When it comes to understanding, empathy is something that is easier said than done. No matter how hard you try, there are some cases where one cannot be understood. On the other hand, there are times when an individual can empathize with another. Enter Kiznaiver, an anime from the summer 2016 lineup that deals with empathy by connecting through pain. Being one of Trigger‘s anticipated titles of the season, I have to wonder how well Kiznaiver does with such an interesting concept. More importantly, does it hold up overall?
Story & Characters
Kiznaiver is, to put it nicely, a special show. The concept of the characters coming together through pain, is one of the things that makes this show special. The show is written by Mari Okada and if you are not fond of her work, you’ll probably not like Kiznaiver. Mari Okada’s writing is often described as melodramatic and over the top with characters berating each other. The show has examples of this, as the character interactions can get intense.
Unfortunately, the narrative was mainly character-based, so the story lacked focus on plot. Fortunately, for what Kiznaiver lacks, it makes up with its interesting characters. Each character has a personality or a gimmick that attracts others towards them. Interactions with situations or other people best display the personalities of the characters, since it gives us their reactions and fleshes them out. By having them go through trials in the kizuna system, or even exposing their past struggles, the show offers more characterization for the cast.
Despite the intriguing characters, Kiznaiver does not fully explore its sci-fi concepts and ideas. Instead, it is only used as a means to gather the main cast together and improve their empathy towards one another. Even the concept of the kizuna system in practice fails to fully grasp on what the show is going for, due to the overdone sci-fi cliches it uses for emotional impact. The use of the kizuna system also fails to connect a solid narrative plot of “saving the world” to its characters. Lack of explanation on how connecting with others via the kizuna system saves the world shows the failed attempt of the plot trying to mix with the characters.
In the grand scheme of things, Kiznaiver has an interesting idea going for it and its characters are fascinating enough to peak curiosity. Sadly, because of its failed attempts to showcase empathy, it doesn’t reach it’s full potential. Even so, it does tell the message of connecting with others, despite the questionable methods it uses to convey that message.
Art & Animation
If there is anything that will make this show for you, it will be the art and animation. Done by studio Trigger, the art is gorgeous, with careful details on the character designs and radiant color palates on the scene surroundings. The way characters are designed looks unique and fits well with the sci-fi aesthetic. The shaping and coloring of the eyes display this, as they have a seinen sci-fi style that works for this show.
The way animation is used in Kiznaiver is different compared to other Trigger shows, which amazes me. Usually, Trigger has an animation style that involves a lot of aggressive movement that is catered to action. In this series, it is used fluidly in moments where character interaction is the focus. This is shown in situations with eye contact, and even in body language, such as hand gestures. The animation for Kiznaiver was a breath of fresh air. It shows that they are more about action and if needed, can change up their style.
Just like with the animation, I was also shocked when I heard the music. The soundtrack is composed by Yuki Hayashi, the same person who worked on last season’s My Hero Academia. Although tastes do differ, when it comes to anything sci-fi, electronic music comes to my mind. With Kiznaiver, it didn’t have much electronic music. The music sounded versatile with a few tracks having a very suspenseful sound to it. Other times, an orchestrated piece would play for something emotional happening. Although the music does vary from time to time, it works for the situation at hand. When a scene of suspense appears, the music matches it to fit the mood. Even in comedy moments where the cast is acting weird, the music tries to dish out something quirky to match the atmosphere.
Final Thoughts & Score
At the beginning of the spring season, I was hyped up for Kiznaiver since I am a fan of Trigger. Despite that, I feel let down. Even though Mari Okada has a track record for being melodramatic with her writing, I had hoped she could have pulled it off, like with her comedy of last season. At this point, Kiznaiver is a good anime to watch only for its aesthetic and good use of animation. When it comes to story, it is shy of being very good since it doesn’t reach its full potential.
The concept, ideas, and use of sci-fi isn’t fully explored and fails to leave much of an impact on me as well. It feels like they had wonderful ideas, but couldn’t execute them well enough to leave a great impression. Even so, Kiznaiver isn’t a bad anime. Personally, I feel it’s on the low on the spectrum of good that is miles away from being very good. If you’re looking for a great story that will amaze you, then this is not the series for you. Although, if you want something dazzling to watch, then you’ve picked the right anime.
With the announcement of Little Witch Academia getting an anime, I look forward to how Trigger will handle that!
Be sure to check out my Kizvaiver First Impressions article! Don’t worry, it’s spoiler-free!