Mid-Season Review: KIZNAIVER

Monday, May 30th, 2016

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Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers from the first seven episodes of KIZNAIVER. You have been warned.

KIZNAIVER | Title card

It’s always interesting to learn where the original ideas for beloved stories come from; it’s a common question for creators during interviews, and can range from childhood experiences, to academic interests, to virtually anything a creator finds inspiring.

However, rarely do you find a story whose premise is based on wordplay.

KIZNAIVER | Drawbridge

Kizu is a Japanese word that translates to “wound” or “scar”. Kizuna translates to “bond” or “connection.” And there you have the premise for KIZNAIVER. It’s a series about a group of high school students who are given a connection called the Kizuna System, which causes any pain endured by one of them to be split evenly between them all.

It’s animated by Studio Trigger, the same studio behind Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia. Anyone familiar with those series should recognize Trigger’s signature style in the visuals and action. It also shouldn’t surprise fans of the studio that KIZNAIVER is really weird.

KIZNAIVER | Main characters

However, before I talk about the anime itself, I would be remiss not to mention the opening. KIZNAIVER’s opening is “Lay Your Hands on Me” by Boom Boom Satellites. A decent song in its own right, but what’s really captivating is the animation in the opening. Trigger has done unorthodox things with its openings before – such as the second opening to Kill la Kill – but KIZNAIVER’s opening is another class entirely. It’s hard to put it into words, but the best description I can come up with for it is “hypnotic.”

KIZNAIVER follows seven high school students – the apathetic, emotionless Katsuhira Agata; his energetic childhood friend Chidori Takashiro; the rough, hot-headed Hajime Tenga; the eccentric, childish Nico Niiyama; the sly, womanizing Tsuguhito Yuta; the cool, distant Honoka Maki; and the mysterious, masochistic Yoshiharu Hisomu. They have the Kizuna System put into them by Noriko Sonozaki, becoming Kiznaivers and gaining the ability to share each other’s physical and emotional pain.

KIZNAIVER | Opening animation

From the start, the characters come across as standard high school anime archetypes – see above with the apathetic protagonist, or the perky childhood friend – but as the series goes on, we quickly learn that there’s more depth to them than just these identifiable traits. Similar to how Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a reimagining of the mecha genre, and how Kill la Kill can be seen as a take on the magical girl genre, KIZNAIVER appears to be Trigger’s approach to making a high school slice-of-life series, with the Kiznaivers becoming closer and helping each other solve their problems. It makes me curious where the series will go from here; it also seems strikingly similar to last year’s Charlotte, with a group of high schoolers with a special bond to each other taking on tasks appointed to them by a mysterious higher power. The series has not been lacking in foreshadowing thus far, and there’s still a lot about the characters we don’t know. Even if I don’t necessarily like all of the characters – I find Katsuhira has too little personality to be an entertaining or relatable protagonist, and Chidori just comes across as annoying and high-maintenance – KIZNAIVER has me hooked and I will follow it to see how it all plays out.

I will write a full, more in-depth review once the series ends. Until then, we can only wait and see where it goes from here.

KIZNAIVER | Katsuhira Agata

KIZNAIVER is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.