REVIEW: ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie’ is the Perfect Gateway Anime

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Jujutsu Kaisen 0 - But Why Tho (1)

Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1 is one of the top anime of the last two years with more awards than you can fit on your hands. From best girl to anime of the year and, of course, best fight scene. Based on the manga series from mangaka Gege Akutama, the supernatural action series has captured people’s hearts and Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie is the perfect gateway into the series. Initially written by Akutami before serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 the manga and the love around it led to the series we know and love today. Falling just outside the main timeline, but still being entirely canon, adapting the one-shot volume into a feature film was the right call. And I promise there is no prior reading or watching required.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is animated by MAPPA and directed by Sunghoo Park and follows Yuta Okkotsu, a nervous high school student with a curse born from childhood trauma. When they were children, Rika Orimoto was killed in a traffic accident right in front of Yuta Okkotsu. That moment has haunted him ever since, propelled by his guilt he shut himself off to the world with only Rika to keep him company, and to keep him safe from school bullies. When she died, Rika became an apparition, cursing Yuta with her love and protection even as Yuta attempted to take his own life.

When Rika harms the bullies at Yuta’s high school, the Jujutsu Sorcerers have to step in to quell the special grade curse from causing any more harm or damage to the human world. But instead of being sentenced to execution, Gojou senses the pain lurking beneath the surface and takes Yuta under his wing and enrolls the teen in the mysterious Tokyo Jujutsu High School.

The first half of the film focuses on Yuta’s quest to break his curse and set Rika free with the help of his new classmates Maki Zen’in, Toge Inumaki, and Panda. Set on finding a reason to believe he deserves to live, he trains at Jujutsu Tech until the vile user Suguru Geto sets his site on taking Rika for his own purposes.

There is a survivor’s guilt that permeates every choice that Yuta makes in Jujutsu Kaisen 0. With a curse created by the strong emotions pulled from grief and guilt, the film manages to keep a soft emotional core. The film could easily fall into the action bin with gorgeous battles with no emotional impact given how many fight sequences put into its last act. In fact, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is filled to the brim with the best action sequences I’ve seen in a feature film. While not each fight scene is packed with emotional weight, they do showcase the unlimited talent that studio MAPPA brings to the table.

Fast-paced, loud, large, and showcasing a stark difference in animation between curse and Jujutsu Sorcerer, each fight scene is worthy of being clipped and played on their own on repeat. The vibrancy, the beauty, and the abject body horror involved in design in these curse battles are second to none and the film’s final fight makes up for the lack of emotional punches thrown along the way. Yuta Okkotsu is a boy pushed by his pain, but also his love.

Yuta believes he fights for self-affirmation, to prove that his life being spared while Rika’s was taken was for something, anything. But in doing this, Yuta puts love first. Love for Rika, and as he grows closer to Maki, Toge, and Panda, love for his friends as well. This softness helps bring balance to the narrative.

The conflict in Jujutsu Kaisen 0’s narrative is two-fold. First, it’s about Yuta exorcising Rika. Second is Suguru’s quest to use Rika to fulfill his goal of Sorcerer supremacy by wiping out human non-sorcerers. The way they meet in battle allows them both to be explored and come together in a way that feels emotionally satisfying instead of forced together. This solidifies the film as not only being top when it comes to animated action sequences but near perfect when it comes to narrative and character development.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0

All of that said, the big question many reading this review may have is: Can I watch this if I’ve never seen Jujutsu Kaisen? And thankfully the answer is a resounding yes. While Mugen Train served as a canonical entry into an existing anime it did require some prior knowledge to deliver large emotional notes. However, Jujutsu Kaisen 0’s status as a prequel manages to set an even playing field for existing fans and newcomers.

For the former, the film is packed with references that we’ve seen in Season 1 of the series, including fan-favorite characters who pop up even if it’s just for moments to make you excited. Additionally, you get character moments that connect dots from the past and add more weight to what we see in Season 1 of the anime series. For newcomers, however, none of the easter eggs or fan moments detract from the story at hand. Additionally, the exposition of the film works extremely well to set the foundation of the Jujutsu world for those new to it.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 kicks off anime feature film this year with one hell of a punch and Yuta Okkotsu is well on his way to becoming a new favorite among fans. Grief, love, and guilt all combined with hard-hitting action and vibrant beauty for a feature film that solidifies MAPPA’s standing in animation, and Jujutsu Kaisen’s among the current on-going anime as well.

But more importantly, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 can stand on its own apart from the series. It’s a wonderful story with stunning animation, and if it wasn’t a pandemic I’d tell you to watch it on the largest screen around (but it is, so be safe out there). All I have to say is: keep the canon feature films coming.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is available in theaters in the United States now.


Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 kicks off anime feature films this year with one hell of a punch and Yuta Okkotsu is well on his way to becoming a new favorite among fans. Grief, love, and guilt all combined with hard-hitting action and vibrant beauty for a feature film that solidifies MAPPA’s standing in animation, and Jujutsu Kaisen’s among the current pon-going anime as well. All I have to say is: Keep the canon feature films coming.