Kaiju No. 8: A new monster in the lands of the shonen? Book review 01

News culture Kaiju No. 8: A new monster in the lands of the shonen? Book review 01

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After Chainsaw Man and Jujutsu Kaisen, the new “shonen” bomb is him. Kaiju No. 8 is currently a hit in Japan, but also in France. With us, the manga broke the record for the best start, selling 22,041 copies in one week. It must be said, Kaze has put the small dishes in the big ones. After acquiring the rights at a gold price, the publisher prepared a monster campaign with a circulation of 250,000 copies and several advertising spots in the capital, including the gigantic poster on the French National Library. If the hype is at its highest, concretely, what is this first volume of the work of Naoya matsumoto worth?

A potential hit

First, let’s start by presenting the author Naoya Matsumoto, who is still relatively unknown in France. Before Kaiju No. 8, the mangaka has already got her hands on two works: Pochi & Kuro and Nekko Wappa!. With this experience, since July 3, 2020, it has been offering Kaiju No. 8 on the Shûeisha Shônen Jump + online platform. With 47 chapters for the moment, 4 volumes are already available in Japan while the first has just been released in France.

For this new manga, the success is immediate. Kaiju No. 8 quickly exceeded the 30 million reader mark, and thus became the first manga to reach this number so quickly on the Japanese platform Jump +. In February 2021, the series had 70 million readers. In terms of sales, Kaiju No. 8 is still very solid with nearly 4 million volumes in circulation in Japan. If the popularity of the work is no longer to be proven, how can it be explained?


What does Kaiju No. 8 say?

The backdrop is presented as such. In an alternate reality, the world is regularly invaded by Kaijus, that is, giant monsters born in Japanese cinemas and of which Godzilla is the most famous representative. Humanity struggles relentlessly against these monsters of unknown origin. The plot takes place in Japan, where the frequency of appearance of these creatures is the most important.

Kafka Hibino , the hero of the story, has only one goal in mind … to join the defense forces and join his childhood friend Mina Ashiro, as the two had vowed to fight the kaiju side by side. Mina, now commander of the 3rd Intervention Unit, is the symbol of a new wave of hope for humanity. For his part, Kafka never passed the entrance exam to the academy. Unfortunately for him, he is now 32 years old, the age limit to enter the competition.

In the meantime, he works as a cleaning agent, and takes care of clearing the corpses of the slaughtered monsters after the clashes. Following a trivial mission, Kafka is attacked by a presumed dead kaiju and ends up in hospital. Believing to be out of the woods, a mysterious creature enters his body and transforms it into an overpowered kaiju … the Kaiju No. 8. Then begins the thrilling adventure of Kafka, who will do anything to defend humanity against the giant monsters.


Baston, humor and giant monsters: the formula for a solid shonen

You might as well say it right away. With Kaiju No. 8, Naoya Matsumoto takes us into familiar territory. The protagonist perfectly embodies the shônen spirit. Rather naive and fairly simple-minded, he is nonetheless driven by unfailing stubbornness, and never backs down in the face of adversity, even if this is what he lets shine through at first glance. The only real peculiarity is its age. While shônen tend to portray adolescents or young adults, Kafka is an assumed thirtysomething., slightly lost, whose character oscillates between the immaturity of a child and the seriousness of an experienced adult.

His temperament offers many excuses for laughter. Naoya Matsumoto has an easy joke, and masters perfectly the humor that makes the success of many manga. If Kafka’s blissful character gives her the reader’s empathy, the mangaka also manages to introduce in a short time several equally endearing characters. The duo formed in particular by Kafka and Reno, his young colleague, is very good, and never ceases to amuse the reader. These characters have heart, and arouse in us the irrepressible desire to know the rest of their adventures.

As you will have understood, Kaiju No. 8 makes people laugh, a lot even, and offers a panel of perfectly introduced characters who really make you want to follow them on their journey. But that’s not the only strength of Kaiju No. 8. If the drawing of Naoya Matsumoto is not revolutionary in most of the scenes, we have to admit that the monsters, as well as the fights, are more than successful. In manga, the action can sometimes seem abstract, but here the dynamics of the fights are sublimated by a thick line which gives more clarity and “weight” to these sequences.

And what about the impeccable design of the Kaiju No. 8? Our hero is a monstrous and ferocious creature (often derided, however), whose full extent of power we can’t wait to discover. On that side, Naoya Matsumoto is flawless. Ultimately, this is undoubtedly what makes the strength of this first volume which announces the color, and reveals the essence of the manga: breathtaking fights that alternate with many hilarious passages. It is thanks to this formula that the manga never runs out of steam. The pace is steady, but does Kaiju No. 8 have the necessary assets to assert itself already as a staple of the genre?

Kaiju No. 8: A new monster in the lands of the shonen? Book review 01

Kaiju No. 8: a real rabid beast or a gentle, docile creature?

After this first volume, it is easy to conclude that Kaiju No. 8 is a very good shônen. The plot is cleverly approached, and the author reserves the right to reveal too much. Why did this strange creature parasitize Kafka? Why do kaiju attack humanity? Where do they come from ? Will Kafka ever stand alongside Mina? Several questions remain unanswered, and rightly so, and fuel the desire to learn more about the universe portrayed. The work is solid on most of these companies, it must be recognized.

Nevertheless, Kaiju No. 8 doesn’t really have any additional assets to show. There where Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man or Demon Slayer seduced so much, is that they brought a wind of renewal to the shônen with strong and divisive graphic and scriptwriting biases, marking a real break with the classic works of the genre. These are also the same manga that are at the origin of the new golden age of media in France, which has just started. For his part, Kaiju No. 8 lays a solid foundation which makes him a quality work, but he still has a lot to prove. It remains to discover the rest of Kafka’s adventures, which we will gladly follow.


Does Kaiju No. 8 have the weapons to compete with the current shonen monsters? Certainly. Will he return to the pantheon of the genre? For the moment, nothing is less certain. Kaiju No. 8 does very well what he tries to do, which is to be a good shonen, but stops here, and doesn’t seem to want to think outside the box. Of course, the manga has plenty of time to lie to us as it barely begins to publish. The real question would rather be whether this lack of originality is a real problem or not. Make no mistake: Kaiju No. 8 is well worth your attention at this point. An epic, breathtaking story with colorful characters and insane monsters. Kaiju No. 8 puts on the show, and this is undoubtedly what should be remembered from Naoya Matsumoto’s work.