Title: Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (2021) Director: Seong-Hu Park Writers: Gege Akutami (manga), Hiroshi Seko (screenplay) Stars: Chinatsu Akasaki (voice), Aya Endô (voice), Kana Hanazawa (voice)
Right. Before I begin this review, I have a confession to make. For most of my life as a film nerd, I have often said that I neither like nor understand anime. Growing up, friends of mine would often try to convince me with anime classics such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Make no mistake, I knew the value of these films, but such discussions would often end with me saying something like, “they’re just not for me.” That was the case with all anime – until recently.
In the past couple of years, certain anime films such as Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and a couple of the episodes from Star Wars: Visions made me realize that another look was in order. And with the release of the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 in Europe, I admit my mistake: This film is amazing and I should rethink my view on the genre.
So let’s take a look at this thing that finally won me over. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a prequel to the popular shonen anime series Jujutsu Kaisen, which is based on the manga with the same name. We’re introduced to the young, angst-ridden boy Yuta Okkotsu, who, after having suffered through a traumatic event, is now cursed and haunted by the spirit of his dead girlfriend. He meets up with a mysterious sorcerer, Satoru Gojo, who recruits him to a school for Jujutsu sorcerers in Japan. Here he teams up with new friends: the weapon master Maki Zennin, who trains Yuta and takes him under her wing, Toge Inamaku, who for safety reasons can only speak in words from rice-bowl recipes, and Panda, who is a… panda. Their mission is to stop an evil sorcerer before he curses and kills every non-sorcerer in Japan.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is shonen anime of the best sort, with epic fights, magic, amazing stunts and horrible monsters – all in fantastic animation and well-suited, over-the-top music. And if this sounds a bit like some sort of animated, ultra-violent Harry Potter, you’re not exactly wrong, but you’re not right either. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 has so much more. With some of the best depictions of anxiety and depression I’ve seen in animation to date and characters that are deeper and more nuanced than anything JK Rowling managed to conjure up, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 combines gripping emotional scenes of heartbreak with action and humor, all while leaning heavily into the horror sides of anime. It is often completely bonkers, but it works!
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is also a great introduction to this fantastic anime universe, and even though I’m still somewhat skeptical of the anime in general, I want to learn more about how Yuta Okkotsu’s story goes in the series that this film is a prequel to.