Hello and welcome back to Manga Talk!
I think that I will continue doing the shorter summaries, but do what I can to make the pros and cons more informative.
So I will ditch the Manga Talk Lite title and just stick with Manga Talk.
But, what am I going to be talking about today?
Well I am going to be discussing the first volume of a manga that I picked blindly called Kaiju No. 8. As usual there will be MASSIVE SPOILERS for this volume.
Let’s get started!
So this story follows Hibino Kafka, an older man who is a part of a kaiju cleaning company.
You see, Japan has a high concentration of monsters, called kaiju, and while it is the job of the Japan Defense Force to kill kaiju, it is up to the cleaning companies to clean-up the aftermath.
While Kafka doesn’t mind the job, he wants to be a part of the Japan Defense Force, since he promised his childhood friend Ashiro Mina that the two of them will take down kaiju when they got older.
While Mina has found great success, Kafka hasn’t. This is exacerbated when a young man by the name of Ichikawa Reno calls Kafka a failure for not becoming part of the Japan Defense Force (who I’ll call the JDF from now on).
The two bond over cleaning up kaiju intestines when a rogue kaiju comes from out of nowhere to kill the two. Kafka and Reno manage to help each other stay alive until the JDF arrive to kill the kaiju.
While the two recover in a hospital, a creature crawls into Kafka’s mouth, transforming Kafka into a kaiju. While having the strength and looks of a kaiju, Kafka still manages to retain his personality.
The two make a break for it as an old man called in an alert when he saw Kafka, Kafka manages to kill a kaiju that he sensed, while protecting a child and their mother.
Three months pass and Kafka is somewhat able to hold back his kaiju form, and he and Reno decide to join the JDF, and this is Kafka’s last attempt as he is reaching the cutoff age for recruitment.
Kafka and Reno meet with a young woman named Shinomiya Kikoru, who during their first meeting sees that Kafka has a similar strength to her, but Kafka made to mistake of not wearing a special suit like Shinomiya to augment her strength.
They manage to pass the first test, but the second test is where things get really difficult. The potential recruits have to kill some kaiju that were captured for the test.
They all get suits like Shinomiya, but Kafka has trouble getting the suit to function.
He and Reno deduce that not only are the recruits being judged for killing the kaiju, but they are also being judged by being team players, which makes sense if you’re part of a team to kill giant people eating monsters.
Despite getting injured, Kafka and Reno manage to pass, though this is mostly due to the skill that Shinomiya possesses.
She trained to be the very best (like no one ever was) and that was because of her strict father, and we get a bit of her backstory on why she is the way she is.
As they are about to proceed, the kaiju are helped by a mysterious talking kaiju that is reviving the ones that were killed for the exam.
Shinomiya gets seriously injured, but buys enough time for everyone to evacuate. As she awaits death, Kafka transforms in front of her to fight the kaiju, ending the volume.
There are plenty of things that I do like about this story and I will start off by saying that the art, especially during the action scenes, is done very well.
There are a lot of dynamic shots that flow well from panel to panel and from page to page.
Panel layout is not something I usually comment on, but the panels are laid out in a clear way that helps the action flow and dialogue feel natural.
My favorite panel is a 2 page spread where Kaiju Kafka is standing in the middle of a bloody rain from the kaiju he killed, as he marvels at how strong he has become, while also showing that it is something that he seems to be afraid of.
What helps are the expressions, which while some fall into the weaker comedic side of the story, are done well that you can clearly see what people are feeling, especially Kafka in kaiju form.
The characters, while a bit surface at the moment, do manage to feel fairly realistic in the scenario that they are in.
It would make sense that an older man, potentially hitting an early mid life crisis, would want to go through with his dreams, despite his body not being able to keep up anymore.
Kafka as a character is interesting because, even as the protagonist, he is doing a job that is blue collar. He isn’t being a hero and killing kaiju and getting accolades, but he did provide a valuable service to the city…and he hates it.
He wants to be a part of the JDF, but he couldn’t pass the tests. Him becoming a kaiju and befriending Reno gave him a new lease on life to go for broke and try to join the JDF before he becomes to old to join.
Speaking of Reno, he as a character is interesting. He wants to be a part of the JDF too, but he joined the kaiju cleaning service to gain an upper hand on the test because he had heard that it was a thing that was tested the last two years.
While it doesn’t pan out that well, it shows that he has initiative in wanting to be a member of the JDF.
His relationship with Kafka reminds me of Rick Jones and The Hulk from Marvel Comics, in where one knows the secret identity of their friend, and helps them keep it a secret while also being there to help Kafka when he needs it.
It isn’t a dynamic that you see often in manga.
D Grade Action
What you do see often in manga are many of the plot points and some aspects of certain characters.
The plot reminds me of Fire Force, Attack on Titan, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tiger & Bunny, and My Hero Academia were put into a blender, poured through a sieve and the liquid that remained is what we have.
There are a lot of derivative parts, which usually isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a problem if it was as obvious as it is. I understand that it is from Shonen Jump, which a lot of their stories do trend to a certain formula, but it is so blatant.
Shinomiya is very much a trope, a talented rich girl that has a tragic home life, which isn’t bad, but it has been done so many times before.
Mina is a childhood best friend that may or may not have feelings for the main character, but has to put them aside for being cold and stoic for her job.
Kafka is fairly unique as a character, being an older man, but he has the trope of gaining an ability to transform into the enemy and using those abilities for good.
There are more derivative aspects of the story, and that is it’s biggest flaw. It really is an interesting set of characters with interesting dynamics, excellent action and monster design, but it is being held back by the plot points and character tropes that I’ve seen before.
I would recommend this story to anyone who wants a good bit of well drawn action, unique character dynamics, and some funny dialogue.
I am of two minds of this story. On one hand I can see the potential, but on the other hand I see what I have seen before. I will probably buy at least the second volume, but that will have a lot of work to do to make me want to continue.
For Friday, we will move from monsters to ghosts as we explore the first volume of Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun!
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!