To say that Gojo Satoru is sort of a big deal in the world of Jujutsu Kaisen is putting it lightly. He’s established from the jump as the shounen series’s strongest character, and it’s hard to overstate the huge difference in power between Gojo and even the next-most powerful characters. But even so, we meet Gojo while he’s living out a much different vocation: that of a high school teacher.
Gojo is introduced in the first season not merely as a strong sorcerer but as a protective caretaker figure to the series’s teenage protagonists. We see this most clearly through his relationships with two of his students: Okkotsu Yuuta, who begins his story as a nervous wreck with an overwhelming power that he can’t control; and Itadori Yuuji, a happy-go-lucky teenager who stumbles upon his sorcery abilities entirely by accident. The sorcery world is deeply corrupt and places very little value on human life, but Gojo is determined to change this. And he recognizes that to succeed, he will need strong allies like Yuuji and Yuuta to help him. But Gojo isn’t only a capable and beloved sensei whose care for his students is deeply countercultural—he’s also a surprisingly good model of biblical leadership.
Head pats from sensei for the sons.
(Detail from cover of Weekly Shonen Jump Issue 36, 2023)
Born into one of jujutsu sorcery’s three most powerful clans and gifted with a rare and coveted cursed technique, Gojo has been at the top of the pecking order almost since birth. We don’t know much about his early childhood, but we do know that by his high school years, he was one of the most powerful sorcerers alive, and boy, did he know it too! Little Gojo was more than a little insufferable, convinced that his strength made him all but invincible, and vastly superior to those with less innate ability. But one mission changed all of that.
In his second year of high school, Gojo and classmate Geto Suguru, his best friend and fellow Special Grade sorcerer, were assigned to protect a young girl named Amanai Riko who, for reasons tied to the series’s complex lore, was being targeted by a contract killer. Though they were seemingly ideal bodyguards, both Gojo and Geto nearly died attempting to complete their mission, and as a result, were unable to save Riko from assassination. For Geto, this was the catalyst for a downward psychological spiral that led him to massacre an entire village and leave jujutsu society behind. For Gojo, these devastating events were the seeds from which his deep concern for young people would grow. Suffice it to say, he never let himself forget what a lack of proper support could do to a powerful young person coming up through the jujutsu ranks.
By becoming a teacher, Gojo hoped to raise strong allies who could one day lead the jujutsu community well. But he doesn’t see these youths only as a means to an end; he also wishes to enable his students to enjoy their youth without facing the kind of loss and trauma that defined his own. No doubt he understands that his own immense power makes him the best person a fledgling sorcerer could have in their corner, and he takes that responsibility seriously.
Case Study: Gojo and Okkotsu Yuuta
Just a little guy and his found dad. (From the JJK 0 release special booklet)
When we first meet Gojo in Jujutsu Kaisen 0, it’s through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Okkotsu Yuuta, a student who is deemed a danger to himself and others after his deceased childhood friend Rika becomes a cursed spirit and starts attacking anyone she perceives as a threat to him. As a result of Yuuta’s unusual burden, the higher-ups order that he be secretly executed, a fate from which Gojo spares him. Instead of being executed, Yuuta transfers to Jujutsu High to learn to exorcize Rika’s curse—a journey Gojo oversees personally.
Yuuta’s sensitivity and empathy make him very receptive to Gojo’s encouragement. Even so, Gojo recognizes that Yuuta needs more than just him. Rika’s endangerment of others has isolated Yuuta, and what the young man really needs, more than a kind mentor, is friendship with his peers. Gojo encourages Yuuta to form such connections by partnering him with his classmates and allowing him to learn from them, too. Gojo’s recognition of Yuuta’s needs is indicative of the teacher’s consideration and personal care for the students he mentors, and the way he adapts his methods to suit a student’s personality and needs. There is a reason that I often mention Jujutsu Kaisen 0 to fans who don’t understand my insistence that Gojo has more moral fiber than he at first appears to: Yuuta’s introduction shows beyond a doubt that Gojo is a leader who cares personally.
However, even more notable than his care for Yuuta is his loyalty to him. Taking a chance on a student in such a volatile situation is a major risk, but Gojo doesn’t hesitate to do it. When the higher-ups hint at overruling Yuuta’s stay of execution, Gojo bluntly informs them that he won’t let them do that—a promise both they and we know he’s good for. It’s true that Gojo’s not the type to ever do what the higher-ups tell him, but his loyalty to Yuuta and desire to protect him still come from a place of personal concern for an immensely powerful and deeply wounded young person he likely sees his younger self in.
In a society that exploits high school students with little regard for their well-being or safety, Gojo’s approach to caring for Yuuta presents a stark contrast to the norm. Rather than weighing down his extremely powerful student with responsibilities, he instead seeks to help Yuuta shed as many burdens as he can, whether it be loneliness, imminent death, or the curse that has shaped his life. Gojo may not be the best at explaining difficult concepts or, let’s be real, keeping his foot out of his mouth in sensitive situations, but he absolutely does what Galatians 6:2 exhorts us to do when it says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the love of Christ.” Gojo’s strength and authority position him well to do that for students, and better yet, he does it with goofy panache and a smile: we never see him complain about taking on their burdens.
But how does his care for these young people affect them?
One such way is evident in his approach to combat. In a series where relishing combat is said to make you stronger, Yuuta, one of the strongest living sorcerers, doesn’t get a kick out of fighting. Instead, he sees it as a necessity to protect the innocent and those he cares for. He’s almost bizarrely selfless, and while Gojo didn’t teach him that, he did help Yuuta harness this selflessness in his efforts to protect the vulnerable:
In the midst of a fight to the death, Yuuta’s priority is protecting civilians.
But equally notable is Yuuta’s reciprocal loyalty to Gojo. His gratitude for Gojo’s support and protection spills over into a desire to protect his mentor in return. So when, several months after Gojo is forced to kill his former best friend Geto Suguru, a malevolent brain possesses his body and brings him back (don’t ask), Yuuta naturally starts to wonder about how this must be affecting his mentor. As one of the very few people in the series who ever openly considers Gojo’s human emotions, rather than merely his strength, this is what Yuuta concludes:
Yuuta cares deeply for his mentor and emulates him, even if it means facing one of the series’s most dastardly villains alone. Imagine the ripples that such resolute self-sacrifice and empathy could have on a society where those qualities are near-absent, especially coming from someone as strong as Yuuta!
Gojo’s mentorship and care for Yuuta were absolutely instrumental in molding him into a confident and determined teenager. He’s a great success story for Gojo’s approach in that no use of force could ever have produced the strong, morally-driven, and empathetic ally Yuuta proves to be—only patient, observant caretaking could do that. You might want to put a pin in that thought, because we’re going to circle back to it later.
Case Study 2: Gojo and Itadori Yuuji
It’s not only Yuuta who proves that Gojo’s methods are wise, though. Merely a year after saving Yuuta from execution, Gojo snatches yet another teenager from the jaws of death when Itadori Yuuji eats a cursed finger (again, don’t ask) and ends up possessed by a particularly nasty curse named Sukuna. The higher-ups, of course, call for an execution in order to prevent Sukuna from endangering others, but we all know where this one is going, right?
Instead of execution, Gojo offers Yuuji a mission: eat as many of Sukuna’s fingers (twenty in total) as he can, so that no one else can ever end up in the same situation as Yuuji. That way, Gojo can train Yuuji as the strong ally he hopes he’ll become if he lives.
And what is Gojo’s tool of choice for teaching Yuuji to harness his newfound power?
Gojo and Yuuji are both fun-loving types who like to goof off, and Gojo takes advantage of this by assigning Yuuji movies to watch so that he can learn to control his cursed energy even while distracted. However, he also knows that movies alone won’t teach Yuuji all he needs to know, so where that approach falls short, Gojo enlists the help of straightlaced fellow sorcerer Nanami Kento, a stand-up guy who’s better able to provide the structure Yuuji needs. For someone who doesn’t appear to be even remotely humble, Gojo is surprisingly good at knowing when he isn’t the right fit for a student.
But just as much as his actual instruction, Gojo’s fondness for Yuuji seems to help build his confidence. Several times, Yuuji describes himself as “a cog” who exists only to perform a function, but Gojo’s personal fondness for Yuuji challenges that assumption—and is one of Yuuji’s few persistent sources of joy.
Yuuji sees Gojo off to a fight
Yuuji goes through the wringer, and even Gojo’s overwhelming strength isn’t able to prevent it. But the sorcerer’s cultivation of a fun, affectionate mentor relationship with his student gives Yuuji a much-needed source of hope. His sense of fun helps Yuuji to swallow difficult realities on many occasions: his jokes help Yuuji to stay positive while he’s hidden away and pretending to be dead; or when they face the special-grade curses Hanami and Jogo, even if it means jokingly flirting with his opponent. Gojo’s unflagging goofiness repeatedly helps Yuuji to cope with difficulty, and one of the ways Gojo serves Yuuji best is by being a consistently bright light in an otherwise extremely bleak life.
The result of this is a student who persists, and that’s why I chose the panel above to represent this aspect of Gojo’s teaching. In that panel, Yuuji has been going through it: his close friend Kugisaki Nobara has likely died, and Fushiguro Megumi, his only remaining classmate, has been possessed by Sukuna. Gojo has to fight Sukuna-Megumi to the death, and Yuuji knows he will most likely lose either his mentor or his close friend by the end of the day—and yet he’s smiling as he cheers Gojo on. I don’t think he would be so resilient, positive, and determined to keep moving forward if not for Gojo.
Gojo as a Biblical Leader
Gojo isn’t a perfect role model. He could never be accused of humility, and he’s pretty loud about his dislike for his enemies. But he does get one thing right: he loves his students dearly. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us that “love covers a multitude of sins,” and when it comes to Gojo, it certainly does. That earnest love for his students means that Gojo provides us with an ideal model of biblical training.
When I think about Gojo’s approach to teaching, I’m struck by its parallels to Solomon’s words in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” These words highlight that a wise person knows the power of the next generation, something that I see in Gojo’s teaching approach. A child who is taught by example to be selfless, upright, and caring will, simply by living out what they were taught as they mature into adulthood, create a society that is a little more selfless, upright, and caring. Through that child’s conduct, the values and morals they are taught will diffuse throughout the world they interact with.
But how do we actually do this? How do we train a child to become a world-changer? Too often, we treat this verse the way Jujutsu Kaisen’s corrupt sorcery authorities would, rather than the way Gojo does. I chalk that up to fear: you can’t guarantee that a child will walk in God’s ways in a world that promotes opposing values, and expecting a child simply to obey feels safe. It’s hard to teach children “the way that [they] should go,” so many conclude that the answer must be to set stricter rules and put more emphasis on the dangers of stepping out of line. If they can’t err while they’re under your authority, they never will, right? Surely this is the “training up” that Proverbs 22:6 praises.
But Gojo’s approach, grounded in hope for the future and care for others, shows us exactly what’s wrong with that kind of thinking: fear is a very bad master.
A child who is scared into the way that they should go rather than trained up in it will forever associate obedience with fear—and who likes fear? Training isn’t supposed to be frightening. The dictionary offers a whole list of ways to describe training that denote growth, not paralyzing fear: to train is to edify, prepare, coach, make ready. It’s repeating the same actions over and over so that you can learn from your mistakes rather than be afraid to make them. That repetition teaches us to think creatively, try solutions that we hadn’t before, and figure out what works. It’s hard and often painful work, but we are created to learn! In the end, training is about the joy of growing into the person you were created to be. That is the part of Proverbs 22:6 that I think we often miss.
Joy, learning, growth, freedom—these things are gifts from God, ones that make this life bearable, but they’re also the first ones to be stolen when a child is taught to be ruled by fear. So a fearful child won’t experience the abundant life that God desires for us, won’t fully understand His goodness, and may well never truly love Him. And isn’t that much scarier than the chance of a child making a mistake?
That is why I’m drawn to Gojo’s leadership: his students have principles, but they’ve adopted those principles as their own out of conviction, not fear. Good training—the kind that creates selfless leaders and resilient hope—does that. And it does that by taking into consideration how a person was created, with attention paid to their specific needs and anxieties; and providing extra grace and extra accountability in the areas where they struggle. Most of all, good training stems from deeply personal care for the individual. Proverbs 22:6, ultimately, is about loving a child fully and instructing them with both grace and truth so that they are prepared to one day do the same.
I never expected to see that modeled by an overpowered goofball in a battle shounen, but I sure am glad I did.
Guest Writer Sarah is a fourth-year undergraduate studying creative writing. When not writing about anime, her ministry of choice is foisting baked goods on anyone who is willing to be fed.