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Kaiju No. 8 v. 1 by Naoya Matsumoto

A review of the first volume & first impressions

first volume cover of the manga Kaiju no. 8 features an inhuman being on a red background

So, I finally read the first volume of Kaiju No. 8 by Naoya Matsumoto. I've seen Kaiju No. 8 in people's hauls and stuff, but I wasn't too keen on getting it. I'm not a "big-monster-fighting" manga fan, but I decided to give it a whirl since I saw it at my local library, and hey, it's free real estate.

Kaiju No. 8 is a funny, action-packed sci-fi series. The story is set in a futuristic Japan plagued by giant monsters (called Kaiju), and with these monsters around they have a Defense Force to fight them and a crew to clean up the aftermath. Enters our protagonist. The story follows a 32-year-old "loser" protagonist named Kafka Hibino. He works on the monster cleanup crew while harboring dreams of joining the Defense Force. One day, Kafka gets turned into a monster, and his life is forever changed as he’s made the Defense Force’s neutralization list under the code name Kaiju No. 8. So yeah, Kafka's name is very much on the nose.

panel from Kaiju no. 8 shows an inhuman giant fish monster laying on top of crushed buildings. a speech bubble says, "They really expect us to finish this by the end of the week...?"

Besides our main character, we are introduced to18-year-old Reno Ichikawa, a new member of the cleanup crew who's there only until he joins the Defense Force. Ichikawa becomes a coworker and friend as he encourages Kafka to not give up his dreams, and Ichikawa becomes Kafka's confidante in the keeping the whole turning-into-a-monster-at-times thing under wraps. The dynamic between them works. It's fun. It went from a mentor/trainee relationship to a more equal relationship as friends.

Additionally, we're introduced to key members of the Defense Force, including the childhood friend and potential love interest Mina Ashiro. I am a sucker for bad-ass female characters, and she's one of a few in this series. The first volume ends on a cliffhanger. Kafka and Ichikawa are taking the exam to become Defense Force members when things go awry.

panel from Kaiju no. 8 shows Kafka, as an inhuman being, rising out of bed at night; the night background shows a moon over a cityscape

Overall, I wasn't expecting Kaiju No. 8 to be so funny and move at such a quick pace. I'll read the second volume when my library gets it. Sorry, I can't be as enthused as some folks. If you're a big kaiju fan, definitely check this out. If you're a shounen fan looking for a hilarious story with adult characters, check this out. If you're a fan of garbage men being called to adventure, check this out.

You can read Kaiju No. 8 in print or digital via VIZ and the Shonen Jump App. You can also read the latest chapters for free via MangaPlus.

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