- Mangaka : Matsumoto, Naoya
- Publisher : Viz
- Genre : Shounen, Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
- Published : December 2021 — present
We’ll be honest with you – life doesn’t work out as it does in the movies. Sometimes, you can struggle all you want, and you’ll still end up in your early thirties, having tried and failed to achieve your goals. Enter the newest shounen story on the block, one that appeals to the ideals of youth — but stars a character who thinks he’s missed his chance and gives him a new (and dangerously powerful) lease on life.
In the world of Kaiju No. 8, Japan is besieged by monstrous kaiju and their smaller (but no less dangerous) brethren, yoju. An elite Defense Force of highly-trained soldiers combats these threats with powerful exoskeletons and rifles. When the battle is over, and the dust (and carcasses) settle, Professional Kaiju Cleaners need to dispose of the monster like it’s a beached whale. In this most inauspicious of jobs, we meet 32-year-old Kafka Hibino – a Defense Force washout whose dreams of defending Japan alongside his childhood sweetheart have all but faded.
Then, a chance encounter while scrubbing kaiju guts ends with Kafka transforming into a human-Kaiju hybrid with prodigious strength and the ability to shift at will, allowing him to pursue his dreams of protecting everything he holds dear…all while trying to hide this terrifying secret from the same Defense Force he’s once more enrolling in!! Here’s our review of the first volume of Kaiju no. 8!
After narrowly escaping a kaiju attack as a child, Kafka (named with a clever nod to Franz Kafka and his work ‘The Metamorphosis’) made a promise to his childhood friend, Mina Ashiro, that they would both join the Defense Force and fight kaiju together. While Mina achieved those goals and became the captain of the legendary Third Division, Kafka failed the entrance exam time and again, eventually giving up and resigning himself to the kaiju clean-up crew. After encountering the young and energetic wannabe-recruit, Reno Ichikawa, Kafka nearly dies during a yoju attack and is subsequently infected by a parasite that transforms him into a hybrid kaiju.
Kafka gains extraordinary strength, but is marked by the Defense Force as the eighth ‘numbered kaiju’ – an incredibly powerful, rogue monster. But this unexpected metamorphosis hasn’t put a damper on his dreams – in fact, Kafka decides to apply to the Defense Force one last time. With the young Reno alongside him as a partner-in-crime, the pair prepare for the most notoriously difficult aptitude test in the world!
It’s not just kaiju that Kafka has to deal with. He’s also confronting the realities of his own age amidst the younger generation coming through – such as teenager Kikoru Shinomiya, a girl with tremendous power and a family legacy to uphold. And then there’s the unpredictable nature of his own powers, which sometimes manifest in the most unexpected and hilarious of ways!
1. Never Too Late To Achieve Your Dreams!
Dreams and aspirations are practically the lifeblood of the shounen genre, but sometimes those dreams come across as disingenuous, especially when a fourteen or fifteen-year-old is talking about their ‘life goal’. With Kaiju No. 8, Kafka’s age and prior history of failure make his dreams feel more concrete and grounded – he’s tried and failed, but he still wants to pursue his goal even if the world is telling him he’s well past his prime.
Not only is Kafka’s dedication to his goal truly inspirational, but he also refuses to use his kaiju powers during the aptitude test, relying instead on his own wit and intuition instead of his newfound abilities, out of respect to everyone else applying. He possesses a calm, adult maturity, while also maintaining a goofball wit that charms everyone around him.
2. All About Age
Age is really at the heart of Kaiju No. 8, and initially, that’s a point of contention between Kafka (age 32) and Reno (age 18). Young and hungry for glory, Reno doesn’t understand how Kafka could just give up on his dreams. But as the two work together – and especially once Reno witnesses Kafka’s transformation – the pair form a mutual bond of respect, learning from each other and pushing each other to new heights.
On the other end of the spectrum is 16-year-old Kikoru, whose youthful bravado and arrogance masks insecurities from a childhood spent in the shadow of her successful father. And somewhere in the middle is Captain Mina (age 27), harboring mixed feelings for her childhood crush, facing the pressure of leadership as a woman, and the sobering reality of a never-ending fight against the kaiju.
Kaiju No. 8 excels in its pacing, feeling just a little faster than, say, Boku No Hero Academia, and maintains a great mixture of comedy and action. There are a few body-horror gags when Kafka first transforms, then serious moments when he takes the opportunity to defeat an enemy kaiju with his new powers.
Shounen series are often hard to recommend from the first volume alone, but we’ve read much further ahead in the serialization, so we give a very strong recommendation for this series - particularly if you’ve been on the lookout for a new shounen that combines action, comedy, and barely-kept secrets. We’ll be very surprised if Kaiju No. 8 doesn’t get adapted into an anime sometime in the next few years!
Let us know if you plan to read Kaiju No. 8 down in the comments below, and as always, thank you for reading our review today!