Jujutsu Kaisen Zero is a movie that came out on March 18, 2022, and was a highly anticipated film for fans of Jujutsu Kaisen. It is a prequel to the original anime, and an adaptation of the manga, Jujutsu Kaisen Zero. The reviews were extremely positive, with a 99% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.2 stars on IMDb.
Jujutsu Kaisen Zero: The Movie, is very faithful to the original source material. The manga is 200 pages and spans 4 chapters. The purpose of the manga was to give more context to characters that did not have as much development and show the war that Gojo mentioned in the original mangaka. It is a side story that was written without regard for pacing or actual development of characters but as a list of things that happened before the war and during the war. It is a great 30 minute read to get to know the characters you already know and love, however, it lacks an actual narrative as it's just a side story.
The movie faithfully adapted every panel and every dialogue box. The only thing the movie added was a little piece of the ending, but that is all. A toss-away story, adapted into a major blockbuster film, marketed as being the "prequel" to the original anime so people who have not watched or read Jujutsu Kaisen, can enjoy the film too. That was a lie!
The main focus and protagonist of the movie, Yuta Okkotsu, was as interesting as a cardboard box. He is your typical bland anime character with no personality and no ambition. Although the film follows beat-by-beat the Hero's journey, it did not get me invested in his journey. He is introduced as having the same level of power as the strongest in the world while being incredibly inexperienced and scared of this special world he crossed into. However, he himself is weak, demonstrated by him being defeated by his classmate. Thirty minutes after, he killed the main antagonist, which is one of the most powerful characters. During the thirty minutes of film time, the movie was concentrating on events happening outside of the protagonist and does not mention anything about how Yuta is able to fly or use a powerful technique that only one clan in the entire world is able to use because of their bloodline or how he could instantly heal his friends. I am baffled by how he is able to do any of these abilities as it is literally impossible narratively in this world to use different kinds of abilities. It is explained by the character supposedly sacrificing his entire life to trade for this much power. Except, he didn't even exchange his life after at all, and the stakes that made the final fight make sense were void.
The main antagonist and protagonist were very similar as both characters are so plain and boring that it made watching paint dry my new favorite Friday night activity. Suguru Geto, the villain of the movie, has the most contrived, two-dimensional motives ever. His goal is to "kill everyone who cannot see spirits". Why? It's never explained in the movie! The antagonist's plain, unexplained motives, however, drive the entire climax and main fights in the movie. There is no nuance in any of his actions as his only character trait is being evil. Perfectly mirroring the protagonist's only character trait as being a "good guy".
Nothing is ever expanded on or properly explained because the movie takes no creative liberties of changing a few scenes from the manga or attempting to create a jumbled 4 chapter information dump into an actual narrative. For the manga of Jujutsu Kaisen Zero, it is understandable that some information is left out as it is already explained in the original manga of Jujutsu Kaisen, making it redundant to explain in a side story. For example, the morals of Suguru Geto are properly introduced and nuanced as he has his own backstory revealed. He has a reason for why he hates people that cannot see spirits and his reaction is then reasonable. However, to the anime-only watchers, this is the first time they have ever seen Geto in action. The only thing they know about Geto is that he is evil and strong. So, the movie should include why Geto is this way, so the climax can actually have meaning or a clash between 2 different morals.
I have been really harsh on the movie, but it does have its good points. The animation in the fight scenes is amazing. It lives up to the expectations that the anime has set up. There were no jaw-dropping scenes or anything, but the animation was good.
My main takeaway from Jujutsu Kaisen Zero: The Movie is that it's just a cash grab that was made to get money out of the hype of the anime. They saw a side story that could be adapted into a movie and they just put what was on the manga onto the big screen. Nothing was added to it and nothing was gained from watching it. All that was made was a movie about an incomplete story that does not help give context to characters we already know from the anime. The only redeeming quality of the movie was great animation, but compared to other anime blockbusters, it was average. I give this movie a 6 out of 10. The story was nonexistent, there were no likable characters, but it was an animation, and the kids watching it behind me in the theater were having a great time.
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