Jun 25, 2016
lawlmartz (All reviews)
If you don't know what state your wounds are in, or where you're hurting; if you don't know that for yourself, then there's no point in trying to share it with others is there? -Hisomu

What makes an original?

Is an original a piece that spawns copies, or something that comes from within a creator; something that no one else has ever before thought? Have you ever had an original thought? What if, despite your thought that your idea was original, someone across the globe, someone with whom you have never and will never have contact with had your same idea and yet, weren't able to act on it. Is it still original?

No matter your definition of original- Trigger continues to pump out quality writing and both new, heretofore unseen content, and new ways of presenting old ideas. This season, they pulled the trigger on a double barrel shotgun of new for the anime viewing populace with the zany Space Patrol Luluco, and the much more subdued Kiznaiver- and what a season it's been.

Kiznaiver is what I would describe as a new twist on an old classic. One of the interwoven themes is referenced in both my opening and ending quotes- the power of friendship. Had Trigger just stopped there, they would have produced a trite, unimaginative, and unfulfilling series much like those that crop up each season. Kiznaiver is not content to merely focus on the power that friends hold over you, but also delve into deeper concepts of pain and loss, the stages of grievance, and the ties that bind.

Much like the multifaceted Kill La Kill before it, Kiznaiver tackles these themes with depth and sophistication. Conversations that outwardly appear to be simple exchanges between friends often reveal much more about the characters and their mentalities. The characters themselves also outwardly seem to represent the kind of one note stereotype- Katsuhira the unfeeling, dull, mophaired main character. Chidori the tsun tsun. Nico the genki girl, etc. However simply the characters are presented in the beginning, throughout the course of the show, we watch them grow as people, friends, and characters. In the early episodes, we see the group forced together as part of some sick social experiement- a disparate group of persons from different cliques, if you will, thrown together and told to "become friends" (whether through traumatic shared experiences, which has been proven to form bonds between people who might not otherwise associate- such as in fraternity hazing, gang initiation, etc. or the typical socialization process that people go through.)

We get to know the person of the characters, what drives them, their insecurities, wishes, and failures. Each has their turn in the spotlight, and as the viewer, I felt like most of these characters, even though many had larger than life personalities, could have been real people. They don't have superpowers. They aren't infallible, neither are they perfect. They don't win every time, and the certainly don't all get along perfectly, kiss and make up after every little thing. Like real friends with disparate interests, they get on each other's nerves, hurt each other (in more ways than one) fall in love, fall out, make each other cry, and experience life together. Trigger, in all their savviness, also recognized the potential for relationships in the show, and makes moves for different character romances to happen, fall apart, and change. It's not your typical ensemble where the bland, self insert protagonist has color coded dereotype ladies throwing themselves at him for no reason. No, Kiznaiver takes a more nuanced approach, and the characters have viable, believable reasons (some are not pretty, just like life) for being interested in each other like mutual interests, pure pity, opposites attracting, and finding kinship.

The plot of the show takes a backseat to characterization in what's known as a "character driven story", which is also something of a rarity in anime these days. It's not all about some grand scheme or hero's journey, but about the interaction of the characters themselves that matter. As mentioned above, I think that the characters experience the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) throughout the show, as a theme. As part of the Kizna experiment (linking people through sharing pain), these kids in the story, through their own relationships and getting to know themselves and the people around them, experience these stages as part of their characterization. Each is in denial over some reason or another, whether it's "how could my friend have died?" or "this person loves me, they just don't know it", etc. This progresses as the story heats up- they're angry over their inner demons, and it spills out onto each other- until the voices of reason, Hisomu and Nico bring them all to their senses (bargaining). After the climax of the show, they all decidedly experience a strong depressive episode, where the characters decide what they're going to do with themselves, and about each other- having made themselves vulnerable and revealing their secrets to each other. Eventually they come to accept each other, and the story takes its final twist, which would be criminal of me to reveal. Suffice to say, it's certainly worth watching to find out.

The art of Kiznaiver is also excellent, with the flair Trigger has for small details, and making their characters look fresh and interesting. There are a lot of stylings of Little Witch Academia, especially the hair, but still very within the modern style. It's crisp, clean, and flows well, but the lighting is really something. Reflections, eyes, and anything lit look really great, drawing attention to details and adding depth to the shot composition. I applaud the casting director at Trigger, whoever they are- for they have done it again. Similarly to Kill La Kill, Kiznaiver is impeccably cast. The nuance and emotion (or required lack thereof) that was put into the performances really sells the drama and characters. The larger than life Tenga, fragile Maki, zany Nico, wacky Hisomu, hot and cold Chidori, stiff Katsuhira, and mysterious Noriko (and some nice performances from the supporting cast as well) all add up to a very well produced product.

tl;dr for my lazy folk

+ great characterization
+ fantastic art
+ a human drama, one that you can get behind, that doesn't descend in to pointless melodrama
+/- your favorite characters might not get together

Friends are soy sauce! The omnipotent seasoning! - Nico