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Kaiju No. 8, Vol. 1 | Review

Cover of Kaiju No. 8

Kaiju No. 8, vol. 1
By Naoya Matsumoto
Viz (Shonen Jump)
Rated Teen

Kaiju No. 8 is a new Shonen Jump manga that’s currently running on Viz’s digital services, and the first print volume comes out next week. This first volume manages to incorporate a lot of the standard Shonen Jump ingredients while still sprinkling in enough new stuff to seem fresh. 

The setting is a world that is constantly under attack from kaiju, the sort of giant monsters one encounters in Godzilla movies. Kafka Hibino, our hero, once dreamed of joining the Japan Defense Force, together with his childhood friend Mina, and stomping out the critters. Alas, he flunked the exam and now works on a kaiju cleanup crew, handling the less glamorous aspects of monster-fighting, such as chopping up the corpse and scooping out the intestines. Mina, on the other hand, is now an elite kaiju-fighter, trim and cold-blooded in her form-fitting kaiju-fighting suit. 

Kafka’s not too unhappy with his situation in life as long as he doesn’t think about it too hard, until a new guy, Reno Ichikawa, joins his team and basically calls him a loser for not trying harder to join the force. After he and Reno are attacked by a kaiju, and rescued by Mina and her minions, Kafka decides he will give the Defense Force a try after all – they have just started accepting older recruits, so he’s still eligible. Before he can take the test, though, a small kaiju flies into his mouth and transforms him into a kaiju himself.

Fortunately for Kafka, he has some control over his outward form and is able to transform between human and kaiju, but this is definitely a complication. His initial transformation caused enough chaos that he not only caught the attention of the Defense Force but has been classified as an especially dangerous specimen and dubbed Kaiju No. 8. Nonetheless, he and Reno proceed with the exam.

When he arrives at the exam, he immediately ends up in a confrontation with the pigtailed prodigy Kikoru Shinomiya, the daughter of the director of the Defense Force, a fearsome fighter who has been raised with high expectation and unflinching standards. As the exam proceeds, she proves her mettle while Kafka and Reno focus on backing up the others. When it’s all over, though, the kaiju start coming back to life, and one of them corners Kikoru, leaving Kafka no choice: In the last scene, he transforms into a kaiju in order to save her, making himself a target for all the elite Defense Force members surrounding him.

It’s a great cliffhanger ending, although we know that Kafka is not going to be obliterated by his childhood friend (because the manga keeps going after this).   

It’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore Shonen Jump series, because their hit rate is so good: My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Spy x Family, Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man. It’s not necessarily great literature, but the Shonen Jump folks sure do know how to make some teen-pleasing manga. While the hero who transforms into a monster immediately brings Attack on Titan to mind, Kaiju No. 8 also has parallels with a lot of Shonen Jump series, including One-Punch Man and My Hero Academia. Certainly the bratty prodigy and the pact-with-a-childhood-friend tropes have been done to death. Kafka’s kaiju-cleanup job is a fun (if occasionally gross) twist, though, and the way he applies his anatomical knowledge of kaiju in the exam is entertaining. With a good mix of humor and action, this series comes out of the gate with a great first volume and looks promising for the future.

Kaiju No. 8 started out on the Shonen Jump+ website in Japan and debuted in English on Viz’s Shonen Jump app. The first three chapters are available for free, along with the most recent three chapters, on Viz’s Shonen Jump website

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Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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