A character was killed off in a series I love, although his character is somewhat popular in said series, they were killed somewhat recently. Their death is still felt not only in the series, but in the discourse surrounding the series. There is even an ongoing joke in my friend group that this character will come back. I’m intentionally being vague so as to not spoil anything major, but this made me wonder about many things in regards to how to deal with the mortality of one’s fictional characters. When it comes to writing character deaths, if they are rare and unexpected, they can make a story more compelling and motivate the story’s characters in unique ways. Also, huge spoilers from here on out for the Japanese manga series “Jujutsu Kaisen.” No holding back now.

Gojo Satoru is one of — if not the most popular — character in a modern Japanese series. He became instantly iconic and recognizable when he was first introduced in the original comic of “Jujutsu Kaisen” back in 2018 and, in 2020, when he made it to the anime version. Gojo is iconic for many reasons, like his suave, laid-back personality, his handsome looks and his comedic demeanor. Above all else though, he is titled as being “the strongest in the world.” Gojo is by far the most physically overwhelming and powerful characters in the entire series. Well, so the audience thinks.

Ryomen Sukuna is the main antagonist of the series, and he is a millennia-old monstrous curse. A question the series and the characters ask themselves is “who’s stronger — Gojo or Sukuna?” Fans have pondered the answer for years. When Gojo was asked this same question, he confidently exclaimed “Nah, I’d win.” It wasn’t until recently in the series that both powerhouses actually battled each other. This fight took place over the span of months, from April to September of this year. Little did the fanbase know that the outcome of this fight would change the series forever.

Gojo, the fan-favorite character, died in chapter 236 of the series. To put it tepidly, this death turned the internet discourse regarding the series into a circus. There were dozens and dozens of videos online ranting and raving about the death. For every fan who thought the death was well written, there were 10 other fans who thought it was awful. In one chapter, Gojo was victorious and his body was carved cleanly in half at the hip in the next. That’s a big issue many people have with this death.

Gojo dying was a huge twist. The fight was pretty even the whole time, then Gojo eked out an advantage toward the end, but, out of nowhere, he gets sliced in half off-screen and dies. The most popular character in the series dies, and we don’t even see how it happens. We just see his lifeless, bloody body cleaved in half. This is what sparked this discussion for me. How do you go about killing off a fan favorite character? Akutami in this case decided to subvert the reader’s expectations. How did this go?

The actual chapter where Gojo dies is beautiful. He is in this esoteric, afterlife-esque airport where he is speaking to people who were important to him in his life, and reflecting on his death and his work. Gojo Satoru, a character who is defined by his comedic, arrogant personality, is portrayed as a calm, almost regretful man. He recalls how lonely he felt his entire life due to his sheer strength, and how everyone wouldn’t view him as a person, but instead as an icon of power. While this chapter is compelling, it has a major problem.

Gojo’s defeat was sudden and again, off screen. We didn’t see it. One second he was about to win, and because of some overpowered ability, he died. This is the main point of contention among fans. I do agree and see where they’re coming from. It’s unsatisfying in a way because some parts were subtextual and implied. If I could focus on one thing in Gojo’s last moment it’s a quote. On reflecting about feeling isolated, he says “You can admire a blooming flower … but you can’t ask it to understand you.” This is the character in a nutshell. He’s a strong yet isolated man due to his sheer strength. Was his death a little rushed? Perhaps. However, the character moments we get due to this is nothing short of beautifully written.

In the time since this death, the series has gotten even more eyes on it. Billions of people are making content on various platforms. The series has never been more popular. Now, I’m not saying to pull a “Game of Thrones” and kill every single character in your story, but it certainly is an interesting way to keep your audience on edge and spice things up. Many series are scared to kill popular characters off, but, if done well, it can make for an unforgettable twist and can, ironically, add more eyes to the series. If a competent writer wants to add some characters to their hit list, it can work wonders for the enjoyability of the story.

Nicolas Scagnelli is a senior majoring in English.