Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Review: A Solid Foundation for the Anime

Gege Akutami's original manga series has been one of the most successful releases of the last few years, but it wasn't always that way. The series reached a whole new realm of recognition thanks to the success of the official anime adaptation in the last two years, and following that first season's debut it was officially announced that the anime would be continuing with a new release. But taking many fans by surprise was the fact that instead of a full second season, the anime would be releasing a new feature film set for a debut in theaters around the world. 

Taking that air of surprise to the next level, it was then revealed that the debut feature film for the franchise would be a full adaptation of Akutami's first limited series, Tokyo Metropolitan Curse Technical School. Released a year before Jujutsu Kaisen's official serialization, this four-chapter special series then became Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and was treated as a prequel to the events in the main series. It's a start to the franchise in a number of ways, and thus makes it the perfect movie experience for both new and more experienced audiences to jump into. 

(Photo: TOHO Animation)

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 follows a brand-new hero from the one seen in the first season, Yuta Okkotsu. When his childhood friend Rika Orimoto suddenly dies, she becomes a terrifying cursed spirit that forcibly attaches to him. It soon becomes such a powerful problem that he's recruited to enroll in Jujutsu High School to help not only understand it, but somehow free himself from it. All the while he's soon wrapped up in an increasingly tougher series of fights as he navigates his first year of training as a Jujutsu Sorcerer and growing as a person. 

Because it's the self-contained origin story of a character not previously seen in the TV anime, it's not necessary to have any prior experience with the franchise. And if you have seen the TV anime, there's a whole new layer to the experience as it fills in a lot of the gaps about all of those Yuta teases seen in the first season. The only drawback of previous experience, however, is that you are more likely to notice all of the structural and core story similarities between Yuta and Yuji Itadori's beginnings since, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 was essentially a pilot in the first place. 

It's a straight adaptation of the four-chapter manga, and thus flows in the same way, too. There are ebbs and flows in an episodic fashion as Yuta takes on a few missions before the final battle begins. Given the already impressive production values of the TV series and flow of the story, there is an initial impression that this movie has not done enough to elevate it from that prior material. But closer inspections at the entire experience as it continues reveal that there's so much more finer detail and attention paid into every single frame. 

(Photo: TOHO Animation)

It's an absolutely stunning work of animation that surpasses anything seen in the TV anime. It's in everything from the lighting to the impressive fluidity in both the smallest character moments to the action sequences. Each of those sequences is different in its own way as well, and are a feast for the eyes and ears. Both the casts of the Japanese and English dubbed audio (both of which were viewed for the purposes of this review) knock it out of the park in this regard, with Megumi Ogata and Kayleigh McKee serving as major standouts of each cast respectively. It feels like an elevated experience, and that's hard to do with a TV series that's already highly praised for these aspects. 

At its core, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is admittedly a story action anime fans have seen before. What makes it different from the rest, however, is that it condenses the traditional Shonen journey into a theatrical experience that also provides an aesthetically pleasing viewing. It's approachable for newcomers and has some extra bits of fan service for those coming in from the TV anime. That means pretty much everybody can expect to have a great time, really. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 releases in theaters in North America on March 18th with both Japanese and English dub options.