Once in a while, there comes a story that follows the textbook style of narration, a hyper-clean art, and some copy-paste characters. And that’s it, nothing goes beyond that line. In other words, just another cliche to the addition of other infamous cliches. But Kaiju Number 8 proves otherwise while following the same textbook pattern. So what makes it stand out from the rest of its counterparts? Let’s do a review!
What’s it about?
The manga follows the journey of Kafka Hibino in an apocalyptic-type setting. He lives in a world where Japan exists under the random threats of kaijus/monsters. The situation is so bad that the government had to deploy an entire section of the defense force to eradicate the kaijus. But, it turns out that our protagonist is a member of the cleaning crew.
He just helps in the cleaning up of the aftermath. After the big fights, it’s up to his division to un-contaminate the area. That said, there’s more than what meets the eye and one can’t see the bigger picture from this synopsis alone. So, read the review first and then enjoy the manga afterward.
Kaiju No.8 Review: Story About an Unfinished Dream:
Kafka Hibino, a 32-year-old man, had some ardent dreams of fighting kaijus. And when he wasn’t able to fulfill it, his will to survive and move forward for his lofty dreams also weakened. The story heavily focuses on the personal struggle and failures that the protagonist was left with. In order to make a commonality between us and the main character, the narrative tries to depict how it feels to live a ‘Plan B’ life.
On the other hand, you have to accept the fact that you weren’t good enough. It’s the feeling of despair and rejecting the dreams once you had. And yes, Kafka Hibino goes through the same scenario too. He’s stuck in between accepting whatever he has or striving for more because of a certain somebody. So, it’s a story about whether he will be able to see a day where he accomplished his dream or not.
The Stuck in A Rut Trope:
This trope has been there in the shonen genre for a while. In fact, it has grown exponentially since the success of Naruto. The feeling to get out of a seemingly predestined situation to one where you run behind the uncalled ambitions. Kaiju delivers on that, Kafka Hibino is another old man who’s stuck in the mundane everyday work.
The story follows the journey of an out of his prime age protagonist who wishes to break the cycle. Because he wants to live his remaining life where he feels content. And this happens because of two people whom he admires and respects.
Talking About Other Characters:
Come on, it’s not good manners when one only talks about the protagonist and sideline the other characters. The first compelling side character we get a look at an 18-year-old kid with ambitions to work in the Third Division. Reno Ichikawa might be just another teenager with some big dreams but he creates a good contrast with Kafka. The duo is very fun to watch, their interactions are goofy, serious, and goofy again.
And then there’s a prodigy, Kikoru Shinomiya. Both Reno and Kikoru are stuck with a 32-year-old man who has to accomplish his unfinished dreams. Kikoru is your badass and powerful Kaiju slayer who wants to earn respect and recognition from her work.
Apart from them, the manga introduces several other characters but I won’t tell them about you now. Because along with their introduction, they also expand the setting and the world of the manga. And I don’t want any of you to experience spoilers at this stage.
Kaiju No. 8’s Plot and Themes:
The manga mainly revolves around the extermination of kaijus and its consequences. It cleverly unravels the world through its action sequences. It also provides us with the necessary information regarding kaijus. Moreover, the manga also tries to develop and introduce new characters in between and behind the scenes. And it does all of this while keeping the story fast-paced. The worldbuilding is in its initial stages and we don’t know much about the government officials and other divisions yet.
Coming onto the themes, it’s a shonen manga with heroism and self-doubt. The protagonist and other characters are explored through ‘out of the blue’ missions, training, and adventures. As of now, there has been a good use of themes to portray the characters and narrate the story.
But I do hope that Naoya Matsumoto doesn’t stick to the cliches and add some twists and turns of his own. It won’t just elevate the story as a whole but would make it much more entertaining and introspective to an extent.
The Hyper Clean Art:
I have been reading mangas passionately for a few months or so. So, I know there can arise subjectivity when discussing the art in the manga. And that’s completely fine. So hear my take on the manga and I will listen to yours.
Kaiju Number 8’s art has a very nice, warm, and clean texture to it. It seems like one of those classy types of sketches. Everything in there just seems to be enough to make it look like something that will stand out with its elegant simplicity. Although it doesn’t change the fact that the action looks stunning and there are some gorgeous spreads. In addition to all of these, the character, monster, and weapon designs are remarkably outstanding.
The Visible Drawbacks:
One of the most notable negatives of Kaiju can be its characters. Because at a first glance, they have ‘the shonen tropes’. And to be honest with you all, initially, you might feel like it. However, I like to disagree here. They might feel some cliche shonen character but they aren’t, to an extent. Still, that’s a very fleeting one and yet can have a good impact. The irony is everywhere.
I expected something completely different out of this manga. Maybe it’s my fault to think something like that this story would be an SoL with some comedy from the get-go. But come on, the initial pages blatantly paint a completely different picture though. However, it’s not so unreal but has an unexpected twist (to an extent) that changes everything about it.
At first, I saw a protagonist who was different and quite realistic. But after a particular incident, things go haywire and the usual shonen trope envelops him. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing though.
Lately ‘Weekly Shonen Jump’ has been giving some over-the-top and fresh stories to its readers. Chainsaw Man, Sakamoto Days, and Kaiju are prime examples of that. It seems like someone’s trying to deviate the pattern of sticking to cliches.
I am 33 chapters in and Kaiju No. 8 has been consistently good, from a shonen manga’s viewpoint. It is a good battle shonen that I genuinely enjoy and earnestly look forward to the new chapters. You can read it for free on Manga Plus.