“Kaiju n ° 8”, the new manga that everyone will tear up

This series imagined by author Naoya Matsumoto, which in a few weeks has become one of the most read titles on the Japanese market, arrives in France, where it is preparing to carve out the lion’s share.

Impossible to miss the picture: on a red background, a man looking like a monster screams. At his side are inscribed a name and a number: Kaiju n ° 8. Available from this Wednesday, October 6, the first volume of this manga should quickly become a bestseller in France after having conquered Japan in just a few months.

Kaiju n ° 8 takes place in a Japan where kaiju (“giant monsters”) attack the population on a daily basis. Kafka Hibino, a disillusioned thirty-something who dreamed of joining the Defense Forces to fight these creatures, works to clean the streets of their corpses. His fate changes the day a mysterious creature enters his body and metamorphoses him into an overpowered entity halfway between man and kaiju.

Societal phenomenon

In Japan, Kaiju n ° 8 has become a real social phenomenon: with more than four million copies sold (digital sales included) for the first three volumes, it is the best-selling novelty in 2020 in Japan. This success is all the more surprising given that its creator, Naoya Matsumoto, 39, had only released two other series – Nekowappa! (2009) and Pochi Kuro (2014) – without meeting much success.

In France, the launch of Kaiju n ° 8 will live up to its Japanese success. With a first volume printed at 250,000 copies, the series holds the record for the largest circulation for a manga launch in France. Its draw is ahead of even those of the highly anticipated One Piece #100 (230.000 ex), My Hero Academia #30 (200.000 out of) Attack on Titan # 34 (170.000 ex).

“The market is crazy at the moment. We must take into account the current situation”, justifies Pierre Valls, editorial director of Kazé, who has planned TV and cinema spots, a giant billboard on a large Parisian building and a pop-up store at Fnac Montparnasse to promote Kaiju n ° 8.

Very effective storytelling

How to explain such enthusiasm for a series of only four volumes which does not yet have an anime adaptation? “It’s very good graphically. We get into it quite quickly. The narration rhythm is very effective. The story is set up quickly. The fantastic side also explains the success,” explains Quentin Pillault, editor of the title at Kazé.

As Jujutsu Kaisen before him, Kaiju n ° 8 owes part of its success to its quirky tone to classic shonen. Where the genre classically follows teenagers, the hero, Kafka Hibino is a wry, funny 30-something in the lineage of John McClane in crystal trap, Pierre Valls analysis:

“We immediately feel a sympathy for him. It corresponds to an aging readership, in any case French. We go from pure and hard shonen to a little more offbeat works which correspond to a slightly older readership.”

Kaiju, a very popular figure in Japan

Kaiju n ° 8 is also based on a very popular figure in Japan, the kaiju, which appeared in 1954 with Godzilla, says Fabien Mauro, author of Kaiju, Invaders & Apocalypse: The Golden Age of Science Fiction:

And manga "Kaiju n ° 8"
The manga “Kaiju n ° 8” © Kazé

“During his 67 years of existence, he first established himself as the physical and implacable embodiment of the nuclear danger before becoming in turn a figure of the capitalism of the Japanese economic boom of the 1960s, a defender of the Earth, a catalyst for the tensions of the Cold War, an iguana that has become a giant following French nuclear tests, a specter from the Japanese imperialist past or even the revelation of post-Fukushima fears. “

As initiator of kaijû eiga (“giant monster film”), Godzilla also imposed in Japanese popular culture the notion of gigantism, “a perspective that was then found in manga and animation through the development of the mecha genre”, adds the specialist , for whom kaiju has never been so popular.

“He initiated the ‘MonsterVerse’ movies offered by Legendary Pictures since 2014. Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016) reinvented it in the heart of Japan still marked by March 11, 2011. ” Pokémon was finally inspired by the series Ultraseven (1967), suite d’Ultraman whose hero uses capsules to spawn kaiju: “To take a shortcut: no Charizard without Godzilla.”

Visceral fear

The manga very quickly appropriated the figure of the kaiju. The first ones kaiju eiga are adapted in comics and mechanical versions of giant monsters (or kikaiju) confront Mazinger Z, the ancestor of Grendizer, from the 1970s.

“It was the logical evolution of the genre,” notes Fabien Mauro. “In Getter Robo (1974-1975), Gô Nagai and Ken Ishikawa make a transformable mecha clash with creatures inspired by prehistoric animals. In Dragon Ball (1984-1995), Akira Toriyama slips many tributes to ‘kaiju eiga’ and ‘tokusatsu’: Son Goku turns into a giant gorilla reminiscent of a monster from the series Ultra Q.”

The attack of the Titans finally “brought back this visceral and fundamental fear of being annihilated by gigantic beings”, further analyzes the specialist. Kaiju n ° 8 could be compared in its beginnings to the great work of Hajime Isayama.

“We find the same motif of the endangered city, but it is not of the same kind”, corrects Pierre Valls. “In The attack of the Titans, they know the Colossal Titans can come, but it’s been a century since they appeared, while in Kaiju # 8, they’re used to regular attacks. “

Quentin Pillault agrees: if the publisher willingly brings the two works together for their description of the defense mechanisms against gigantic enemies, they each have a “very different graphics” from each other.

Personal touch

Naoya Matsumoto brings his personal touch to this mythology by dividing the kaiju into two categories. On the one hand, there are the “honju”, the main and overpowered monsters, and on the other, the “yoju”, less powerful secondary creatures that accompany them. A concept that appeared ten years ago in popular culture, believes Fabien Mauro:

“In Ultra Galaxy Legend Mega Monster Battle: The Movie (2009), hundreds of kaiju cluster together to form a titanic monster piloted by Ultraman Belial. In Pacific Rim (2013), kaiju are classified by numbered categories. The higher the number, the more powerful the creature. The film culminates with a fight between the jaeger heroes against a Category 5 kaiju, the most powerful to date, himself escorted by two lower Category 4 congeners. “

And manga "Kaiju n ° 8"
The manga “Kaiju n ° 8” © Kazé

With his character hiding a monster in him, Kaiju n ° 8 is also in line with manga classics like Parasite Where Devilman and recent blockbusters Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man. The first volume features the contest to become a Kaiju hunter – a contest whose rules change over time, as in Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi. According to Fabien Mauro, the half-human half-kaiju hero is a classic figure of the genre.

“As early as 1965, the genre offered humanoid kaiju. Frankenstein Conquers The World by Ishirô Honda (1965) stages a rather new iteration of the monster created by Mary Shelley. Here, it is about a young boy who gradually mutates into a giant monster who looks noticeably like the monster embodied by Boris Karloff in 1931. But it is more about a sympathetic primitive human who faces a monster lover of flesh: Baragon. “

But for the specialist, Naoya Matsumoto manages to distinguish himself from his predecessors: “Kaiju n ° 8 is interesting because it places the notion of cohabitation between the human and the kaiju at the heart of the story and within the same body. The hero is also named Kafka, immediately placing the notion of metamorphosis at the heart of the story. “A notion that the second volume, scheduled for December 8, will further explore.

Kaiju n ° 8, Naoya Matsumoto, Kazé, 200 pages, 6.99 euros. The first three and the last three chapters are available on the MangaPlus app.