Did you know that your actions may have unseen consequences? Well, these characters apparently don’t, especially Katsuhira, but it’s okay. That’s why we have the Kizna system to teach him and the rest of us how to be basic human beings. Let’s just get right into it. Finally, the whole “shared pain” thing works on an emotional level. It would’ve made sense if this had been the case from the start, but hey, at least we’re making progress! Midway through this week’s episode, we have one of those cliched misunderstandings that you so often see in romantic movies or TV shows: Chidori mistakenly believes she’s stumbled upon an intimate moment between Katsuhira and Noriko. As a result, she does that thing where people don’t talk and just assume. As a result, she storms off into the night with her broken heart in tow. She’s not the last girl to do this in a trite story about young love, and she won’t be the last. This time, however, her heartbreak is finally shared. This eventually leads to one of those emotional confessionals where Chidori has to explicitly explain her feelings to her friends and the audience. Gee, it turns out that when the bullies picked on Katsuhira, he wasn’t the only who had to endure. As his childhood friend, Chidori suffered as well. More importantly, she’s been suffering besides him this entire time, and yet, Noriko shows up out of nowhere and gets all of his monotone attention. It’s just not fair! I want him to look at me with dead eyes too! Unbeknownst to her, Katsuhira and the rest of her “friends” heard everything, so… there we go. Problem solved, I guess.
First, the show is about as subtle as a chainsaw-wielding maniac. Just look at this dialogue:
Nico: “Yeah, it’s a weird feeling that makes Niko want to cry.”
Hajime: “Actual pain would be way better than this.”
Katsuhira: “But being heavy is just the way you are, Chidori.”
Talk about being bludgeoned over the head with the message. Wow, emotional pain sucks! The thing is, you need someone exactly like Katsuhira for any of this to even work. Chidori’s pain is so glaringly obvious that any well-adjusted person should easily pick up on it. You don’t even need to be childhood friends with someone to notice if they’re going through a bad phase, so what’s Katsuhira’s excuse? It hurts Chidori when he gets picked on? No shit, Sherlock. This is so basic! We’re buddies, so when you’re in pain, I’m in pain! What a concept! The only way this wouldn’t be obvious is if you happen to be an unusually dense character who lacks any sort of emotional awareness whatsoever. Wait, that sounds familiar… Ding, ding, ding! That’s Katsuhira, ladies and gentlemen. But for the rest of us in the audience, what is there to gain from this story? What can we glean from such a basic lesson in human empathy? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Few of us are as clueless as Katsuhira, so this is like telling me, “Hey, the sky is blue,” and expecting me to ooh and aah at the revelation.
Second, there’s no work involved. We can disagree on whether or not Chidori’s issues are as self-evident as I believe them to be. My biggest problem with this episode, however, lies in how everything ends up being resolved. Katsuhira has been insensitive of Chidori’s feelings, so he just needs to be more sensitive, right? At the end of the episode, he stands up for himself by asking the bully for his money back. Why? Apparently, he now knows that Chidori had been suffering as a result of him. But of course he now knows this. The girl just went on one of those convenient rants that explains everything. Everyone knows now. The question is whether or not an incident like this won’t ever happen again. I gotta say no. Neither Katsuhira nor the rest of the gang have done anything to become better people. They ran to Chidori, then they happened to be within earshot when she was ranting. We don’t even get a scene where they bother to ask the girl, “Hey, is something bothering you? No, please, tell me. I want to listen to you.” Nope, not even that. She has to tell them albeit inadvertently. Let’s say something comes up in the future, and the girl is hurting again. If you take away the whole shared pain gimmick, will Katsuhira suddenly have the wherewithal to realize that his dear childhood friend is hurting? Will he even have the awareness and initiative to ask her about her feelings? Nothing in this episode indicates this whatsoever. Nothing in this episode shows me that Katsuhira is now a better person, a person more in touch with his Chidori’s feelings, a person who isn’t so painfully obtuse. Again, it’s easy when a girl literally spells her problems out to you. What happens when it’s not so easy?
— The rest of the episode is fluff. There’s no mission here. There’s just a bunch of kids playing house in the woods. Even the subtitle pretty much tells you how pointless the first 15 minutes are going to be.
— Sadly, neither the school counselor nor their homeroom teachers are bad guys. They’re just here to test our gang of lovable friends. We can keep telling ourselves that the Kizna system will eventually culminate into a bigger story, but good luck lasting until then.
— So like every boring anime ever, we get to watch the characters banter about childish things, we get to watch them cook a meal, then we get to leer at teenage girls as they compare their breast sizes.
— The only person who doesn’t come right out and tell us everything that she’s going through is Honoka, but that’s because the writer has conveniently decided that this is the one aspect of the story that should remain suspenseful. This week, Honoka hears voices in her head telling her to break. What is it about Japanese woods and making people see and hear weird shit? Anyway, Honoka decides to be a bad girl and sexually assault Tsuguhito. Not before cooking him a meal, though. Guys in this show are apparently incapable of even feeding themselves.
— But let’s take a closer look at this scene, since it’s also indicative of Kiznaiver’s lack of nuance and subtlety. Honoka offers to show Tsuguhito her chest after hinting to the latter that people in general are cruelly judgmental. Regarding Honoka, people believe what they want to believe even if they don’t know anything about her. Stop right there. The anime doesn’t have to say another word. Just let the action tell the story as the girl aggressively comes onto the guy. Since the two of them are not in a relationship, and there’s no indication that she’s one of those sexually liberated types, I’m going to assume she’s doing it in order to debase herself. It’s implied from just her actions alone that Honoka has a low sense of self-worth.
But in case you can’t pick up on any of that, Honoka spells it out for the audience: “I don’t care about myself at all. I don’t care if I break.” Kiznaiver just can’t help itself. It can’t simply allow you to come to your own conclusions. It has to beat you over the head with its characters’ trauma. It’s like the show is proud of the pathos it has crafted, and it has to make sure none of this goes over our heads.
— I want to like Honoka so badly, too. She often says what I want to say. Too bad she doesn’t really mean it here.
— I don’t even want to get into the two bullies and their friendship problems. It’s basically the C-plot of the episode.
— At the very end, the homeroom teacher announces that we can now move onto the second stage. Gosh, what basic element of human interpersonal relationships are we gonna tackle next week? Is contemporary society so alienated that we now need our TV shows to teach us how to interact with each other? Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Kiznaiver!