I’ll never know why I didn’t immediately start this series despite my love for the kaiju genre. One of my favourite movies of all time is Pacific Rim, and from just a few pages, Kaiju No 8 managed to capture the same wonder I felt when I first watched it. This series sunk its teeth in so deep I binged through everything available in a couple of hours. With everything happening in the world, this series was a breath of fresh air. Kaiju No 8 is written and illustrated by Naoya Matsumoto and serialised on Shueisha’s Shōnen Jump + platform. It joins the likes of Spy X Family in being one of today’s biggest hits. So let’s dive right in and find out is Kaiju No 8 worth reading?
New threats emerge
While on the surface, it may seem that Kaiju No 8 is treading familiar waters, monsters rise up to destroy cities while humanity must stop them. It’s quite a refreshing take in more ways than one. The first chapter alone managed to subvert my expectations and keep me hooked on for the future. But what is it about this story that makes it stand out so much?
As mentioned, the basic premise is that giant Kaiju have sprung up and begun rampaging around, destroying towns and cities. Humanity’s answer; the Japan Defense Force, which has to face these monstrous threats. I was expecting our story to start in the middle of Kaiju takedown, it actually begins on a more menial level. Our main protagonist Kafka is a 30 something-year-old going through life as part of a Kaiju clean up crew. Side note: a series following a clean-up crew would make a great spin-off. Kafka is down on life, having failed the test to become a cadet many times already. But at the same time, it gives us a great introduction to the world through his eyes.
One of the refreshing aspects of this shōnen series is having a protagonist that is not a teenager excited to take on the world. Having someone like Kafka that has already lived in the world for quite some time. It’s relatable in many ways, exploring the concept of not being able to fulfil your dreams. However, this is still a shōnen! As luck would have it, Kafka gets a chance to take the cadet test once more. This is when he meets Reno, another young man with the same aspirations he once had. Throughout the story, we get to see these two go through the motions of becoming cadets and going on missions to fight Kaijus of all shapes and sizes.
This setup is quite ingenious in opening up the world to the reader. With about thirty-odd chapters at the time of this write-up, everything has been well-paced. Kafka starting from the bottom up allows us to be shown the world of Kaiju No 8 in an organic fashion. There is never a moment of exposition that feels forced or unnecessary, and for a premise that we have seen before, that is commendable. The mangaka also manages to withhold just enough information at crucial moments to keep you at the edge of your seat. It’s the right mix of giving the reader what they need without rushing any details.
Kaiju No 8 spoilers
Kaiju No.8 spoilers
Now, there’s a twist that happens that guaranteed I would be on for the ride. At the end of the first chapter, Kafka gains the ability to transform into a Kaiju himself. Obviously, through the power of some gross Kaiju bug. So if it wasn’t enough having to deal with everything else that’s going on, he must now worry about hiding his new abilities from the Defense Force. This injects a great deal of humour plus badass fight scenes into the story. Almost automatically, it became one of my favourite shōnen series. It’s such a treat to realise that you won’t only get Kaiju vs Human action, but also Kaiju vs Kaiju.
As always, in a story about humanity vs monsters, the human characters need to be written well enough to support the story. If your characters are unlikeable? Well, you might as well let the monsters chew them up. As I previously mentioned, the dynamic between Kafka and Reno is one that I enjoy. It’s a quasi-teacher-student relationship between the two because neither has a defined role, but instead, they both help and compliment each other.
When you begin adding characters like Kikoru Shinomiya (best girl in my opinion) and Vice-captain Hoshina, it all starts coming together. These characters feel like an actual squad in the way that they interact with each other. It’s not forced or trying to compensate for anything. It truly is good character writing and development. Even with characters that we haven’t seen a lot of just yet, like Captain Ashiro, you still get a sense of who they are. That’s why this series works; each character gets just enough so that when a fight happens, there are actual stakes. You want to see them make it back to their squad alive at the end of the day.
Slimy, techie, and cool
The art style for this series truly is top-notch. Everything in the world of Kaiju No 8 feels unique but with a sense of familiarity that helps you appreciate it even more. For one, the kaiju designs are excellent. These creatures feel like what their names imply, giant monsters. They are slimy, gross and ferocious, each one feeling unique from the other.
Weaponry and equipment also have a cool design. Everything introduced fits the aesthetic and feel of the universe, whether it’s the combat suits or a giant axe(?!). Nothing feels out of place. I want to mention that this series has a unique schedule. Every three chapters, the following week, it’ll be an art showcase. We get colour cover pages that look amazing, and each one of them could be my phone wallpaper for the next month. We didn’t need to get anything, but I’m glad we do because of the beautiful art.
Is Kaiju No 8 worth reading?
Kaiju No 8 has quickly managed to become one of my favourite shōnen titles to date. Surpassing the likes of My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen. Kaiju No 8 has a charm unlike anything else out there. Combining straightforward storytelling and world-building while adding a shot of nostalgia. It takes me back to when I was a kid watching old monster movies. With around 30 chapters, this is a series that has burst onto the scene and looks to be staying for the foreseeable future. Currently, it’s a digital release only and not part of the actual magazine, but the current success of the series speaks to its greatness.
With such a short run so far, it is the perfect time to jump on and you can find out if Kaiju No 8 is worth reading. Check it out as it releases weekly Thursdays on both the Shōnen Jump and Manga+ apps. Amazon is also listing the tankōbon too.
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