3 out of 5
Shonen Jump readers would’ve experienced “volume 0” of Jujutsu Kaisen before the rest of the series. For those of us reading the English tankobons, it was dropped after the publication JK – and I think I’m thankful for that. The strength of the title, as a shonen series, has been its deep characterization and sense of magic lore, and while the roots of that are in volume 0 – and while it definitely provides some great background on characters that would appear in the books to follow – it’s also a much more stereotypical adventure, and I’m not sure I would’ve been intrigued enough to keep reading based on these chapters alone. But: as a complement to later volumes, it’s a fun read, and shows how much creator Gege Akutami tweaked the concepts here for a much more engaging variant.
Mainly: our protagonist in volume 0, Yuta Okkotsu, has the same initial pre-ordained fate as Yuji Itadori – Jujutsu High is planning on killing him, after crimes perpetuated by a curse that’s overtaken Yuta – and the same “we’ll train you instead” decision by Tokyo school teacher Gojo, but his personality is textbook shonen stuff: I’ll fight because I want the world to be a better place! Compare this with the indirect way Yuji has combined with his curse, as well as the more grounded way he comes to declare his motivations, and Itadori is a much more compelling character, and a much more unique “in” to the Jujutsu world. The antagonist of volume 0 has a similar comparison: Suguru Geto wants, basically, to rule the world. This is handily one-dimensional for the prequel’s essentially self-contained tale, but it’s certainly nothing new. Though Geto’s plottings in the rest of Jujustu Kaisen might essentially boil down to the same thing, his teaming up with curses is a much more fascinating twist on things, and allows Gege to dig in to the more moral greys of his title, versus the obvious Good Versus Evil of volume 0.
And that’s basically it: Okkotsu trains; Geto wants his curse; ultimate power showdown. It’s a lot of fun getting a “preview” of Panda, and Maki, and Inumaki, and Gege’s fast-paced storytelling style – cutting back and forth between scenes; dropping excess, page-filling moments – is already securely in place, meaning the tankobon goes down quickly and smoothly, and I do think this book helps to clarify some of the basic “rules” of curses and jujutsu, but it’s also an entirely typical, if entertaining, bit of shonen fare.