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Kaiju No. 8: “Fortitude 9.8” (S1E4) Gives Kafka His Time to Shine

© JAKDF 3rd Division © Naoya Matsumoto/SHUEISHA

Like just about everybody, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with cliffhangers. Sure, they usually make the next installment of a story that much sweeter, but in the moment, they can be super frustrating. They make me want to watch the next episode or read the next issue right away, so naturally, I was a bit bummed when the previous installment of Kaiju No. 8 ended smack in the middle of the most dangerous part of the Anti-Kaiju Defense Force entrance exam. I couldn’t wait to find out how Kafka would get himself out of his latest jam, and now that I’ve finally seen it, I’m happy to report that it’s even better than I expected.

As you can probably guess, “Fortitude 9.8” picks up exactly where “Revenge Match” left off. Kafka, Ichikawa, and their fellow Defense Force hopefuls have been thrust into a real fight with real kaiju, and Kafka has just barely managed to avoid disqualification. One of his superiors even advised him to quit, but he refused. The guy is utterly determined to pass the test this time, and with Ichikawa’s help, he’s ready to get back in the game.

I said in my review of the last episode that I figured Kafka was about to impress some very important people, and I even predicted that he might do it without using his kaiju powers. Well, I was partially right. Kafka does impress one key character, but he doesn’t stay in his human form. He has to change into his monstrous alter ego to do it, and that gives us a bit of perspective on just how special this guy really is.

Kafka looking mad
© JAKDF 3rd Division © Naoya Matsumoto/SHUEISHA

Granted, the second episode of Kaiju No. 8, “The Kaiju Who Defeats Kaiju,” showed us that Kafka can kill much larger monsters with a single punch, so we already knew what he was capable of. But we weren’t sure how this impressive strength stacked up against that of other kaiju. Are any other monsters that powerful, or is Kafka unique? We might’ve had our own personal theories, but “Fortitude 9.8” gives us the definitive answer.

Kafka is one of the most formidable kaiju in this world’s history, and the episode’s title is actually a reference to his insane abilities (you’ll see how when you watch it). Now, on its own, that’s a pretty neat little fact, but to me, it raises a very intriguing question: who or what can challenge this guy? Every good story needs a villain who can pose a legitimate threat to the hero, so what kind of ridiculously strong monster can go toe to toe with Kafka? I don’t know, but I’m dying to find out.

And speaking of good villains, this episode of Kaiju No. 8 also introduces us to a new character who has the potential to be the show’s big bad. I’m not going to spoil his awesome introduction, but suffice it to say that he can do things I never thought I’d see in this series. In fact, I have a nagging suspicion that he just might be Lex Luthor to Kafka’s Superman, so I can’t wait to learn more about him.

That’ll obviously have to wait until future installments of Kaiju No. 8, but in this episode, we do find out more about another enigmatic character–Kikoru Shinomiya. In particular, we learn why she’s just about the perfect monster hunter. Without giving anything away, she apparently had a tough childhood, and that pushed her to become the best she could be.

Two kaiju fighting
© JAKDF 3rd Division © Naoya Matsumoto/SHUEISHA

It’s actually a really heartbreaking backstory, so even though we only get a few minutes of it, it makes Kikoru a much more sympathetic character than she ever was before. This young woman is more than just a blandly archetypal image of perfection, and if her final line is any indication, I’m pretty sure that complexity is going to become even more pronounced as the series goes on.

Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a little something about the humor in this installment of Kaiju No. 8. “Fortitude 9.8” is just as funny as the previous three episodes, and I was especially tickled by a gag involving Kikoru and Kafka. It comes at a crucial scene when nothing but stone-faced seriousness seems appropriate, so it’s the kind of ingenious joke you can’t help but laugh at because it catches you completely off guard.

In case you couldn’t tell, I had a total blast with “Fortitude 9.8.” I keep waiting for Kaiju No. 8 to let me down, but so far, that hasn’t happened. Every single episode has been absolute TV gold, and this latest one is no exception. It features great humor, an intriguing new character introduction, and some excellent work with the characters we already know and love, so I’m dying to see what happens next week.

Kaiju No. 8 premiered its first episode on Crunchyroll on April 13, and the streaming service is set to roll out new episodes every Saturday.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters.

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