‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ Review: A Shōnen Masterpiece
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 has finally arrived in the West and we’re more than thrilled to be writing this review now. The Jujutsu Kaisen manga is a combination of Tite Kubo’s Bleach and Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul, but despite its mixed influences, it is undoubtedly one of the best shōnen works in recent years.
Now, the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 movie was announced as an interlude between seasons one and two of the anime, and we have to say that it absolutely lived up to the hype and that it has us craving for more, even though it is a prequel story.
The story of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is actually based on the 4-chapter prequel manga written by Gege Akutami, which was written and published in 2017. Akutami originally intended for Jujutsu Kaisen 0 to be a complete, standalone story but later used the idea to develop a bigger story titled Jujutsu Kaisen; the original manga was then retconned into a prequel story, set a year and a half (roughly) before the plot of Jujutsu Kaisen.
The protagonist of the anime is Yuta Okkotsu, a high-schooler who is also possessed by the cure of his deceased childhood love, Rika Orimoto. When Satoru Gojō notices his enormous potential, he invites him to the Jujutsu Highschool, where he becomes a first-year student alongside Maki Zen’in, Toge Inumaki, and Panda.
Unless you’ve read or seen the original Jujutsu Kaisen, you probably won’t know these names, but the latter three and Gojō actually serve as a connection between the main story and the prequel; Yuji Itadori is, of course, not present in the prequel.
The story itself was extremely good. It had absolutely everything you’d want from a shōnen work and a lot more. It started of dark, like it’s supposed to (seeing how the story of Jujutsu Kaisen is generally on the darker side), then introduced your typical powerful-yet-downplayed protagonist with a troubled past, the supporting cast and a very convincing villain whose story, as it unfolded, turned out to be equally brilliant as that of the protagonists.
In the meantime, the movie filled our hearts with love, humor, some deep philosophy from time to time, and an overall sense of epicness that only a shōnen anime could produce.
We don’t really want to spoil anything for you at this moment, but you do have to know that the story is absolutely amazing and if you don’t know what’s coming your way, you’ll be stunned in the best possible way. You know what feeling of satisfaction you have when you see a truly great movie or show?
Well, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 gives you that exact feeling. The story is captivating from start to finish, even through the slower parts, and when you reach the climactic final battle, you’re already so hooked that you actually see yourself wanting to participate. This is shōnen at its best, without a doubt.
Another great thing in terms of plot is that Jujutsu Kaisen 0 actually works as a true prequel, or origin story for the whole franchise. Namely, you really do not have to read the manga or see the original anime series to follow the prequel movie, which is great for new fans of the series.
In fact, there is a charm in starting off your Jujutsu Kaisen journey with this prequel movie, rather than the original anime. It starts off slow, it explains everything that might be confusing to someone new and it builds its world from scratch, as if there were no other works, and that is absolutely amazing.
Building on that framework are the characters. Although Yuta Okkotsu is the film’s protagonist, the other characters also play a pivotal role. Okkotsu is, more or less, your typical shōnen protagonist at the beginning of his “career” – insecure, yet powerful, he is guided by a group of trusted allies who work hard to make him stronger, thereby also making themselves stronger.
What makes Okkotsu stand out is his tragic and heartbreaking backstory and the connection he has with Rika who, although a monstrosity, is so beautifully written and developed that you absolutely have to love her.
Okkotsu’s character development in the 105 minutes was executed brilliantly and we’ve no doubt that you’ll be wanting more of him sooner rather than later, even though he has not yet made a major appearance in the anime series.
As for the other protagonists, Satoru Gojō is, well – Satoru Gojō. He’s such a charismatic guy that we cannot really describe him in any other way. If you loved him before, you’ll love him even more after this, since his story is further expanded and deepened, with Gojō adding additional layers to his already amazing story.
Maki, Inumaki, and Panda are great to see as well, but aside from the fact that it was great to see them, it was even better to see them in a somewhat different light, with their stories, also, getting additional layers that explain a lot about their future selves.
The movie’s main villain, Suguru Getō, was a truly convincing villain, somewhat akin to Bleach‘s Aizen, but not as sophisticated. Aizen was a mastermind with such an elaborate plan that it would require a book to explain all the details; Getō, on the other hand, was a mastermind with a much simpler and more straightforward plan that you’ll easily understand.
What was especially great with Getō’s character was his backstory, which made him into much more than your typical, two-dimensional shōnen villain. This is actually a great thing in a lot of modern anime that we couldn’t really see before – the villains have a great story.
They’re not just plot elements present in the story to further the protagonist’s story – they’re actually characters with a story and with a sense of meaning that makes them as layered and as worked out as the protagonists. Suguru is truly a great example of that and we simply loved seeing him in action.
The other villains are, more or less, plot elements, as well as some of the protagonists. The latter contains some known faces from the Jujutsu Kaisen manga and anime, while the former are generally fun, but ultimately uninteresting stock characters, save for a couple of notable examples.
The animation can only be praised as being on par with the animation of the Jujutsu Kaisen anime, which was one of the best we’ve seen. The scenes and backgrounds were simply beautiful, the characters were marvelously designed, but what really stood out was the fluidity of the battle scenes, which was absolutely amazing.
The fights, which were dynamic and very complex to animate, have been executed in a masterful way and we can only say that we loved it completely. In terms of animation, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 set the bar really high and it was mesmerizing to watch.
The music was also unexpectedly good; not that Jujutsu Kaisen has bad music, but there have never been such iconic pieces or songs such in some older anime like Naruto or Bleach. The insert songs were also brilliantly on point and they precisely reflected the scenes during which they could be heard.
Ultimately, we can only praise the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 movie and confirm that the hype surrounding it is justifiable. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 has absolutely everything – from a good plot, via brilliant characters, to a flawless technical execution – and there is no doubt that it is one of 2021’s best anime films. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is actually a brilliant example of why we love shōnen and why shōnen is the most popular and best anime genre of them all.
The balance between the narrative elements is something you’d expect, but Jujutsu Kaisen 0 did it all in a brilliant way, much better than most of the competition. In every way imaginable, it is a true shōnen masterpiece and a flawless movie with so much epicness and heart that we can only say – bravo!