Jujutsu Kaisen 0

‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’ Is a Beautifully Haunting Look at Grief and Finding a Reason to Live

"There's no curse more twisted than love."
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Very slight spoilers for Jujutsu Kaisen 0

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CW: mention of attempted suicide

I’ve been looking forward to the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 anime film since it was first announced and I’m happy to say that it blew all of my expectations out of the cursed-filled water. The art is a visual delight, with phenomenal storytelling and voice acting to match, but my absolute favorite thing about the movie is getting more context for characters I’m already fond of.

Discovering why Yuta Okkotsu is held in such high regard after hearing about him in the anime is a great way to be properly introduced to him. Seeing the early days of Maki Zenin, Toge Inumaki, and Panda show how much they’ve grown by the time we meet them in the series. We even get to see the villainous Suguru Geto in action, something we technically haven’t seen in the anime itself (yet).

I may have known what I was getting into when I sat down to watch the movie since I read the manga, but seeing it play out made me realize just how impactful of a character Yuta is. What really hit me with this movie, though, is how it handles grief, how messy it is to process it, and attempting to move forward when you feel it would be best if you stop trying.

Yuta Okkotsu’s story

JJK 0 movie poster

Yuta and his close friend, Rika Orimoto, made a promise to get married back when they were children. Unfortunately, Rika died in a traffic accident right in from of Yuta’s eyes. Somehow, the incident has led to Rika becoming a monstrous curse that will not leave Yuta’s side. She often appears whenever someone bullies Yuta, and at this point, all Yuta wants to do is die. Satoru Gojo, on the other hand, has different plans for him.

Similar situations, different approaches

Yuta and Rika

Despite being in a similar situation as Jujutsu Kaisen’s main protagonist, Yuji Itadori, Yuta handles the whole “scheduled to be executed” thing a whole lot differently. While Yuji was ready to stay alive for the sake of gathering Sukuna’s fingers in an attempt to protect everyone (which will eventually lead to Yuji being killed anyway, lol yikes), Yuta is actually perfectly fine with dying. In fact, Yuta reveals that he’s tried to kill himself before but Rika won’t let him go through with it.

Yuji is a character who pretty much goes with the flow of things no matter how much danger it puts him in. He’s very much in it to protect the people he comes to care about—even if, at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to kill him once his task is done. Yuta, honestly, is a bit more relatable to me, because he’s in an extremely daunting situation that leaves him feeling helpless, exhausted, and, frankly, terrified of what’s to come. He has to work toward reaching a point where he wants to make an effort because he’s had to deal with grief that’s so heavy that it is literally a monster that won’t let him go.

What makes it even harder for Yuta is that this is a curse of someone he cared about. This is someone he once promised “forever” to. Of course, this isn’t what he had in mind, but I think this is a haunting, gutwrenching take on how far “forever” can go. Because as you watch the movie, you see that Yuta is never cruel to Rika and doesn’t fault her for the turn his life has taken. You kinda expect the cursed protagonist to tell the monster to leave him alone because she’s ruining his life, but Yuta never once does that. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. On top of the grief of losing someone you love, I think Yuta has a bit of survivor’s guilt. He’s still alive and growing up. Rika, on the other hand, is left to be this apparition who will forever be a child. So instead of admonishing her for making his life so difficult, he puts it all on himself, keeps his distance from people, and settles on ending his life if he can.

What motivates us to keep going

JJK 0

Yuta’s story is an interesting take on grief to me. Rika often shows up, unannounced, and doesn’t always listen to Yuta no matter how much he tries to keep her at bay. That’s kinda how grief is if you think about it. I, for example, have specific days where I expect to grieve for my older brother, but grief shows up whenever it damn well pleases. No matter how hard I try to tell myself to grieve on a specific day, my feelings will bubble up over, well, anything.

What ends up working for Yuta is fully accepting that Rika’s there, addressing her directly, and working with her. He’s able to do this when he starts to get closer to the people around him as they give him a reason to care for more things than the girl who died when he was a kid. There’s a moment where Rika starts to go off the rails, but Yuta’s actually able to calm her down by acknowledging her feelings, comforting her, and treating her like something other than a cursed being. That’s basically what I’ve had to do with my own grief. Instead of shying away from it or panicking about it being too destructive for the people around me, I embrace it. Of course, I can’t do what Yuta does and turn it into a superpowered attack against an enemy, but I can at least accept that it’s a part of me.

What’s really interesting about the movie is that Yuta isn’t the only one dealing with a loss. That, however, goes into heavy spoiler territory, but it’s interesting to see how other characters deal with loss—and loss doesn’t always necessarily mean death, it can also mean cutting ties and going your separate way.

Honestly, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a strong testament as to why I love the way anime tells its stories. The film beautifully demonstrates how creative anime is when tackling subjects like grief and trying to find something to live for. I’m sure there will be other interpretations of what Yuta’s going through, but for me, I was amazed to see how a character could have something so tragic manifest into something so horrifying, only to come to terms with the literal monster in the closet and gain strength from her.

(Image: JUJUTSU KAISEN ZERO The Movie Project/Gege Akutami/Shueisha/Toho Animation)

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Author
Image of Briana Lawrence
Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)