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Look out, All Might: Kaiju No. 8 has dethroned My Hero Academia as the best superhero anime on Crunchyroll

Turns out masks are an important part of superhero stories.

Kaiju No. 8 Kafka and Reno in episode 1
Image credit: Production I. G.

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It is hard to get more "superhero" than My Hero Academia. In a society that has evolved to include and accept those with superpowers – or "quirks," as they call them here – seeing the extraordinary has become surprisingly ordinary. Maybe that’s why, when watching Kaiju No. 8, I was caught off-guard by how much more like a comic book superhero story it felt than anything MHA has done in years. Kaiju No. 8 might be the best superhero anime of the season.

Maybe it has taken me seven seasons of My Hero Academia to get a sense of what it was missing. Sure, it's got plenty of superpowered people doing heroic stuff, but it never felt like a classic superhero story to me because the best superhero stories aren’t just about what people do in their capes – they’re about what they do when they’re not being super. The lack of secret identities has sucked too much of the drama out of My Hero Academia and Kaiju No. 8 has stepped in to deliver it.

Kaiju No. 8 Kefka and Reno in episode 3
Image credit: Production I. G.

The best way to approach Kaiju No. 8 is that it is Kafka Hinino’s origin story. All the major plot points we would expect from a superhero are here. He performs an act of heroism before receiving his special powers when he chooses to distract the kaiju attacking himself and Reno in the first episode. He then gains his powers from a strange, unknown source but is misunderstood by the world at large. Even as he uses his powers to help people, he is hunted by those who see him as a threat, forcing him to hide his identity.

This is Western Comics 101 stuff here and we’re not saying this as a bad thing. We love the tension caused by people having distinctly different opinions about Kafka’s monster form and him as a person. It harkens to Lois seeing Superman as a glorious hero and Clark as a bumbling sidekick to her adventures or Gotham viewing Batman as a dangerous vigilante and Bruce Wayne as a billionaire playboy. Kafka’s difficulty balancing these two personas – as well as an origin and costume that feel very Blue Beetle-inspired – is the most fun we’ve had with a superhero anime in years.

My Hero Academia Deku in season 6
Image credit: BONES

While My Hero Academia has some of these story beats, it has long since abandoned the idea of a secret identity or a separation between a person and the mask. In a superhero society, the nature of everyone’s quirk is a matter of public record. Midoriya’s powers and the burden he carries with them make him super, but My Hero Academia hasn’t delivered the classic superhero story the way we expected. Kaiju No. 8, by maintaining Kafka’s secret (so far), has suddenly usurped MHA’s place as the best superhero anime of the season.

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