As if it wasn’t made clear enough by the successful release of last year Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, Anime has come a long way from being a niche genre that was largely inaccessible in the West unless you were a superfan who knew where to look. What that and this year Jujutsu Kaisen 0 A special proof, however, is how far the genre has crawled to the top of the worldwide box office. Years ago, anime movies were even harder for fans to come by — subtitled or dubbed — and animation studio MAPPA’s latest venture opened in second place at the US box office, behind only DC Comics’ superhero and IP titan The Batman.
It’s a commendable achievement and a great boon for the future of anime films and the genre as a whole, and the quality behind it Jujutsu Kaisen 0 – from the value of the animation production, the heart-pounding action, and the heartfelt cast of characters – deserves that notch on its belt. This series is newer and admittedly doesn’t have the same transcending cultural influence as other shonen anime franchises dragon ball, One piece, Narutoor bleachingbut Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Proving their respective acclaim was no fluke, even taking the good elements of the last two IPs and trimming away the fat that was holding them back in their later days.
Nice chaotic action
Even without the unabashed bombast of Toei Animation’s 2018 hit Dragon Ball Super: Broly or the striking elegance of Ufotable in the above Demon Slayer: Mugen TrainMAPPA takes over the already excellent work from them Jujutsu Kaisen TV anime and crank it up to 11 for this prequel. Given the premise of select clans of elite modern wizards, the universal curse energy they manipulate will be one of the film’s key visual appeals.
MAPPA delivers and more on that front, and it’s no surprise considering they’re supporting other works such as attack on Titan and the underrated Dorohedoro. The lighting is flawless from virtually every angle and the action sequences are extraordinarily vivid thanks to their striking color scheme. All of this stunning mayhem feels substantial and blends seamlessly into this creatively curated modern dark fantasy world. MAPPA’s art style continues Jujutsu Kaisen 0 continues to be a tasteful adaptation of manga author Gege Akutami’s artwork. The latter’s style is an enticing mix of detailed and irregular linework that aims to create a moody atmosphere and a touch of unpredictability in tense or action-heavy scenes, but the anime’s smoother and clean rendition is also a sight to behold and retains that by spirit of Akutami’s memorable art.
Outside of the cathartic action sequences, the studio’s visual style shines even in the film’s quieter moments, with the cast Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Enjoy premium character designs. So does the Cursed Spirits, with Akutami’s art style and MAPPA’s colorful talents translating well on-screen into some delightful, terrifying monster designs in motion.
Powerful emotions and a touch of horror
Shonen anime has taken incremental steps over the years to become more intriguing and while far from being revolutionary yet, Jujutsu Kaisen is one such franchise that tries to mix things up while using genre tropes at their best. In a sea of shōnen mostly characterized by almost prophetic protagonists determined to become the best “X” in the world so they can do “Y” to achieve/protect “Z”, is Yuta Okkotsu a refreshingly grounded figure in a brutal and terrifying supernatural world.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 flips the weary convention of older siblings protecting their little brother/sister after an anticipated family tragedy by revealing that it is a story about the death of a love interest and childhood best friend blaming a survivor and fighting aggressive suicidal thoughts. The conclusion of the story to Yuta’s character arc is one of the loveliest candid endings for an anime that tackles such a sensitive real-world subject, and it handles those subjects with an impressive level of tact. The result is a well-deserved and emotionally resonant story that’s written with care, and the rest of the leads can’t be disliked either.
Fan favorite Satoru Gojo infuses his character with a touching and tragic glimpse into his mindset and past with nihilistic villain Suguru Geto. Panda and Inumaki are also infused with well-rounded, charismatic personalities, which is another impressive feat considering the latter can’t really speak much of the time. And in this group, which complements Yuta, Maki is another highlight. She complements Yuta as he navigates his tumultuous coming-of-age story, but also doesn’t feel like an empty vessel just to advance the protagonist’s story. The TV anime series did well to put its gruesome origins in a sympathetic light, though Jujutsu Kaisen 0 still manages to make her feel like a fully realized character without repeating herself.
When it comes to external influences, the previous series like Naruto and bleaching come to mind, but it excitingly throws in a helping of Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul:re‘s premise and setting in homage. This is certainly present throughout the series, and as you might expect, this film continues to make excellent use of that horror atmosphere to further push the boundaries of how bold shonen anime can get. The monster designs mentioned do well to emphasize this with the original grotesque design of Rika’s Cursed Spirit.
A great entry point
Anime can sometimes feel like a harrowing genre to those looking from the outside in, for the same reasons some might not be into comics or superhero movies. Besides that, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a fantastic entry point for the uninitiated. For starters, this film is an adaptation of Akutami’s manga prequel to the main line Jujutsu Kaisen Series that is a concise one-shot collected in a single volume.
It manages to effortlessly appeal to both audiences, with fans coming from the manga likely to appreciate the adaptation and original content, as well as those who have either never or only seen the anime. All in all every strength Jujutsu Kaisen 0 carries makes it a suspenseful horror action film that goes much further than the surface when it comes to its satisfyingly heartfelt story and lovable characters.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is now in cinemas.