Kiznaiver (Series Review)

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Kiznaiver is a show with good production values. Compared to a lot of other studios, Trigger really hasn’t been around too long since its inception in 2011 as a result from the little Gainax disbanding, but the animators there certainly know what they are doing. The character designs for Kiznaiver are sharp and appealing, but it’s even better that the fluid, confident animation is there to back them up. In other words, Trigger managed to continue its penchant for quality visuals, and even threw in an excellent opening theme this time. The directing for this science fiction story is also quite good, with character framing being incredibly important considering the moments of talking heads. The writing is another story though, because while it’s still not a terrible script, it never quite gets to the point of becoming spectacular and instead seems to just run in circles.

The premise for Kiznaiver is incredibly contrived, where there are a group of high school kids each with seemingly no commonalities who are thrust into a situation where they can now all feel each other’s physical pain. If one person gets hit in the head, the whole group can feel some sort of distribution from the pain in question. Once this is set into motion, the kids all unearth many different insecurities and past troubles in an attempt to cope with the new Kiznaiver project that connects them in a very direct way. At this point the story isn’t too bad, although it is fairly expected. The characters bicker and fight, but in order to manage the situation, they might just have to become friends. This is where the script starts to edge a little too much on the side of melodrama.

While each character has a distinct personality, there are two specific characters that fulfill the plot explanation necessities.  The protagonist is a boy named Katsuhira who has ash-white hair and seems near void of emotion, like he could be a distant cousin of Rei Ayanami. However, Kznaiver has its own blue-haired icey heroine, and her name is Noriko. Like Katsuhira, she is also very “low-energy” so to speak, and this isn’t a coincidence. As the plot goes on, it makes many different discoveries into the pasts of these characters which are certainly interesting, but just not very original. If you have been watching anime for a decent amount of time, you know the rundown of shady, scientific –experiment-based corporations. The character for Noriko in particular is really heavy-handed, but at the same time there is a little grace in that there is still something inside Noriko that is holding back because of her circumstance. Unfortunately, focusing back on Katsuhira is not as interesting, because even though he isn’t a stand-in character, he mostly just unfolds the plot points.

Don’t forget though that Katsuhira and Noriko are not the only characters, because there are five others within the Kiznaiver group that have their own issues to work out. This might be one of the problems with the show, because this is a relatively full cast for a twelve episode series, especially considering the themes that it wants to cover about truly being able to connect with people. Overall, the plot moves at a decent pace, but because of the limited time in conjunction with the amount of characters and problems, subtlety is thrown out the window. The characters have enough quirks to be endearing (for at least some of them) but that doesn’t mean it’s a great experience to sit around and watch them blurt out long pieces of dialogue spelling out their emotions over and over again. One of the better of these characters is Niko, the bubbly one with multicolored hair. The workings behind her establish that she is purposefully trying to play the wacky character (even though supposedly deep down she isn’t), but the show doesn’t dwell on this concept as much, and she isn’t as bitter as everyone else. She’s more fun to hang out with than the rest of them. There’s also a boy named Yoshiharu who is a masochist in a very “anime” sense, and he seems pretty cool at first, but the writing decides that he has to also spout some random emotional lines when he is not even involved directly with the situation at hand. It’s a little forceful and out of character.

At first I thought Kiznaiver was going to be a lot more ambitious overall, even with the characters aside, but it didn’t really go anywhere. The concept behind the shared pain seemed like it would be a direct metaphor for the collectivist society that is the country of Japan, but it certainly didn’t go in that direction. There is enough intrigue and great animation to make Kiznaiver worth watching in the end, but it still missed the mark.

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