Saturday 9 April 2016

First Impressions: Kiznaiver


Studio Trigger may have already established a name for themselves thanks to the ex-Gainax staff that helped form it and critically acclaimed projects such as Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia, but in terms of original properties they are a studio still very much in their early days. The total number of big productions they've tackled in the past four years can still be counted on two hands, and among those only three of them are non-adapted works - the aforementioned two and the unashamedly ridiculous Inferno Cop. However 2016 is a big year for the studio as they launch two entirely new products this anime season. We've already seen Hiroyuki Imaishi continue his own brand of insanity with Space Patrol Luluco, but on top of that there's also Kiznaiver - a full length series from director Hiroshi Koboyashi and writer Mari Okada (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, AnoHana).

12 years ago a young boy had an encounter with a mysterious girl, who told him that he would be "able to get back his pain". Now in the futuristic Sugomori City, that boy - Katsuhira Agata, has grown up completely detatched from a perception of pain. One day he encounters Noriko Sonozaki - a seemingly emotionless girl who speaks to him about how the seven deadly sins have evolved over time and now look very different, before pushing him down a flight of stairs to test his pain threshold.

When Katsuhira awakens, he is informed by Noriko that he has been selected to become a Kiznaiver. Him, along with five of his classmates, are now connected via the Kizuna system - which allows them all to share any pain each of them receive. Noriko then explains how Sugumori City is in fact an experimental city designed specifically for the Kizuna System - with the aim of having humanity share their pain and suffering to end conflict. These six students normally wouldn't have anything in common, but are now bound together in a way they would have never expected.

As a unahamed Trigger fanboy this was one of my must-see shows for this anime season, however I intentionally didn't follow any of the promotional material in the run-up to the series in order to go in as blindly as possible. This tactic certainly didn't work to my disadvantage, as Kiznaiver managed to successfully draw me in with an interesting premise and a promising cast of characters. On top of that the show is very recognisably Trigger in terms of aesthetics, but the over-the-top nature of their previous works is considerably reigned in here. There's still a dash of comedy here and there, but in general Kiznaiver seems to aim to tell a more serious story and that alone makes it all the more compelling.

Although this first episode serves to introduce the majority of the cast that will carry throughout the show, it mainly belonged to Agata - our seemingly emotionless hero who forgot the concept of pain a long time ago. Running with the emotionally distant character as a lead can be a risky affair given how done to death it is in anime, but Kiznaiver turns it quite nicely on its head by using a male in the position. The bulk of the episode does come across as overly wordy at times (the seven deadly sins parallels don't really offer much other than to sound a bit more pretentious than "these people are all different"), but it at least provides good visual evidence of what's going on to accompany the wordiness. The art itself is gorgeous, and the voice cast full of familiar voices who seem to be settling into their roles nicely. 

Just where exactly Kiznaiver is going with all of this I'm not quite sure of, but the first episode and general concept of the whole thing are more than enough to keep me watching. The fact I have absolutely no idea how Noriko (or the show in general) intends to use the Kiznaiver System for the 'greater good' intrigues me all the more, but I know at the very least if handled well should provide some excellent character interactions and development. The cast from the little we've seen is shaping up very well, and if there's one thing Mari Okada has proved again and again its that she knows how to handle her characters. Trigger have set themselves up with a pretty good track record so far, here's hoping it continues with this.

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