A Pretentious Anime Review: Kiznaiver
What's Kiznaiver About?
Kiznaiver is the story of seven socially incompatible individuals who get abducted and forced into becoming a part of an experiment called the "Kizna System". The idea is that whenever one of the seven feels pain, the pain is evenly distributed between all of them rather than focused on a single individual. In an attempt to test their cooperation skills, the kidnappers put them through a series of obstacles which, as expected, causes them great turmoil. However, the viewer will slowly realize why this experiment came to be in the first place and it's likely the most interesting part of the series. Think about this: the reason why some people don't feel guilty when they do awful things to someone is likely because it doesn't hurt the attacker. If people started feeling the impact of their actions, what would happen? You wouldn't hurt someone if you'd feel the pain too, would you? These scientists were obsessed with this thought and believed that they could achieve world peace by forcing everyone to feel each others pain. Obviously, it's absolutely nuts and would never work, but it's still an interesting thought.
In short, the plot itself is interesting enough to think about, however, the execution is far from what anyone expected. What could have been an interesting study of human nature became an exhausting melodrama with little to offer in the end.
A Story That Makes You Think?
In all honesty, Kiznaiver wasn't a very good show. It's execution was too sloppy and it had too many problems. It was hard to enjoy in a lot of cases, and certain parts were pointlessly dumb.
However, 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.
The real question, however, is what did the show do with its plot? Well, in short, the show took itself in the most boring direction possible. A stupidly complex love story with the occasional twist. 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 illogical 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 was disappointing in the end. The direction of the series towards the finale sucked ass and the ending pisses me off immensely.
Many people praise Kiznaiver's "colorful" cast of characters and many claim they love 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, that's agreeable.
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 characters.
The shows cast is full of tropes no matter how you look at it. 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 know that's obvious. 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 poorly done thing the show had to offer. 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. Scratch that, there was a reason... to further "develop" the writers plot. 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 on 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 a melodrama 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 makes you wonder if you should laugh or if you should take it seriously.
The problem is that there are specific scenes that seriously stand out from the rest. A few parts will make your skin crawl and you'll feel goosebumps all over your body. Unfortunately, the immersion quickly breaks when something stupidly silly happens which ruins a huge part of the experience.
Kiznaiver shines every once in a while but for the most part watching it is about as frustrating as reading this review. 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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