As the older shonen icons try to find new stories to continue their decades-long run, it has been left decided for quite some time when some new faces would take up the mantle and introduce a new generation of icons. Over the past few years, a number of contenders have proven themselves quite worthy, most noticeably ‘Kimetsu No Yaiba: Demon Slayer’, ‘My Hero Academia’ and last but certainly not least, ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’. Whether you have ever seen anime or not, you will undeniably recognize a green-haired, freckled hero, a red-haired, sword-wielding warrior with a striking green uniform and a white-haired, blindfold wearing sorcerer. Breaking record after record, it’s safe to say that these three anime are the future of shonen, no matter what your opinion on any of them is, their success and pop-culture relevancy cannot be denied. Their big-screen ventures have proven groundbreaking for bringing anime to a new level of mainstream with these three properties breaking box-office records like never before. ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ is in fact the first anime movie to premiere in Malta for over two years, since the Italian-Dubbed release of ‘Lupin III: The First’ back in early 2020. With fully sold-out screenings and legions of fans showing up with unbridled enthusiasm, does this cinematic entry live up to an anime that was already arguably cinematic?
very mild spoilers for ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ are featured in this review.
Funnily enough, one of my “gripes”, if you can call it that, is that ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ was already animated so incredibly well that this movie felt like a longer episode therefore there wasn’t that big of a difference in scope. How can a show that is already cinematic build an even bigger story with scope and visuals? It is a problem ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ faces quite often for its rather short runtime. With the ‘Demon Slayer’ and ‘My Hero Academia’ movies, you could definitely tell that the movies had a higher production value as the cinematography and shot composition were much more extravagant and polished. Even with ‘Demon Slayer’, a show that already looked incredible, ufotable managed to up themselves with ‘Mugen Train’ which is visually a piece of art. MAPPA has put so much effort into that first season that the line between show and movie is incredibly blurred which is in itself both a compliment and a flaw for some people. That being said, of course, the movie looked amazing, these characters looked great up on the big-screen, especially fan-favourite Gojo Satoru who quite honestly owns this movie just as easily as he owns the show. However, it doesn’t newcomer Yuta and Rika from having some impressively animated scenes as well, especially in the action-heavy third act. All in all, MAPPA did a fantastic job, some fans even cheered when their logo came up in the credits. The appreciation is definitely deserved and the love was soaring from the audience.
As both a prequel and a movie, ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ manages to outshine the series in some aspects but feels inferior to in other aspects. The characters in this movie, especially Maki, Toge and Panda were far more compelling and endearing here than they ever were in the show so far. I have a much deeper appreciation for them now and it’s all thanks to this movie. In fact, it’s one of the aspects of the show that I have a problem with, Season 1 wasn’t really focused on character as much as it was on action and plot. Here, however, there is a lot of space for character moments between the students. Yuta’s dynamic with these characters was definitely one of the movie’s greatest strengths and honestly, I felt it was more powerful than Yuji’s dynamic with Megumi and Nobara. I want to see more of this group and I hope it doesn’t take a long time for the show to bring them back together. However, one area the show is undeniably better at is the emotional weight. With a runtime of just an hour and forty minutes, ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ fails to really capitalize on its great premise. Yuta and Rika’s story as a concept is very emotionally-rich but I felt like the movie didn’t give it the space it needed to have a proper emotional effect. There was so much talking about Yuta and Rika but the movie rarely ever commits to showing scenes between them. Most times, it’s a silent scene with exposition in the background and I personally wasn’t a fan of that. I genuinely think Yuta’s story would’ve benefited from an episode approach but other than that, this movie was very well-paced and was consistently entertaining and to be completely honest, I can’t say the same for Season 1 which lost my attention a few times.
The experience itself was truly incredible. It was a fully packed theatre with excitement and anticipation radiating from the audience. There was cheering present consistently and at one point I vividly remember a man literally on the edge of his seating watching in awe, it’s truly a sight I’ll never forget because not only was it a huge showcase of the respect he clearly has for the art form but that he was having the time of his life. It couldn’t be clearer how big of an audience there is for anime and I cannot wait to see how many doors this will open for not only our theatre but for theatres around the world.
Overall, while some anime movies go above and beyond, ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ plays more like an extended episode from the show which is arguably already cinematic as is. Even with a new protagonist, the movie instantly got me to care and as the movie progressed, I grew quite an attachment to not only Yuta but the bond he created with his fellow classmates. While his dynamic with Rika wasn’t as fleshed out as I hoped it would be, the emotional weight it still mostly intact and delivers for quite a satisfying finale. The action sequences are stunningly animated by MAPPA whose work on this franchise never fails to amaze me. The fast-paced nature of the story can sometimes hurt it in the long-run but it overall helped make the movie incredibly entertaining. It works well as a stand-alone story and it contains most of the essentials making it a wonderful addition to the ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ canon, even if the show executes a few elements better.
‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ is in select theatres around the world.