Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a Japanese animated film and is a prequel to the ongoing anime series Jujutsu Kaisen based on the manga of the same name by Gege Akutami. My history with Jujutsu Kaisen is during one of my on-and-off subscriptions to Shounen Jump; I read a couple of its first chapters. I was intrigued by the premise, and I really liked a lot of its monster concepts, but I dropped it when it involved its main character going to magic school, and I found that very Hogwartzy and cliched at the time. It might have also been that generally, with a lot of SJ’s manga, it does take me a while to warm up to their main characters. However, I have been rather keen to check out the anime series at some stage because I have heard that the anime does elevate the manga a lot, and from what I have seen of it, I don’t think those are lies.
I mention all of this history because I want it to be understood what I went into this movie with. Basically, probably no more than five chapters of main story content. Additionally, I should mention some expectations I had based on what I had seen other fans say of this prequel. That it was a movie set in Jujutsu Kaisen’s world, with some secondary characters from the series being the focus here and that this story stood on its own and that it wasn’t just filler. In short that this was a good gateway introduction to Jujutsu Kaisen with not much commitment needing to be attached.
It’s worth highlighting that this impression came from people who have kept up with either the anime or manga. And I am someone who does not fall into this category. So I want it to be noted that I am technically in the group of people being told that this was the best place to start with Jujutsu Kaisen.
Having seen the movie and basically none of the series, I found this film overall skippable.
It felt like I was watching a TV anime at first, with the main character going on a mission with a different teammate and learning to work with them. It definitely went for an episodic feel at first. And then suddenly, there’s a plot mushed with a climax. Also, a bunch of characters in this movie have backstories alluded to that don’t get explained or resolved, and other characters show up, and they’re indicated as having a more considerable significance that doesn’t get context.
None of this is to say that the prequel is terrible. I just don’t think this film works as an introduction to Jujutsu Kaisen, speaking as someone whose first significant introduction to JK is this film. In retrospect, I’m just saying that I regret relying on this film to be that for me and that I wish I had watched at least the first season of Jujutsu Kaisen so that I could have potentially appreciated this film more. Anyone saying that this film is an excellent place to start is off the mark. Because by the time I finished this movie, it felt so random to me.
The film absolutely did tell a story that stood on its own, but it didn’t feel self-contained. Or rather, it didn’t feel satisfying in its own right. And unfortunately, this is a common thing that bothers me about many anime filler movies. Many people have deflected that Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a filler movie because it’s a prequel. But just because it takes place before a story’s events doesn’t mean it’s not filler. And I don’t inherently hate anime filler movies. When I was a young teen, I watched a few of Naruto’s earlier episodes with minimal context and was indifferent to it. But one day, I borrowed its first tie-in movie from a video rental. Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow was an entertaining movie for me, and it became my gateway into the main series. It’s not a perfect film, and despite it taking place during the main events and not connecting very well to the universe (though, in fairness, Naruto had very inconsistent worldbuilding), it still was a self-contained story just with characters that are part of a bigger story. A more recent example of an anime filler movie that I will say is probably one of my favourite films, in general, is Dragon Ball Super: Broly. That comes from someone who has not watched all of DBZ yet and who did not know who Broly was before.
Jujutsu’s Kaisen 0 feels like watching a character’s backstory without the substance needed to care about it. And on top of that, it’s filled with other character backstories, and it just feels unfocused. In general, I feel like this movie had too many characters.
And even though I was a bit underwhelmed by the manga, I can now look back on the chapters I read and appreciate them more. There was a straightforward story before the cliche popped up; one character got a backstory, and it was mostly just him and his two friends.
So I feel like I’ve been a bit harsh on this movie, and there are good things in that I should get into more detail on. But first, I will say that I was not too fond of Maki Zen’in, mainly when it came to dialogues with the main character Yuta. It was very distinct lines for a TV anime angry boob ninja with glasses, and a lot of it was just abuse or bullying of the main character who has severe trauma. And the story pretty much lets her get away with it because it reveals her family doesn’t like her later, and it just kind of comes with a hint of “well, she’s hot”, therefore no character development for her. In general I didn’t like the way women were portrayed in this film.
So naturally, I did not enjoy her and Yuta’s mission together.
However, luckily, I did have the exact opposite opinion of Yuta’s mission with Toge Inumaki.
For a long time, Toge is presented as someone who only says words related to seafood. It was very random, and at no point did anyone question or explained it for a very long time. And I was a bit annoyed by this at first because it came across as something — that was very anime! But he also had his mouth covered during this time. And all of that setup has a very satisefying payoff.
In Jujutsu Kaisen, weapons are called curses, and everyone has a unique one. In Toge’s case, his weapon is “cursed speech”. Suppose he says the wrong thing; it could have severely violent consequences making it a great weapon but dangerous in social situations. From seeing him battle, we learn in retrospect that he purposely limits his speech in casual cases to keep people safe. And it’s totally badass.
Also I just want to say I love the sound design that was done for his weapon. It gave me goosebumps. Seriously bravo to the person that worked on that part of this movie.
I also thought that Yuta and Toge worked way better together. This movie would have benefitted if it had just focused on these two, at least potentially. Considering my problem with Maki was her dialogue, it was so much better seeing Yuta having to gain understanding with someone who will not talk. And in general, they fought well together, unlike with him and Maki.
I also technically like the villain. They could have humanised him a bit more, though, because they present him how a sociopath is usually presented on screen. He is someone who has a point about sorcerers’ lives being unfairly lost to protect humans who a lot of the time are bad and is using that to rationalise genocide: good point and evil morals. To punctuate this more, two of his henchmen are two teenage girls that humans cruelly tortured for being sorcerers. But unfortunately, those girls are portrayed as cruel themselves and are shown to be uncompassionate in general.
Also, I really liked the part where the villain takes selfies. It was the one time he was humanised.
The fight scenes were extremely HYPE. But I do have to say I was still disappointed. Because this is a movie, and I have seen TV anime do way better fight scenes than what I saw in this movie.
I think I’ll leave it there today and I will watch the series sometime to give Jujutsu Kaisen a fair shake. Maybe around the time, the second season comes out.