After Yuta’s childhood sweetheart Rika Orimoto dies in an accident, he discovers that she has become a cursed spirit connected to him, manifesting as a ravenous monster while retaining her intellect and self-awareness. After Rika brutally attacks a group of bullies that are ostracizing Yuta, the despondent teenager is recruited by Gojo to attend his private high school, an academic institution for Jujutsu Sorcerers to master and channel the cursed energy that they wield. As Yuta begins his training under Gojo and meets an eclectic group of classmates, a figure from Gojo’s past threatens to destroy Jujutsu High School and plunge Tokyo into total chaos.
It’s this blend of heart and action where “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” really thrives, with Yuta serving as a point of view character into this dangerous world of magic and monsters. Laid low from losing Rika and becoming something of a social misfit, even at his new school, Yuta’s character arc in the prequel is both a baptism by fire and a coming-of-age story with apocalyptic stakes hanging in the balance. Fortunately, the screenplay by Hiroshi Seko knows when to let up from the melodrama and bouts of self-loathing to deliver the thrills and a surprising amount of humor to lighten up the overarching mood. There are genuine comedic moments in “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” and most of them fit seamlessly within the larger story being told rather than intruding on the proceedings.
More than just revealing how Yuta became one of Gojo’s best and brightest students while earning his own sense of self-respect in the process, “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” is a visual triumph. From its gorgeously rendered environments and each of its uniquely designed monsters to the fiery action set pieces throughout the film, the prequel showcases the animation team at MAPPA operating at the height of their creative powers. This production is directed by Sunghoo Park, who took on chief directorial duties for the anime series. Park brings plenty of those same sensibilities here, in regard to tone and visual aesthetic, but everything feels so much more operatic and important than the show. “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” is out to bring a heightened amount of spectacle to the franchise and the movie more than fulfills that endeavor right out the gate.