Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the most popular anime franchises out right now, and it’s easy to see why – it’s a fascinating deconstruction of the battle shounen genre, its characters are instantly lovable, and the animation is consistently god-tier. And now, the long-awaited movie Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is finally arriving in American theaters, so let’s see how this prequel measures up to the main series!
Jujutsu Kaisen 0, a film from TOHO Animation, will be available in both English dub and subtitled Japanese and will arrive in more than 1500 theaters nationwide starting on March 18, 2022. The film will also be released in select U.S. based IMAX® theaters. For more information, visit https://www.crunchyrollmovienight.com/.
The Story of Yuta
This film takes place one year in the past, before Yuji Itadori unwittingly ended up involved in the underground world of curses and jujutsu sorcerers. Instead, we follow Yuta Okkotsu, a kindhearted but constantly nervous teenager who looks like he hasn’t slept since 2002. We get a firsthand look at how tough poor Yuta’s life is in his introductory scene – a gang of bullies is making him into their personal punching bag, only for a mysterious force to come to Yuta’s aid and murder his assailants with extreme prejudice. This violent entity is Rika, a special-grade curse who manifested after Yuta’s best friend was killed by a speeding car right in front of him. Because of their unshakable love for one another, Rika’s spirit continues to protect Yuta out of a twisted sense of devotion.
Just like the main series, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 doesn’t shy away from tough subjects. In fact, Yuta’s story is even darker than usual because the bully killing incident leaves him nearly catatonic and suicidal. It’s only after Satoru Gojo convinces him that he can learn to control Rika’s power and possibly even break her curse that Yuta is able to come back to himself. It’s an intriguing tonal choice that we think works well for this movie. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 was originally a standalone 4-chapter manga that Gege Akutami wrote and then later expanded into the full series we know and love (retroactively making Yuta’s story a prequel), so it makes sense that these rough-and-tumble beginnings are even harsher in their subject matter. However, since the core of the plot focuses on the couple’s love and Yuta’s growth as a person, it doesn’t cross over into uninteresting grimdark territory.
Earlier Versions of Familiar Faces
Naturally, since the film takes place in the same familiar setting, several characters from the main series show up to contribute in one way or another. Yuta’s new classmates at Jujutsu High are none other than Maki, Toge, and Panda, each with small differences that distinctly place them at earlier points in their lives. Everyone’s favorite menace of a mentor Satoru Gojo sticks around to help Yuta learn the ropes (by immediately shoving him into danger, of course), and the enigmatic sorcerer Suguru Geto gets a chance to shine as the primary antagonist of the movie.
The returning characters are implemented very well – they all have unique interactions with Yuta that reveal aspects of their personalities we hadn’t seen before, such as Maki’s aggressiveness gradually calming down as she gets to know him better. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 also sheds some light on the complicated relationship between Gojo and Geto, which is only vaguely hinted at in the main series. There are a few other cameos as well, so be sure to stay on the lookout for them!
Outstanding Production Values
Jujutsu Kaisen has consistently had some of the most amazing animation for a TV anime that we’ve ever seen, so it’s no surprise that the movie is a nonstop assault of sakuga. MAPPA and director Sunghoo Park really outdid themselves this time; we’ve got complex lighting effects, carefully detailed lip flaps, expertly choreographed fight scenes where every movement feels purposeful and impactful, and so much more. The production values make the whole movie feel like a true theatergoing experience that’s worth leaving your house to go see.
On top of that, both the Japanese and English voice actors knock it out of the park. We particularly like Kayleigh McKee as Yuta – she’s able to communicate through her inflection how much the character changes throughout the film, slowly replacing Yuta’s early wavering tone with a more confident affect as he grows and makes more friends. Anairis Quiñones as Rika is no slouch either, since her interpretation of Rika’s cursed form combines the young girl’s original voice with the twisted reality of what she has become. No matter which language you watch Jujutsu Kaisen 0 in, you won’t be disappointed!
Feels Like We’re Missing Something
Unfortunately, not everything about this film is as flawless as its animation, voice acting, and story themes. For some reason, there’s a big problem with the pacing. If you’ve ever watched Sunghoo Park’s other directorial project The God of High School, you’ll recognize exactly what we mean when we say that Jujutsu Kaisen 0 feels like a compilation movie of a much longer series that cuts out all of the downtime just to get to the exciting parts. As a result, there are very few quiet, contemplative scenes (although the ones that we do get are very good), and more importantly, a frustratingly large amount of Yuta’s jujutsu training happens offscreen.
One moment Yuta is struggling to control Rika and keep up with even the weakest monsters, but then a few scenes later he can talk to her plainly and has somehow learned advanced sword techniques and healing abilities...? We understand that the film only has a limited amount of time to tell this story and it’s based on a short manga that was never intended to last longer than a few chapters, but the random timeskips are incredibly jarring. It even cheapens Yuta’s otherwise well-done character arc because we don’t see him grow comfortable with his powers over time. For the sake of more consistent pacing, we would’ve cut short a few battles to have a bit more information about how Yuta gets from point A to point B.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0, even with the few flaws it does have, is a solid prequel to the main anime and a worthy use of your time. Its plot is also vital to understanding parts of Season 2, so don’t miss it if you’re looking forward to continuing the story of Yuji and friends! Oh, and be sure to stick around after the credits for a special scene...
What did you think of our review? Have you gotten your tickets yet for Jujutsu Kaisen 0? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!