I didn’t know about the “Jujutsu Kaisen” franchise, although I enjoyed most of the other anime productions I’ve seen.

But oh, how I enjoyed “Jujutsu Kaisen 0”, which is related to a very popular manga series. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll probably enjoy it even more than me.

Directed by Sunghoo Park, you can see it in the original Japanese version with English subtitles or in an English dubbed version (this is the version I saw, and I was surprised at the effectiveness of the dubbing .)

The central character is the loner Yuta Okkotsu, a teenager with special powers.

When the story begins in 2016 Tokyo, four bullies attack Yuta. But a monstrous… ghost? …. appears and hurts the bullies.

The presence is the spirit of Rika Orimoto, who was Yuta’s best friend during his childhood. She met an untimely death in Yuta’s presence. Right before dying, Rika promised never to leave Yuta.

A group of officials decided that Yuta, who was blamed for the injuries caused by Rika, should be trained to banish the spirit by a wizard.

And that’s how Yuta ends up in Jujutsu High, where wizards are trained. Yuta, feeling even more depressed as an outcast, reluctantly joins other trainees – including a panda – in the program.

Maki Zen’in mocks Yuta because she doesn’t think he will make it as a wizard. The wise-cute panda gives some comic relief. Yuta finds an almost friend in Toge Inumaki, who is a softer and more tolerant person.

You don’t need to understand every detail of the franchise to enjoy this movie. Yes, at first I was wondering about the presence of Panda. Then I just accepted him as one of the students and continued to enjoy the story.

The animation is dazzling, whether it’s a fight scene or a quieter setting.

I liked the way the film tackles the human condition with the themes of loss, love and regret. You don’t need to know the series to appreciate this touching and action-packed film.

3 ½ stars

Rated: PG-13 for violence, foul language, and other adult themes.

Duration: 1h45.

At Cinemark, Davenport; and Regal, Moline.