Kaiju No. 8

Kaiju No. 8 Celebrates the Everyman Instead of the Chosen One — and That’s Awesome

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Kaiju No. 8, Naruto, My Hero Academia, and One Piece, as well as several other anime.

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In the last couple of months, Kaiju No. 8 debuted worldwide on Crunchyroll. I’ve enjoyed the catchy music; I’ve also been impressed by the kinetic battles. However, what impressed me the most about it was how the lead character, Kafka Hibino, was handled within the narrative.

Kaiju No. 8 and the Art of the Everyman

What Kaiju No. 8 and a rare few other anime/manga excel at is the continuation of the narrative of everyday hero Kafka. Though incredibly powerful, he’s not excelling in his career because of his powers but because of his knowledge, experience, and gumption. Kafka (at least up until the latest episode) has not been anything more than a wonderful team player.

Kafka hasn’t hijacked the narrative in the sense that the whole series revolves around his power. He gets by with his smarts, experience, and understanding. When the moment comes though, as we saw in the final moments of the latest episode, he will step in unflinchingly. It’s a more realistic depiction of a protagonist, even if that protagonist becomes a monster man to save the day.

Unlike his contemporaries and forebears, Kafka is a simple human who may have been chosen by sheer accident.

Related: Kaiju No. 8 Defies Expectations in the Best Way Possible

The Legends and the Loser

Anime, especially Shonen anime, is incredibly popular. Everyone falls in love with anime because of the underdogs who become legends — legends like Naruto, Luffy, and new up-and-comers Tanjiro and Deku. What has become a lovingly expected trope, however, is how each of these individuals eventually becomes a “Chosen One.” Even in shows like Black Clover and Mashle: Magic and Muscles, supposed nobodies like Asta and Mash eventually become “The Chosen One.”

What drew me to many of these characters was their underdog stories. Asta had no magic, Naruto had no skill as a shinobi, Deku was quirkless. The short of it: they were losers, and I, as another loser, formed a kinship with them. Now, as they grew throughout the course of their respective journeys, they became more powerful, usually ending up as the most powerful character in their world (the jury is still out on Asta, but that’s an incomplete story).

That’s great and all until you realize the premise their stories were built on got lost along the way. One example that always pops into my head is when Naruto defeated Neji. It was an iconic moment because, at the time, it was a boy fighting against an ideal, fate. Neji believed that fate decided everything and that no one could escape it. However, Naruto wanted to show him that a failure like himself could rise up and defy the odds. It was beautiful.

Flash forward to the conclusion of Naruto: Shippuden: The audience has learned Naruto is not just the son of the legendary Fourth Hokage, he’s part of a legendary clan and is the reincarnation of the the shinobi world’s co-creator. On top of all this, he is destined to save the world. In retrospect, it detracts from the appeal of who Naruto was. This is what makes Kaiju No. 8 so compelling. We are watching a hero born in the moment. His coming wasn’t foretold. He’s not a reincarnated legend. He’s just a guy trying to make something of himself. It’s all too relatable.

Related: Who Animated Kaiju No. 8?

I’m Too Old To Be Pulling Stunts Like That

As a man in his 30s, much like Kafka, who has given up on all his dreams, I find Kaiju No. 8 surprisingly aspirational. Watching Kafka use his experience, without relying on the gimmick of his kaiju abilities, to help those around him is impressive.

I’m not up on my sports terms, but I believe Kafka to be an exceptional coach. He gives out the perfect plays to help his team. In most anime/manga, he’d be the experienced teacher helping the plucky hero become even greater. He’d be Jiraiya or Rayleigh helping the protagonist to become the mythical savior.

By allowing Kafka to be an everyman who just so happens to be one of the most dangerous creatures on the planet, mangaka Nayao Matsumoto has created a very different kind of hero — one that all the losers can look up to.

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Graham Day
Graham has been writing online for close to a decade. This includes writing about games, books, films and so much more. He loves stories of all kinds across every form of media. For the Escapist he tries to come up with his own unique angles on the stories we adore. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and has been an actor, an amateur animator, writer and artist. He also runs his own website based in Ireland.