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Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Crunchyroll/Funimation. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank youCrunchyroll/Funimation for this opportunity.
Well, here we are, we are talking about a shonen battle anime franchise film. For those that know this critic’s personal bias towards them, you know that these franchise films aren’t really all that good. Most of the time, these films are shallow non-cannon experiences that introduce elements that could have been useful in the main story and are never brought up again. You wonder why the showrunners never think about adding the film elements and making them canon, but no matter how good they are, they tend to be just shinier versions of the show with exclusive villains and storylines. There is a debate on which type of shonen franchise film is worse, the recap of an arc in film form, or the filler story that may introduce some new characters, villains, and story beats, but will absolutely not matter in the long run. Luckily, we are seeing a new trend where some franchises are adapting certain story beats into films. Like, why not pace out an arc for a film when it might not work in the form of a show? This happened with Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, even if they did then reanimate a chunk of it as a couple of episodes. Luckily, today’s review will not have that issue, since it’s a prequel to the overall anime! This is a review of Jujutsu Kaisen 0.
The film is directed by Sunghoo Park, the director of the show, The God of Highschool, and Garo: The Vanishing Line. It’s written by Hiroshi Seko, and based on the manga by Gege Akutami. Our story follows Yuta Okkotsu, dubbed by Kayleigh McKee. He’s a high schooler who happens to have something looming over his shoulders in the form of a deadly and immensely powerful cursed spirit named Rika Orimoto, dubbed by Anairis Quinones. This spirit happens to be his childhood friend before she died and was cursed to stick to Yuta. After an incident where Yuta put some classmates into the infirmary ward, he is sought after by our favorite Jujutsu sorcerer/mentor Satoru Gojo, dubbed by Kaiji Tang. He decides to enroll him into the school where individuals who want to become sorcerers can train and save people from these curses. Unfortunately for Yuta and Gojo, the main villain of the series, Suguru Geto, dubbed by Lex Lang, wants to get Rika for his own desires to rule the world and kill anyone who isn’t a Jujutsu sorcerer. Can Yuta get a handle on his grief and save the day? I mean, obviously, something happens since this is a prequel story, but still.
What’s so fascinating about this film is how it fits into the overall franchise. Unlike most films in battle franchises, this one is actually important to the story. You can literally start the franchise with this film and then watch the show. The film rewards you with watching it first by making a lot of the stuff that happens in the show have more substance to them. However, watching the show and then the film afterwards can also give you some rewards in a different sense by filling in those parts of the story that this film explains. It’s such a smart decision to adapt the prequel story into a movie due to how it really couldn’t work as its own small story arc due to how little substance there was in the original manga. The film itself has a rock-solid story of Yuta getting over the loss of his friend, and him metaphorically and literally holding onto his grief with Rika. There is also a part of the story dealing with the different ideals, and the ravine that separates two of the characters due to their backstory and philosophy. It’s a film with a lot more substance than “the heroes fight a movie-exclusive villain that doesn’t do anything for the main storyline”.
Animation-wise, it does look fantastic. Despite the fact that MAPPA is overworking their animators like the rest of the anime industry when they shouldn’t, their animation is top-notch. The film might not look any different from the show, but considering how good it looked in the first place, that isn’t the biggest deal. The characters look great, the animation is fluid, and the action beats are incredible. There is a reason why most studios try to book MAPPA for action shows due to their incredible work. I am sure this is what the director is now going to be known for. The English dub cast is fantastic as usual, with a really good set of actors that are obviously in the show as well. As I previously mentioned, we have Kayleigh McKee, Anairis Quinones, Kaiji Tang, Lex Lang, Allegra Clark, Xander Mobus, Matthew David Rudd, Bill Butts, Ryan Bartley, Sarah Williams, and Laura Post. The music hits all of those fun bombastic and action-packed notes, and they bring back the overall team of the show for the film. I mean, why wouldn’t they? They brought back composers Hiroaki Tsutsumi, Yoshimasa Terui, and Alisa Okehazama. Hiroaki is a well-known composer who also worked on shows like Tokyo Revengers, Dr. Stone, Orange, Children of the Whales, Monster Musume, and the infamously awful Koikimo.
Now, criticizing this film is a touch complicated. Not that it doesn’t have any flaws, there are a few that could be leveled against this film, but some of those complaints are probably build-up for the second season coming out next year. For example, the side villains? They don’t get to do much. While a few of them have a lot more story importance with the upcoming season, it’s a shame some are simply introduced. Luckily, this show is tremendously popular and will have some story relevance in the future, but for the sake of this film, they aren’t really substantial to the story. There also should have been a lot more time for moments to expand upon the friendship and love between Yuta and Rika. The film does enough to tell you their backstories, but they really are the highlights. They were both kids with illnesses, they loved each other, and then Rika dies and gets cursed by Yuta and turns into this powerful cursed spirit. There isn’t much time for Rika to breathe as a character, and while a majority of this film’s story is about Yuta letting go of loss and the grief of cursing his childhood friend, Rika is used more like a prop rather than having her own actual character. Or at the very least, she isn’t as fleshed out as Yuta is, and that’s a shame. It’s essentially the big problem with shonen battle shows and Jujutsu Kaisen as a whole, where sometimes the story and writing aren’t taking time to give the characters time to breathe.
Overall though, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is fantastic, and once again, it’s one of the rare franchise films where you can literally start with the film and then jump into the show, or watch the film after the show, and get rewarded in many different ways. It’s a fascinating film that mostly works as a perfect introduction to a franchise, and it has substance within the franchise. It’s actually mandatory that you watch the film, unlike so many franchise films that you can pretty much skip. The franchise is pretty good, and is a much better battle show than most that get released. Well, next time we will be looking at another Netflix feature from a prominent director. You will just have to wait for the review in the near future.
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Rating: Go See It!