Jujutsu Kaisen was an anime that set the world on fire in its debut a few years back. With great action, fun characters and a vibe that reminded me of ‘street-level’ Bleach. It was another example of the possible Shonen Renaissance that the genre has been experiencing. And while some of the accolades thrown to the series may have been premature, I can’t deny that it is a damn good piece of entertainment. Which is why the prequel movie was something I knew I had to check out. So after the cut let’s take a dive into Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and see what’s what.
A criticism I have seen of some anime series and their movies is that too often, the movies feel either like extended episodes or several episodes edited together. While there may be a story and a through-line, it is clear from watching it that you can feel that the editing job was not up to par. That was the fear I had went I watched Kaisen 0, but thankfully while it did end up like that, it was the best possible version of it. Taking place one year from the start of the main series, we follow the young Yuta Okkotsu who, after losing his childhood friend/crush in a car accident is haunted by her spirit in the form of a giant monster. Picked up by the sorcerer Gojo, Yuta is thrown into Jujutsu high and has to learn to control his powers in the world of sorcerers even when a former student is planning its downfall. While the story does feel like several episodes edited together, it is done in a way that feels seamless and not annoying, as if real love and care has been put into the formation of the film.
First off, the best part of Kaisen 0 is just how friendly and welcoming it is to newcomers. Those who watched the main series right after this film might find things a bit repetitive, but those who are new, or are coming to the series after a long absence, it is a welcome refreshing. Everything you need to know about the world of Jujutsu sorcerers, the power system they have, the abilities they use, and why the do it is explained in a crisp and easy to understand level that really helps clear things up. While I always knew what main series was about, I found that watching this show really helped make me understand it far better.
Furthermore, Kaisen 0 gives some time to other characters who have not gotten a full shake in the main series. The biggest benefits of this are the ‘second team’ of Maki, Panda and Toge who each get time with Yuta to reinforce their relationships and properly display their powers. Out of all of them, Maki gets the most out of it, showing the resentment of her lack of powers and the tough attitude that has come from it. Toge also gets some love here, with more displaying of his abilities and just listing off those rice-ball ingredients like a champ. Then of course there is Gojo who aside from making all the female fans swoon, continues to own every scene he is, a love child of Naruto’s Kakashi and Bleach’s Urahara who has the strength to back up his looks.
But aside from the returning characters and oodles of cameos expected from a anime franchise film, Kaisen 0 also has a great protagonist. While not as hot-headed as Itadori, Yuta is a calm and well-intentioned young man who is thrown into a world he has no idea, but takes to it quite well. His skills are impressive, but well earned, and his relationships though brief, feel well built and established. Being from a movie people might have been afraid he was a one-off filler lead, but thankfully that isn’t the case and we can expect more of him in the future. Which is great because the time spent with Yuta makes you want to see more, he’s just a fun character.
In terms of everything else, the film is another feather in the cap of good movie animation. While the anime was a step above most other shows, the movie flexes that money to a great degree. Studio MAPPA is not one I know much about, but they have always been a fan favorite and it shows. From the fighting, to the backgrounds, to the character work, all of just shows off the money thrown at it, but also in that style that made Jujutsu Kaisen feel so fresh compared to other shonen shows.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is everything I wanted from an anime franchise film. It refreshes your knowledge of the series, tells a tightly told and canon story, and has oodles of actions from all the characters you want to see. Anime franchise films have come so far in the last decades, abandoning the filler nonsense to focus on what the viewers want to see: things that matter. Kaisen 0 is a stellar example of this put into practice and a go-to recommendation or anyone who enjoyed the main series. Give this film a look if you are so interested and I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.