Guest Post by Louis Toms (the owner of Carolina Comic Geek, a Pinterest board which catalogs birthdays of anime, cartoon, comic, and manga characters).
Kaiju are a popular subject matter within Japanese anime, light novels and manga.
Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!, So I’m a Spider, So What?, and Kaiju Girl Caramelise provide a fraction of total works exploring the large monster genre.
In July 2020, kaiju fans received a new manga to add to their reading lists or collections with the release of Kaiju 8-gou or Kaiju Number 8. Published by Weekly Shōnen Jump, Naoya Mutsumoto writes and illustrates this manga series about a human-kaiju hybrid. At the time of writing this article, there are 15 chapters available (free and purchase) through the Shōnen Jump app and website. For the uninitiated, kaiju roughly translates to a strange beast. This term originates from the ancient Chinese text Classic of Mountains and Seas.
You may not know the term but I am sure you’re probably familiar with kaiju films such as Ishirō Honda’s Godzilla (1954) and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (2013). As a huge fan of this genre, I could not pass up the opportunity to read Mutsumoto’s take on the beloved kaiju genre when his manga it the shelves.
Is Kaiju 8-gou first three chapters worth the time and effort to read?
Well, let us dive in and see for ourselves!
What happens when you become the very thing you’re charged with disposing?
This simple foundation serves as the catalyst for Naoya Mutsumoto’s Kaiju 8-gou visual story. Set in Yokohama, our protagonist works as a member of a cleaning crew. This is not your typical office or industrial cleansing team but a business dedicated to the disposal of the bodies of dead kaiju. While out on a cleaning job and training a newbie, an industrial accident transforms our champion into a kaiju-human hybrid.
Known as Kaiju Number 8, our protagonist must conceal their alter ego from the public while pursuing a career with the very organization charged with eradicating the kaiju menace. If he makes the wrong move, this delicate balancing act could lead to our hero’s demise. Tread carefully!
Kaiju 8-gou explores Kafka Hibino’s transformation from an average Joe to the kaiju-human hybrid known as Kaiju Number 8.
Thirty-two years old, Kafka is a valued professional kaiju disposal specialist working for Monster Sweeper, Inc. The rendering of kaiju corpses was never something he inspired to become but sometimes childhood dreams get lost in the hustle and bustle of adult life. In an ideal world, Kafka Hibino could pass the requisite exams to enlist as a member of Japan’s elite monster-hunting task force. His life was looking bleak until a chance possession by a kaiju spirit upended Kafka’s reality. The parasitic relationship and accompanying abilities serve as the catalyst for Kafka to try one last time to become a member of the Japanese Defense Force’s Third Unit. Given this unit’s mission to kill kaiju, Kafka Hibino is definitely walking into the lion’s den but I am sure everything will be fine!
This brings me to the three main supporting characters.
The first of these individuals is Kafka Hibino’s childhood friend, Mina Ashiro. I have to believe that Naoya Mustsumoto created her to serve as a contrast to the story’s protagonist. Through the narrative, the reader understands that Mina Ashiro is someone who affects change rather than waiting for change to happen.
Her fortitude has created opportunities such as becoming a member of the elite task force and a kaiju killing legend with the people of Yokohama.
Our next character serves as the story’s comic relief. Reno Ichikawa is a teenage Monster Sweeper apprentice who befriends Kafka Hibino. He desires to become a member of the elite task force and is the only one who knows Kafka’s secret.
The support character trio concludes with our introduction to a member of the elite task force, Kiroru Shinomiya. She is responsible for administering the second test of the task force tryouts. Her temperament is a healthy mixture of over the top, intelligent, and tough as nails.
In these three individuals, readers can ponder what will happen when Kafka Hibino’s affliction becomes common knowledge.
My feeling is that Kaiju 8-gou excels at two of the primary elements of manga narration. These ingredients being the story’s illustrations and the writer’s development of support characters. Naoya Mutsumoto demonstrates himself to be skilled at both.
First, the scenery and character designs are great. His proficiency as an artist translates to an immersive experience where the reader becomes part of the story. Without any degree of certainty, I feel that Naoya Mutsumoto purposefully incorporates elements of Asian mythological creatures in his reimagining of the story’s kaiju monsters.
Overall, I never experienced a moment where the illustrations became offensive or off-putting. I would have to give my second accolade to how Naoya Mutsumoto developed the background characters. Readers can expect fully actualized companions that one expects from a traditional shōnen but with slightly more personality than expects from the genre’s tropes.
Naoya Mutsumoto’s character development gives a nuanced approach that makes the characters relatable to readers of Kaiju 8-gou.
Kaiju 8-gou engrosses the reader into a unique perspective of the giant monster genre. This statement does not mean that Naoya Mutsumoto’s story is without flaws.
The narrative’s primary concern relates to its alignment with predictable shōnen and human-monster hybrid tropes. Specifically, Kaiju 8-gou presents the reader with a protagonist who works in a thankless profession. With very little internal motivation, the champion desires to become something more in life. The writer achieves this desired outcome by bestowing character growth through supernatural intervention and suddenly our character has the motivational fortitude to become something other than someone who disposes of dead kaiju.
I feel that some readers may find it difficult initially to empathize with the protagonist’s backstory as the impetus for them to become a member of the Defense Force. There was an opportunity for Kaiju 8-gou to give us a well-rounded and sympathetic character but the narrative definitely missed its mark.
So… should you begin reading Kaiju 8-gou? Overall, I feel that Kaiju 8-gou’s first three are a satisfying addendum to the kaiju mythos.
Naoya Mutsumoto effectively tells a story about an average individual catapulted into the public eye by accident – figuratively and literally. Readers can immerse themselves in the protagonist’s metamorphosis through effective imagery and general character development.
Fans of Chensō Man may appreciate Kaiju 8-gou’s tale of human-monster hybrids. Specifically, both manga follow average individuals who become misunderstood heroes upon absorbing a piece of the mythical creature.
I think Kaiju 8-gou provides an interestingly good story but the story does not spark my interest to the point of purchasing a copy of the title for my manga collection.