Friday, July 1, 2016

Kiznaiver Complete Series Anime Review

Everyone wants to connect with someone else.

What They Say:
There is an experiment being conducted in Sugomori. Deep beneath the concrete that holds the city up lies the base of operations for the Kiznaiver test, a utopian concept meant to link people together both physically and emotionally. Katsuhira Agata is your average teenage protagonist with only one thing strange about him -- he can't feel anything. However, once Katsuhira and several of his classmates are selected as the newest participants of the Kiznaiver system, they become linked together and suddenly share each other's pain and suffering. Now, they must live their lives being careful not to harm one another.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Many years ago, when the young me was still trying to figure out what exactly anime was, I stumbled upon a title many of you may be familiar with, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The way the characters essentially jumped out of the screen and beckoned for attention left such an impression on me that I actually cited it as my favorite show of all time for a little while. What I didn't know at the time, however, was that the mastermind behind the series, Hiroyuki Imaishi, would go on to form Studio Trigger several years later and, as many fans of the studio say, "save anime." And while I don't necessarily believe that anime needs "saving", I believe it's pretty easy to say that Trigger has definitely established a name for themselves. After completing Kiznaiver, I can understand why.

Kiznaiver follows the lives of a group of teenagers that are thrust into an experiment in which all of them become connected by an implant known as the "Kizuna" system (Kizuna meaning "bond" in Japanese). Following the implant, our protagonists are told that any pain any of them receive from this point on will be evenly distributed amongst the entire group. Obviously, the teens take turns freaking out but ultimately accept their fate. I mean, how long can this possibly last? It's just an experiment, right?

Well, as things progress, the Kizuna project begins to look a little too in-depth to be considered "Just an experiment". The pain that everyone shares, which is purely physical at first, snowballs into a system that connects not only their nerves but their hearts and minds as well. Not only can the group feel each other's physical pain now, they can feel each other's, well...feelings. This creates an atmosphere in which each individual is afraid of even thinking, let alone doing anything harmful. As interesting as that sounds, the real beauty of Kiznaiver lies in the after-effects this implant system has on the group.

Each member selected for the experiment is vastly different from the next -- each being specific embodiments of anime tropes or stereotypes (Interesting fact: Each member actually represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins). Having these completely different people thrown into a singular group and forced to cooperate with each other is obviously going to have its ups and downs. Despite that, many of the characters find ways to look past their differences and form their own unique bond, separate from their forced one. This bond, however, winds up unintentionally amplifying anything that the Kizuna system forces on them, resulting in a giant mess of emotions easily visible to themselves and us viewers.

THIS PARAGRAPH IS SPOILER HEAVY. As the series progresses, we begin to uncover more secrets of the Kiznaiver experiment. Sonozaki Noriko, the girl who acts as the figurehead for our protagonists' Kizuna group, is actually an experiment herself. In fact, she and Katsuhira have their own unique Kizuna that leaves long-lasting impressions on both of them. Basically, Sonozaki was selected to carry the burden of everyone else in the original Kiznaiver group, which was comprised of children given up by members of the lab. What this essentially means is that Sonozaki was feeling the pain of around twelve children at once, while none of them felt anything. And, as if that wasn't enough, the system amplified itself within her and could only be subdued by large doses of drugs that had to be administered to her nearly 24/7. The end result was Sonozaki becoming almost as much of a zombie as the other kids, who were left with no original emotions of their own.

Katsuhira, also being an original child, has not felt anything in years. But, as his Kizuna system with his new "friends" begins to dissolve, those feelings come rushing back. Little by little, he remembers what it's like to be alive; he remembers all of his old friends. In fact, he even visits them in one of the last few episodes and goes on to create possibly the most emotional moment of the show when he realizes that they've become more like dolls than actual humans.

Following several group-disbanding fights, our characters must fight battles with themselves in order to determine what exactly they want to do from this point on. However, these battles aren't easily fought as each of them still have residual pain from the experiment left over. Eventually, they all meet up again and, after a few more fights, it is revealed that this pain is actually not from the experiment at all -- it's the pain of actually being connected to one another. The experiment was a success in that manner, considering that each body remained linked in a unique and personal way.

Kiznaiver teaches us a lot about friendship, bonding, and free will. It demonstrates that forced friendships are nothing more than artificial, worthless creations while, at the same time, showing us that sometimes you can find beauty in unexpected places. Even though our characters were unlikely candidates for friends, they wind up becoming just that. It shows us a lot about how being judgemental can tear something apart before it even begins and, honestly, it's really beautiful. The characters were so well fleshed out that their relationships seem to parallel real-world friendships and romances. It becomes nearly impossible to root against any of them.

Kiznaiver teaches us that even in our darkest moments, there is still light. It's just that sometimes you might need a little help finding it.

In Summary:
Trigger demonstrates that they're more than just good looks and comedy in this well-written and incredibly beautiful original series. Kiznaiver utilizes a realistic, intimate cast in order to lure the viewer into a fall sense of security that may just wind up tearing them apart from the inside out. With themes and lessons that parallel real-world friendships and what it's like to be miserable, it's quite hard to not take something away from this series. Don't watch this with a friend, as you will be compelled to awkwardly hug one another after it's over. Kiznaiver is a fantastic anime that shows us the true meaning of friendship while still having time to remind us of what it means to be alive.

Grade: A-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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