A Pretentious Anime Review: Kiznaiver
Why do we hurt each other? Have you ever walked by a couple on the street, bickering and arguing, and suddenly wondered why people are so keen on making each other suffer? Why is it that we feel so frustrated seeing someone get viciously angry in an argument, yet when we’re actually a part of a similar argument, we feel justified to do so? Why is it that when we witness conflicts revolving around things we deem insignificant, we think people are ultimately petty, yet we have arguments equally as petty all the time? Why is it that we feel so frustrated when someone talks behind our backs, yet we tend to do the same to others? These are the common hypocrisies which are the unfortunate circumstances of not being able to truly understand each other. Everyone thinks differently, feels differently, loves different, and hates differently. You can’t expect to know everything that’s going on in someones head, and trying to base your friendships, conflicts, and discussions on assumptions like this will no doubt cause trouble.
But… what if we could? What if we could understand everything that someone thinks and feels. If we could get so impossibly close to someone, would we ever argue? Would we ever hate each other? I mean, how could we? If someone is basing their arguments on certain emotions that we can ALSO feel, how could we disagree? We can’t really agree, either, but when we manage to understand them on such a fundamental level, it’s hard to know what exactly would happen between us.
How about we take this a step further: What if everyone in the world could feel every bit of physical and emotional pain together. Would there be no wars? No conflicts? World peace? This may seem a bit ridiculous, but it’s the main idea of Kiznaiver.
Unfortunately, however, this idea is only cool on paper. What could have been an excellent character study turned out to be no more than a melodramatic trainwreck with very few redeeming qualities.
The thought of what Kiznaiver was trying to accomplish and the original ideas it had are still intriguing. It's incredibly interesting to think about what would happen if a group of people did share their pains, and if done with better direction, it could have been a fantastic anime.
Unfortunately, however, the show takes itself in the most boring direction possible. It's got a stupidly complex love story with an occasional twist. It focuses on certain characters and leaves others in the dust. Some have nice arcs while some don't even get arcs. Maki got a very long arc yet Niko got absolutely nothing, and not only did Niko get absolutely nothing, she got development that was based around her unexplained love for another character. It can't help but feel like Kiznaiver would have done much better if it were longer. It's hard to develop that many characters in 12 episodes and that was the biggest problem I had. However, it does a pretty okay job of developing the characters it favors. Maki's and Katsuhira's backstories are the best parts of the show. It's sad to think that we could have gotten an interesting backstory on five of the other characters if the creators thought to lengthen the series. Disregarding the mini-arcs, the plot itself is unsatisfactory towards the finale. The direction of the series towards the end wasn't as interesting as I had hoped, and the way they executed the final minutes is probably the worst part of it all.
A friend of mine praised Kiznaiver's "colorful" cast of characters and claimed they loved how different they are from one another and how much variety the creators put into them to make them stand out from each other.
Sure, I can agree.
Kiznaiver is full of contrasting characters, I didn't find a moment where I thought any character was similar and that's a very important part of the story. All seven are supposed to be incompatible or else this experiment wouldn't work the way the scientists hoped. However, them being different from one another does not make them good.
The cast is full of tropes. They may be different from each other and they may vary in personalities but they never stray outside of their tropes. They're trapped inside of their stereotypes and almost all of their actions are unsurprisingly predictable. Some characters got developed but even then a majority of the characters were never touched upon. Trigger plays favorites with their cast and anyone who watched the show would understand that. Specific episodes were made developing Maki and Katsuhira, yet not a single second was spent developing Hisomu. He was comedy relief and poor comedy relief at that. To make matters worse, the romance between the characters was the most frustrating aspect of the anime. The creators just forced every character to fall in love with each other in an attempt to create drama. There's absolutely no basis to these feelings and the characters seem to think "it was obvious that they were in love with you" yet none of it is noticeable besides from Chidori's obvious love for Katsuhira. The characters have their moments and they're entertaining to watch, but as soon as the drama starts it all turns into bullshit.
Kiznaiver displays copious amounts of drama that originates from nothing logically sound. Characters will do things for no obvious reason, which creates problems that favors the writers ongoing story. Similar to what I said early, the forced romance induces forced drama which in turn ruins the show. There are a lot of moments where a character will start a conflict because of their "love" for someone which in most cases, makes no sense. Tenga hated Katsuhira because of what he "did" to Chidori and at first it made sense but even after hearing all about Katsuhira's backstory, he was still pissed off for no obvious reason. There's also how Niko was so sad about Tenga loving Chidori even though there's is absolutely no reason for Niko to love Tenga. It is never explained and Niko went so far as to take drastic actions based on something that was never developed. How does that make sense? One episode Niko wasn't in love with anyone, next episode she was full blown in love with Tenga. The only parts of the romance that felt justified was Chidori loving Katsuhira, and Katsuhira loving Noriko. I would also count Yuta's fixation with Maki but that seemed more like lust than love in my eyes. It feels like Trigger really wanted every character to have a romantic interest so they just forced the romance onto everyone else. It was baffling and without a doubt one of the most annoying parts of the show.
You're probably thinking, "people do overly-dramatic shit for stupid reasons all the time"
This is true, however, if you ask any of these people they will always give you a reason. If you ask anyone in love, they will always give you a reason. Even if it's a stupid reason or over simplified, it's still what drives them. Kiznaiver makes absolutely no attempt to show or tell us why certain characters do the things they do, or why certain characters love the people they love. For some characters, you can deduce reasoning behind their actions, but for others you might as well guess.
Kiznaiver is beautifully illustrated and the soundtrack is likable, as expected of Trigger. Character designs look much different from your typical anime and the art-style itself feels much different than typical Trigger titles (which is what a lot of anime studios struggle accomplishing)
Also, the opening is fucking fantastic.
Kiznaiver felt like it was doomed from the start. When you look at a studio like Trigger and consider the idea of them making a science fiction drama, it seems a bit insane. If you've ever seen a Trigger anime, you would know that they're usually full of the most ridiculously goofy content in the industry. The titles that come out of Trigger are usually never meant to be taken seriously with the exception of shows like Kill la Kill, but even that wasn't serious most of the time.
Kiznaiver tries it's best to retain those goofy elements that made me like Kill la Kill, but it just doesn't work out well. It's hard to sit through a really dramatic scene and then half a minute later something unbelievably silly happens. It's seriously risky to mix drama with over the top goofiness and expect it to work out well. Some animes like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann do this very well, but it's a rare occurrence. In the end it feels like the creators of this show clashed with creative differences and had no idea what they wanted it to be. It often made me wonder if I should laugh at something or if it should be taken seriously.
There are specific scenes that seriously stand out from the rest. A few parts made my skin crawl and I felt feel goosebumps all over my body. Unfortunately, the immersion quickly breaks when something stupid happens.
Kiznaiver shines every once in a while but for the most part watching it was frustrating. It had moments where it seemed like it could be great but in the end it disappointed me beyond belief. The stupid drama, nonsensical romance, and underdeveloped characters took away any semblance of enjoyment that was present. For the most part, it's still worth a watch simply because the parts that shine happen to shine very brightly. The comedy is enjoyable and the characters spasms are always fun to watch, but once it gets to the drama it's usually unbearable. Kiznaiver would have worked better as a goofy slice of life rather than the melodramatic train wreck it became. Either that, or the writers at least trying to fix their mistakes especially since this show had an insane amount of potential.
I give Kiznaiver a 3 out of 10
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