“Why wouldn’t you stay at the bottom with me?”
– Mai Zenin, Jujutsu Kaisen Ep.17
art header by @_natyjs on twitter
In Jujutsu Kaisen we see a lot of interesting dynamics from teacher and student to two souls inhabiting one body.
And amongst them we have the Zenin twins who seemingly cannot stand each other.
But in the intense fight where Mai repeatedly says how much she hates her own sister there are other things that quite defy the words she uses, ever so lightly and explain the pain leading to her apparent grudge towards her sister.
Today’s quote, “Why wouldn’t you stay at the bottom with me?”, is something that Mai mumbled after being completely defeated by her older twin, mentioning that she never wanted to be a Jujutsu Sorcerer in the first place.
To understand the full meaning and depth of this quote we need to look back at why the younger Zenin twin who was always presented as strong and cold, would say such a phrase.
Unlike her older twin who is unable to see curses without her glasses and cannot use cursed techniques, Mai even if it’s a small amount, is a bit different than her sister and can see them as well as we saw in the same episode use one cursed technique herself.
It makes her more fit in a role of a Jujutsu Sorcerer if we regard things in a simple manner, but still we see that Maki Zenin does a more befitting job than her sister as her raw physical abilities surpass many others and also her quick-witted mind.
Still Mai told her that she never intended to become one but was pressured into becoming one since Maki left the clan to become a Jujutsu Sorcerer herself in order to become the next clan leader and take revenge on one of the three major clans and also her own family besides Mai.
Since Maki left her sister behind in a sense and made her become something she never intended to be, it forces her perception to look at her as the one who couldn’t simply sacrifice the pride she had in order to stay with her.
The sister who had protected her from the curses that Maki couldn’t see herself and always backing her up, promising her to never leave her behind because as a child we already see that Mai had the fear of her sister becoming independent and not needing her anymore.
Ending up breaking that promise, the label of “liar” was now on Maki as her younger twin remembered how things used to be and that her sister wouldn’t want to associate with her anymore.
For Mai in the circumstances they were born in, seen as a bad sign for the family since they were twins with no apparent power and their family making them into simple servants, had only her beloved Maki that made her life a bit better.
Yet Maki couldn’t stand the treatment of her family and being seen as useless despite that she is fully known of her own capabilities which is later proven as right that she might be a fourth-grade but her promotion to second-grade was only held up many times due to the Zenin clan meddling in.
The core difference since their youth : Mai was the more fragile and reserved person seeing the scary things that Maki didn’t care about nor see but still wanted to face in order to not hate herself. Maki is the one who is stronger not only in battle but also her determination and the goal she wants to pursue.
We see that Mai didn’t mind being ordered around or treated badly as long as she had her sister next to her, pained by the reality that they are still so very different ability-wise but also the way her sister carries herself around she asks her: “Why wouldn’t you stay at the bottom with me?”
Which could mean many things as we saw before.
On one hand it could mean that Mai wanted to confirm if the feelings she had were only one-sided and that her sister never even considered staying with her forever in the beginning.
On the other hand she is asking that in frustration due to the pain of being left behind and having to endure a harsh life afterwards as it also means, “would it have been so bad to just be by my side instead of being selfish?”
For Mai it was more than just living a cozy lifestyle instead of risking her life as a Jujutsu Sorcerer, it was the fact that her sister left her behind after a promise that Maki herself might have forgotten but Mai desperately cling to that as she utters the word ‘liar’ and ‘I hate you’ when Maki apologized and left as she stated that she would have hated herself if she stay at the bottom with Mai.
Mai’s pained question was answered with a sad reality of her sister prioritizing her own goals a tad more over her own sister which makes this quote so meaningful yet sad.