The bonds of pain are explored as a starting point.
What They Say:
The story is set in Sugomori-city, built in a reclaimed land, which was once prosperous as a futuristic city. Katsuhira Agata, a high school boy who is living in the city, has a strange body which can feel no pain at all and he doesn’t know why. Before summer vacation, by the guidance of a mysterious girl named Noriko Sonozaki, he is chosen as a member of “Kiznaiver,” a group of people who share pain. Then he finds his classmates who are also connected as “Kiznaiver,” however, they originally belong to different groups that never got along.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are done up using the uncompresesd PCM format. The series is one that has some minor moments of action here and there but is largely all about the dialogue and reaction effects. These are done up nicely in a slightly creative way since the cast feels the same things and it ripples across the screen, which gives character placement a little more importance from time to time when it’s played out like that. These are regularly moments that lessen a bit as the series goes on but it sets up some nice bits early on. The bulk of the show is all about the dialogue, however, and that’s done up in a standard way here that doesn’t have anything to really shine with. There are the usual solo scenes and smaller pairings going on and when it shifts between characters it generally keeps it smaller so that it doesn’t have to do anything really creative. It’s all well-handled and comes through clean and clear on both tracks with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread evenly across two discs. Animated by Trigger, their design work and execution here definitely stands out as there’s a great sense of color design to the show that gives it pop and some real distinctive elements, particularly in making it feel like reds are a dominant color. The designs are what you expect from the studio and Shirow Miwa with some really nice details and distinctive features that sets them apart just enough from other shows and that combined with some really slick fluidity where needed and creative aspects in regards to the shared bond gives it an edge. It may not be a show that moves things to another level but it makes it stand out just enough and becomes quite the engaging experience to soak up all the details that the encoding presents cleanly and clearly throughout, particularly with so many really vibrant moments.
The packaging for this release comes in a thin cardboard slipcase that has a nice slickness to it with the black background on both sides. It’s a full wraparound cover that’s separated only by the spine where we get just the logo and it lets the cast as a whole get a chance to stand out, though the primaries get the front while the supporting characters make up the back for the most part. They’re not overly vibrant here but the color variety is nicely done and the characters are all working different expressions that fit well with most of how they are in the series. Within the box we get a standard clear Blu-ray case where the front has the three non-Sonozaki female characters together against a white background while the back lets the three non-Katsuhira male characters stand together. The case doesn’t have any artwork on the reverse side but it does break down the episodes by disc as well as breaking out the cast and staff for both languages. The really slick pack-in extra for this release is a selection of long postcards showcasing various character artwork pieces from the original character designer.
The menus for this release are nicely done as I like how the two volumes essentially invert each other. The first disc gives us our two ostensible leads in their teenage years set against the red and black background where it gives their dark expressions even more weight, particularly as bright as the whites and blues are within their designs. The second disc flips it with a white and red background and gives us the younger versions of them all smiles and full of energy. All of this is set to the logo in all its dynamic elements along the upper left and the navigation along the lower left, which keeps to the red and white format nicely. Everything is quick and easy to select and navigate both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that aired in the spring 2016 season, Kiznaiver got a lot of attention with the fact that the studio Trigger was behind the project. They’ve definitely got a certain kind of dynamic element down in how their shows look and it was a series that got Hiroshi Kobayashi to move up from assistant director to director for the first time. Add in Shirow Miwa wit the character designs and there’s a lot to really like with the visual design of it. The main problem in a sense is that it once again works a familiar theme as seen in other Trigger series and it does it with high school kids. Which is to be expected as it feels like these shows are being used to teach kids to feel. But with the concept here I can imagine a richer and more engaging series if it used characters in their late twenties or early thirties instead.
The show takes place in the manmade city of Sugomori where it’s got a slightly near-future feeling to it. Our primary character that we follow is Katsuhira, a young man who for reasons later explained simply cannot feel pain and comes across as apathetic. He’s bullied regularly since he doesn’t feel it or fight back, which leads to Tenga stepping in to help him out as he dislikes seeing that even as a delinquent himself. This brings him into contact with Katsuhira’s longtime friend Chidori who is definitely very protective of Katsuhira and essentially quite in love with him. These three, plus a few others, find themselves not long after that being kidnapped and brought into a facility where their fate for the next few months is sealed as the Kizna System experiment is implanted into them.
With specialized scars on their arms, this system lets them spread out the pain they feel across all of them. So when one gets kicked hard, they all feel a percentage of it. Naturally, it’s pretty comically chaotic at the start and that shifts us into them being more careful with themselves and each other but also using it creatively as needed. The group that comes together in the facility includes Nico, a young looking girl who definitely plays up the cuteness factor to stand out, and Yuta, the smart and popular kid in school that’s sought after by all the girls. It also adds in the very distant Honoka to the mix and eventually reveals a seventh that wasn’t a part of this first direct experiment with Hisomu, a young man who craves the feeling of pain and basically comes across as done with life and looking forward to the ending moments to feel something before nothing.
Tying ll of this together is Noriko Sonozaki, a young woman the same age that comes across as the same as Katsuhira in that there’s nothing there, almost like a shell of a person, that’s cold and distant but seemingly a part of the Kizna System organization that’s orchestrating all of this. She’s connected to the system as well and has a longer and deeper connection to Katsuhira that goes back much further. The group running all of this has a larger goal in trying to unearth things while knowing that it’ll only last through the summer before its effects wear off and the kids go back to normal. But in the meantime they get to watch as the first physical feelings are dealt with across the group and the frustrations and aggravations that arise from it. Not surprisingly, the question is whether the Kizna bond can go further than this and we see the first flutters of it because of the interests some of them have in the others, such as Chidori toward Katsuhira, Yuta toward Honoka, and Tenga toward seemingly everyone because he’s essentially open to anything. This is handled somewhat lightly since they’re unsure of what these feelings are and it plays out in some fun ways as they react to it while still keeping it essentially chaste in a way.
A lot of the show works through some of the background stories of the characters that further accentuates their core personality traits. Yuta’s smart and handsome but he hides a shame and fear from his childhood days when he wasn’t as attractive. Honoka is struggling over the loss of a friend that could have been far more and was a partner in a manga they had worked on together, giving her a guilt to focus on. Essentially, you can see all of these characters as aspects of how a normal singular person is in what they show at different times just writ in full for each of them, but with a bit more layering to it. They’re not all given deeper backgrounds, which is a plus, but at the same time I run into the same thing I do with a lot of these series in general these days; these characters are too young to have anything really rich to deal with in terms of what makes them who they are – especially without making each of them part of something hugely tragic.
The show works through a few of these stories while working the bonds that begin in pain and move onto other areas while also introducing aspects of the larger storyline. That focuses on Noriko and her connection to the test of the Kizna System years ago that’s also tied ti Katsuhira and we get to see what it was they’re up to back in the day and why they’re still trying to get it figured out all these years later. Unfortunately, I don’t think they did this effectively as the foundations for it all in the early days beyond “making people better” doesn’t really connect at all. The organization working it, the city itself, and the weirdness that creeps into the background from time to time doesn’t feel like it’s really a part of things but rather just a prop in order to support the character bonding story. It just lacks that key piece to give it all the weight it needs. The extended flashback stuff we do get with Katsuhira and Noriko works well enough but mostly just for them and not the bigger picture.
I had missed out on Kiznaiver the first time around and perhaps this’ll work better when taken in single episode form than marathon form. The concept has some interesting ideas but I just think they it doesn’t work as well as it could because it focuses on teenagers without much in the way of real adversity in their life for most of them. I can imagine a greater range of challenges faced with the bonding with older characters and their supporting character side. There are interesting things here and Trigger delivers another really great looking project from start to finish but they’re also playing in familiar ground once again, just with different trappings. Aniplex’s release is pretty solid overall with a great looking show, a really appealing set of postcards, and a decent package overall. Fans of the show will be pleased since it’s also a bilingual release that will get more viewers digging it than would otherwise as well.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Ending
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 26th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.