‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ Spoiler Review: “Peak Shonen Storytelling”
When it was first announced volume 0 of the hit series Jujutsu Kaisen would receive a theatrical adaptation, fans’ expectations were high, especially after the anime’s acclaimed first season. And thankfully, moviegoers will find their expectations surpassed as Jujutsu Kaisen 0 delivers on every level with a beautiful story, outstanding animation, and mindblowing action sequences. Not only will fans of the franchise find themselves satisfied, but it also serves as a great entry point to newcomers.
The film follows the isolated high school student Yuta Okkotsu (Megumi Ogata and Kayleigh McKee), cursed by his childhood love, Rika Orimoto (Kana Hanazawa and Anairis Quiñones), after her tragic death. When an incident results in Rika’s curse gravely wounding a group of teens, the jujutsu sorcerer Satoru Gojo (Yuichi Nakamura and Kaiji Tang) recruits Yuta to join Tokyo Metropolitan Curse Technical College (commonly referred to as Tokyo Jujutsu High), where young jujutsu sorcerers learn to harness cursed energy and exorcise curses.
After being recruited by Gojo to join Tokyo Jujutsu High, Yuta is quickly introduced to the other first year students, Toge Inumaki, Maki Zenin, and Panda. Inumaki (Koki Uchiyama and Xander Mobus) is a cursed speech user who communicates only with onigiri ingredients. Maki (Mikako Komatsu and Allegra Clark) is a member of the powerful Zenin clan but is unable to use cursed energy on her own and, for this reason, is labeled a failure by her family. And lastly, Panda (Tomokazu Seki and Matthew David Rudd) is an abrupt mutated cursed corpse who looks like a panda. For fans of the series, the film offers a glimpse at the start of their journeys’ as jujutsu sorcerers and shows some sides of them not seen much in the anime. But the movie makes a point to not alienate newcomers by reintroducing the characters and their abilities.
Once the key characters and setting are established early on, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 wastes no time jumping straight into the action. As soon as Yuta is introduced to his classmates, he and Maki are sent on a mission to exorcise an elementary school of cursed spirits. Up to this point, Yuta has been unable to find any reason for being alive and lacks a true purpose, but after he and Maki’s lives are put in danger, he finds the will to push ahead, and this is when viewers get a real sense of his true power. And as Yuta summons Rika’s curse for the first time on his own, the scale of her abilities and the burden on Yuta is made clear.
From here, the movie spends some time further establishing Yuta’s new drive to prove he has a reason for living and deepen his relationships with the other first years. The characters each have clear chemistry and work well together. This is illustrated during Yuta’s second mission when he and Inumaki are tasked with exorcising a curse. And when the task proves to be a set up by the film’s antagonist, Suguru Geto, the story kicks it up a notch. Geto (Takahiro Sakurai and Lex Lang) was a former student at Tokyo Jujutsu High and a friend of Gojo’s but was expelled and deemed the worst of all curse users after massacring over a hundred civilians in one night. His character radiates evil but at the same time has a kind of sickening charm that he has used to amass a small army of cult-like followers. His ultimate goal is to wipe out all non-curse users and create a world of jujutsu sorcerers.
When Geto and his army confront Yuta and his classmates at Tokyo Jujutsu High, he reveals he plans to launch an attack on the cities of Shinjuku and Kyoto with thousands of curses. As the two groups then prepare for battle, viewers get a small moment between Yuta and Maki, showing how far the former has come since joining the school. He has shed his isolated and lonely personality as he has found a home for himself where he knows what he is truly fighting for.
As the battle between the two sides takes off, MAPPA steps up the action with sequence after sequence of mindblowing action. Jujutsu Kaisen is well known for its fantastic animation in action scenes, but the fights in this film feel incredibly cinematic and much larger in scale. The highlights include Nanami, a fellow jujutsu sorcerer at the school, taking on a number of powerful curses on his own and Gojo’s one v. one with a powerful curse user where the former gets to showcase why he is one of the most powerful jujutsu sorcerers in the world. And as these battles wage on, Yuta is left to face Geto on his own with the help of Rika, and after an impressive display of ability from both parties, Yuta is able to win. But in doing so, Rika’s curse is broken. Up until now, it seemed that Rika’s spirit had cursed Yuta, but it was really Yuta’s love for her that kept her bound to him. After an emotional sendoff for Rika’s spirit, Yuta and his classmates resume their work as jujutsu sorcerers. Which, as fans of the franchise know, picks back up in the main anime series where the first years return with the new main cast of students.
Since the film is only based on volume 0 of Jujutsu Kaisen, it is only comprised of 4 chapters. For this reason, it may feel like the story is short in some regards, but the movie makes up for this by taking the time to develop the characters and world further. And the result is peak shonen storytelling with a cast that viewers can feel for and at many times relate to. This also leaves room for the many intense action sequences which allow the animators to showcase their talents and what is possible in this medium. – Jacob Campbell
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is now playing in theaters subbed and dubbed.