JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 Review: Yuta’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

jujutsu kaisen 0 main film poster visual
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To say that JUJUTSU KAISEN is successful is putting it mildly. If there’s one franchise that has benefitted from a large demand of manga and the ever-present shounen media boom, it’s this series. That’s why it’s not hard to see how JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 a prequel/spinoff film to the main series would grab so much attention within the anime fandom, making boatloads of box office money in North America alongside The Batman. With a straightforward, yet engaging story with stellar voice acting and animation, JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 further proves that the franchise has significant staying power. 

The movie follows Yuta Okkotsu, whose childhood friend Rika Orimoto was killed when he was young. By a strange occurrence, her cursed spirit lingers with him as a monstrous beast, brutally dealing away anyone that tries to harm him. This catches the attention of Satoru Gojou, who recommends he attend Tokyo Prefectural Jujutsu High School to hone his powers. As he refines his skills and meets new friends, a sinister curse user named Suguru Geto lurks in the shadows, waiting to steal Yuta’s power for his own. 

jujutsu kaisen 0 yuta and rika
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JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 is really a love story at its heart. It’s a dark, twisted tale about a boy preventing his childhood friend from passing on, forgiving himself for her death, and coming to terms with his own actions. Their relationship is a great focus throughout the film that doesn’t feel forced or hammered into annoyance. Yuta genuinely loves her, even in her deformed, monstrous state. Their close, dependent relationship binds the story as they engage in battle after battle. It’s a chemistry akin to the relationship Eddie Brock has with his symbiote pal in Venom.  

Kana Hanazawa absolutely kills it at voicing Rika, whose thunderous, shrill voice evokes an otherworldly monstrous tone when enhanced by vocal effects. Veteran seiyuu Megumi Ogata sells it as the protagonist and is no slouch in her portrayal either. She delivers her best Shinji Ikari impression with Yuta’s voice, especially in scenes where he’s alone, at his worst, or close to breaking down. 

jujutsu kaisen 0 yuta
©2021 JKMP ©GA/S

JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 is a great film and fans of the series are going to enjoy their time watching it. For readers of the source material, the film may feel like a short anime television or OVA series rather than a traditional movie. It’s easy to notice the distinct story acts that make up the film’s story, which is neatly divided into digestible chunks.

It’s a dark, twisted tale about a boy preventing his childhood friend from passing on, forgiving himself for her death, and coming to terms with his own actions.

Adapting an entire manga into one film has its pros and cons, but since the source material for this film only has one volume, an adaptation is easier to accomplish than trying to cram multiple volumes of story into a 90 or 120-minute movie. Nevertheless, it still risks leaving some important things out and disrupting the story’s pacing, if ever so slightly. Key characters may not get enough development compared to the main JUJUTSU KAISEN series, potentially confusing viewers in the process. 

For example, take into consideration Yuta’s role in the beginning of the film. He starts out as a cowardly high schooler, learning the ropes within his school and serving as the audience proxy through the world of Jujutsu sorcerers and curses. Much like Yuji Itadori from the main series, he starts out at a low level and has to take time to process everything that has happened.

When Yuta first meets his new classmates Maki Zen’in, Toge Inumaki, and Panda, he’s a fish out of water. This is especially evident during his first mission with Maki, where the sight of cursed spirits scared him silly. Unlike Yuji, however, Yuta gains a bit of powerful swagger toward enemies stronger than him, especially later on in the film’s climax. 

jujutsu kaisen 0 panda, maki, and toge
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Like Yuji, Yuta gradually adapts to his surroundings and refines his powers to protect his friends. This development happens over the course of around three months, with much of Yuta’s maturation happening off-screen. I think a time skip is perfectly fine here, but it does leave out a good amount of Yuta’s character development. The transition is a little jarring compared to the film’s first half, where Yuta is a coward who doesn’t know what to do, and then suddenly becomes a confident warrior who can hold his ground. 

Despite that minor gripe, the film nails a great first impression with the track Greatest Strength.” It’s used in the scenes where Yuta adjusts to his new school life. The song enhances the film’s atmosphere, creating a powerful sequence that builds up towards a feeling of grandeur and triumph. The English vocals performed on the track by Toft Willingham and Jessica Gelinas really shine in these sequences and set the film’s tone from the start.  

On the action side, JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 provides some of the best and most memorable fights, as delivered by Sunghoo Park and the team at MAPPA. My favorite is the final confrontation between Yuta and Geto in the film’s last act. The familiar flashy fight styles, colorful curse energy, and explosive impacts makes the film’s climax all worth it in the end. It’s eye-catching, engaging, and entertaining all through to the end. 

jujutsu kaisen 0 gojo
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Fans looking for small connections to JUJUTSU KAISEN won’t be disappointed, as there are small cameos of familiar faces such as Kento Nanami and Mei Mei in some battle scenes. You can also spot third-year students Aoi Todo, Momo Nishimiya, and Noritoshi Kamo doing their thing. I’m not sure if they were all included in the film’s original manga, but it’s a courteous nod to the original series nonetheless. 

JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 will please fans of the original series and is also fairly accessible for newcomers of the franchise. It’s an entertaining shounen-style anime film that knows what to present to keep you engaged and use the story’s emotional beats to its advantage. There’s no doubt that this movie will escalate the hype train towards JUJUTSU KAISEN’s return next year. 

William Moo is a freelance writer who has previously written for OTAQUEST and MANGA.TOKYO. He enjoys watching lots of anime every season and reading from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter @thewriterSITB.
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