Kiznaiver

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

This show tries to be so many different things. While dealing with the philosophical and psychological, it is at times comedy, drama, action, and finally, romance. There are some interesting parts of this show, then there are some ordinary parts. I think this inability to truly be one thing, or at least to stick to what works for it, causes this series to be a bit of a miss. While it is attention-grabbing and goes by really fast, it ends with you feeling not much at all. But maybe that was the point!

Characters

Rating: 6

The writers made a lot of effort to make these characters all very different and individually distinct. Whether it’s Katsuhira’s listlessness, Chidori’s tsundere outbursts, Tenga’s tough-guy attitude, Honoka’s withdrawal from society, or Yuta’s cool act, all the characters are quite intentionally very different. Hell even Nico and Hisomu are different kinds of crazy. They make quite a point of that initially, as Sonozaki refers to the seven participants as “the seven deadly sins.” I can’t make sense of this analogy. If it’s just a reference to the series The Seven Deadly Sins (Katsuhira’s VA is Melodias from said series), then it seems rather pointless. Perhaps it’s to highlight the distinctiveness of each character while saying they’re all similar in some important way. If that’s the case, I can understand it a little more, since even late in the show someone points out that while they’re all different, they all share something very similar (I forget who points that out…probably Honoka in her depression). They could have done a lot more with this in regards to the characters, but instead it just kind of ended up being what it was, and they never did much with it.

While distinct, and certainly somewhat memorable, none of these characters really stand out. They’re memorable for a lot of different reasons. By that I mean each character has a different reason he or she is memorable. Like in Nico’s case, we’re introduced to her quirky behavior right away, and not very long after that we see her trying to summon fairies as a school official wonders what she’s doing, and she hollers out her response to him in her overly enthusiastic and crazy manner. Same kind of thing with the other crazy person, Hisomu. It’s kind of a mystery who he is, or why the original six keep feeling these light pains from an unknown source. Then once we find out, it totally makes sense and makes you kind of laugh. It just had to be a masochist, didn’t it? In a group that shares each other’s pain, of course one of them would have to be one that enjoys inflicting pain on himself. Similarly, Tenga is a brute, and likely enjoys inflicting pain on others. Physical pain, I should add. Sonozaki is memorable because ultimately everything kind of ends up being about her. Chidori is memorable because her pain is probably most accessible to most people. Honoka’s situation is probably the saddest, but the most difficult to understand. So they all have some defining feature.

But none of these features amount to much more than that. The characters mostly continue to exhibit these traits as the show progresses, but they also tend to break character a little bit more often than I’d like. For example, Katsuhira becomes emotional, Tenga softens a little, Nico becomes a little less zany, and Honoka warms up to the human race a little. Even Sonozaki loses her cold determination. While I could make the argument that this is done intentionally by the author, trying to make the characters more “connected” through this changing behavior or some such thing, I don’t think it’s done intentionally. I think they just break character, and that lessens their individual quality a bit.

I do like that we don’t have a bazillion characters. Beyond these seven and Sonozaki, there’s three adults who don’t play a huge role, and a couple of thugs that appear and disappear for comic effect. Usually a limited number of characters allows for good character development. And we get some of that for sure, I just think it could’ve been a little better. Sure Honoka’s story is heartfelt, and you understand what Chidori feels. But there isn’t a ton to any character’s backstory. Even Katsuhira and Sonozaki’s past is fairly easily explained, and feels a little contrived at that.

So while memorability is a big factor in anime characters, and this succeeds at that, the characters all seem to be lacking just a little. If there’s ever a second season, it might be interesting to see how I react to seeing these guys again, and how the writers choose to use them.

Artwork

Rating: 5

I don’t quite know how to react to this artwork. I guess it’s trying to find itself as a sci-fi style artwork. The often crazy colors, the unrealistic hair, and the scar-like kizna markings give it that feel. I can’t quite think of an anime that has similar artwork. I could throw Darling in the Franxx out there, but it’s not quite like that. Some people will say Kill la Kill, and while I don’t really see that here, I understand why you might think that. They are from the same studio (which would explain those quirky, individualistic characters!). Cowboy Bebop is in a league of its own, but I guess you could make the case that this art is kind of in that vein. So yeah, I’m throwing out other sci-fi names there. It’s in that style, or kind of.

It’s not ever super pretty. I don’t just mean the girls or anything like that. They’re all attractive. Sonozaki almost looks like Esdeath from Akame ga Kill sometimes; could just be a coincidence with blue hair and the details of her hairstyle and the choker. I mean it’s just not very attractive somehow, and doesn’t seem to really do anything for the show. Initially I think the extensive shadowing, etc., adds to the mystery a little bit. But as I said initially, this show tries to be so many different things, any effect of this kind feels misplaced. It just ends up being kind of ordinary. Even the kizna markings are unremarkable. The glowing marking thing is pretty cliche at this point, and while being cliche isn’t a terminal condition for an anime, you have to be careful with it when using it. If you’re not, it ends up being…cliche, and nothing else.

So while the art is nicely drawn (as expected from this studio), it doesn’t really do anything for me. Could be better.

Story

Rating: 3

Okay, let’s see. This is a sci-fi tale about an “experimental” city where the goal is to make everyone aware of each other’s pain so they’ll get along and we can achieve world peace, and to do that we do experiments on children to connect their feelings of physical pain in hope of connecting their feelings of emotional pain in hopes of connecting their minds and hearts, and while we do that they all end up falling in love with other members of their test group and this makes them experience a lot of strong emotions and shit, and so they try to all become friends and don’t really, but sort of do, but when there’s lots of love triangles and such people don’t easily become friends, but then really all that matters is that Katsuhira’s always been in love with Sonozaki, so he’ll pain Chidori to no end since she’s in love with him, and eventually Katsuhira and Sonozaki can be together and they ever live after happily. Yeah.

This show starts mysteriously and interestingly with the character introductions, which happen really rapidly, all within the first episode I think (Hisomu excepted, but it doesn’t take him long to appear either). It twists and twines, and though you can follow it (obviously), it loses you at some point. It ends up being a little trite. Ultimately it’s about Katsuhira and Sonozaki’s relationship, but then it also seems like it’s all about everyone’s “connection” to the other and how they experience friendship. It’s all too much at once. It’s not that it’s confusing, just that it doesn’t have any direction. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

Overall: 5

This show dives into an old philosophical question regarding pain. It is a complicated matter, one not suited to this forum. I will simply say that it is not wrong for the authors to take this into the area of human connection and friendship and even love. But being a complicated topic, the authors lose control of it a little bit, and it kind of wildly flails about throughout the series, not adding anything extra but impossible to ignore. While philosophically interesting, in untrained hands this ends up being a simple appeal to the philosophical, drawing on an interesting area but not using it to its full potential. I’ll leave it at that.

Briefly, the inability to feel is an interesting literary device. We tend to associate that with heartlessness, whether we’re talking about physical pain or otherwise. And while the writers touch on that with Katsuhira, they again don’t do much with it. I was waiting for Katsuhira to snap or something. But it never happened. He more or less was shown to have a heart, but then again he never really seemed to be without it anyway. He’d always loved Sonozaki.

That’s another clever thing that was underutilized. Katsuhira feels no pain, and Sonozaki feels everybody’s pain. This could have been at the heart of everything if the writers were a little more careful. They could have stuck to it more rigidly too. Like, Katsuhira can obviously feel the shared pain that comes from the others, but he doesn’t feel his own pain, even when it’s transmitted to others. Later he acts like he’s never felt pain before, despite feeling it from his kizna connections, and before that when he was a child. It’s poorly handled. But what I’m saying is that if the writers had handled Katsuhira’s condition better, it could have made perfect sense for him to fall in love with the person who feels everybody’s pain. Although, as we find out, it’s not just his pain that was taken, but multiple people’s So there’s lots of people out there who could have fallen in love with Sonozaki at that rate. Just a big mess and a big miss in my opinion.

I mentioned this show trying to be too many different things. That ultimately detracts from its quality. There are some really funny moments in this show. Some of the dialogue, particularly early on and in the middle, will really get you laughing. While I’m speaking of dialogue, there are also moments where you feel like you can almost predict what the character is going to say. I felt like this might be something that the writers were using to make either the characters or the viewers feel more connected, but this disappeared as the show progressed. There are moments that are supposed to feel really sad. Honoka’s situation is beyond doubt extremely sad. Having made a friend, and having found a niche for herself, Honoka becomes afraid and distances herself from her friend, who then dies soon afterward. Without doubt intended to make you feel for Honoka and add a heavy sad element to the show. There are sci-fi moments, like at the beginning when on their first “mission” and Sonozaki is buzzing the seven with electric shocks (which Katsuhira can’t feel but they can!). The show explores friendship, and how the seven individuals, and even Sonozaki herself, react to it. There are powerful thematic moments, like at the end where Katsuhira has to climb the drawbridge to reach Sonozaki, and the scenery is really interesting. Finally, there’s romance, and the developing relationships among the seven, and ultimately between Sonozaki and Katsuhira. So there’s a lot of genre going on there. And that detracts from the show. It tries to be good at all of these things, almost in equal amounts, but ends up not being very good at any of them. If anything, the comedic elements of this show are the best thing about it, and I doubt that was the creators’ intent. This all adds confusion, making you unable to focus on any particular feeling. That doesn’t help this show.

Overall, I wanted to like this show. The episodes were pretty engaging, and I literally finished this in a half day plus. But beyond being engaging and the characters being kind of funny, it didn’t really become great. It ended up being average when it could have been so much more. Watch it for some laughs and some elementary exploration of the problem of pain, but don’t expect too much from it.

6 thoughts on “Kiznaiver

  1. I am with you. Kiznaiver had potential but ultimately ended up being fairly forgettable because it just didn’t manage to really focus. Enjoyed reading your review.

    Like

    1. It has lots of potential. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, but it definitely could be better. I don’t doubt people enjoy it, as it deals with the philosophical topic I mentioned, and you don’t see it explored in quite this way in many places. It fits well with anime, just didn’t quite become what I’d hoped.

      Liked by 1 person

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