The anime company “Trigger” (or “Trigger Studio” depending on whom you are speaking to) comes up with a lot of wild and woolly shows like “Inferno Cop”, “Kill la Kill” and “When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace”. I bring this up, as their latest offering is in the same visual vein, but tackling a deeper subject, so it can’t be readily dismissed out of hand. I am speaking of “Kiznaiver”.
It takes place in the futuristic, fictional Japanese town of Sugomori City and follows a group of high school students who are chosen to be a part of an experimental program which creates bonds between people by forcing them to share each other’s pain. Now, as to why these folks were chosen gets revealed through the run of the show, but, at the beginning, we are just as confused as they are. Oh, and who are ‘they’? Well, let’s get those introductions taken care of, left to right:
Yoshiharu Hisomu, a bit of a masochist, he enjoys the pain aspect of things.
Nico Niiyama, full of energy, but rather scattered.
Hajime Tenga, impulsive, rowdy and obnoxious.
Noriko Sonozaki, head of this Kiznaiver program and liaison.
Katsuhira Agata, apathetic and “semi-emotionless”.
Chidori Takashiro, childhood friend of Agata and a bit nosy.
Honoka Maki, aloof and intelligent, she maintains a cold and condescending attitude.
Tsuguhito Yuta, a sly and self-centered honors student.
These folks are put through their paces, having to achieve or accomplish goals in order to try and make this system work, so that all people can understand these emotions and feelings that beset others and try to figure out how to reconcile them amongst them all. Every one of them sports the Kizna mark, that red cross you see in the middle of the title, but it will be somewhere else on their body: forearm, neck, lower back, just that it is somewhere on you.
Noriko comes off as seriously annoying. She knows something, but says nothing, and creates severe enmity between her and the rest of the squad she manages. But there is a madness to her method, which is revealed later in the run, as well as the defining reason for this experimentation. Oh, and ‘kiznaiver’ is based on the Japanese words for ‘wound or scar’ (kizu) and ‘bond or connection’ (kizuna), of which they have both.
Now, I am always concerned whenever we have a group of seven. Should I be looking out for symbolism? Do they represent the Seven Deadly Sins? (And why is it no one ever represents the Seven Holy Virtues? I guess Chastity gets upended by Lust every time.) And if they do represent The Seven, are we talking about metaphorical sins, like a Lust for power or a Glutton for punishment? And here lies the crux of the problem.
I had the feeling that you are kind of left in the lurch with the overall approach to the story. It wants to be both serious and silly at the same time and that combination never works well, as the serious story loses credibility when the more wacky aspects show up and the humor is undercut by some of the horrors that are visited upon these folks. And the humor is not enough to fully counterbalance the tragedy that we observe.
Plus, the cast is rather off-putting enough that you want them to be put through their trials, ridden hard and long all the day. Maybe it will make them better, overall. But I found myself more interested in this program that is trying to work than the people themselves, although you want to know how they got to their rather scattered emotional state.
It’s just that if you were expecting the unhinged nature of “Kill la Kill”, you aren’t going to find it with this one. There is a rather serious story to tell, and there is almost no time for frivolity, especially with the dramatic bridge sequence that closes out the series. No, seriously, the ending takes place on a bridge.
Should you see it? Certainly, if merely to understand the whole reason behind the ‘Kiznaiver Process’. Do you want to play the metaphor game and see this as the ultimate in governmental intrusion? That works as well. Bring your own popcorn.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (The “Trigger” Style)
Plot 7 (Almost too convoluted)
Pacing 8 (The fights slow it all down)
Effectiveness 7 (Late-series flashbacks slow it down)
Conclusion 6 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 7 (Too many secrets)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. What is this pain I feel?