‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ Review: An Emotionally Stirring Movie That Stands On Its Own

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a gripping anime movie sure to appeal to longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike. Set before the events of the popular shonen series, this prequel story has everything you could ask for — intense action sequences, stunning animation, a riveting soundtrack, and a strong emotional core. As an adaptation, the film accurately captures the heart of Gege Akutami’s manga. It also builds on season 1 of the Jujutsu Kaisen anime.

Yuta and Rika’s relationship is the heart of ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’

Key art for 'Jujutsu Kaisen 0' featuring Yuta Okkotsu and Rika Orimoto in her cursed form.
Key art for ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ | Gege Akutami/Shueisha

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Jujutsu Kaisen 0 takes place before Yuji Itadori enrolls at Jujutsu High School, focusing on another character who finds himself in similar circumstances. Like Itadori, Yuta Okkotsu is dragged before the school’s directors and sentenced to a secret execution. Connected to the cursed spirit of his childhood friend, Rika Orimoto, Yuta poses a threat — especially if he can’t learn to control Rika’s power.

Satoru Gojo strives to help him in that endeavor, as do his classmates. For Yuta, unraveling his connection with Rika means facing the grief he experienced after losing her. It also means confronting his own insecurities,

Yuta and Rika’s relationship serves as the emotional core of Jujutsu Kaisen 0. Whether they’re interacting in flashbacks or the present day, the two make compelling main characters — both individually and as a duo. The Japanese sub and English dub performances convey the strength of their love, along with the pain both of them experience being apart.

And Yuta’s grief is a central theme of the film, which is as much about letting go as it is about growing into one’s power. Yuta makes a relatable protagonist that fans can root for. His growth is evident from one act to the next.

Of course, Rika isn’t the only character central to Yuta’s development in Jujutsu Kaisen 0. The movie also does an impressive job of bringing in the supporting cast of the main anime.

The movie expands on characters like Satoru Gojo and Suguru Geto

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Although Rika and Yuta are the central focus of Jujutsu Kaisen 0, the relationships between Yuta and the other characters are equally as compelling. Satoru Gojo, Maki Zen’in, Toge Inumaki, and Panda are all featured prominently throughout the film. Not only does the prequel offer more insight into who they are, but it gives each a moment to shine.

Maki’s arc is probably the best of the bunch, with her gradually warming to Yuta as they get to know one another. While Yuta pushes Maki to be more vulnerable, Maki helps him find his confidence. They bounce off one another nicely, with Gojo and Panda offering comedic support. Toge also leaves an impressive impact, especially for someone whose vocabulary is limited to riceball ingredients.

Additionally, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 explores Gojo and Suguru Geto in more depth, revealing the two have a greater connection than season 1 of the anime let on. In particular, Geto gets far more characterization in the film. It makes sense of his motivations, clearly indicating that he’s the hero of this story in his own eyes.

Even if this movie serves as a prequel, it uses building blocks from the main series to expand upon its characters. Impressively, it sets things up in a way that newcomers can still enjoy the storylines without prior knowledge of the world. But those who are familiar with the main anime will undoubtedly find satisfaction in this extension of it.

They’ll also notice a few nods to the main story scattered throughout Jujutsu Kaisen 0. These moments diverge from the manga. However, they tie the movie into the anime. In that sense, they improve upon the source material.

‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ is strong from start to finish

Overall, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 manages to successfully adapt Gege Akutami’s manga while presenting a story that anyone can enjoy — even those unfamiliar with the franchise.

The movie starts a little slow, but the early exposition serves a purpose. And once viewers — and Yuta — are filled in on the specifics of this world, the film remains strong from start to finish.

The third act is undeniably the best part of the film. It blends stunning animation and a top-tier soundtrack with action moments that rival Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. The climax will no doubt leave Jujutsu Kaisen fans eager for the anime’s return. Fortunately, they can enjoy the feat that is Jujutsu Kaisen 0 in the meantime.

As a movie adaptation, prequel, and standalone story, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 manages to shine.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 comes out in the U.S. and Canada on March 18, 2022.

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