It’s rare where you have a “I have a dream and I will win” under-dog protagonist who turns out to be special who has odds to overcome, starts towards that dream, and turns out to be in his 30s. Kafka (name might have suggestions I’ll get to) Hibino is 32, works in Kaiju disposal (someone has to clean up when the heroes take down the monsters), and has dreamed of working on the Japan Defense Force (the heroic monster killers led by Kafka’s childhood friend now hottie super soldier Mina Ashiro. Kafka’s basically given up on that dream until he’s forced to train a hot-shot rookie some 15 years his junior who hopes to get into the Defense Force himself. Predictable hijinks and adventures and new friends/allies/adversaries ensue.
The think about Kafka that’s special, besides him being older than your standard heroic hopeful, is that somehow during an encounter with a kaiju in which he saves Ichikawa (trainee) he turns part kaiju himself, but soon realizes he can control the transformations (sort of). Soo now he is hoping to get into the organization that has him on their “Wanted”/”One that Got Away” list as ‘Kaiju #8’. This explains both the title and also I’m thinking his name; what if Gregor (giant roach-man of literary fame) had heroic aspirations and the ability to control the transformation?
I’m really interested to see what happens when Kafka and Mina finally reunite because it seems like they’ve been out of touch and have thoughts and memories about each other that could get complicated, and not just in the ‘former friends reunite, save the day, and get together’, although I’m sure there will be some level of that. Kafka has the slacker but heroic thing that’s been done before but he’s also older and has some life experience I’m sure will be revealed later; Mina’s the super focused totally competent one everyone admires (but I’m guessing she’s got issues of her own). These are standard characters but they’ve got a good bit of potential in the first volume I’m hoping gets some traction.
There are some annoyances like Kikoru, a fellow examinee deemed most brilliant of her generation, turns out she has a cold father whom she needs to impress for attention, and when Kafka calls her a brat, he’s right. She gets into a problem situation by the end, and of course Kafka has to step in to save her, but what if the world finds out about the Kaiju thing he can do, etc. The cliff hanger here is predictable; I wonder what happens to Kafka in terms of the kaiju thing, but I’m not really caring about Kikoru. Obvious Kafka is going to save her but she’s annoying. Daddy-issues don’t give you the right to be an entitled jerk.