The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 161 – Kiznaiver

Kiznaiver 1

The weekend just gone held the MCM Comic Con, a time when the main anime distributors in the UK announced what anime they are going to release over the next few months.

Some old titles are being re-released, such as a new collector’s edition of Fullmetal Alchemist (No. 13); others are having new series brought out, such as the latest series of Black Butler (No. 10) and Lupin III (No. 90); and some previously released DVD titles are now being put on Blu-Ray like Death Note (No. 8). There is also going to be a release of the very first anime feature film, Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors, a film that admittedly has its problems – such as being a war propaganda film made in 1945.

However, some anime that is currently being streamed at the moment and has only begun broadcasting this season have also been given surprisingly early UK releases. One of these is Kiznaiver, a sci-fi drama that began in April 2016, looks at the emotional connections between people. It has had a bit of a mixed reception so far, but as it is currently being streamed, you can judge for yourself right now if it is a good series before planning to invest any money into it.

The series is set in the futuristic-looking Sugomori City, a city which is devoted to conducting an experiment into something called the “Kizuna System”. The central character, a boy named Katsuhira Agata, witnessed a tragedy when he was younger when a girl jumped of a crane, presumably to her death. Since then, Katsuhira has become almost totally emotionless and unable to feel pain.

Despite all this, Katsuhira has friends, such as Chidori Takashiro, a girl who seems to love him, and when Katsuhira is bullied, he is saved by a delinquent named Hajime “Mad Dog” Tenga. Katushira then meets a mysterious, completely emotionless girl named Noriko Sonozaki. She claims that rather than the seven deadly sins we normally think of, modern Japan has a new set of sins, which are represented by seven students in Katsuhira’s school. In the case of Katushira, he is “the imbecile”. She then takes him to an abandoned hospital, where five other students, part of Sonozaki’s deadly sins are also waiting. They include Chidori whose sin is being “annoyingly self-righteous”, and Hajime who is “the musclehead thug”. Also there are “the cunning normal” Tsuguhito Yuta, who likes to flirt with all the girls in the school; “high-and-mighty” Honoka Maki, an aloof girl who also works as a manga artist; and “the eccentric headcase” Niko Niiyama, a cute girl craving attention who claims she can see fairies.

Sonozaki reveals to the six people gathered that the “Kizuna System” is devoted to creating world peace. The way it does this is by making everyone in the system feel the pain of everyone else in the system. If one experiences physical pain, that same pain is felt by everyone, encouraging everyone not to get hurt or get into conflict. All six of them have been experimented on and are now “Kiznaivers”, each of them connected by their pain, although Katushira only feels it a little bit. Sonozaki then conducts an experiment on them: each one of them needs to reveal their greatest secret before the hospital collapses. They manage to survive the embarrassment and shock as they confess. For example, Niko doesn’t actually believe in fairies, “Mad Dog” Tenga is terrified of dogs, and Chidori confesses her love to Katsuhira.

Following this, the experiments and challenges continue. They find the seventh deadly sin in their group, the “immoral” Yoshiharu Hisomu, someone who happens to be a masochist and therefore the only member of the group who enjoys the physical pain that is shared among everyone else. After the full group of seven is united, the experiments continue and their emotions become stronger. Katsuhira even begins to express his emotions more, but the there is still the mystery as to who is controlling the Kizuna System, and what has been done to people who have been experimented on in the past.

The series is currently two-thirds of the way through, and so far there have been positives and negatives: on the positive side, the quality of the animation is wonderful. The character designs are a diverse mix, from Yoshiharu in his tattered clothes and bandages, to petite and multi-coloured Niko’s fairy look. The futuristic cityscape is good, especially the city’s distinctive drawbridge, which has the two sides of the road pulled up in opposite directions so when the bridge is up it is X-shaped. Relationships are key to this series and the connections between the central seven characters have been great, especially as we delve deeper into the backgrounds of the Kiznaivers.

On the downside I have been rather put off by some of the dialogue. For example, at one point Sonozaki annoys Hajime so much that he says he would “violate her”. This infuriates me in two ways: firstly, the offensive and arguably sexist nature of the comment; and secondly, the fact that Sonozaki has the perfect way to fight back against this sort of thing but doesn’t use it. Surely if you were in this scenario you would hurt at least one of the group, causing everyone including the offender to feel the pain, therefore motivating everyone into making sure such stupid comments are not uttered again.

Overall though, it feels as if the positives outweigh the negatives. While some of the content will make people uncomfortable, and the plot might be a little laboured, this series does have its merits.

Kiznaiver is streamed on Crunchyroll and will be released by All the Anime some time in 2017.