Kiznaiver is a 2016 anime produced by Studio Trigger, the production studio responsible for Kill la Kill and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The title of the series is a play on words and is indicative of the overarching premise of the entire series. Kizu (written as 傷) refers to a wound, scar, or emotional pain while Kizuna (written as 絆) translates to bond, link, or connection. Kiznaiver as the series is titled refers to a set of people that are bound and connected to one another through the Kizna System allowing everyone within that said system to share in one’s pain be it physical or emotional. The anime follows a small group of diverse people who have been connected to one another through the Kizna System. The story delves into the experiences of the group and particularly focuses on Katsuhira Agata, a teenage boy who has lost his sense of pain altogether.
The greatest strength of Kiznaiver can be seen its art. Being the same studio that produced Kill la Kill, the approach to art was somewhat similar albeit a bit toned down to match the pace and feel of the series. The choice of color palette was trademark to Trigger using bright colors reminiscent of Kill la Kill. The increased saturation on the characters of the show made them pop out in a sense, leaving a stronger impression and serving to highlight the quality of both the color and the character.
In connection to this, particular characters were assigned to specific color palettes which tended to match their personalities as well. The adherence to specific monochromatic palettes per character served to amplify their qualities and heightened the contrast between their personalities. For instance, Kastuhira Agata’s palette was mostly grayscale in nature reflecting his inability to feel pain and his emotional bluntness. Noriko Sonozaki’s palette consisted of bluer tones which reflects her initial coldness and lack of emotional connection to the group. In contrast, Chidori Takashiro, whose palette consisted of mostly red tones was a character who was emotional, caring, and warm. Interestingly, Hajime Tenga who had an analogous palette to that of Chidori, grew attached to her due to their similarity in character. Because of this, the choice of color truly elevated Kiznaiver, playing a key role in shaping the personality and identity of its characters.
The art is also well highlighted in the opening theme, Lay Your Hands On Me by BOOM BOOM Satellites, which served as a hook for the series. The music instantly separated Kiznaiver’s opening from most anime openings by stepping away from the commonly used j-rock or j-pop and opting trance, a genre which Japan is well-known for. Adding to this, the fact that the lyrics were predominantly in English immediately makes it distinct and sets it apart from most anime. Coupled with the music was impressive animation for the opening sequence. With its psychedelic visuals reminiscent of the trance culture of Japan being interspaced between shots of the main characters, the art and animation undoubtedly serves to elevate the opening. The effect of all the elements put together resulted in a wonderful opening that created a lasting impression.
Despite the strong impression left by the art of the series, Kiznaiver falls short in terms of plot. Due to its short one cour run, the anime feels rushed especially towards the end. With all the time that Kiznaiver spends on developing its characters, the dynamic between members of the group remained awkward and inorganic until the end. Due to the inability to establish an impression of real closeness within the group, much of the drama in Kiznaiver feels forced serving as a blatant plot devices that stick out rather than flowing smoothly with the overarching plot. It’s unfortunate that despite its unique premise and its outstanding art, Kiznaiver falls short in terms of storytelling.
Overall, it is difficult to recommend Kiznaiver when so many others tell better stories. If anything, I would recommend watching it simply due to its art which adds so much more depth to an otherwise unimpressive story.