How Jujutsu Kaisen 0's Director Handled The Transition To The Big Screen

The 2022 feature film animation "Jujutsu Kaisen 0," directed by Sunghoo Park, is an adaptation of the popular Gege Akutami manga of the same name — sort of. The manga series was actually first published under the title "Tokyo Metropolitan Curse Technical School" in 2017, but was retroactively renamed after the sequel, "Jujutsu Kaisen," was a hit. "Jujutsu Kaisen" was then made into an anime series (also directed by Sunghoo Park), which began airing in 2020. As such, Park's 2022 feature film adaptation of the original manga series, now titled "Jujutsu Kaisen 0," functions as a prequel movie to the anime — even though its story was actually written and published first. 

"Jujutsu Kaisen 0" follows the story of a haunted young man named Yuta Okkotsu; Yuta is connected to a powerful Cursed Spirit named Rika, who proves dangerous. Yuta is invited to attend a special High School run by "Jujutsu" sorcerers, who can train him to control his powers. The anime "Jujutsu Kaisen" takes place at the same school but focuses on a different (although similar) protagonist, Yuji Itadori.

Understandably, Park faced difficulties when it came to bringing Akutami's rich, complex world to life in the "Jujutsu Kaisen 0" animated film. Since the feature serves as a prequel to the anime series — which the audience may or may not have seen — it was necessary to strike the right balance between trusting audience knowledge and creating a fresh, cohesive narrative that incorporated the best elements of the "Jujutsu Kaisen" anime. Park manages to do so with great success, as the film was lauded for its accessible storyline and well-crafted fight sequences. 

Going back to the roots of Jujutsu High

Fans of the franchise are obviously attached to the idea of Jujutsu High, the site that saw the blossoming of many friendships and acted as the arena for various fights, and Park recognized this essential element and preserved it in "Jujutsu Kaisen 0." Tokyo Jujutsu High School is an important location for the events of the "Jujutsu Kaisen" anime, as this is where our central characters interact with one another and train together for upcoming tournaments and matches, and it is interesting to see what the place looked like in an earlier point in time. Park explains this aspect of the film further (via Anime News Network):

"Tokyo Jujutsu High School is one of the most iconic settings in the Jujutsu Kaisen series. It has existed long before the TV series, so even though the characters have changed, there has been a perception since the TV series that Jujutsu High remains the same. We do not just see the Jujutsu High School as an educational institution to become a sorcerer or the place where everyone grew up, including Gojo and Geto, but we also consider it as the foundation of our worldview."

As Park opted to not change anything fundamental when it came to Jujutsu High, this helped maintain the worldbuilding and the timeline of the events as a whole. We see the film's protagonist, Yuta, enrolling in the school with the hopes of controlling Rika, and finding comfort in the friendships forged along the way. This mirrors Yuji's experience in the "Jujutsu Kaisen" anime, as he too, finds himself utterly alone after his grandfather's death, but finds the courage to hold on to hope after being friends with Megumi, Gojo, Nobara, and the others. 

Reading between the lines

While Park took the fidelity route when it came to classic "Jujutsu Kaisen" characters and locations, he also added elements of the manga to the film that were never touched upon in the anime. For instance, Park chose to visualize the "four consecutive Black Flashes" mentioned by Nanami in the "Jujutsu Kaisen" manga, which allowed viewers to have a better understanding of the fantasy world they love:

"The four consecutive Black Flashes that Nanami mentioned in an interview in the TV series were not specifically depicted in the original work, but they are depicted in The Night Parade of a Hundred Demons scene in Kyoto this time ... There are also other scenes that are not in the original work, such as the scenes of Okkotsu and Rika's childhood, so we hope you will look out for them."

This not only acted as an homage to Akutami's original but also added more depth to the lore surrounding Curses and Jujutsu Sorcerers. As mentioned by Park, his "Jujutsu Kaisen 0" also fleshes out the characters of Okkotsu and Rika, who get complex, interlinked backstories that are absent in the prequel manga, in order for the story to emerge stronger. Also, Gojo and Geto's relationship is a complicated one, and to be able to go back to a different timeline within the story to better understand their dynamic can be a daunting undertaking.

Park allowed these characters to evolve naturally, independent of the context of the main arc, while also making sure that it could be connected back to the central events. Fans also get a glimpse into the lives of Maki, Toge, and Panda — beloved characters in the "Jujutsu Kaisen" — making the film more foundational and relevant, easing its transition to the big screen in the process.