Anime Review: Kiznaiver

By Drew Hurley 19.06.2019

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Kiznaiver (UK 15)


A group of students of class 2-A in Sugomori is getting a very special assignment. They have to figure out if world peace is possible, and their lives are on the line. Seven eclectic kids from this class are kidnapped and forced to undergo a surgical experiment that inexplicably links them together; linked through their pain; Both physical and emotional. Coming courtesy of Anime Limited, this collection contains the complete series, all 12 episodes, and it's available now.
 
Katsuhira Agata is getting bullied regularly; getting beaten up and his money taken... and he's fine with that. He's seemingly emotionless, unfeeling, and inexpressive. His childhood best friend, Chidori Takashiro, is constantly trying to get him to stand up for himself with no luck. Thankfully on the latest bullying session, Katsuhira gets some backup from the neighbourhood badass. A punky, pink-haired, bespeckled, badass, known as the Mad Dog. His name is Hajime Tenga, and he's a classic, Onizuka style, nice-guy thug. Happy to look after Katsuhira. Even if Katsuhira doesn't even really care about the beatings. After all, he says he doesn't even really feel the pain of them anyway.
 
A trio introduced, the story takes a hard left and dives straight into the overarching premise. Katsuhira is confronted by a girl eerily similar to him. Deadpan and seemingly emotionless. She spouts some insane nonsense before swiftly Sparta kicking him down a flight of stairs. Luckily for Katsuhira, the damage from the fall is shared. Shared with the other students that have been kidnapped. The recently introduced Chidori is there, along with Hajime too. Accompanied by some new faces. There's Nico Niiyama, a young, hyperactive, pigtailed, cliché schoolgirl. Tsuguhito Yuta is a charming slimeball, at least when dealing with the ladies. He's considerably less friendly with the guys.
 
It's an eclectic group. Though not quite as eclectic as the group that has some pretty crazy plans for them. The deadpan lady who helped Katsuhira down the stairs is one Noriko Sonozaki, the representative of a shady organisation who is using the children in an experiment to establish if world peace is possible. To do so, they've performed some insane surgery on these kids, including sci-fi style implants. Linking the children together through their wounds - a clever pun in Japanese between the words for "bond" and "wound." Causing pain in one splits it evenly across all the others. With this connection in place, the children have to complete a series of missions. The purpose of the experiment is to see if true bonds can be formed between people and thus if world peace could ever be achieved. These missions each have to be completed, with a simple overarching task atop them all. For the kids to all survive the Summer together, then the Kiznaivers will be disbanded.
 
The first mission for them: self-introductions. It couldn't seem any easier. Just a self-introduction, but when the students don't share their innermost truth they get a shock. Literally. Katsuhira is hooked up and getting tortured with electric shocks whenever they don't share. This initial experiment teaches them how their pain is shared but subsequently, they learn physical pain is the least of their worries. It's the emotional pains that cut the deepest.

 
The second mission is tracking down their seventh member. One Yoshiharu Hisomu, a perverted masochist that gets off on pain. A difficult person to be linked to when pain is shared. Missions after this see the group working together to help overcome the tragedies within the pasts of their members. Basically embarking on slice of life style activities while this group of forced friends begin to build bonds together.
 
Written by Mari Okada, a renowned anime writer and director, Kiznaiver is at its heart an exploration of the bonds between people. An exploration of what could happen if people could truly understand the pain of their fellow man. Even more complicated, what if those people were a group of teenagers dealing with the pains everyone goes through during puberty. The pain of jealousy; the pain of heartache; the pain of the betrayal of a friend. It's a fascinating premise, but one that little is done with ultimately. Many of the characters in the group feel wasted. Why have a cast of seven characters, only to develop less than half of them?
 
The story may be disappointing, but the presentation is not. This is a Trigger work after all, and while this is not the type of series that can make the most of their particular strengths, they deliver a great looking show. The best of it though, is the opening. It's a psychedelic kaleidoscope of lights and moments that is truly memorable. Especially thanks to the music. Its set to the amazing Lay your hands on me, the final work of iconic Japanese Electronic synth duo Boom Boom Satellites. Sadly, a brain tumour took guitarist and vocalist Michiyuki Kawashima a few months after its release. In their 20 years, they produced numerous albums, toured with big names from the West, have been repeatedly sampled, and crafted themes for anime series like Ninja Slayer and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.
 
4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

A great premise for the story that drags its heels, and somehow manages to feel drawn out, even with just 12 episodes in the season. It spends far too long focusing on the contrived love triangle, yet without giving it any teeth - plus the huge emotional breakdown scene feels completely undeveloped. Meanwhile, the overarching plot of the story is just an utter mess. The finale is the worst part… there are a few really wonderful moments where Okada's writing hits home, but most of it feels like the sort of overdramatic teenage melodrama found in a CW drama.

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