What They Say:
An original TV anime series by acclaimed animation studio TRIGGER (Kill la Kill) and the renowned writer Mari Okada (Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom, The Anthem of the Heart).
Even within the confines of the futuristic Sugomori City, Katsuhira Agata is a very unique high school boy – someone who simply cannot feel any pain whatsoever. Bullied and isolated, his world is set to shift seismically when he meets a strange girl named Noriko Sonozaki.
Before he knows it, Agata has been linked to a number of his classmates as part of a group created to share any pain each of them feels via a system known as “Kiznaiver”. Tasked with various trials by Sonozaki as they serve as guinea pigs under the Kiznaiver system, could Agata and his new comrades’ experiences be the key to their own self-discovery?
Contains the complete 12 episode series on DVD with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles.
Reviewing the DVD version which was set up in Stereo 2.0 in English, Japanese and French – tried all three languages and all set up in the same format so no differing quality and actually didn’t need to adjust it despite the 2.0 so definitely of an acceptable quality, with no issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video. With the themes of the show and the shared pain dynamic, the sound is crisp and clear when it needed to be and no issues found throughout making this a good release.
The video is of a decent quality, with no noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing – it actually considering the series is fairly recent (2016/17) feels like a Blu-ray release, being very colourful and flowing, almost verging on cartoony make it stand out though it does the slow stuff well too, there are no delays with timing with subtitles with animation in either language or slowdown with normal rates or via pausing where the animation can become fuzzy.
There was no packing for this test release.
The menu is very standard – we get moving images of all the Kiznaiver crew with a nice jazz like song in the background whilst the selections are below it with Play, Episodes, Set Up, Extras and Credits on both discs. They are all easy to select and go through quite fast for a DVD release so not quite Blu-Ray pop up level but getting there. Nothing fancy but accessible and fast.
The only extras are the clean opening and ending, and three Japanese trailers for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kiznaiver is an anime that just from the title seems like a mecha series…when in reality is an original anime done quite recently (2016) and focuses more on personal friendship and interaction through a strange bond. With the company and direction being involved in series like Kill La Kill, the animation is colourful and vibrant and the concept of pain as a link is interesting and not in a masochist type of why, but how does the show eventually pan out?
There’s definitely a lot of food for thought at the very least…
We start off with our lead character Katsuhira who is an emotionally vacant boy who also has the ability to not feel pain, which is good in one way…except the fact he keeps getting bullied – yet never seems bothered by it, which concerns his childhood friend Chidori. However he catches the eye of a beautiful yet also emotionless girl named Noriko who as part of an experiment pushes him down some stairs…
…and somehow this gets stranger.
He wakes up with several other people, and Noriko tells them they are Kiznaivers, humans connected through a system (Kizna) via scars on their wrists where if one person gets hurt, the others will feel it too, being linked together (the fall was an experiment where the stair fall would have killed him had it not been split up with the others).
So the show now has several characters to interact with, which becomes a slowly running thing throughout. Our crew consist of Chidori, a fun ruffian named Haijime, a weird but cute girl who believes in fairies named Nico, a cassanova named Yuta, and a cold but smart girl named Maki. They are forced to work together and actually confess secrets to help remove a ‘lock’ connected to each other (for example, Nico doesn’t actually believe in fairies, but because she is smart, rich and attractive, she wanted to fit in more so developed an eccentric personality, whilst the tough guy Hajime is terrified of dogs) – with the main one being Chidori when Katsuhira is about to fall from a great height, confesses her love to him, not only is it a big secret (and quickly getting the childhood friend romance trope out of the way) but it starts a catalyst of Katsuhira regains his emotions…at a slow rate….the other cast also slowly remove their rings (Yuta used to be fat for example) with the exception of Maki for some reason…
There is a 7th Kiznaiver as they can feel their pain and eventually figure out it’s the one student who hasn’t made a day at school, a guy named Hisomu. Unfortunately he’s a bit of a masochist who enjoys pain and his role for the moment is…er…not exactly defined. However we do learn what the purpose of the Kizna experiment/system is which gradually becomes more sense throughout…
The main thing is that Katsuhira knew Noriko when she was younger which throws Chidori a bit as he may be interested in her, as the group slowly become friendly to each other as they prepare for a training camp, whilst other people (including a couple of Katsuhira’s bullies) are also Kiznaivers, albeit used for different reasons that the core 7…but as most of the group being to bond, one of them is still aloof and is probably the only other really well developed character in Maki as we learn of her past with a girl named Ruru and her past of being a teen creator of a popular manga with said girl, as her emotional pain is felt throughout the group as the two were potentially going to be romantically involved, but Honoka stopped it from happening which caused a big emotional resentment as illustrated (literally) in the final chapter of their creation when Honoka couldn’t help her finish it. However, thanks to Yuta, she realises that Ruru didn’t hate her and her nature (she was dying of kidney disease) meant the time was short and her worry knowing her early death would cause, she reunites with the Kiznaivers and the team seems complete now…
So in the next experiment, one of the originators Yamada shows the original Kiznaivers which were young children making it look quite questioning due to the pain on the kids despite their supposed plan of world peace…which strangely leads up to the group and their emotional pain as several of them have developed feelings for others which has been subtly suggested throughout the show – in this case Nico likes Tenga…who likes Chidori…who likes Katsuhira…who likes Noriko. Oh and also Yuta likes Maki…and Hisomu likes pain and gets frustrated by lack of it…yeah. Whilst a lot of it feels rushed on, it does lead to revealing that Noriko has her own Kizna scar which is a sign that she and Katsuhira definitely knew each other in the past…as potentially two of the original children in the experiment – this also builds up Katsuhira starting to become more emotional, and the thoughts of everyone are more clear leading like the friendships are not what they seem…and some rather emotional outbursts and near-deadly ones too…
We learn of Katsuhira and Noriko’s past of being part of the original Kizna experiment with Noriko being one to take in pain alone and spread it across and the philosophy that the system is inhumane – when it’s use was to spread across the city to bond everyone together. Despite the government shutting it down, the group – initially trying to avoid each other until their seals are removed – realise they truly bonded together and go to stop the government and keep the system active until the seals are removed, to showcase how it works. It leads with some emotional and physical wounds being healed, some pairings pair off, and….well that’s it.
Yeah, it ends kind of anti-climatically and the show doesn’t really explain how it all concluded well bar the fact the gang all reunites. You can tell there are a lot of things that aren’t best explained, ranging from the characters (Hisomu’s role seems just to be there to enjoy pain), to the couples (Nico’s crush on Tenga is a bit out there) to what the Kizna system is about (it is basically a way to share pain to promote peace to stop pain occurring but it really needed better explaining) – this combined with some not there character development for anyone that isn’t Noriko and Katsuhira (with the potential exception of Maki) – Yuta is a handsome man who enjoys the attention now he isn’t fat…Nico is a bit of an eccentric that she has brought herself to be on, and Tenga is a fun loving muscle brain – and whilst all have some fun moments and are included in the romantic angle near the end (which is a key point to the Kizna system to be fair), it just feels that there isn’t enough there…
Which is a shame because the show is gorgeous to look at, and sounds great too. The dark tone the show develops into also helps as it gives a true atmosphere and the idea of two emotionless people holding the series is an interesting turn, albeit one you could not like as Katsuhira (at first) isn’t the most interesting character until the story unfolds and with it being only 12 episodes, there isn’t enough development for all of them (Maki getting the sole solo arc is surprising but fleshed her out and explained her nature) means this is one of those series that feels like it should have been longer because the concept was interesting, the execution perhaps not so much (Hisomu does get a few moments where he is a bit more than he seems, but this comes too little too late) and by the end it just feels like a rushed mess.
Kiznaiver is a show that had the potential but suffers from a short run combined with a risky concept – and whilst development is shown, it isn’t enough for the cast at hand to make this a truly memorable series. Whilst the Maki mini-arc was good and the romantic turmoil actually was plot worthy, the fact that nothing is fully explained well and the characters don’t get enough to do and say combined with the risk of emotionless characters being the leads (albeit do get better and the focus on Noriko/Katsuhira’s past is a good plot twist) makes this show a gorgeous but flawed possibility.
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: August 27th, 2018
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.