Kiznaiver is the result of a pairing between Crunchyroll and Trigger. If you don’t recall who Trigger are, they’re the deranged minds that brought to us the glories of Kill la Kill. And they even brought the creepy twin-tailed girl back, but made her less evil… well, maybe. Given that, there are two things we can be sure of: Kiznaiver will be crazy, and its art style will be very unique.
Kiznaiver is about a group of High School students who are – against their will – bound together and forced to endure each other’s pain, among other strong sensations. They find out that this has, apparently, been orchestrated by one of their classmates, Sonozaki Noriko. Noriko claims that the bond that has been forced upon them is an experiment to help bring about world peace by fostering connections through shared pain and suffering. A lofty goal, a strange method, and a weird premise: how much of any of these can we trust?
Kiznaiver, if you filter through the crazy stuff that happens, is a character drama. So, naturally, its cast is absolutely instrumental to its success… and fortunately, its cast is quite strong. Every character has an interesting backstory, personality twist, or secret hidden within them.
Our protagonist Agata Katsuhira, for example, lost his ability to feel pain as a child, but he doesn’t really recall how that happened. As a result of this, he’s become somewhat of an emotional eunuch, unable to understand or care about his emotions as he lacks the frame of reference for them. This makes him an extremely interesting character to watch from the frame of reference of a show about sharing pain. In fact, this is one of very few places where an ’emotionless leading man’ doesn’t detract from the overall experience of an anime.
But it’s not just him. The rest of the cast, who could almost all be considered protagonists in a way, each have the same hooks. Tenga Hajime, seemingly your standard bully/delinquent, has a soft side and is fiercely protective. I would keep going, but to reveal too many of these would be spoiling key moments of the show’s story. Afterall, in the end, the story is about these characters coming to terms with their personalities and being willing to open up and let others understand them.
It’s truly fascinating to watch these characters try to live with each other as they’re burdened with this strange limitation. It’s also very interesting as you begin to learn more about the history of the experiment, and watch the trials the characters are forced through from the lens of understanding as an outside observer.
I will give warning that this show is utterly ridiculous. The events are largely nonsensical, and it will leave you scratching your heads at more than one spot. It’s hard to really vocalize just how absurd the events are, but trust me… they are every bit as crazy as anything you’ve seen short of, possibly, Trigger’s previous hit.
It took the first 3 full episodes before the show started to click and become engaging, much like Kill la Kill… but once it did it just kept getting better and better. Until the end, at least… the final episode or two took a really awkward direction and it left a bit of a sour taste, but don’t let that deter you.
Looking back at it, the show reminded me a lot of a cross between Kill la Kill and Kokoro Connect. And, as crazy a combination as that may sound, it really worked overall. Kiznaiver has a lot of weird stuff going on, but it ties it all together with interesting psychological content and great characters… and it pulls it off. Somehow.