Jujutsu Kaisen 0 saw a cinema release here in the UK on March 16, 2022, and I made it my top priority that Wednesday to sit down and watch it at the earliest opportunity. The main reason for this was because I enjoyed its first season so much, and thus I did everything in my power to avoid any early teasers and spoilers of 0 before our time in the UK finally came.
One thing that was hard to avoid was noticing just how well it performed at the box office, but this wouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone after how well the highly successful Demon Slayer: Mugen Train performed. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is now the 21st highest-grossing film in Japanese box office history at the time of writing, and top highest-grossing film at the Japanese box office in 2021. But was it worth the wait? Read on in our spoiler-free review of the movie.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0: a perfect entry point for newcomers
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is the prequel to Jujutsu Kaisen, making it a good entry point to the Jujutsu Kaisen universe. It stars a one-off main character, Yuta Okkotsu, who learns the ropes just like its audience does once again thanks to its self-professed good-looking powerhouse of a teacher, Gojo Satoru. Well, I mean, he’s not lying as such.
The movie plays out like a self-contained, condensed arc, showcasing the untouched potential of Yuta beginning a new chapter in his life as a training Jujutsu Sorcerer. He’s simply thrown into things through by the guidance of Gojo suggesting that living life in isolation is not the way to go. He discovers a new ambition in life after experiencing years of guilt that manifested in the form of a high-levelled curse; he’s definitely an unusual case, so much so that he’s classified in a special grade, the likes of which Tokyo Jujutsu High has never seen before.
The world-building is fed to us in small doses, much like the series initially did, but it was always enjoyable to see and hear it all once again. This was due to the refreshing dynamic between Gojo and Yuta. The latter is especially noteworthy, as he starts out as a self-pitying and self-loathing young man but gradually learns to love himself once more after enrolling into Tokyo Jujutsu High.
He learns what it means to find solidarity among friends; prior to this, he’d been unable to get close to anyone due to the curse lashing out against others, supposedly to protect him. Now, he figures, it’s time to learn to control this curse and overcome that guilt once and for all.
Additional context for pre-existing fans
The movie wastes no time in expanding on multiple facets of its characters while still being a great introduction to its world for newbies. We finally see who a hyped-up character is after his name was dropped throughout the anime’s first season, and with the plotline being set in the past, pre-existing characters get their own moments to shine too.
The second-year students Maki Zenin, Toge Inumaki, and Panda are now seen here as first-years, for example, with the movie reinforcing their potential we see realised more comprehensively in the series proper. For example, Toge is sent on solo missions here and there, and Maki’s sheer determination in proving her clan wrong is once again touched upon in a heartfelt moment of self-drive and tenacity.
Fans of the show are sure to be excited to witness some more never-before-seen aspects of the Jujutsu Kaisen universe, such as certain special grade curses being brought to the big screen for the first time, and Geto Suguru’s original villainous group appearing en masse.
The best thing about these guys is that we get a chance to see snippets of their motivations, allowing us to sympathise with them and see their goals as being somehow more legitimate and understandable. And it may just be me, but I felt like big bad Geto was more comedic than he was in the series; he came across as an unconvincing villainous mastermind, and a tone-deaf eccentric as he flip-flopped between over-the-top behaviour and truly malicious actions and words. He’s plain weird — but his unpredictability certainly makes him entertaining.
The highlight of Geto’s appearance, though, was some additional context for his intentions and motivations, plus some hints about his shared past with Gojo. The two have always been juxtaposed with their differing world views and life goals, but noted to have a pre-existing sense of camaraderie and history with one another. Geto’s character feels fleshed out here, even if his appearance is relatively brief — and the same can be said of the other pre-existing characters.
The perks of Yuta Okkotsu
Yuta was a very enjoyable protagonist, perhaps even more so than the series’ main character Itadori. His reasons for wanting to push others away and live in isolation are understandable due to his background, but through this difficulty in accepting his unique position and reason to fight, the pre-existing characters of the series had plenty of opportunities for more heartfelt, caring moments than we’ve ever seen from them before.
Yuta’s development was a highlight, and his relationships with the other characters brought out many of their best qualities. The battles, whilst expectedly clean and jaw-dropping in their presentation thanks to the talents of the animators in MAPPA, also provided plenty of opportunities for the characters to bond alongside all the visual flair and high-paced action.
The growing sense of camaraderie between Yuta and Toge is a solid example of this, with his cautious and distant attitude towards Yuta in their initial fight together flipped on its head as the pair grow closer across the movie.
In the final conflict against Geto, we have Toge telling Yuta to run, despite his powers not being on the level that they are when he’s a second-year. Even when he’s on the brink of death, he calls out to Yuta to give him a genuine and desperate request. It was an effortlessly beautiful moment. And on top of that, both their pasts have a pleasing sense of being parallel to one another, helping to further highlight their similarities.
Panda, on the other hand, only made me scratch my head; some of his behaviour felt a bit out of character, and it was bizarre to say the least. But that’s probably one of a few examples of what changes occurred to the characters once Gege Akutami got the go ahead for further serialisation. Other than that, we didn’t get much more from him — but at least we have Maki, whose own backstory is touched upon to reaffirm her life goals, and make for a solid moment of character bonding between Yuta and herself.
Maki was the most against guiding Yuta initially. The way her defences came down when Yuta shows that he understands her past was endearing, though, particularly once Yuta indicated that he wanted to develop his skills alongside her. Who doesn’t love a tsundere, right?
It was most certainly exciting and satisfying to see side characters from the main series get such major roles here — and while we only got glimpses of other pre-existing characters for most of the movie, the final battle at least felt grand and high-stakes as they all banded together against a common threat.
Ultimately, Yuta made for a very appealing protagonist who I wanted to see much more of — and not just within the movie. His journey managed to hit all the right notes in his developmental stages, and ended up being everything I had hoped for, even with the runtime of the movie being just under two hours.
His character managed to genuinely develop from being weak and meagre into someone who could stand up for himself and others. And he became someone who was willing to dive straight into danger and fight against all the odds for the sake of retaining the comforting life he had finally allowed himself to have.
Curses, but with a focus on tragic love
That satisfying development and conclusion comes from the movie’s traditional three-act structure: setup, confrontation, and resolution. It made the pacing of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 brilliant, and was a nice contrast with those anime movies that just feel like extended episodes of the main show. That was always a given, though, considering the story’s origin.
If I had just one complaint about the story, its that the stakes simply aren’t there for most of it. It provides an ideal setup for any newcomer who wouldn’t otherwise know of certain characters’ fates in the series — but pre-existing fans may find themselves expecting that Yuta would actually kick the bucket in the end.
But that is not so much of an issue when the story itself is all about the development of Yuta and Rika. Now, we all know how much of a sucker for romance I am, and for that reason alone, Yuta’s story was instantly appealing.
Since Jujutsu Kaisen’s main series never did really explore the complex emotions and potential that come with love exacerbating the impact of curses — something that even Gojo confirms in this movie — seeing it be such a central theme here was the reason I was so invested for the movie’s runtime. It was well explored, being both tragic and heartfelt, and added a new viewpoint and takeaway to the Jujutsu Kaisen universe in themes and depth.
In closing, I was already excited for Jujutsu Kaisen’s second season, but now having seen more context on Gato, Maki, Toge, and especially the first proper look at Yuta in the anime, I cannot put into words how thrilled I’ll be once we see even more from them.
So, is Jujutsu Kaisen 0 a must watch? Not exactly, but it wouldn’t hurt to expand your Jujutsu Kaisen intake in giving it a watch if you’re an anime-only viewer — and especially so if you’re a newcomer wanting to get into the series for the first time. For everyone in that boat, start with Jujutsu Kaisen 0. It’s the right move.
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