After dominating in Japan, the first film of the Jujutsu Kaisen franchise, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is set to release worldwide in a few weeks. The awesome people at Crunchyroll sent us a screener of the Subtitled version of the film to review before its release. Is this prequel necessary to the overall series? How does it relate to the overall Jujutsu Kaisen series? This is our spoiler-free review of Jujutsu Kaisen 0.
A Must-Watch Film For Jujutsu Kaisen Fans
The story of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 takes place about two years before Itadori Yuji becomes the vessel for the King of Curses, Sukuna. The film serves as an origin story for Okkotsu Yuta, a fearful, timid high school student being haunted by his childhood love Orimoto Rika. If ever Yuta is in danger, Rika appears to deliver some gruesome punishment.
To avoid execution, Yuta is enrolled into Jujutsu High at the recommendation of one of the most beloved members of the Jujutsu Kaisen series, Satoru Goto. Unfortunately, it’s not long before the primary villain of the Jujutsu Kaisen series, Suguru Geto, takes notice of Rika’s punishing power and puts plans in motion to make the Special Class curse his own.
Much like many other anime fans, I hadn’t read the Jujutsu Kaisen manga, but I had watched the series. So, I went into Jujutsu Kaisen 0 with a rather open perspective; not knowing what to expect, but excited nonetheless. To my surprise, I found myself gaining deeper knowledge, and appreciation, for characters featured in the series and love for ones who have yet to make it to the anime (or never would).
One character in particular who shined more than anyone else was Geto, the puppet master of the Jujutsu Kaisen anime. We rarely get to see Geto’s personality in the series, for reasons readers of the manga know, but the anime has yet to reveal. So, getting to see him acquire curses from the “filthy monkeys” and instruct his own team of curse-users was a real treat. Plus, as someone who hadn’t yet read the manga, witnessing his story raised a lot of questions.
Speaking of questions, who is Yuta? That’s the first question I had when the movie began. Who was this brand new character and why did he matter in the grand scope of the Jujutsu Kaisen series? While the second part of that question will be answered in due time, the first part was explained well in Jujutsu Kaisen 0. This entire movie was about Yuta’s journey to handle and control his curse, while learning more about who he is and where he came from. Another big theme in this film was him learning to accept death and gain closure from it. It’s in these scenes where you truly find the magic of Jujutsu Kaisen 0.
The film also features a few of the secondary characters of Jujutsu Kaisen getting more screen time. Panda, Zen’in Maki, and Inumaki Toge are first years in this film and serve as Yuta’s partners/mentors/examples. After watching the series, it is interesting to watch how the group acts with a weaker teammate like Yuta, especially after seeing how they work with a stronger, more confident character in Yuji in the anime. It’s relatively the same, but it does appear in this movie that Yuta is able to understand them faster than Yuji ever had. It leads to more vulnerability from some of the series regulars than ever shown in the series. Outside of that there isn’t much more that we learn from these three that we didn’t already learn in the series, but they do have some excellent dialogue and action sequences.
For far too long, anime movies were approached as side stories that have nothing to do with the overall path of the series. Just look at Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z/Super, One Piece, Naruto, etc. All had excellent anime films, but you could skip them and not miss out on anything important that would impact the overall series.
That’s what I love about Jujutsu Kaisen 0; it actually matters. It connects to the overall anime. It’s a story that’s necessary. That’s been a common trend in anime films that are attached to a running series, their films actually relate. Just look at Demon Slayer Mugen Train. Without that arc, we miss out on important character development and the death of an important figure. Much like Demon Slayer, without Jujutsu Kaisen 0, we miss out on learning about important characters like Yuta and Geto that will have a lasting impact on where the series goes from here.
Whether you are a fan of the Jujutsu Kaisen of the manga or anime, you have to watch Jujutsu Kaisen 0. The fact it actually sets up a lot of what we’ve already seen and where the story will go is reason enough. It leaves you wanting to know more as an anime viewer. So much so that this anime watcher powered up the VIZ app and immediately started reading the Jujutsu Kaisen manga to know more about what I just watched. Be warned, you might feel like doing that too (It’s worth it. The manga is also excellent.).
An Abrupt Finish
While I thoroughly enjoyed Jujutsu Kaisen 0, the ending is rather abrupt. Not like Season 2 of The Promised Neverland abrupt, but more like they ran out of time to show Yuta’s growth and needed to quickly get to the finished product for the final sequence.
More than anything else, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is Yuta’s origin story. So, they spend a majority of the time showing him training and going on missions. However, he really only goes on two missions, trains in a handful of scenes, and then a time skip sends us to the Night Parade of a Hundred Demons – the movie’s finale – where we see Yuta’s full potential unleashed, as well as the revelation of his lineage. While the sequences were stellar and showed a character far more powerful than in the beginning of the film, it just didn’t feel as earned.
Granted, it is a film and there’s only so much time to show a character develop, whereas an anime could have seasons to build up to that same type of epic moment. Yet, I didn’t get the goosebump-inducing feeling I got when Goku went Super Saiyan for the first time or when Naruto united with Kurama or every time Luffy finds a new gear and overcomes his foes. The finish of the film primarily gave me that feeling of, “Oh wow! That’s cool.”. Of which it was, but it didn’t get me out of my seat or make me lose my mind, but more had me question how Yuta became as powerful as he had in that short amount of time. I appreciated it. I enjoyed it. I just didn’t see enough of a build-up to give me chills.
Thrilling, Dark, Yet Beautiful Animation
MAPPA Studios is a sensational anime producer. They produced Season 1 of Jujutsu Kaisen, Attack on Titan: The Final Season, Yuri!!! On Ice, Hajime No Ippo: Rising, and loads of other high quality anime. The quality does not dip at all in Jujutsu Kaisen 0, either.
The studio produced beautiful landscapes and impressive cinematic scenes. One example I couldn’t get enough of were scenes in the forests of the Jujutsu High campus, where the shadows from trees enveloped the forest floor that characters walked on. The film wasn’t set in this location often, but those scenes captivated me.
More than that, though, the curse designs and the action sequences were top notch. Curses were horrifying, similar to those found in the anime. I caught myself looking like the grimace emoji every time a new grotesque curse would appear, it was especially frequent in the school mission.
As for action sequences, they were just as high-impact and gratifying as what you would expect from an anime film. The final sequence alone must’ve cost a bunch of money to produce, because it was fast-paced and full of powerful moments. Really, though, that’s how it felt in every mission and in certain dialogue exchanges. While sure, some moments felt similar to the anime, most scenes in the film felt special. Felt like the artists put more time and care into creating the best possible adaptation of the Jujutsu Kaisen prequel.
Should You Watch It?
Regardless of which medium you consume Jujutsu Kaisen, be it manga, anime, or both, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a must-watch film. The animation is stellar, the story is really good – despite the abrupt finish -, you get better insight into characters, and the japanese voice cast is sensational. The English voice cast also does an excellent job and there are some changes in the dialogue for the dub version that were actually helpful in their descriptions and a bit more PC.
I also think that Jujutsu Kaisen 0 can be for those who haven’t yet gotten into the series. It provides a good explanation of what is going on in the series and allows viewers to get a glimpse of characters they’ll get to know in the series. There’s even a scene after the credits that raises questions about how it connects to the series.
No matter if you’re new to the series or an avid consumer, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 will definitely leave you wanting more Jujutsu Kaisen. So much so that you may just start the manga like I did. Because let’s face it, 2023 is a long time to wait for the series to return. At least, there’s the manga, season 1 of the anime, and now Jujutsu Kaisen 0.