Review for Kiznaiver Collector's Edition
When you look at a show’s blurb, and can instantly think of another, definitive show in that milieu, it makes you think twice. You’re going to be comparing the two no matter what happens, and your experience of the new show is going to be coloured by your experience with your ‘favourite’. When I read that Kiznaiver was about a group of dissimilar teens, thrown together and forced to relate by ‘supernatural’ means, my first thought was of the sublime Kokoro Connect. But then I read that Kiznaiver’s screenplay comes from Mari Okada, and it’s an anime original. That’s reason enough to watch it.
Sugomori City is a futuristic metropolis, built on reclaimed land and landfill, but in reality it’s the venue for an experiment that’s about to change the life of one Katsuhira Agata. He’s a detached, solitary boy with an inability to feel pain. He’s also the target of bullies, something that infuriates his childhood friend Chidori, who can’t get to grips with the young man he’s grown into.
Then one day, he encounters an enigmatic girl named Noriko Sonozaki. She recognises that he’s bullied because he has no fear of pain, and because he doesn’t connect with others. She helps... by pushing him down a flight of stairs. He wakes up in hospital, with a scar on his arm. He’s been made part of the Kizna system, bound to six others from his class in school, and all seven of them exhibit a trait that could be considered a modern sin, Katsuhira’s isolation being an example. He’s isolated no more, as the Kizna system is a prototype to bring about world peace by making its users, the Kiznaivers share the pain and the wounds that they suffer. The Kizna system has to be tested first, and the seven of them are the guinea pigs.
Twelve episodes with ridiculously long titles are presented across two discs from All the Anime.
1. Sometimes, a Bond Can Bloom from the First Day Eye Contact is Made
2. If You Can Swallow A Bizarre Situation Like This So Easily, Two Buckets of Barium Shouldn’t Be a Problem
3. Depending on How You Look At It, I Think We Could Get Through Anything... Right?
4. Now That We’re All Connected, Let’s All Get To Know Each Other Better, ‘Kay?
5. Wahoo, It’s a Training Camp! Let’s Step in Deer Poop and Have Pillow Fights! Go, Go!
6. Nothing Good Comes From Being Around All of You
7. A Battle Touching Upon the Identity of the Pain that’s Seven Times the Pain of One-Seventh of a Pain
8. Happy Times Don’t Tend to Last Very Long
9. It’s All Over... I Think
10. You Knew Very Well That Your Romantic Feelings Might Be Unrequited, Right?
11. We Have to Contact Each Other And Confirm Our Feelings. Because We’re Friends!
12. If The Kizna System Spread Throughout The World
Kiznaiver gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs. The image is clear and sharp, the colours are strong and vibrant, and the transfer does full justice to Studio Trigger’s stylish and effective animation. The character designs are appealing and memorable, and the world design is quirky and atmospheric. It’s all helped by the quality of the animation, which is energetic and detailed. The smallest nit to pick might be a hint of digital banding in darker scenes, but other than that, the animation is presented to strong effect in this release.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English, Japanese and French with English and French subtitles and signs, locked during playback. I was happy with the Japanese audio, the character voices really suited them, but what I tried of the English dub felt a little forced and over-enunciated. The music for Kiznaiver is really quite special, beginning with the opening theme from Boom Boom Satellites (with a fantastic animation) and continuing with the quirky and effective incidental music.
The subtitles are problematic. First they are of the thin, white font variety that is easy to lose against busy backgrounds. The second thing is that it’s one of those titles that can’t do dialogue and screen text at the same time, and these discs prioritise dialogue over text translations. Finally, the captions lack ellipses from hanging sentences and truncated words, which quite frankly looks weird.
The discs present their content with animated menus.
Disc 1 has the textless credits sequences. Disc 2 has three trailers for the show.
I haven’t seen the packaging or the physical extras for the show, but apparently if you order the Collector’s Edition directly from the Anime Limited Webstore, you get a bonus artbook some three times bigger than and in addition to the one that comes standard with the release.
I’m in two minds about Kiznaiver. There’s no denying that the show looks fantastic, it has stellar animation from Studio Trigger, quirky and memorable. The same can be said for the show’s music. It’s a well written show too, developing the story, and finding the right balance between delightful character comedy and affecting and emotional drama. In terms of production values, Kiznaiver should be a top tier show, and it’s no wonder that it got the Aniplex treatment in the US, and is getting a similar Collector’s Edition treatment here in the UK. But when it comes down to it, I just didn’t really like Kiznaiver; I just didn’t get along with it.
Some of that will no doubt be down to an unfavourable comparison with Kokoro Connect, a show with a similar premise, but which handled it a lot better. It didn’t get bogged down in the mechanics of its supernatural connections between its characters, and instead concentrated on the character drama to a much more effective degree. With a core cast of just five, it also developed them better. Kiznaiver’s technological connection between its characters plays a far greater part in its story, the back-story and the jargon is of greater importance. When it comes to the core cast, it isn’t that much larger, with just eight people, but they really aren’t developed all that well, and in terms of who they are, are presented as cookie cutter stereotypes. Unlike the jock, the nerd, the space case, the princess, and the drop-out in The Breakfast Club, the Imbecile, the Self Righteous, the Musclehead, the Eccentric, the Sly Normal, the Aloof, and the Masochist in Kiznaiver never really outgrow their archetypes.
It’s a bit of the same set-up, seven antipathetic school kids are forced to spend time together, not by detention, but by being ‘bonded’ by the Kiznaiver system, made to feel each other’s pain. You might think that they’d spend the series learning about each other, helping each other get over whatever hang-ups that they might have, and becoming friends through the process, and this does happen, for one of the characters, who is yet to deal with the loss of a childhood friend. It happens to a lesser degree for a couple of the other characters, but people like the masochist and the eccentric feel more like mascot characters than anyone to really invest in.
This is all by the by, as the show is really about the protagonist Katsuhira, and his relationship with Nori Sonozaki, a girl who appears to be controlling the Kizna experiment. Incidentally, if you want the audience to invest in a main character, it makes it a lot harder if he’s presented as apathetic. You have to wait for Katsuhira to start caring about the world and other people before you can care about what happens to him, and that’s more than half the series. It’s also here that the plot convolutions tend to drown out the emotional impact, as we learn that Katsuhira and Nori have a shared past that feeds right into the Kizna experiment taking place now. It also has a bearing on the conclusion of the story, which is bonkers to put it mildly. Kokoro Connect’s irrational premise was made believable by the characters, but that doesn’t happen in Kiznaiver, so you’re left tugging at loose plot ends, and any excessive scrutiny makes the tapestry of the story unravel.
Kiznaiver gives great surface, but what this show really needed was depth. Thankfully, it’s so stylish, has such strong production values, and proceeds at such an energetic pace that it is enjoyable to watch, while you’re watching it. The Blu-ray discs are impressive enough; even given the odd subtitle niggles.