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Kaiju No. 8 Episodes 1-12

Kaiju No. 8 Episodes 1-12

Written by Ross Locksley on 01 Jul 2024

Distributor Crunchyroll • Certificate NA • Price NA

No doubt one of the shōnen highlights of the current season is Kaiju No.8, a series that seemed generic in so many ways has surpassed expectations thanks to the slick direction, killer soundtrack and masterful ability to switch tone on a dime, it's been a genuine delight to tune in for the latest episode each Saturday. My First Thoughts Article over on Anime Independent was optimistic that the show could do something interesting with the Kaiju premise, and it delivered in spades.

A brief plot summary then; Kafka Hibino is a Kaiju sanitation engineer, cleaning up the monstrous mess left by the battles between invading kaiju and the Japanese Defence Force, the latter of which he's failed to make the cut for no less than twelve times. The arrival of Reno Ichikawa, a young and ambitious man who joins Kafkas crew while waiting to try out for the Defence Force, reawakens Kafka's own ambitions and the pair start training together.

A Kaiju attack on their clean-up unit leaves Kafka seriously injured. In hospital, he's approached and infected by a mysterious entity that turns him into a Kaiju! Reno agrees to keep his secret, but can Kafka control the demon inside, pass the Defence Force entrance exams and keep his dark side hidden? It's a pretty good setup to the series, with high stakes and a curse that both helps and hinders our hero.

Kaiju No.8
Bloody hell!

Despite Kafka's physical shortcomings (which includes a combat ability of zero when he's not tapping into his Kaiju power) his knowledge of Kaiju anatomy gained through cleaning up their corpses allows him to instruct other recruits on effective strategies. He's also completely selfless in battle, something that's noted by his commanding officers and allowing him to scrape into the Defence Force ranks.

There's a lot of shōnen tropes on display here, it's really quite hard to argue that it's a very original premise. A defence force repelling giant monsters is an anime staple, especially in an era of Attack on Titan, Pacific Rim, Guyver, Power Rangers, Gridman et al. The Defence Force is a pretty typical rag-tag group of misfits, with tsundere girls, hot-heads, cool fighters, gruff leaders and a nerdy support staff, but they're all likeable in their own ways and despite the lack of originality, there's something about the group dynamic that worked for me. The idea of making weapons out of fallen enemies isn't exactly new either (aesthetically there are comparisons to the God Eater series), but it is quite a fun twist to have the main character be a potential donor if his secret is found out - he could be worth more dead than alive!

Kaiju No. 8 Kikoru Shinomiya
You look smug now, but Bandai Namco's lawyers would like a word...

What makes the show work is all down to Kafka himself. He's an older character (over 30!) who's started to notice his body is getting slower. He has a bit of a hero complex, fuelled no end by his desire to join the Defence Force because his childhood friend Mina Ashiro is one of the commanders. He's a little goofy without being ridiculous, puts others first and his empathy is endless. He's just so likeable that all of his relationships carry weight, which is important toward the end of the first arc  and his life is genuinely on the line. I liked his dynamic with aforementioned tsundere Kikoru Shinoma, daughter of a Defence Force general and a haughty try-hard. Her developing relationship with Kafka, seeing him as a contrast to the uncaring father-figure she's grown used to, is really enjoyable. I also love her design and weaponry, so that's the Figuarts figure ordered...

Veering away from spoilers, let's look at the highlights of the show. Firstly, the opening and ending songs are total ear-worms, with British artist Yungblood performing the opening (Abyss) and American band One Republic similarly knocking it out of the park with "Nobody". My four year old has been wandering around the house singing both at the top of her lungs, it's both absolutely darling and headache inducing at the same time. Both songs are available via whatever music streaming service you favour, so look them up.

As expected, the show excels in its combat scenes - the Kaiju are pretty nasty looking things, the idea of even touching one is pretty horrendous, but watching Kafka mopping up the innards is bloody horrible. When he transforms, his Kaiju form is pretty badass, all teeth and muscles, but it has a very modern feel to it. Fights are brutal, visceral and superbly animated, so the action is good and "crunchy" when it appears.

Overall, this is a fine example of a shonen series done right. It carves out an identity within a crowded genre by blending the best of many series that preceded it, makes it stylish as hell and gets the characterisation on-point. Arguably by episode 12 the initial drama is resolved and a new status quo established, so the series will need to really ramp up the exterior threat in an interesting way to keep the momentum going. But as a an arc unto itself, Kaiju No. 8 has hit every target bang on and has everything in place to take the wild ride up to 11. 

I'm rooting for it.

Great characters, sharp writing and visceral fight scenes make this shonen anime stand out in a crowded market. Fans of the genre will love this.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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