Prequel reveals secrets behind ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’

© 2021 JUJUTSU KAISEN ZERO The Movie Project © Gege Akutami/Shueisha
Yuta Okkotsu fights the evil spirit that was his childhood friend

The Animated film “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” has been a big hit in theaters since its release on Dec. 24 last year. It’s an adaptation of the eponymous manga by Gege Akutami, which is a prequel to the popular manga and TV anime “Jujutsu Kaisen.”

Jujutsu means magic or spellcasting. The protagonist of the film becomes a jujutsu sorcerer and tries to free his childhood friend from a curse that has turned her into an evil spirit.

The Japan News will look into the magic of the film and “Jujutsu Kaisen” as a whole through interviews with the director in today’s issue and a few of the voice actors on Feb. 18.

Curses and helping hands

In the world of “Jujutsu Kaisen,” curses stem from a person’s negative emotions and can only be undone by cursed energy. Students learn how to control and use cursed energy at Jujutsu High School, a fictitious school run by the Tokyo metropolitan government where the film’s story takes place.

© 2021 JUJUTSU KAISEN ZERO The Movie Project © Gege Akutami/Shueisha
Yuta Okkotsu, front, and other characters in “Jujutsu Kaisen 0”

Manga “Jujutsu Kaisen” is serialized in Shukan Shonen Jump magazine, and there are more than 60 million copies of its compilation books in circulation. It attracts readers with its dramatic character interactions amid brutal, life-or-death situations, as well as complicated information about curses, interwoven plot threads and fast-paced battle scenes. Its popularity soared after the TV anime adaptation started.

“Jujutsu Kaisen 0” depicts the origin of the whole series. The plot happens one year before “Jujutsu Kaisen.”

“High-spirited characters are a big asset of ‘Jujutsu Kaisen,’” said director Park Sunghoo, who also directed the TV anime version.

The lead character is high school student Yuta Okkotsu. His childhood friend, Rika Orimoto, has become an evil spirit and haunts him. As a result, he hurts other people, which excruciates him so much he even wishes for death.

“He torments himself because he doesn’t want to harm others,” Park said. “Maybe he has something that young people today can connect with, as they find it hard to express what’s on their mind.”

Okkotsu transfers to Jujutsu High, meets classmates Maki Zenin, Toge Inumaki and Panda, and gains power as a jujutsu sorcerer as well as a person.

The TV anime version was highly acclaimed for its dynamic depictions of battle scenes. They have evolved even further in the film. Park said he was committed to showing movements and expressions only hand-drawn animation can achieve.

The film also has elements that do not exist in the manga. For example, there are scenes that put popular supporting characters, such as Kento Nanami, at center stage. And extra time was spent depicting the fearsome skill of Suguru Geto, the most evil curse user.

“I asked Akutami-sensei what colors and what kind of textures are needed before adding special effects and sounds to the scenes portraying Geto’s skill. It was worth all the painstaking work,” Park said.

The eerie atmosphere and dynamism in the scenes are outstanding.

“This film is a simple story of Okkotsu growing up, and I wanted to create it with the theme of helping each other,” Park said. “I always believe that you can’t create anime on your own. I hope the film will successfully deliver the message that everyone would be happier if they helped each other out, rather than working hard on their own.”

The Feb. 18 issue of The Japan News will carry interviews with three voice actors playing the three main characters — Emi Ogata (Okkotsu), Yuichi Nakamura (Satoru Gojo) and Takahiro Sakurai (Suguru Geto) — delving into their work to create the characters and their must-see scenes in the film.