If you’ve been on the internet at any point in the last four years, you’ve most likely – if just in passing – heard about Jujutsu Kaisen, Gege Akutami’s shonen-horror manga which has taken the world by storm.
Centered on the aptly named Jujutsu High, the massively popular series follows the story of new student Yuji Itadori, a young man who after consuming the fingers and somewhat harnessing the powers of an esteemed Demon lord attends the specialized school in the hopes of both fully controlling his new ‘roommate’ and using his powers to help those in need.
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Yet, what many fans of the series may not know is that the core series was not Akutami’s first foray into the world of jujutsu, curses, or even the unorthodox teaching style of Satoru Gojo, as just one year prior to its debut proper in the pages of Shonen Jump, the mangaka published what would eventually stand as a prequel to Jujutsu Kaisen – Tokyo Metropolitan Curse Technical School.
Nowadays, this short story is known better as Jujutsu Kaisen 0 – and it’s just received one of the best anime adaptations of all time.
Eight years prior to Yuji’s consumption of Sakuna’s finger, the then-ten-year-old Yuta Okkotsu (Megumi Ogata, Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion) witnessed the violent and tragic death of his childhood friend, Rika Orimoto (Kana Hanazawa, Mitusri Kanroji in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba), after she was struck by a moving vehicle while crossing the street.
Ever since that day, Yuta has found himself haunted by Rika, who has remained by his side in the form of a twisted Cursed Spent hellbent on protecting her childhood companion by any violent means necessary – whether he wants her to or not.
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Receiving word of Yuta’s situation, Gojo (Yuchi Nakamura, reprising his role from the anime series) approaches the terrified youth and offers him a spot at Jujutsu High, promising to help him eventually free himself from Rika’s influence.
Finding himself at a loss for solutions and terrified that, left unchecked, Rika will continue to hurt those around him, Yuta gladly accepts Gojo’s invitation, eventually enrolling at Jujutsu High and joining class alongside three very familiar faces – Maki Ze’nin (Mikako Komatsu, Tsumugi Shirogane in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony), Toge Inumaki (Koki Uchiyama, Roxas in the Kingdom Hearts series) and Panda (Tomokazu Seki, Domon Kasshu in Mobile Fighter G Gundam).
Unfortunately for Yuta, Rika’s power has attracted the attention of the Jujutsu world’s most powerful enemy, Suguru Geto (Takahiro Sakurai, Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy VII: Remake), who desires to leash Rika under his control and use her overwhelming strength to rid the world of those who cannot use jutjusu sorcery – a category of human he considers to be evolutionarily beneath himself.
Setting his sights on the fledgling jujutsu sorcerer, Geto moves on Yuta shortly after he arrives at Jujutsu High, putting the youth in the middle of an explosive power struggle between two of the world’s most formidable supernatural organizations.
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There’s no beating around the bush: Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is not only an absolutely incredible anime film, but a beautiful adaptation of its source material.
For manga fans, the film brings Akutami’s original four-chapter miniseries to life nearly shot-for-short and word-for-word, subtracting nothing and adding only the slightest bit of ancillary footage.
Thankfully, these additions are primarily expansions on the manga’s original action scenes such as Panda’s brief hand-to-hand fight with Geto, with one moment from the main series’ ‘Gojo’s Past’ arc being brought in for emotional emphasis, and in no way change the substance of Akutami’s original work.
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To that end, one of Jujutsu Kaisen 0’s key strengths lies in its story.
Not only is it emotional and heartfelt, telling the struggle of a young man who has to come to terms with debilitating fear and despair in the wake of an emotionally traumatizing event, but it’s also perfectly self-contained and self-explanatory.
While the story’s stand-alone nature is rather obvious considering how the original manga was always meant to be a miniseries, this is brought up to say that your enjoyment of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 will not depend on your familiarity with Akutami’s mythos.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the series or someone going in blind, one can almost guarantee you’ll walk out of the theater having been completely satisfied with Yuta’s journey.
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Of course, a film is also equal parts its production values, which is something that Jujutsu Kaisen 0 delivers in absolute spades.
Produced by Mappa, the same studio behind the currently-airing anime adaptation of the core series, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is hands down one of the most beautiful animated films in recent memory.
From the noisy depiction of Rika’s Cursed Spirit against the clean lines of the human cast, to the flowing and impactful animation of the battle scenes, to the sketch-like appearance of jujutsu sorcery that seems ripped almost straight from the pages of the manga, the film presents a dazzling feast for the eyes from beginning to end.
In fact, at no point does the animation quality ever dip, nor are there any obviously cut corners or apparent cares for budget. Mappa went all out with Jujutsu Kaisen 0, and it shows.
This is perhaps best exemplified in the movements of Maki during her and Yuta’s first mission together as well as their later training session.
In the manga, Akutami’s flow sometimes makes it hard to follow exactly what occurs during these moments, but Mappa animates them so smoothly in the film that all of this confusion is immediately (and even retroactively) dissipated.
While no project is perfect, it’s admittedly hard to find a flaw with Jujutsu Kaisen 0, even while actively trying to look at things as objectively negatively as possible.
At most, one could consider the film’s biggest flaw to be the fact that some of the finer points of jujutsu sorcery, such as the mechanics behind veils, Cursed energy, and specific abilities, are left unexplained – though this admittedly does little to detract from the overall experience, at best prompting one to internally utter a minor ‘huh?’ before accepting it as is and immersing themself back into the film.
Ultimately, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is an absolute must-see for any fan of Jujutsu Kaisen, anime, or animation in general.
Between it’s sincere story of loss and love, gorgeously animated battle scenes, and dedication to remaining as true to its source material as possible, Yuta’s cinematic outing is nothing short of top-tier.
Is it revolutionary? Maybe, maybe not. Arguments are currently being made in both directions (personally, this reviewer is inclined to lean towards the latter), and thus only time will tell.
But it is a film that fully deserves your time, money, and appreciation.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 hits Western theaters on March 18th, courtesy of Crunchyroll and TOHO Animation. Tickets for both dub and sub screenings are now available.
A review copy of this film was provided by Crunchyroll.
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- Beautiful from top to bottom
- Presents a near shot-for-shot adaptation of the original manga
- The small additions to the plot are a treat for fans
- A lack of explanation regarding Cursed Energy and Spirits may leave new viewers a bit confused - but only momentarily and not enough to detract from the overall experience