Set in a fictional Japanese city in the not too distant future, a boy who cannot feel pain is chosen to be a Kiznaiver in the Kizuna System, which connects different people through their wounds. If one Kiznaiver is hurt, the pain is shared among the others.
Katsuhira, the protagonist of Kiznaiver, appears apathetic to the point of being completly void of any emotion. As the opening scene of the first episode established, his ability to feel pain has been taken from him, leaving him in a state of existential insecurity. One day, he meets a mysterious and just as emotionally detached girl named Noriko Sonozaki, who reveals that Katsuhira, along with with some of his fellow school mates, have been chosen for the enigmatic Kizuna System, wether they want to be Kiznaiver or not.
What is this? This is a series blog, where we’ll provide informal and brief hot takes after each episode in a given anime series. We’ll be updating this every week after each episode, so please check back for more thoughts!
Episode 12: If the Kizuna System Spread Throughout the World - Airing June 25, 2016
As expected, Trigger gave us a satisfying and pretty sweet conclusion to Kiznaiver and did not manage to make Sonozaki much more likeable to me but I do understand her better now at least. Thanks to this final episode, Sonozaki’s finally more than just mystery incarnate.
Sonozaki took all the pain her childhood friends felt onto herself because she believed that the Kizuna System was the sole reason for their becoming friends. Sonozaki was afraid that once the others wouldn’t feel each others pain anymore, they wouldn’t care for each other either. She knew how difficult it is to describe how one feels and, her fear clouding her mind, started to believe that the only way for people to really be able to trust one another was if they share their pain through the Kizuna System. This fear of abandonment lead to a misguided view of what friendship really is, in turn making her use the Gomorin in a similar fashion as to how the CROWDS where misused in Gatchaman Crowds. She essentially forces a connection upon others through shared wounds, failing to realise that that is no way to create meaningful bonds. Luckily, Katsuhira and the gang come to her rescue and showed her that trying to understand someone, is the key to friendship. Exactly that people don’t know what others think or feel makes them want to know what is going on in their heads. It’s what drives them to get to know and befriend one another. Interestingly, it’s Honoka who tells Sonozaki all this. Honoka, like Sonozaki, started off as a mysteriously detached and cold character, but thanks to a lot of great character development we viewers began to understand her by trying to put ourselves in her shoes. Honoka became a well-developed, mulitfaceted charachter who’s now totally into Yuta. You go, Yuta.
Sonozaki unfortunately never managed to achieve the same depths as the other characters but this episode at least managed to make me not see her as a villain figure anymore. I always felt sorry for her because she seemed like just another chess piece that was being used but I simply didn’t care for her. This at least changed in this last episode but I still would have prefered for some other characters to get more screen-time instead of her. Hey, maybe in season two?
Kiznaiver left some questions open, mostly ones concerning the Kizuna System and its futuristic science fiction details. I’m sure some were hoping for a Sci-Fi story and were subsequently disappointed when Kiznaiver truned out to be more of a slice-of-life character study than anything else. However, this anime was never about the Kizuna System but about the Kiznaiver, hence the title. The Kizuna System was merely used as a backdrop to tell a story about humans, while the people were front and centre in Kiznaiver. We talked a lot about how it wasn’t subtle and overtly cheesy but it had an earnest message which it delieverd in a very human way. Kiznaiver was easily my favourite anime of the season, and one that deserved these write-ups. Its messages and characters resonated with me on a deep level. But what can I say? I really am a sucker for the friendship theme. Jokes aside, its colourful characters, great animation and art direction are what won me over. Kiznaiver is an extremely well-produced anime that left me very excited for whatever it is Hiroshi Kobayash, Mari Okada and Trigger are going to do next. In case you missed it, Studio Trigger’s next production will be a Little Witch Academia series. I’m beyond hyped for that.
These weekly write-ups have been a lot of fun and also - I have to admit - quite hard to write but I’m very glad I didn’t give up on them. I hope everyone who read these write-ups enjoyed them and I’m very grateful for everyone who read, recommended/liked, commented or just looked at the screenshots I took (A LOT of thought went into those). Thank you all very much.
Goodbye, Kiznaiver. I will miss you.
In one line: A satisfying and sweet conclusion.
PS: Leave it to Trigger to reference all their productions in one season.
Episode 11: We Have To Contact Each Other And Confirm Our Feelings. Because We’re Friends! - Airing June 18, 2016
Katsuhira’s emotional journey continues in this second to last episode. After meeting his old friends and finding out what has happened to them, he spends most of the time contemplating on what it actually meant when Sonozaki told him to get his pain back and how he must have treated his friends in his emotionlessness. He literally and figuratively hurt others with his not caring if he’s hurt and he’s facing up to his mistakes. Katsuhira’s development is beautifully staged and written, his attempts at feeling so sincere that the viewer can’t help but root for him and feel in his stead. It’s not just the characters that make Kiznaiver such an emotionally-laden anime. The music, art direction, framing and so much more all contribute to it. Furthermore, Kiznaiver always slips in that one line that just manages to take my breath away and makes me teary-eyed with its rawness and truth. Here’s my translation of the quote into English as I’m watching a German dub of the series:
How did I use to smile back then? Just as I was about to recall who I really was. I can’t remember, even though it isn’t that long ago...
It’s little lines and moments like these that make Kiznaiver such an emotional watch. Whether the viewer can relate to a particular quote that seems to cut deeper than anyone would have expected or laugh at the relaxed nature of the old substitute teacher, Kiznaiver manages to evoke many emotions and it deserves the highest of praise for finding the very delicate balance between emotionally heavy and light moments.
Kiznaiver, of course, isn’t without faults. While these faults stop it from achieving the greatness it could achieve, they don’t make Kiznaiver worse. In fact, some of them, like the sometimes cheesy monologues are true to the anime’s nature. Katsuhira found it visibly difficult to express the understanding he has come to. So why wouldn’t it sound cheesy and awkward? Wouldn’t it be stranger to have Katsuhira, an emotionally stilted character, suddenly bust out a Shakespearean soliloquy on friendship? Katsuhira is flawed. He’s trying his best to define emotions which are alien to him. I think everyone has had a moment when one wants to express oneself but can’t quite seem to find the right words for it. This was Katsuhira’s such moment and it was perfect in its faultiness and emotionality.
Yet, there is one glaring fault which Kiznaiver just doesn’t seem to be able to overcome and that is the forced star-crossed-ness of Sonozaki and Katsuhira’s relationship. My discontent largely stems from Sonozaki. I feel sorry for her, yes, but do I care about her? Do I understand her motives? Do I want her to be saved in the final episode? No, to be completely honest, I want to see Tenga and Nico, the two characters with the least screen-time, go on a date. Over the course of 11 episodes we met the core Kiznaiver group but unfortunately we haven’t met some of them as well as we ought to. Sonozaki, on the other hand, always remained too elusive, too distant to really care for. Finding a character interesting and liking a character are very different from another. Both types of characters can cease being interesting or relatable to viewers but an interesting character only remains interesting for so long. Interestingly, the other elusive and distant character in Kiznaiver managed the transition from interesting to relatable and likeable effortlessly.
This is the reason why the big cliff-hanger ending of this episode didn’t knock me out as much as it was designed to do. So Sonozaki is turning all of Sugomori City’s citizen into Kiznaiver, making it impossible for anyone to feel pain as the pain would be shared by all and divided into such small units of pain, that they can’t be felt anymore. But why? How will that help to turn the old Kizaniver back into who they used to be? The thing is, I’m less interested in seeing what Sonozaki is planning to do and more in seeing how Trigger will wrap this up in one last episode. I completely trust Trigger, who have been on a roll for the last few anime seasons, to deliver a great and satisfactory ending but I don’t know if they’ll achieve to make me care for Sonozaki. I still don’t want Kiznaiver to end though.
In one line: Katsuhira tries to get his freinds back by facing his emotions.
Episode 10: You Knew Very Well That Your Romantic Feelings Might Be Unrequited, Right? - Airing June 11, 2016
After 10 episodes, some of which very highly emotional, Kiznaiver has finally made me tear up. With the effects of last week’s falling out lingering, all the Kiznaiver are more or less going their separate ways. While some still try to make amends and hope to bring the group together or at least try to reconcile with their loved one, most of them are not ready to get back with each other yet. The wounds inflicted were too deep to simply go back to the way they were right now. The viewers can tell that everyone wants to be able to trust in each other again but it’s just too painful. Paradoxically for them, it’s a pain they all feel, yet cannot share. This first half carried with it an air of sadness and powerlessness, an indicator of things to come.
Based on some comments, tweets and talks, it seems the second half of this episode divides the reactions of its viewers. While some were unfazed by it, others - me included - were deeply moved. The interesting thing, though, is that the former’s unfazed-ness is addressed towards the Sonozaki reveal but Sonozaki having to shoulder the pain of 19 other Kiznaiver is not what made this episode so emotionally devastating. It is Katsuhira’s returning pain, the realisations he comes to and his subsequent cry.
Katsuhira has been emotionless all this time and, worse than that, let himself to be hurt by others because he couldn’t feel it anyway. His nonchalance towards his own well-being has lead him to disregard his physical and psychological pain. At the beginning of the anime, Chidori already told him that though he may not feel it, his friends very much do. Katsuhira was hurting others by letting others hurt him. At that time, we didn’t know how true this statement really was and thought it only foreshadowed the bonds between the core Kiznaiver group. However, as it turns out, the pain Katsuhira allowed to be inflicted on him was transferred to Sonozaki all this time. While he never actively sought the pain, he didn’t try to fight it either and lived with intense emotional traumata, all of which Sonozaki had to bear. When Katsuhira let out that wail, it was in part because of this realisation, yet it wasn’t the only emotional blow he received in this episode. In Katsuhira’s foggy memory his childhood friends and fellow Kiznaiver never had faces or name. The trauma was so severe, he couldn’t remember them even when he tried. With the help of his friends he now finally faced his past and was able to remember all his former friends, the feelings he had for Sonozaki as well as the pain they had to endure while being subjects of the Kizuna system. Confronted with a truth he tried to suppress and the shells of his former friends he breaks down. It’s a raw and powerful scene and the emotions depicted in it are very human. Yūki Kaji, Katsuhira’s VA, delivers a great performance here. The slow realisations, the emotions, the sighs, the breaths and the strangled wail made Katsuhira sound like a real person and made the emotionality of the scene even more devastating. Paired off with a subtle electronica score and beautiful direction, this scene is sure to leave its mark on viewers.
Sonozaki’s tragic past is revealed as well, yet it does not come with the same emotional heft as Katsuhira’s. She has always been too distant, her mindset and goals too elusive for the viewer to form a meaningful connection to her. Much like Tenga, many see her as another enemy figure, though as I mentioned in last week’s episode’s write-up, it really doesn’t do her justice. Still, hearing about her traumatic past just didn’t feel as heart-wrenching as Katsuhira’s pain because it was never meant to be. The revelation is not Sonozaki’s tragic past but Katsuhira’s. Sonozaki’s story is merely one of many means Katsuhira needed to fulfil Sonozaki’s wish and get his pain back.
Once the last scene ended, I felt rather devastated. I just sat there, Katsuhira’s cry still lingering in my ears and I think for the first time noticed what a great ED Kiznaiver has. A lot of people talk of its a-ha-ian OP, yet nobody every talks about its ED, “Hajimari no Sokudo” by Sangatsu no Phantasia, which you can listen to in its entirety here. Though, only talking about the ED now wouldn’t do the sound design of Kiznaiver justice. Kiznaiver’s score, sound design and voice acting all contribute to what makes this anime so good. Only two more episodes to go. I don’t want it to end yet.
In one line: Katsuhira gets his pain back.
Episode 9: It’s All Over... I Think - Airing June 4, 2016
The rain has stopped. It was on a rainy day that the Kiznaiver became friends a couple of episodes ago during the “Honoka arc.” When Honoka dropped her umbrella and let the rain wash over her, while the others returned from their swim in the ocean, they all became friends. But now the rain has stopped.
Watching Kiznaiver has become kind of like meeting a group of friends for me. A group of friend who don’t know I exist but that I’ve become very close to. I know some of you feel likewise. We’ve gotten to know these characters, we’ve come to laugh and we’ve come to cry with them. Though some characters still deserve more screen-time than they are given (Nico and Tenga deserve so much more), they were still given enough so we would deeply care for this group of character. Yet, I was not prepared for this and neither were the Kiznaiver.
This next evolution in the Kizuna system allowed the Kiznaiver to hear each other’s heart’s desire and it broke them. We, the viewers, were forced to idly sit by as we watch them break. The way this new stage in the Kizuna system has been set up made this emotional resonance many felt while watching possible. I’ve said it so often in my weekly write-ups but the people behind this anime deserve our respect for their expertise in crafting this story about human beings. Sometimes, it just so happens that the human heart breaks...
Ironically, while we were forced to watch, the other group of spectator’s was able to move our beloved characters like chess-pieces in their sick game. The reason behind the Kizuna system is as elusive and mysterious as ever and it’s supporters, including Sonozaki, are getting more and more obsessed with achieving their mysterious goal. Personally, I find it hard to symphatise with Sonozaki and was glad to see Tenga confront her. Tenga, and by proxy I, may do an injustice towards Sonozaki as she, too, seems to be nothing but a pawn to the Kizuna administration but the way she has treated the others, how she has kept them in the dark about certain truths makes Tenga’s reaction very understandable to me. Here is a character who will not stand for bullying or manipulating others no matter the reason, so naturally he will fight it. Man, now I’m hoping Tenga gets to confront all the smug people behind the Kizuna system. Let this be the end note of this week’s write-up: Tenga and Nico deserve more scren-time.
In one line: As the Kiznaiver’s hearts’ desires are revealed, the viewer’s hearts get broken.
Episode 8: Happy Times Don’t Tend to Last Very Long - Airing May 28, 2016
After successfully connecting physical and psychological pain, the Kizuna programme or system succeeded in connecting melancholy, a feeling that cannot be described as exclusively bad, nor good. This allowed them to go one step further and try to achieve the Kizuna programme’s main objective: connecting people through positive emotions.
The positive emotion they decided upon was none other than love and the test subject for it is the Kiznaiver group. Fans have long played the shipping game and now it’s the Kizuna admins turn to do so. As the adminds played cupid us lucky viewers got a handful of very cute results. Yuta’s genuine joy at being smiled upon by Honoka and Nico’s heart-melting bashfulness when a chivalrous Tenga called her cute made me grin from ear to ear. Nico and Tenga haven’t received as much screen time as the others and I hope they will get their time to shine soon but we have come to know Honoka and Yuta very intimately. This made their tender little moment all the more moving and emotionally laden.
Kiznaiver was never subtle about what it wants to achieve but they manage to make its main characters so appealing and intriguing, they manage to make their characterisation so believable and human that the viewers can’t help but feel drawn to them and feel with them. The viewers have become Kiznaiver as well, sharing the emotions the Kiznaiver group has, be it good, mixed or bad.
The episode ends with Katsuhira coming to Sonozaki’s rescue. Katsuhira harbours such deep feelings for Sonozaki that he can seemingly sense when she’s in danger. Like with every other two characters who are drawn to each other, viewers have long suspected that Katsuhira has feelings for Sonozaki and the characters, including Sonozaki herself, weren’t oblivious to it either as numerous reaction shots indicated. Sonozaki sees Katsuhira’s feelings as a way to make the Kizuna programme a success, something she is hell-bent on achieving. She knows about how he feels about her or more precisely, how he used to feel about her. We have been shown before that Katsuhira and Sonozaki have known each other as children and it was clear that it had something to do with the Kizuna programme, though what exactly remained unclear until this episode.
Katsuhira and Sonozaki were part of a Kiznaiver test group in which the Kizuna programme’s scientists conducted an experiment to connect positive emotions such as friendship and love between a group of eight children. We don’t know yet who those children are apart from Katsuhira and Sonozaki, as well as a girl who resembles Ruru (far left in the screenshot) - but I suspect the intentional resemblance is nothing but a red herring.
This episode answered a few questions about the Kiznaiver programme but also left others open and raised new ones. For instance, we still don’t know about Sonozaki’s intention. Why is she so focused on making the Kizuna programme a success? Who are the other children that were used as initial Kiznaiver and where are they now? What exactly happened back then?
In one line: More information on the elusive Kizuna programme (as well as the “secret” crushes the main characters harbour) are revealed.
Episode 7: A Battle Touching Upon the Identity of the Pain that’s Seven Times the Pain of One-Seventh of a Pain - Airing May 21, 2016
I admit, I’m a sucker for the friendship theme, so it’s not surprising that I am thoroughly enjoying Kiznaiver. The way Kiznaiver uses said theme resonates with me on a very deep level as it portrays my thoughts on friendship very closely. I didn’t expect to like Kiznaiver as much as I do, even though I was very hyped for it ever since it was announced. One of my favourite studios and one of my favourite anime-writers working together on an anime, how could I not be excited? Especially these last few episodes, let’s call it the Honoka arc, was almost perfect and justified the hype. Almost perfect because it still has some very melodramatic (and at times even cringe-worthy moments) but as Ruru said, that melodrama has a real emotional core.
As Honoka let go of her umbrella, allowing the rain to wash away her guilt, Kiznaiver finished the Honoka arc on a heartfelt and light note. No Trigger-like bombastic and crazy conclusion, but a calm shower of rain filled with emotionality and meaningfulness. Next, viewers will probably get to know Tenga or Nico better. We’ve still got a couple episodes to go but I already feel like I will miss these characters a lot once Kiznaiver finishes airing. The amount of characterisation these characters receive, will make it hard to say goodbye to them.
Another thing I want to address is Yuta’s run. It was awkward and perfect on so many levels. For once, the run did fit his character a lot but more than that, it was the first time he didn’t care if he came off as cool or not. He didn’t care if he embarrasses himself. His feelings for Honoka - whether they are romantic or not - made him overcome his own issues, even if it was just for a brief moment. I mentioned before that he initially seemed like your run-of-the-mill cunning and arrogant pretty boy who’s to cool to show any emotions but he’s far more complex and far more caring than that. All his life he has been reduced to his outward appearance, be it as an overweight child or a handsome young man and he longs for people to accept him for who he is, something Honoka immediately noticed. Their bonding feels absolutely natural and developed in such a way that makes it easily relatable to the viewers but without loosing any of its emotionality.
There’s something that I feel like I haven’t talked much about in these weekly write-ups and that’s humour. Kiznaiver effortlessly balances drama and humour in a way that only a handful of shows manage. Yuta’s run is a great example for this as it was humorous, yet meaningful. I don’t know if it’s Okada’s skills as a writer or the collaboration between her and Trigger that makes this perfect blend possible but everyone who is working on Kiznaiver deserves credit for their stellar work. Amidst the melancholy of this episode there were so many moments that had me laughing out loud and achieving that while still delivering a highly emotional and sad episode deserves respect.
In one like: An emotional conclusion to the great Honoka arc.
Episode 6: Nothing Good Comes From Being Around All of You - Airing May 14, 2016
Melancholia is a very elusive feeling. It’s hard to grasp and harder to explain to others. In fact, it is so hard to define that different languages have different concepts for it. There’s the German “Weltschmerz”, the Japanese “mono no aware” or the Portuguese “saudade.” In Kiznaiver it is simply called “a gloom in the stomach.” A definition that is as simple as it is effective.
This week’s episode took a closer look into Maki’s melancholy in what turned out to be a very insightful episode in every sense of the word. It not only gave us insight into Maki’s much alluded past but it showed once again how much insight Okada has into the human heart and soul. Though some of her writing can be very melodramatic and clichéed - this episode had a few corny lines, too - she can also write very realistic characters and drama. Pair off Okada’s writing with Kobayashi’s direction and one gets a story that is told as much through words as it is told through visuals. Most of Maki’s scenes in this episode convey her solitude like the header image for this write-up which has Maki in the middle of a white void or the scene when the Kiznaiver meet for noodles. While everyone is sitting together around a table, Maki is the only one to not sit with them but farther away, turning her back towards them.
Maki is haunted by the memories of her friend Ruru, who was the co-author of their hit one-shot manga and is apparently dead. Though we still don’t know what exactly transpired between Maki and Ruru we were given a couple of hints as to what may have happened. As we find out, their manga is about a student who falls in love with a teacher and Ruru jokingly refers to her and Maki’s author-persona as “sensei” (先生), a honorific used when addressing teachers. Then there is Maki’s off-hand remark to suicide a couple of episodes back. These hints might allude to Ruru having killed herself because her love of her sensei - in this case Maki - was unrequited. It would explain the extensive guilt Maki is carrying as well as why she blames herself for having “killed” Ruru. This is all purely speculation of course and we won’t know any of this for sure until next week. One thing that can be said with certainty though, is that Rina Satō - Maki’s seiyū - is delivering a career-best performance.
The last scene between Katsuhira and Sonozaki showed how much Katsuhira has grown. Due to the bonds of the Kiznaiver getting stronger they now share emotional pain as well as physical pain. This emotional pain is one Katsuhira can feel. It’s a new sensation and not a good one, thus he cannot fathom how someone can put people through such anguish. As much is evident when he tells Sonozaki that he despises her. It’s a shocking moment for Sonozaki as well as for the viewers but it’s also a moment which feels very natural to the character development Katsuhira has gone through until know. Through the Kizuna system he has learned that he is just as responsible for the feelings of others’ as he is for his own. This connection among people is what Sonozaki aims to achieve with the project but at the same time she alienates herself from the group. It’s obvious that Sonozaki is looking for a connection, too and it will be interesting to see how she will deal with the changed relationship between her and Katsuhira now.
To sum up, this episode was fantastic. It gave viewers information on the Kizuna system and its purpose, gorgeous visuals, music and animation and a lot of character development for its characters. If the team behind Kiznaiver can keep this level of quality up we’re in for a very special anime-viewing-experience. I called last week’s episode the most emotional to date and now I’m facing the problem of calling this episode that again, so please allow for a bolder statement.
In one line: Kiznaiver’s best episode yet.
Episode 5: Wahoo, It’s a Training Camp! Let’s Step in Deer Poop and Have Pillow Fights! Go, Go! - Airing May 7, 2016
Those familiar with Okada’s better work know how well she can write emotional scenes and this episode was Kiznaiver’s most emotional one yet. Before I go into detail about the writing and the emotionality of the anime, I want to remark on Trigger’s animation first. When Kiznaiver was announced there was some concern as to Trigger’s animation possible clashing with Okada’s character-driven writing (I mentioned this before) and now, as the anime is airing, some viewers are voicing complaints that Trigger’s eccentric animation not just contrasts but distracts from Okada’s work and the great character moments. It’s a criticism that is justified as Trigger’s anime are not for everyone. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that Okada’s writing is only benefitting from Trigger’s animation as well as the other way around. The writing and animation build each other up and work together to achieve the same goal, which is conveying an honest message on human connection. Trigger is not subtle, Okada can be very melodramatic. But who cares for that? Kiznaiver wears its heart on its sleeve. It has an important and timely message which it delivers in an honest and admittedly very eccentric way.
I recently went on a Twitter rant on how some Persona fans compare the emotional burdens the character in Persona 4 Golden carry to each other. The notion of comparing that is something I personally find quite ridiculous as personal issues are simply not comparable even if two people share the same issue. During Maki and Yuta’s talk I was reminded of my rant and even had the slight fear that some Kiznaiver fans might start comparing the emotional issues of the Kiznaiver with each other, declaring Maki’s one as the “best” issue. Luckily, this is not the case and part of that may be because by the end of the episode Kiznaiver made it clear that all personal matters matter. However, I absolutely understand Maki’s appeal and I find her to be very intriguing myself. With her expertly animated expressions and Rina Satō’s wonderful performance as her voice actress, Maki steals the show as soon as she appears.
Another highly emotional scene was when Chidori confronted one of Katsuhira’s bullies. I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming that the Kiznaiver are not only bound through physical but also emotional pain though in hindsight it was obvious given Kiznaiver’s not-so-subtle handling of its themes. Chidori’s emotional outburst touched the viewers and characters alike. Even the emotionless Katsuhira felt a feint pain in his heart which prompted him to finally stand up for himself as he couldn’t let the others suffer. He realised that he was being selfish as just because he doesn’t feel pain, it doesn’t mean that others can’t either. The character development in this episode was very natural and it feels like we are actually getting to know the characters. The characters and their issues feel real and human. This is something we as viewers shouldn’t take for granted, especially given the themes of Kiznaiver.
I praise Kiznaiver a lot, yet there is something that worries me. Regardless all the things it does very well, it still has no real plot. We’re almost half-way through and, apart from some cryptic hints, we still don’t know much about the Kizuna system or what the Kiznaiver’s ultimate purpose is and it feel’s like we’re moving at a snail’s pace. I’m afraid it might rush through the main plot in its last couple of episodes which would be a real shame given how great it’s music, animation and characters are. It’s not something I expect to happen, but it is still a concern that I felt needed to be addressed. With next week’s sixth episode we will reach the half-way point and maybe we’ll see some more development on the plot front line.
In one line: Kiznaiver’s most emotional episode to date.
Episode 4: Now That We’re All Connected, Let’s All Get to Know Each Other Better, ‘Kay? - Airing April 30, 2016
First off, I have to apologise for being so late this week. I’ve had quite a stressful week due to university but I finally had time to write this. Writing this is something I immensely enjoy, especially since it’s an anime as good as Kiznaiver, so let’s dig right in. Unfortunately, this episode had quite a few slips in its animation quality. It was nothing too serious but unfortunately one of those was during one of the series best and, I dare even say, rare subtle scenes. The scene in question is when Yuta and Honoka are having a conversation while waiting for the bus but more on this later as there’s something else I want to point out. Kiznaiver doesn’t treat its viewers as if they were stupid. Many mystery shows and films - not just anime - have very obvious solutions to supposedly big riddles that they solve in grand way. In Kiznaiver’s case this would be the identiy of little girl Katsuhira sees in his dreams. Everyone has already guessed as to her being Sonozaki and this episode revealed it in a very natural and not-obnoxious way. It’s something that is very rare and deserves props.
I mention the amazing music and the gorgeous art direction before, yet it’s not those moments but the little character moments that stay with the viewer. The moments Kiznaiver shines the brightest are when its characters have a heart-to-heart with each other and this episodes gives us two scenes where exactly this happens. The first conversation between Yuta and Honoka is very insightful. Yuta is designed to be the cunning, handsome but ultimately rather evil character, yet he shows a lot of sympathy towards Nico’s need for friends. As hinted in his conversation with Honoka, he’s surrounded with people who don’t care about personality, to whom only looks matter. I can imagine Nico’s words resonated within him, which prompted him to confront Honoka using his cunning wit.
The second one is between Chidori and Tenga. It’s another instance in which something obvious, in this case Chidori’s feelings for Katsuhira, is not dragged out for too long. Their conversation was heartfelt and lovely. The soft musical accompaniment further adding charm as Tenga decides to help Chidori, who is increasingly jealous of Sonozaki while Katsuhira continues to try to establish a connection with Sonozaki. He knows they are somehow connected to each other because of his dreams. To him, who has no interests in anything, not even himself, someone with a lack of emotions is sure to finally pique his interest. He has finally found someone he has something in common with, thus he attempts to form a connection with Sonozaki. While doing this, however, he fails to realise that others still have an interest in him. I mentioned last week that for Katsuhira it is simply inconceivable that others would form an interest in him, given that he has no interest in himself and I’m glad to see that Okada is not rushing through this defining character trait of Katsuhira. It may not be overtly subtle but it shows how much Okada knows people. At least, it’s something I can relate to.
I enjoyed this episode a lot due to the aforementioned character moments. It also advanced the plot further and gave the viewers some insight into the workings of the Kizuna System. The anime and its characters also keep hinting at a possible hidden agenda that Yoshiharu may have, though I personally doubt it’s more than a red herring but we’ll see. I’m excited for the next episode which fortunately is not too far away.
In one line: A - for Kiznaiver’s standards - discreet and insightful episode.
Episode 3: Depending on How You Look At It, I Think We Could Get Through Anything... Right? - Airing April 23, 2016
In this week’s fantastic episode we finally meet the seventh Kiznaiver, Yoshiharu Hisomu, a masochistic young man. Much like the characters, viewers were also curious to find out who he is and why he wears all those bandages. On a side note, with Yoshiharu and Bungou Stray Dogs’ Osamu Dazai wearing them, bandages seem to be very fashionable this season.
Apart from getting to know Yoshiharu, we also get more insight into the relationship between Katsuhira and Chidori, which is shaping up to be very complex and human. Their exchange at the beginning of the episode was Okada at her best, being both heartfelt and realistic. Chidori obviously still has feelings for Katsuhira but knows confronting him with it could hurt him, while Katsuhira doesn’t understand how anyone can be interested in him since he doesn’t care about him himself. Ironically, this reaction is exactly what Chidori tries to protect Katsuhira from. Many feared that Trigger might not be able to handle the more emotional and serious scenes of the anime, or that Trigger’s eccentricities would clash with Okada’s character-driven writing but this episode proved that they can blend together effortlessly. One thing that helps Kiznaiver achieve this connection are the fantastic character designs by Shirow Miwa (RWBY).
The character designs are very expressive and each character has their own look. The range of their expressions is quite stunning, perfectly fitting Kiznaiver, which is turning out to be an anime about people. That is incidentally my favourite type of anime. From goofy over-the-top reactions during funny scenes to rather subtle countenance, Trigger animates Okada’s characters in such a way that you can’t tear away your eyes from what is happening on the screen. The gorgeous art direction by Masanobu Nomura doesn’t hurt either.
The sins make a reappearance in this episode. While holding what seems to be a lecture on the Kizuna System, Sonozaki recaps the different sins:
- Katsuhira, the Imbecile
- Chidori, Goody Two Shoes
- Honoka, High and Mighty
- Yuta, the Cunning Normal
- Niko, the Eccentric Headcase
- Tenga, the Muscleheaded Thug
- Yoshiharu, the Immoral
The Kiznaiver being sinners is what made them eligible for the Kizuna System, not them being classmates as they themselves believe. According to Sonozaki, only those sinners are able to form a real connection. What is meant by that however, as well as if Kiznaiver’s seven deadly sins represent the cardinal vices remains as mysterious as ever. Speaking of mysterious, in last week’s episode Honoka Maki confessed that she killed someone but in this episode she brushed it off as a joke, which may or may not be true. Instead, she hints that her brokenness - as the girl in the morgue stated - and nasty personality are what she doesn’t want others to see. Later on in the episode, she makes a macabre foreshadow-y remark on suicide. All of this contradicts her sin, High and Mighty. She seems less like someone who sees herself above everyone else and more like someone who thinks so very little of herself that she might suffer from issues like self-loathing and low self-esteem. To me, she is the by far most intriguing character in the anime with a lots of hidden depths. I’m very excited to find out more about her back story as well as what the Kizuna System is actually about. With the Kiznaiver team complete, all pieces are set up for the main plot to get rolling.
In one line: The last Kiznaiver joins the group in a funny, weird and emotional episode.
Episode 2: If You Can Swallow a Bizarre Situation Like This So Easily, Two Buckets of Barium Shouldn’t Be a Problem - Airing April 16th, 2016
While the first episode focussed on Katsuhira, the second one introduces us to the other Kiznaiver. In Trigger’s typically less-than-subtle manner, the characters are forced to open up about themselves to the others. However, Kiznaiver’s premise alone screams out the central theme of the anime: human connection, or the lack thereof. Thus, viewers shouldn’t really hold it against the anime. Yes, it’s very blatant about what it wants to say, but isn’t it sometimes better to just flat out state what you have on your mind, than to have others guessing at what you could mean? The team behind Kiznaiver certainly seems to think so. Even so, the second episode isn’t as style over substance as the first one, though it still boasts of some great animation and lovely shots. Director Kobayashi’s use of wide shots putting the characters in the middle of expertly framed, yet empty scenes emphasises the central themes of solitude and separation, which - though not in the least discreet at all - are gorgeous to look at and achieve their aim.
We learn a bunch of new things about the cast members as they have to confess information about themselves that they least want others to know. Although most of it is just introductory tidbits and sadly some of them are played for laughs, the secrets allowed for a lot more insight into the characters. The episode build up Maki’s secret as the big one, yet Chidori and Katsuhira’s very heartfelt, though not surprising confessions completely stole the show. While I’m curious to hear about Maki’s secret, I highly doubt that she actively killed someone, but more that someone close to her died due to her mistake, thus she blames herself for their death. More intriguing is what was meant by the girl in the morgue calling Maki broken. Regarding the confession scenes as a whole, the way some were handled is unfortunately something to criticise. All confessions had the potential to be emotional and make us care more for the characters, but, as mentioned, some were merely used for comedic purposes. Yuta’s weight problems and Tenga’s fear of dogs, for instance, could have easily been used to explore different types of insecurity. It really is a pity that those were not elaborated upon, but given Okada’s track record and that we’re only at the 2nd in a total of 12 episodes, I hold out hope that the anime will explore personal issues like those or at least similar ones in future episodes.
Apart from getting to know the other Kiznaiver better, the second episode also gave the viewers some hints as to the reasoning behind the creation of the Kiznaiver system. As the old man at the beginning vaguely stated, the Kiznaiver programme will open up the way to Sugomori, the town in which “everyone smiles together”. As Sugomori is the name of the fictional town in which Kiznaiver takes places, the precise meaning behind the man’s words is quite unclear. The actual purpose of the Kizuna programme as well as what kind of missions the Kiznaiver will have to complete and how they are going to complete them are also still unknown. On a side note, it’s all but confirmed that the girl at the beginning of the first episode is Sonozaki, as she alludes to having known Katsuhira from before and greatly resembles the girl from the first episode. It will be interesting to find out who she and Katsuhira and what the Kiznua programme really are.
All in all, this was a great follow-up episode, which toned down the style (a little) in order for a little more substance. I still have no idea where the plot is going and, to be frank, I’m loving it.
In one line: A fantastic second episode that introduces the other Kiznaiver to the viewers and gives us some hints as to what is going on, while still keeping us guessing.
Episode 1: Sometimes, a Bond can Bloom from the First Day Eye Contact is Made - Airing April 9th, 2016
Produced by Trigger and written by Mari Okada, who wrote the much beloved Anohana, Kiznaiver quickly became my most anticipated anime of the spring season and boy, did it live up to the hype. With it’s vivid colours, great animation and general weirdness, the directorial debut of Hiroshi Kobayashi - who worked as an episode director on Kill la Kill - reminded me more of Gatchaman Crowds than of Trigger’s previously produced anime, which is not a bad thing as Kiznaiver still has the makings of another great Trigger anime.
The first episode did a brilliant job setting up the main plot and introducing viewers to Katsuhira. We have had many emotionally-detached protagonist before, but never one who is literally detached from his emotions. It will be interesting to see how he will interact with his fellow Kiznaivers. While we only briefly got to meet said fellow Kiznaivers, they will most likely prove to be very deep and complex characters if Okada’s prior work is any indication. Particularly interesting is how the implication that the Kiznaivers represent the seven deadly sins will come into play further along the story if it does at all. Okada is known for letting her characters suffer from some inner darkness which the sins could easily represent as a form of personal issue that the characters might have to face, though this is purely speculation on my part and I’m curious to read other’s speculation in the comments below.
Kiznaiver boasts of Trigger’s trademark production including a great soundtrack composed by Yuki Hayashi (Haikyuu!!) which manages to capture the futuristic setting as well as the mood of the first episode. The animation is fluid and while it has Trigger’s typically over-the-top reaction animations, it never feels out of place in an otherwise rather serious anime. Most strinking to me, however, was Kiznaiver’s use of colour.
In a conversation I had with Nomadic Dec, he summed up Kiznaiver’s art direction perfectly:
“Kiznaiver is literally as subtle as a smack to the face, but manages to suggest, once again, that style over substance isn’t always worse. In fact, it can be absolutely stunning”
Indeed, the use of, for instance, icy blue for an emotionally cold character is far from subtle but it makes for a beautiful and very effective shot as the image above proves. The lush colour palette Kiznaiver uses is gorgeous to look at and, while not exactly discreet, accomplishes to give the anime a distinct look.
Kiznaiver gave us a promising first episode and I’m very eager to find out where the plot is heading. An original anime is always worth your time, espacially one as interesting and beautiful as this one.
In one line: An intriguing and stylish first episode that will certainly leave viewers wanting more.
Kiznaiver is produced by Trigger and airing during the spring 2016 anime season. The original anime is the directorial debut of Hiroshi Kobayashi and was written by Mari Okada. The series will run for one cour, totalling 12 episodes.
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