Jujutsu Kaisen is one of THE most popular manga/anime series currently being serialized. Now that season one of the anime has finished airing and a movie adaptation of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 has been announced, newcomers to the series might be wondering–what’s the best place to start?
So, What’s the Difference?
If you’ve decided to hop on board the hype train a little late, like I did, you might be confused about the difference between Gege Akutami’s Jujutsu Kaisen and Jujutsu Kaisen 0. At first glance, their premises are rather similar.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 was published first, in 2017, with the original title of Tokyo Metropolitan Curse Technical School. It takes place one year before the events of Jujutsu Kaisen and follows a high school student named Yuta Okkotsu, who is thrust into the world of jujutsu sorcery after the cursed spirit of his childhood friend lashes out at his school bullies. At the recommendation of Satoru Gojo, the self-proclaimed greatest sorcerer, he enrolls in Tokyo Jujutsu Tech to learn how to better control his powers.
The main Jujutsu Kaisen manga began serialization in 2018 and follows Yuji Itadori, a high school student who is thrust into the world of jujutsu sorcery and cursed spirits after he consumes a finger of a powerful cursed spirit, Ryomen Sukuna. When Sukuna reincarnates within him, Yuji is also sentenced by the jujutsu world to be executed. His sentence is suspended on the condition that he join Tokyo Jujutsu Tech to help find and consume the rest of Sukuna’s fingers so that when he is eventually executed, Sukuna will die with him.
Which Should You Check Out First?
At just four chapters, 0 is a fast-paced read that introduces a few key characters and events that crop up again in Jujutsu Kaisen. It’s easy to read it all in one go and get a sense for some core themes and conflicts of the setting. While it provides some helpful context for the main manga, it isn’t necessary to get the gist of things. I would personally recommend reading/watching Jujutsu Kaisen first. The main series has a lot more time to develop its worldbuilding and showcase how jujutsu works. 0‘s brevity works against it on that front, in my opinion.
I DO recommend reading 0 or watching its movie adaptation at some point, since Yuta has made an appearance in recent chapters of the main manga. If you’re caught up on season one of the anime and don’t want to read from the beginning of the manga, you can pick up at chapter 64. My personal advice is to read until the Shibuya Incident Arc concludes in chapter 136, then read 0, then resume reading the main manga. Or, if you prefer to be anime only, you can definitely wait for the movie adaptation of 0 and season two of the anime–just make sure you avoid spoilers!
Why Should You Check Out Jujutsu Kaisen?
While the premise of JJK is grim, and the series isn’t shy about violence and body horror, it balances everything with plenty of action and humor. All of the main characters and many of the side characters have compelling motives and roles in the story. Many have special jujutsu techniques while others, like Mai Zen’in, have little to no cursed energy. These characters have a Heavenly Restriction, which limits their cursed energy in exchange for greater physical prowess; they also often rely on using cursed tools to fight. This variety of techniques, fighting styles, and battle match-ups are fascinating.
JJK avoids relying on the gimmick of “super special awesome power-ups just in the nick of time” so the tension never fumbles or feels contrived. Much of the intrigue comes from the characters learning how to best utilize the abilities they already have. Megumi Fushiguro, one of the first-year students alongside Yuji, has potential for incredible strength that is alluded to well in advance, so his moments of sudden growth feel like hard-earned achievements, not like arbitrarily new powers as the plot demands. If you want an interesting magic system to geek out over, JJK has you covered.
One of my favorite parts of the series is how we are shown the villains’ point of view as they scheme against Yuji and his allies. While the villains, particularly Mahito, do horrible and despicable things throughout the story, they also provide some of the funniest moments. There’s a sense of companionship among them, even though at the end of the day they’re using each other as well as the protagonists to achieve their own goals.
With all that said, the greatest threat of them all is undoubtedly Sukuna. While Yuji at first has some degree of control of his body to keep Sukuna in check, with each finger he consumes the weaker his control over Sukuna’s power becomes. And when the villains exploit this weakness, it culminates in one of the most gripping arcs of the story yet.
If you do want to catch up on the manga, be aware that physical copies of both 0 and the main series are difficult to get hold of at the moment. I was told this past week at my local bookstore that some volumes are waiting on a reprint. Due to this scarcity, some people are selling volumes of the manga online at double or even triple their original price. The good news is that there’s always the digital versions for you to read. I read the main manga and the prequel 0 on Viz’s site. The anime can be watched on Crunchyroll.
Whether you check out the manga or anime (or both), and whether you start with 0 or JJK first, you’re in for a dark, thrilling ride. Jujutsu Kaisen has quickly become one of my favorite shonen series of all time. The weekly wait for new chapters is as exciting as it is agonizing. Once you’ve caught up and need something else to check out while waiting for new chapters or a new season, check out some of our other favorite series we’ve reviewed here!
Author: C. Smith
C. Smith is a lifelong fan of comics and manga whose primary interest is in webcomics.
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