using Mahito’s Idle Transfiguration, to make them participate in a death match of sorts – The Culling Game.
Though Kenjaku’s actions did plunge the Jujutsu world into chaos, his reasons for starting the Culling Game are still questioned by many.
Well, to answer in short, Kenjaku started the Culling Game as it was an essential ritual that would help achieve his goals, i.e. the merging of humanity with Tengen. According to Kenjaku himself, it was merely a prelude that was needed before merging the non-sorcerers.
But before we get to the Culling game part, let’s try to understand Kenjaku’s goals as it is closely tied in with the game.
What is Kenjaku’s goal in Jujutsu Kaisen?
As Tengen mentions in chapter 145, Kenjaku’s goal is to evolve the humans in Japan by making them merge with Tengen.
But why merge with Tengen? To understand that, we need to know more about Kenjaku’s failed experiments and his fascinations.
Let me make 2 things clear before we proceed. All we know about the Culling Game and Kenjaku’s goals are from Tengen and Kenjaku himself. Tengen cannot read the minds of people, and Kenjaku is a proven liar and the master of deceit. So both are unreliable narrators as far as I am concerned. Whatever assumptions we draw from their statements, should be taken with a grain of salt!
Even in the past, Kenjaku was someone who was obsessed with the idea of evolution and unlocking human potential. But this human potential he talks about, is in conjunction with cursed energy.
To be more precise, Kenjaku was always curious to know if there was any other form in which cursed energy could exist. For instance, he considered sorcerers, non-sorcerers and cursed spirits, all of them, as possibilities of cursed energy in the human form.
Hard to understand? Allow me to simplify it for you.
Optimizing cursed energy:
Sorcerers, non-sorcerers, and cursed spirits, are all bifurcation of humans, where the criteria for the bifurcation is cursed energy.
If a human being’s cursed energy is below a certain threshold, or if they can’t control or channel their cursed energy, then they are classified as non-sorcerers. If a human being has decent levels of cursed energy and is able to control and channel it, then they fall under the category of sorcerers.
On the other hand, if the cursed energy leaking out from human beings becomes too great, then it accumulates and becomes a cursed spirit. It is also akin to a form given to human fears. Even when a sorcerer is not killed using cursed energy, then they too turn out to be a cursed spirit after their death.
However, Kenjaku was not happy with these options that already existed.
He wondered if there was an even higher form that could be achieved. For instance, what if a cursed spirit and a human were merged? Will it give rise to something new?
And this thought process made him experiment and give birth to the Cursed Womb: Death Paintings.
But, in Kenjaku’s eyes, the experiment was a failure and the Death Paintings were a disappointment, or all too normal. He saw nothing out of the ordinary in them. And so he continued to rack his brains for a better solution.
That’s how he came up with the idea of non-sorcerers merging with Tengen.
Till now, he was trying to transcend the human potential by himself. But he understood that his own existence as a human, as a sorcerer, restricted him. There was a glass ceiling on top which he could not scale.
In order to achieve his goals, he realized that he needed to cause chaos which was beyond his control. The merger with Tengen was his answer.
In short, merging with Tengen, who was now a transcended being himself, was the only way Kenjaku could achieve his goal of optimizing or advancing cursed energy to a whole new level.
Read on to know why.
A chaos no one can control:
Due to not merging with the Star Plasma Vessel, Tengen’s aging had accelerated, and their soul had evolved to an extent where they were no longer their own self. These developments ensured that Tengen was more of a cursed spirit now, than a human sorcerer.
When Kenjaku talks of merging non-sorcerers with Tengen, it is essentially what he did with the Death Paintings. But this will be taking place on a much larger scale, ensuing in a chaos even Kenjaku can’t control.
As Tengen explains, if humans were to merge with him, they will turn out to be something that is neither here nor there. Inhuman in short!
In chapter 145, Tengen says that once the merging happens, the boundaries between people would cease to exist, and the evil from them would spread instantaneously. Fret not, the shut-in granny was being way too symbolic with their terms.
To put it in a much simpler way, ill will and negative emotions result in cursed energy.
So as Kenjaku later mentions in chapter 202, if humanity were to merge with Tengen, who was now like a cursed spirit, then the result would be a cursed spirit with the cursed energy from millions of people.
Unlike the normal cases, this cursed spirit would not be an entity that is formed due to the fear of a particular concept (like volcanoes or forests), or due to the negative energy that exists around certain establishments (like schools or hospitals).
Instead, all the cursed energy present in non-sorcerers throughout Japan will be combined to give shape to this being.
Needless to say, it would be stronger than any cursed spirits ever seen; even a special grade wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to it.
Now, here’s the interesting part. Usually, the powerful cursed spirits we have seen till now have a power and personality/conscience that is derived from what it represents (think Jogo, Mahito and Hanami).
However, in case of Tengen merging with humanity, not only does this cursed spirit lack any sort of concept to associate with, but due to Tengen being an evolved being and merging with the conscience of over a million people, it would be hard to say what form or shape this cursed spirit would take.
No, it won’t be a single big cursed spirit, at least not at first.
According to me, it’ll be something like this – every person turns into a cursed spirit, however, they will have a shared conscience, thanks to merging with Tengen and the boundaries between humans not existing anymore.
So even if one person were to go out of control, this whole being would rage. That’s what Tengen tried to say in chapter 145. It really would be chaos which even Kenjaku can’t moderate.
However, it doesn’t end here. The schemer says that he also wanted to use ‘Uzumaki’ on this transcendent being, and see if he could extract anything from it.
Without Tengen, Kenjaku won’t be able to bring forth the chaos that he intends to. Tengen losing their sense of self, and evolving is crucial to the goal of creating this evolved cursed spirit. This is the reason why Kenjaku needs Tengen and wants to merge humanity with them!
While I feel there’s something more to Kenjaku’s goal than what he has revealed till now, this is all we know for now.
Till now, I have been explaining what Kenjaku’s goals were and why acquiring Tengen was important for him. Now, let’s try to understand the Culling Game, and what purpose it serves in his plans.
Why did Kenjaku start the culling game?
As I mentioned before, the Culling Game is merely a prelude to the merger. It’s a ritual which essentially prepares the body for the merger.
But why is it needed in the first place?
Since Tengen has evolved, they can merge with someone other than the Star Plasma Vessel. However, there is a high possibility that without any proper preparations, the merger would stay incomplete.
This could probably be because Tengen is now an evolved being and somewhat closer to a cursed spirit. So in order to merge with them, there needs to be some sort of precursor. This is where the Culling Game comes in.
The Culling Game is nothing but a ritual that is designed to send the humans of the country to the other side, as a preparation for the merging. And by doing so, they become inhuman entities!
It uses the cursed energy of the players that are participating in the culling game and the boundaries of the barriers that connect the colonies to pass the humans over to the other side.
Crossing over and the barrier:
Check out the following image to understand it better.
In all, there are 10 colonies in Japan as part of the Culling game, and these ten colonies are connected to two barriers (the ones in black). These two barriers form a straight line amongst themselves, and as the Culling Game progresses, the line connecting the barriers will move across Japan and pass the humans over to the other side.
In Jujutsu, the act of crossing a barrier or a river holds a great importance. The barrier crossing over Japan signifies taking a soul to the underworld, or more commonly the other side of existence. It is akin to crossing the Sanzu river in Japanese Buddhist mythology.
However, there is more to it. As pointed out by this reddit post (thanks Cinder), the word used in chapter 146 for this was ‘Higan’ which means the other side of the river, or the state of enlightenment and peace.
It might be similar to the Far Shore in Shinto religion, but rather than meaning the place where all non-living entities exist (like ayakashi, Gods etc.), it refers to Nirvana in Buddhism, the birthless and deathless.
Kenjaku never explained why it was necessary for humans to pass over to the other side, so the only thing I can do here is assume. And make assumptions I will.
Since Tengen has evolved and lost his sense of self, merging with them would also require the humans to be in a similar enlightened state (or so I believe). This could be the reason why a ritual is needed to pass the humans of Japan to the other side, because otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to merge.
As Tengen says, it is a way to acclimatize them to the merging. Simply put, once the Culling Game is done, the humans would no longer be humans, they too would be closer to cursed spirits or something similar to that.
But then, the whole act of using the cursed energy of the players inside the colonies was termed as a facade or a secondary objective of Kenjaku by Reggie. Because if that was really the objective, then the game would have rules which made the sorcerers fight lengthy drawn out battles with one another, so that they would expend the maximum cursed energy over its course.
However, the game is set in a way where culling is the prime objective. So, yes, one comes to question what exactly Kenjaku stands to gain from it, and how the ritual actually works.
And true to what he said, Kenjaku added a new rule stating that the Culling Game will end when all players except him and Megumi Fushiguro have died.
In the end, he is weeding out all the sorcerers, making them kill each other, which is akin to the Kodoku ritual.
By now, it should also be clear why Kenjaku is not using Idle Transfiguration to evolve non-sorcerers. First of all, the evolution that Kenjaku has in mind cannot be achieved through transmogrified humans. And secondly, he apparently doesn’t have the cursed energy reserves to use Idle Transfiguration on such a large populace.
Well, this is the best conclusion I could draw from what has been presented in the manga till now regarding Culling Game and Kenjaku’s goals. What are your thoughts on it? If you still have doubts or disagreements with what I said, hit me up in the comments section below or reach out to me on Tumblr/Reddit.