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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Kaiju No. 8

How would you rate episode 1 of
Kaiju No. 8 ?
Community score: 4.3

What is this?


Kafka hopes to one day keep his pact with his childhood friend Mina to join the Japan Defense Force and fight by her side. But while she's out neutralizing kaiju as Third Division captain, Kafka is stuck cleaning up the aftermath of her battles. When a sudden rule change makes Kafka eligible for the Defense Force, he decides to try out for the squad once more. There's just one problem—he's made the Defense Force's neutralization list under the code name Kaiju No. 8.

Kaiju No. 8 is based on Naoya Matsumoto's Kaiju No. 8 manga. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll and X (formerly Twitter) social media site on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

Rebecca Silverman

There aren't necessarily any surprises here, and that's not just because I've been reading the manga. But Kaiju No. 8 doesn't rely on shocking the viewers with astounding plot twists; it's very comfortably working within the bounds of its genre and having fun with them. Even if Kafka's name doesn't give the episode-ending surprise away- and it probably should, the name "Kafka" being synonymous with "metamorphosis" at this point (sorry, Ovid) –the story covers some very familiar territory. You've got something vaguely supernatural menacing Japan, childhood friends unable to fulfill a major promise, and a down-on-his-luck protagonist who has let life beat him down. It's a recipe we've all seen used before.

Even the base premise is well-worn: following in the footsteps of Godzilla, Gamera, and other giant monsters, the Japan of the plot is one plagued by mysterious monstrosities known as either kaiju or yoju, depending on size and form. Whether or not there's going to be a nuclear war metaphor here isn't yet clear. Still, we can already see the modernization of the genre in the way people follow kaiju attacks and defense force actions on social media, with the unit headed by Mina Ashiro the clear favorite. In part, that seems to be because she's a beautiful woman; even the top brass recognize that and use her as the face of their recruitment campaigns. Is that also why they ignore that her team is the worst to clean up after? It seems possible, and Kafka and his clean-up crew are unhappy about it. It's not hard to see why –even without the gross-out moves of spraying gouts of blood and the horrors of the intestinal, the entire area around a kaiju body slaughtered by Mina's team is a splatter fest of gore. Sure, the defense force took out the kaiju, but for my money, Kafka and his gang are the real heroes for having to clean up that mess.

All that is just set up, so you may be disappointed if you think you are getting a show about crime scene cleaners. Kafka is on the verge of giving up his childhood dream (and promise with Mina), but one horrible bug-swallowing episode later, things become very different. Suddenly, he's on the run from the very group he wanted to join, and we don't know how permanent that situation will be. As hooks go, it's a decent one. Not new ground, but a solid place to start from. The art and animation are largely up to the task, provided you don't mind monster gore. Kafka's a little too loud (it feels like he shouts most of his lines), and some of the background music sets my teeth on edge, so if you're sensitive to high-pitched noises, be aware that there's at least one scene with them. But this is a manga-faithful good start, and the story should only get better from here.

James Beckett

Here's what makes Kaiju No. 8 so excellent right off the bat: We don't even get to the real premise of this show until the very end of the episode, and yet I would have gladly watched the version of Kaiju No. 8 that we got right up until that point, which follows the world-weary Kafka and his new pal Reno as they try to get by working in the unglamorous world of cleaning up rotting kaiju carcasses from the city streets in the aftermath of the Defense Force's wicked-sick monster battles. Don't get me wrong, I am so down to clown with a show about a guy who turns into a Skellington Beastie to battle the monstrous forces of evil. I'm also desperate for an anime that delivers a genuinely funny and surprisingly heartfelt workplace dramedy about two schmoes whose biggest concerns involve getting the stink of giant monster guts out of their clothes after work.

Kaiju No. 8 seems to be giving us the best of both worlds, and I couldn't be more excited. I may be a helpless sucker for anything kaiju-adjacent, but here is a show that gets the human details just as right. Studio I.G. does a wonderful job of balancing its slapstick moments and exaggerated visuals with these wonderful and weighty little beats that sell the entire world that much more effectively. It says something about what this show is doing right that, in an episode where the climax involves a ridiculous-looking monster getting the ever-loving Bejeesus blown out of it by Mina Ashiro's impossibly powerful gun-and-deadly-tiger combo, my favorite shot was probably the one where Kafka tosses Reno a vitamin supplement juice box. When you can see the artistry and care that is taken to craft such seemingly inconsequential moments, you know that you are in good hands when the kaiju dookie hits the fan, and dudes just start getting monsterficated by creepy flying bug parasites that burrow into their stomachs.

I'm eager to get to know these characters more. Kafka makes for a perfectly relatable hero whose heart is still in the right place even after his dreams of becoming a Defense Force monster hunter faltered. His familiar but compelling dynamic with Mina is also ripe for further exploration. The two have drifted apart since vowing to take on the kaiju hordes as children, and the show intends for their paths to cross again now that Kafka has been forcibly tossed into his Pumpkin King Era; I'm all for having two estranged childhood pals rediscover their bond in the face of ridiculous anime crisis!

Shout out to the allusion that is our main character's name. It just forces me to fantasize about the better and richer world we would all be living in if ol' Franz had the guts to begin The Metamorphosis with its original opening line: "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into a dope-ass bone demon with the power to punch giant monsters right in the goddamned face." If only, if only.

Nicholas Dupree

One of my favorite things to do with genre fiction is seriously inspect their concepts' mundane eventualities. Whether it's Delicious in Dungeon deconstructing monster anatomy through food prep or Log Horizon interrogating the consequences of game systems becoming the laws of a universe, it's the kind of thing that sets my brain on fire. So when Kaiju No. 8 followed up its opening action sequence with a crew of dudes pulling clean-up duty on the building-sized monster carcass, I was instantly charmed. It's the exact type of world-building that can make these fantastical premises feel real and relatable. It also sets the perfect tone for what comes after.

For people who don't dream of playing a version of PowerWash Simulator about cleaning up the LCL after an Evangelion fight, there's still a lot to like about this premiere. Kafka, our fittingly named protagonist, is a pretty enjoyable personality, carrying this premiere with an earnest goofiness that masks some solid pathos for anyone who's ever felt burnt out heading into their 30s. He was once the exact model of a cocky shonen protagonist, declaring he'd be the Hokage of kaiju fighting one day. Still, the reality of failure has left him in a lurch, too afraid to risk rejection again but too discontented to embrace a new path in life. He's the kind of protagonist you want to root for, with just enough wear and tear from life to feel like a real person on top of being likable.

Much of that comes through, thanks to the all-around stellar production. The action scenes are glossy and dynamic and at their best when demonstrating the fleshy gore of fighting what is effectively a six-story-tall animal. My favorite moments, however, come when the episode is at its silliest, like Kafka's disgust at having to clean out kaiju intestines or Reno stubbornly refusing nose plugs because he's too cool for PPE while doing literal shit work. There's a rubbery, delightfully cartoony elasticity to those gags that, combined with the excellent face game, keep the whole episode feeling light and breezy while perfectly transitioning into drama when necessary.

It's an all-around stellar set-up with one big question mark at the end: the twist of what happens to Kafka right before the credits roll. Until then, I had a pretty good grasp of what this show was going for, and I was excited to see our 30-something hero try one more time to achieve the ideals of his youth. With the last-minute swerve, it's much harder to tell exactly where the story will go. That's not a complaint, so much as an acknowledgment that it makes recommending the show off of this first episode a little more complicated. However, so much of this premiere is confident, charming, and all-around fun that I still feel safe urging folks to check it out.

Richard Eisenbeis

It's funny. Part of me wants to rate this one even higher. I can see where this story could go—and judging by the manga fans, it will be a pretty fun ride. However, from what we get on screen in this episode and this episode only, I wasn't completely blown away (even if it was quite good).

We have the story of Kafka, a man who, when he didn't manage to achieve his dream, decided to do the best he could at the place he was at—even if it wasn't as great or glamorous as being a kaiju-killing badass. On one hand, that's commendable. Few of us make our dreams into reality. It's necessary to accept our limits and find happiness where we can. On the other hand, his inability to overcome the obstacles in his way still weighs heavily on him. Kafka's mind knows he failed years ago, but his heart refuses to give up. It's a truly human struggle—and one I suspect many of us have dealt with in some form or fashion.

This, in turn, makes Kafka more than a little relatable—as does his relationship with the newbie at his job, Reno. Kafka is a guy born to be a superhero. He's quick thinking and puts others before himself—especially in life-or-death situations. Through the events of this episode, Reno sees Kafka for who he truly is—which is why, at the end of the episode, he immediately believes that Kafka is in control of the monster before him and wants to help him escape.

As for the animation, it is top-tier. From the monster fights to the kaiju dissection scenes, there is an awesome amount of detail and realism. Unfortunately, this contrasts a bit with the character designs as even Kafka himself has a simply drawn face with one color for skin and another for shading—and that's all. It honestly took me out of the episode at first—though once the action got going, it was hard to focus on anything else.

Overall, this episode is a solid introduction to our heroes with a good amount of visual splendor to match. I love the core idea—a monster superhero fighting monsters while being hunted himself. (I mean, it's the plot of the Incredible Hulk.) So, I'm more than down for watching this every week and can't wait to see where it goes once it hits its stride.

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