Just like Attack on Titan mangaka Hajime Isayama, Gege Akutami is infamous for killing fan favorite characters within the Jujutsu Kaisen-verse. He has done so many times, whether it be Junpei Yoshino from season 1 or Suguru Geto in behind-the-scenes of Jujutsu Kaisen 0. Ultimately, nothing is absolute with Gege Akutami, as earlier he had claimed to finish the Jujutsu Kaisen manga by the end of this year, but now he has changed his mind about the same.
Similarly, Kento Nanami’s death during the Shibuya Incident arc came as a shock when he has been cited by the mangaka to be his favorite character. Satoru Gojo, who the mangaka hates, gets to outlive Nanami to have the most anticipated battle against Ryomen Sukuna. However, biasness towards a beloved character doesn’t determine their fate within the series, so when Nanami died at the hands of Mahito, it may have been a sensitive topic for the raging fandom to broach, but his demise also served as a reminder that the development in the story is divorced from Akutami’s personal need to save someone.
“When I decided to start the Shibuya Incident, to be honest, as a character, I like Nanami. It’s easy for me to use him in any plot. However, when I consider the roles of the story and the movement of the characters, I had no other choices” (as per Nanami Q&A from Jujutsu Kaisen Official Fanbook).
Timeline of the events in Jujutsu Kaisen prior to Kento Nanami’s death at the hands of Mahito
What transpired with Nanami before meeting Mahito?
My Jujutsu Kaisen volume 12 arrived and I've been skimming through it. I've completely forgot about this absolute beast scene of Shigemo trying to kick Nanami 🔥
"Where… and how many of you are there?" 🥶 pic.twitter.com/2htQVzF1VD
— FingersCrossed (@FingersCro55ed) September 7, 2021
Despite being a supporting character, Nanami’s popularity far exceeded even some of the frequently featured characters in Jujutsu Kaisen. That was justifiable considering his noble attitude and serious but likeable persona. However, when fans witnessed his death during the Shibuya Incident arc, it became a hard pill to swallow. Moreover, in a twist of fate, Nanami died at the hands of the special grade curse Mahito in chapter 120 when they faced off against each other for the second time.
Following Gojo’s sealing within the Prison Realm by Kenjaku (Pseudo-Geto) and his companions, Kokichi hears Mahito and Pseudo-Geto that since Gojo was sealed, the Prison Realm needs time to process it, which is why he can’t be moved immediately. Kokichi informs Yuji of the same, who relays the information to Nanami. After this, the latter decides to meet up with Yuji alongside Takuma and Megumi. However, whatever Yuji shouted to Nanami is heard by the cursed spirits as well, as they formulate plans and take action to combat the jujutsu sorcerers.
As soon as Nanami, Takuma, and Megumi meet Yuji, the blond sorcerer takes the leadership role and tells others the next course of action as he decides to meet up with Kiyotaka, after which he soon finds a wounded Ijichi near exit 13 of Shibuya station. He then interrupts Akari and Nobara’s fight with Shigemo. However, he soon notices that his attacks don’t work on his target. Yet, that doesn’t stop him as he lands several blows on Shigemo and repeatedly questions him about the number of enemies. As the blond sorcerer sends Shigemo flying to another building, Nobara notes how powerful Nanami is as a grade 1 sorcerer.
The death knell of Kento Nanami
You can see the importance of sharing info through this fumble.. Looks like Nanami kicked through the frame before coming down with his real move, allowing Dagon to block. Had Naobito explained his CT prior, Nanami could've landed a significant hit.#JJK #ShadzJK #JujutsuKaisen pic.twitter.com/gQaVoaQyRj
— Shadz (@ShadzMangaOnly) August 24, 2022
Later on, Nanami, Maki, and Naobito enter Shibuya station only to find the cursed spirit Dagon behind a pillar. As Naobito lands the first blow on Dagon, Nanami and Maki join the fight as well. However, when Dagon decides to escape, Naobito’s counterattack forces Dagon to trap the three jujutsu sorcerers within his domain, where the cursed spirit attacks Nanami and Maki with his Sure Hit Technique. After overwhelming Naobito with his shikigami and kicking Maki into the forest, Megumi breaks Dragon’s domain with his own as Nanami protects the latter.
With Nanami asking Naobito and Maki to retreat, Toji comes and attacks Dagon. Following the cursed spirit’s exorcism, a few chapters later, readers come across a heavily wounded Nanami fending off the hordes of mutated humans. With his exhaustion taking over, Nanami wonders what it would be like to take up the time he had lost to read books in Malaysia.
Mahito is described as a mirror, he is the reflection of death that humans fear and detest. Nanami was faced with this, but instead of receiving nothing in front of this dead-end, he obtained clarity as to why he does what he does. pic.twitter.com/22PKDaE1rQ
— IZZY | 云火 (@SatorIzzy) July 21, 2021
Realizing his immediate priorities and people to protect, Nanami continues fighting. However, at that point, Mahito arrives and Nanami thinks about why he is doing this. As he notices Yuji’s arrival, Nanami ruefully smiles and says that he will leave it to the protagonist. However, Yuji isn’t spared time to process the thought when Mahito instantly kills Nanami without any mercy.
The story doesn’t stop briefly, as the death of a fan favorite character is replaced by many more battles and character developments. While the death of Kento Nanami was a natural occurrence in the grand scheme of Jujutsu Kaisen, the effect was immediate and painful for fandoms. However, Nanami’s influence hasn’t been lost long after his death, as the character climbed up the ranks to position himself in 7th in the Jujutsu Kaisen 3rd popularity poll, which was published along with chapter 227. As such, Nanami may have died, but his mark on the Jujutsu Kaisen characters and the fandom is absolute.