Jujutsu Kaisen 0 has made its international debut, and the much-anticipated anime movie returns fans to the world of Jujutsu High School. The prequel film takes place before Yuji Itadori (Junya Enoki/Adam McArthur) and his friends enroll. However, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 features several fan-favorite characters from the main series. Showbiz Cheat Sheet got the chance to speak to their English voice actors about exploring them further.
Maki, Panda, and Toge play prominent roles in ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 focuses on two new characters — Yuta Okkotsu (Megumi Ogata/Kayleigh McKee) and Rika Orimoto (Kana Hanazawa/Anairis Quiñones) — but the movie also features a few familiar faces. Although Yuji Itadori and his classmates haven’t enrolled in Jujutsu High School yet, Yuta meets the anime’s second years when he arrives (though they’re technically first years when the film takes place).
That’s right, Maki Zenin, Toge Inumaki, and Panda all play prominent roles in the prequel movie. The film gives fans more insight into who they are as characters, as well as what they were like when they first came to Jujutsu High.
Allegra Clark (Maki), Matthew David Rudd (Panda), and Xander Mobus (Toge) were all thrilled to return for the feature film. Mobus joked that it was “about damn time” their characters were in the spotlight, while Rudd admitted “it felt so good” to work on the film.
Clark was excited that all of them got the opportunity to delve deeper into their characters, showing new sides of them in the process:
“I think, all three of us, we love our characters so much. So, getting to continue to play in the world and hang out with them some more and get to explore sides of them we haven’t gotten to see yet, either because they’re younger and more emotionally volatile, or just getting to see the characters become richer and fuller and seeing sides of them we didn’t get to see in the series, it was just so satisfying.”
Clark specifically points to Maki when it comes to being “emotionally volatile.” Maki’s character has one of the more emotional arcs in the film, learning to accept Yuta and herself. What was it like capturing that?
Allegra Clark on Maki’s journey in ‘Jujutsu Kaisen 0’
Jujutsu Kaisen fans get a history of all the supporting characters in season 1 of the anime, and Maki’s paints a heartbreaking picture of her family life. The disappointment of the Zenin clan — and the only member of the family who can’t see curses — Maki struggles with her self-esteem.
Of course, you wouldn’t know it at first glance. Maki comes off as capable and sure of herself. But as Allegra Clark points out, “Her confidence is really just one giant defense mechanism. She doesn’t truly have that confidence.”
For Clark, Maki’s character arc in Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is about “allowing herself to begin feeling accepted.” That’s why it takes a while for her to open up around Yuta. However, when she does, Clark believes it’s a huge stepping stone — because it marks the first time she’s forming genuine relationships since she left home:
“It’s because he’s giving her support in a way that she’s never gotten it before. The only person she was close to prior to going to school was her sister. And by the time you get to the series, you see how that relationship has completely disintegrated. But she’s finally in a situation where, yeah, people know who she is. They know her restriction. They’re aware of it. And it’s the first time she’s interacting with people who haven’t looked down on her as a failure.”
As Clark points out, this takes Maki on a journey where she can push back against “that impulse” to push people away.
“Seeing all those different levels and those different sides, she’s really got a beautiful arc of both being accepted by her peers but then also accepting herself,” Clark added. “Because she doesn’t know what it means to be accepted. And when you don’t know what it means to be accepted, it makes it really hard for you to accept yourself.”
While Maki takes time to warm to Jujutsu High’s newest student, Panda is quicker to embrace him. Given Panda’s friendly nature, that’s probably no surprise.
Matthew David Rudd on Panda’s role in the trio
While Maki is the least open to Yuta’s arrival at Jujutsu High, Matthew David Rudd’s Panda proves one of the most welcoming characters in Jujutsu Kaisen 0. And the actor enjoys Panda’s role in the trio, which amounts to something like a big brother:
“I had to infer a lot about Panda based on the series — you know, about how compassionate he is and how big of a heart he has. And in this movie, I feel like you get to see it a lot. You get to see him being the emotional support for whatever character needs [it]. And I really love that. I love seeing it. And I love having that to contrast that switch that happens when he goes, you know, gorilla mode and has to protect people. Because they go hand in hand. He deeply cares about these characters. So, when you mess with them, he goes nuts, right?”
According to Rudd, this isn’t the first time this side of Panda has come out. In Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1, he jumps in front of one of Mechamaru’s (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Keith Silverstein) blasts in order to save Nobara Kugisaki (Asami Seto/Anne Yatco). Rudd recalled:
“He does this quick calculation in his said and says, ‘Oh crap, she can’t survive this.’ So, his instinct is just to jump in front of the blast. I don’t think another character in the show would necessarily do that. They would figure out some cool jujutsu [sorcery] to make it all work and everything. But no, Panda dives in front of the bullet, right? And I love that he’s that character.”
Xander Mobus on saying little but expressing a lot
Panda may be loud and proud about his dedication to his friends, but he’s not the only character who shows Yuta compassion throughout Jujutsu Kaisen 0.
Toge Inumaki is limited to riceball ingredients to express his feelings, but he shows his loyalty and commitment to his classmates through his actions. Of course, having less dialogue presents a unique challenge for Xander Mobus. How does the actor go about expressing Toge’s thoughts and feelings?
“So, really, me and the director just kind of look through the scene and figure out, ‘Okay, what do we think the intentionality is in each moment?’” Mobus explained. “And then we try and play that. You know, it’s bizarre. It’s weird trying to express a complex thought by just saying, you know, ‘Bonito flakes!’”
Still, Mobus gets Toge’s point across, even when he’s saying things like “bonito flakes” and “salmon roe.”
“It’s an interesting challenge, and it’s one I have a ton of fun doing,” Mobus added. “And I don’t play a ton of soft boys, so when I do, it’s nice.”
Fans can catch Mobus’ performance — along with Allega Clark’s and Matthew David Rudd’s — on the big screen.
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is currently playing in select theaters around the world.
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