Reader be wary, there are spoilers ahead!
I don’t quite remember how I stumbled onto Kiznaiver. It debuted in the Spring 2016 anime season, was produced by the popular anime house Trigger, and was directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi, the episode director for Kill la Kill. Although these are some pretty noteworthy names, I don’t think they were the reason I found the series.
What I do remember about my initial impressions of the show is its basic premise: a group of teenagers that are bound together by their physical, and eventually emotional wounds. I’m a sucker for character driven plots, as well as the bonds and relationships between people, so Kiznaiver was obviously right up my alley.
Bound By Our Scars
Before I get into Kiznaiver’s plot, I feel that it is important to give context to the show’s title. The word kiznaiver is based on the Japanese words for “wound/scar” (kizu) and “bond/connection” (kizuna). *full credit to Wikipedia for this bit of info*
Kiznaiver’s story focuses on the relationships between seven teenagers: Chidori, Tenga, Yuta, Nico, Honoka, Hisomu, and our central protagonist, Katsuhira “Kacchon”. In addition, there is an eighth primary character named Noriko. Noriko is the major catalyst for the events of the story, and she has a particularly special interest in Kacchon.
Kiznaiver’s central cast of characters are all selected for the Kiznaiver experiment. Each character is branded with a special scar (at which point they become Kiznaivers), one that allows them to feel one another’s pain. For example, if Chidori stubs her toe on a table, each of the other Kiznaivers will feel her pain.
This is a really cool setup for a story that wishes to explore the dynamic between seven really different characters, characters who, at first glance, seem to be pretty stock story tropes. Chidori is the girl in love, Tenga is the tough guy, Yuta is the charmer, Nico is the energetic girl, and Honoka is the girl who is just too smart for everybody else. One of the major exceptions to this is Hisomu. Hisomu is, well…. you’ll just have to watch and see.
Over the course of the story, each of these characters are given much more depth beyond their surface level personalities. These points of character development usually come in the form of them being placed in situations where they are forced to confront the parts of their personality and history that they are not proud of, or through the evolution of their Kiznaiver scar. This type of character development gave me major Persona 4 vibes, and anything that can accomplish that gets huge brownie points in my book.
The Kiznaiver Experiment
The Kiznaiver program was established to create a perfect world, one free of pain and suffering. In theory, the pain that would normally be experienced by a Kiznaiver would be severely weakened because it would be evenly distributed amongst each of the other Kiznaivers.
This theory did not pan out exactly as intended. In the initial phases of the experiment, it appeared to be a huge success. The children that were selected to participate were experiencing virtually no pain. This is because instead of their pain being divided evenly amongst the Kiznaivers, one child had inadvertently become the sole receiver of everybody else’s pain.
While this did cause the child agonizing, um… pain, it also made them really happy that they were able to free so many others from suffering. This caused the child to adopt the dream of perfecting the Kiznaiver system, and creating a perfect world, a utopia.
For as long as he can remember, Kacchon has never been able to experience any type of pain, and really, no type of emotion in general. His story arc deals with him reclaiming his pain and emotions, as well as following the threads that will help him patch up the holes in his memories.
Much of Kacchon’s story is pushed along through his interactions with the mysterious Noriko. As it turns out, both Kacchon and Noriko were involved in the initial Kiznaiver experiment as children. The experiment left Kacchon emotionally broken, though not to the extent of some of his fellow child Kiznaivers.
After the initial experiment failed, most of the children were kept by the scientists until they were deemed healthy enough to return to their normal lives. While Kacchon and many others were able to eventually leave the facility, many of his friends had been reduced to an almost permanent catatonic state. Kacchon eventually reunites with these children, leading to one of the most emotional scenes in the entire show (beaten out only by the ending of episode 9).
An Unbreakable Bond
One of the coolest parts of Kiznaiver is the Kiznaiver scar itself. While it starts out as something that simply allows the characters share physical pain, their friendship causes it to evolve. Kacchon and his friends eventually gain the ability to experience each other’s emotional pain, as well as hear each other’s thoughts. This type of stress in conjunction with the discourse that had been sewn amongst them nearly causes our characters to break.
Kiznaiver is a show that I’m really happy I watched, and one I’m sure I’ll watch again. I’d gladly recommend it to anybody that loves character driven plots and really engaging character development. Plus, it’s only 12 episodes, so it’s not a huge investment.