Yes, yes, what have I been doing with my life all this time instead of watching Kiznaiver, it came out back in 2016! Greetings, people of the blogosphere! Maybe because I’m on a manga/webtoon roll, or maybe because the previous season was so full of gems that, subconsciously, I feel burned out. But I have a hard time sitting through anime lately. I also have a long list of series that I should be finishing, and I try my hardest not to make eye contact with the ‘Watching’ section on my Anilist. Surprisingly, I managed to finish this one in a couple of days, and I had some thoughts, so I wanted to put a post together.
Kiznaiver is about a couple of classmates, 7 to be exact, who aren’t on talking terms. Two of them, Katsuhira and Chidori, are long-time friends but the rest barely know each other. But it’s natural, you know. Everyone knows that there are smaller friend circles in classes according to interests, and they don’t necessarily mingle.
Katsuhira is our apathetic protagonist and it’s partially caused by him not feeling physical pain. When he’s bullied out of his pocket money, he barely resists the beating and Chihiro is always the one who gets mad on Katsuhira’s behalf. The days feel like they’ll go on by just fine, when these classmates I talked about with no common ground or interest whatsoever, are gathered and become a part of the Kizuna System. All now have scars on their bodies that connect their sense of pain and have to get through certain missions throughout the summer break if they want to break free from this suddenly imposed ‘connection’.
The purpose of the Kizuna System is to have people feel the pain of others that they are connected to achieve a peaceful community. This is one of those ideas that make sense at first glance but you immediately figure out that it’ll go wrong. It wasn’t even the end of the first episode, and I remember thinking “But isn’t it conditioning, like Pavlov’s experiments?”. But then, aren’t we all conditioned to behave in certain ways? Does this connection mean you are suddenly friends even if you don’t know the other person’s favorite color or birthday? Are you really friends even if you do know those tidbits? Is it also possible to feel the pain of your friend who’s been longing for your affection ever since? Kiznaiver navigates through topics like human connection, self-acceptance, and the significance of pain in our lives.
I don’t expect a series to have resolute answers to grand questions. I’m more than fine with just portrayals of different situations that may arise around the core idea, and certainly okay with open endings. I know it’s frustrating for a lot of people when their favorite couple doesn’t end up holding hands explicitly, or the protagonist they’ve been cheering on for 12 episodes doesn’t reach a point they’ve been aiming for. Of course, I’m not exactly talking about leaving things hanging in the air, but not reaching a destination doesn’t necessarily make me think badly of a series or frustrate me. If the series can evoke feelings, keep me engaged, and make me ask questions about the idea episode after episode, then that’s enough for me. When watching Kiznaiver, my mind was constantly occupied with the ideas the series offered, playing around with them like the Rubick’s cube, and a lot of them were addressed by one character or the other in the following episodes. Kiznaiver might not be the grand, philosophical piece that’ll have you stare at your ceiling for three consecutive nights, but it raises important questions nevertheless.
Production-wise, it’s solid through and through. But well, nothing less from Trigger. I loved the stylization of the movement, the colors, the gestures, everything. Usually, the most obvious ways to differentiate characters are their physical appearances (duh) and voices (duh x2). In Kiznaiver, characters are all so different from each other in terms of their body language and mannerisms that you could have them look precisely the same, yet you’d still be able to point out who is who just from the way they sit. You can further see it in the way they stand or the way they run, and it’s just a marvelous thing to watch. Not only that, but the difference shows itself in the way the characters are deformed when they react, too. One of them stretches out when another becomes rounder and cuter, reflecting their respective characteristics. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into this.
The background designs are nothing less than splendid either. And overall I found Kiznaiver to be visually striking. The recurring symbol X is used throughout the series in various places and instances. We see it as the scars that bound the kids together; but also in city plans, bridges, or even in close-ups that may seem irrelevant at first like these:
X as a scar is a very straightforward association. Most of us would think of Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin and immediately remember the scar on his face. Besides representing a scar, X can also signify a mark. A sign that something is there, at that specific point, like a hidden treasure on a map. And, if I take it a step further, maybe it’s a sign of something that’s longing to be found. While I can only speculate on the creator’s intentions, this secondary association aligned nicely with the message Kiznaiver wanted to relay.
If you prefer stories that focus on character development, though, this one might not be for you. One of the criticisms that I came across on Kiznaiver is that we don’t see characters go through a big change. They are not exactly the same after they are done with the experiment, but it’s not that significant either. This is true, but I think the series benefit from choosing a focal point, in this case, it’s the system and the connection between the characters and not jamming their development into 12 episodes that are already packed with ideas, flashbacks, and incidents. Maybe the manga covers that aspect, I don’t know. But trying to achieve too much in too little space ends up rushed and you end up not doing justice on neither side of the story.
To sum things up, Kiznaiver managed to make me stare at my screen and not think I could be doing something else right now. It’s fun, full of lovable and exciting characters, beautiful cityscapes, and while there are things I could point out and criticize, my experience was a positive one overall. My favorite characters were Nico and Honoka!
Have you seen or read Kiznaiver? What did you think about it? If you haven’t seen it, I hope my review managed to do it justice. Thanks so much for tuning in and see you soon!
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