Kiznaiver Ep. 6: Maudlin

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I guess it’s time to learn a thing or two about Honoka’s past. Strap yourselves in. It’s about to get misty in here.


— We see a flashback with Honoka and some empty-headed girl who nearly kills herself just to… prove a point? She wants to hammer home the idea that Honoka can’t get rid of her?

— It’s good to be honest with yourself.

— As I am watching the cold opening, it suddenly dawns on me that there is a very heavy emphasis on the female characters and their emotional woes. In comparison, Tenga, Yuta, and Hisomu seem to have gotten the short end of the stick. For instance, Hisomu’s need to feel physical pain is painted in a very joking manner. He’s treated as a pervert when he’s really a self-destructive individual who should receive more attention.

— And certainly, Katsuhira is the male lead, and therefore, he will receive a lot of character development. But his key defining characteristic is that he lacks emotions. So again, the show’s entire emotional burden lies with the girls. Is it because it’s just easier for the audience to sympathize with cute yet vulnerable girls? And is that fair to either of the sexes?

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— For the most part, the character designs and their animation are pretty, but the backgrounds are very uninspiring. Lazy, even.

— I agree with Chidori here. I don’t know where the story is going with this Kizna thing yet, but Chidori’s right. Some feelings are not worth sharing. Some feelings should remain private, because feelings are impulsive. You can’t always control what you feel. For instance, let’s say my girlfriend tells me she’s having a girls’ night out, and I’m hurt. Logically, I know it’s no big deal for her to go out. It’s a good thing for her to see her friends, and it’s not healthy for couples to spend every waking moment together. That’s what I know in my head.

But in my heart, let’s say that it hurts. It hurts real bad. It’s selfish, but I can’t control that. I can only control what I choose to do about my feelings. If my girlfriend and I are stuck in the Kizna System, she’d instantly know that I am hurt. And you know what? Even if I tell her it’s okay for her to go out, just the fact that she knows I’m hurt will probably sour the rest of her night. Some feelings just aren’t worth sharing, and part of growing up is learning to recognize the ones that are worth communicating with our partners. I hope Kiznaiver doesn’t go hog wild with the idea that it’s a good thing for these “friends” to suddenly know every single time one of them is hurting.

— Well, what do you know? Hisomu is not an emotional masochist.

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— Nico senses that Honoka is lonely, so she tries to walk home with the girl. She then uses some backwards logic to try and convince the latter that they’re friends. Friends share secrets with each other, right? And since their pain is shared, this must mean that they’re friends! But it’s like when your mom forces you to have play date with some kid you dislike. Yeah, friends share secrets with one another, but that’s after the friendship has already been formed.

In Kiznaiver, nobody is voluntarily sharing their pain. They’re forced to feel everyone’s pain, then they’re forced to do something about it. I’d be pretty salty in their shoes, i.e. “You only give a shit about me, because you have to.” As a result, the friendship between these seven individuals seems pretty inauthentic to me. It’s forced. It’s phony.

— I want to give the anime the benefit of the doubt. I want to think Okada’s message isn’t this one dimensional. But just earlier in the episode, Tenga observes that Honoka isn’t honest about her feelings. She acts as if she’s annoyed by the group, and yet, she always shows up when they invite her to gatherings. Likewise, the whole friendship spiel is coming from Nico, the one person in the group who I would least suspect of having ill-intentions. So maybe Kiznaiver really does believe that these unlucky seven can somehow become best friends just because they are forced to share their deepest, darkest feelings.

— Yeah, you’re right.

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— As the weeks go by, I’m losing any hope that the Kizna System will lead to anything compelling. Noriko meets with the mayor, and she is told that investors are pulling out. They’re also getting bad press. It’s such a short scene, however, and the episode goes right back to our seven teenagers and their teenage problems.

— It turns out Honoka and her friend penned some manga that became an overnight sensation due to the fact that it was written by two middle school girls. From the sounds of it, the premise of the manga does not sound very appealing. A high school girl falling in love with her teacher? Ugh. But that’s not really relevant to our story, so I’ll just leave it at that.

— It’s certain at this point that Honoka didn’t kill anyone. We still don’t know what happened to her friend yet, but Honoka just feels really, really guilty about it on an emotional level. Well, like Yuta said, she’s not in jail so this is arguably obvious from the get-go, but hey, you never know with anime. Still, Honoka’s past was the one thing about Kiznaiver that I found potentially interesting. And now that we’re slowly peeling back the layers, I just want to glue them back on.

— Honoka wants the past to remain in the past, but some studio wants to adapt the manga into a film. Worse yet, they want to do a documentary on the creators of the manga. I have a lot more to say about this, but we’ll get to it soon enough. Hold on to your butts.

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— Snort…

— On the one hand, at least Kiznaiver is taking some light jabs at the ridiculous eyes you sometimes see in manga. At least, I think they are. But on the other hand, the manga here was done by a couple of preteen girls, so… I mean, I’m not expecting some fucking Van Goghs in middle school.

— So is this an animation error or is Kiznaiver still mocking bad manga art? Either way, I’m reminded of the elvaans in FFXI. Goddamn dhamel necks…

— The documentary crew ambushes Honoka, but luckily, her friends show up to scare them off. The girl still suffers a breakdown, though.

— I got you, fam.

— Unfortunately, Tenga lets it slip that they’re here on a mission to save her. Well, nobody wants to hear that. Again, it’s the whole “You only give a shit because you have to” problem. So naturally, the girl storms off. Everyone proceeds to stand around and look sad. Cue the slow, aching string soundtrack. They also tell us that they feel sad. More specifically, there’s a gloomy feeling in their stomachs. Hey, psst, do you realize that they’re sad? Wait, let me spell it out even further just in case it still isn’t apparent:

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Nice DBZ reference. At the same time, however, emotional pain has been equated to a fucking power level. We’ve quantified our feelings.

— Even though Honoka doesn’t want to share her feelings whatsoever, Nico argues that it’s a good thing! After all, Honoka’s emotional pain has been divided seven ways, so it doesn’t feel as bad as if she was carrying the burden all by her lonesome! Yeesh. How ’bout the new pain of realizing that everyone is now up in your business?

— Before the episode ends, Katsuhira pays Noriko a quick visit. After all, he hasn’t had much to do all episode. He may as well steal the show now.

Um… okay.

— The guy then tells Noriko that he’s disappointed in her. I guess that’s progress.


So how do I feel about Honoka’s story? It’s a step up from Chidori’s love problems, but like with most shows, the problem is in the execution. We still don’t know what happened between the two girls, and yes, I know we’ll find out eventually. But it’s like the friendship definition from earlier: everything’s done backwards. The story is trying to achieve an emotional payoff without actually creating the foundation for it. Honoka feels bad, guys. She feels really bad. She’s hurting. The characters tell us over and over that she’s hurting. They know, because they’re hurting. Golly gee, she feels bad. Do you realize she feels bad yet? And this entire time, we don’t actually know why she feels bad! Okay, something happened between her and her friend. But that’s all I know, so as a result, I can’t actually feel anything for the girl.

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I just have these characters standing here, looking sad while being perfectly spaced across the scene, telling me over and over that they feel super sad. It’s like the story needs to prime us for the eventual reveal. If they tell us over and over that this is a sad situation, we’ll just believe it no matter what happens in next week’s episode.

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“So this is what it feels like,” Katsuhira says, “when your heart hurts.” Ahhhhhh, it’s so maudlin.

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It’s sappy, overly sentimental bullshit.

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It’s heavy-handed as all hell.

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It’s the anime equivalent of Gary Jules’ “Mad World.” Anyway, here’s the best line of the episode:

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16 thoughts on “Kiznaiver Ep. 6: Maudlin”

  1. That hypothetical anecdote about you and your girlfriend’s night out touched home to me. I remember about six years ago I was dating this girl, my first “real” relationship. Long story short, something vaguely similar happened with me.

    I don’t fully think it’s a matter of, as you wrote, “Some feelings just aren’t worth sharing, and part of being human is learning to recognize the ones that are worth communicating with our partners.”
    That’s true for certain thoughts which may be blacker than sin, but those aside I don’t know if I agree. I’ve come to find it’s a matter of voicing and being fully open about even the feelings we think we know are dumb or pointless or seem to be selfish. We need to communicate even those things, especially anxieties and hurt, no matter how seemingly insignificant or illogical they may be to us.

    If we do not do this for fear of bringing resentment into the heart of our lover, then we may find resentment ever so slowly building in our own.

    However, once the subject/feeling/concern is voiced then an understanding must be reached, and once it is then no matter what trace of that concern/feeling lingers it cannot be regurgitated again. This is where I think the real issue of this warped SHARED FEELINGZ system comes into your scenario:
    ______Once you have already voiced your concern/hurt, laid yourself bare and vulnerable to your lover by doing so, and she (hopefully, if she’s of any worth to be your lover) has assuaged your concern then the matter is settled, understanding is shared. Yet by this shared-feeling system she would still feel what lingering feelings you have on the subject. Those wisps of thought which otherwise would have turned to vapor are now felt by her, and that lingering feeling would make her concerned that no real understanding has been reached (though it had), and her concern would be felt immediately by you and in turn–
    HAhaha I can’t imagine this ending in any way but a mute feeling-argument, where your impulsive and lingering emotions clash without either of you ever getting the chance to properly clarify them before the whole thing is bottom’s up in emotional schizophrenia. When the heart is quicker than the brain the whole body crumbles.

    Anyway, point is that the system is really retarding. haha Isn’t that always the way with these kinds of plot devices, though?

    As for the hypothetical hurt over the girlfriend hanging out with friends, I would say that it’s natural and healthy, initially. Given time and silence it could grow into dependence and/or more likely resentment as I said. The hypothetical you would not be any less of a man nor less of a good boyfriend for voicing it on the outset or even a time after you first recognized it.
    ____After all, while it’s true that you and she are not supposed to be glued at the hip, the ultimate purpose of a relationship is to eventually get married. After the “honeymoon phase” as they call it goes, what comes next is what C.S. Lewis referred to as the “time when charity is truly built”, or rather, the time when you two now settle into one another in earnest, having come to the fullness of what it means to live as pair, in one house, in one bed, seeing each other every day, every night, until death do you part.

    It’s natural to want to be together constantly at first, as it is to be nervous about indulging in that to the point of either suffocating the other or “wearing the relationship down”. Boundaries and personal space must be established early on before the notion of the ring even glimmers in the furthest horizon, but so must the reflections of those personal spaces be understood. That is to say, your respect of her hanging out with her friends is very healthy (should it be a healthy activity they engage in when hanging out, anyway) but your hurt must also be made known, though only once, and certainly for both your sakes not on the day she is going to go hang out. hahaha

    Charity can only exist once all things are made known. After all, you can’t have patience or understanding between you two with something that is known to only one of you. The two of you can’t work alongside one another to put together a puzzle image when one of the puzzle pieces is invisible to one of you.
    ___Make all the pieces visible, even the ones you are afraid to, so that together you can work on piecing together that portrait. That is when charity is tested, and that testing is how charity grows. It all depends on how you together voice and resolve even your quietest concerns.

    Secret feelings lead to secret troubles, and like termites these will eat away at the foundation of the house of your relationship, a house which (if you are at all serious with one another) you both hope will become your permanent residence.

    1. Secret feelings lead to secret troubles,

      This is not a universal rule. You didn’t really understand my example. Some feelings are just irrational, and sharing them does not do any good. You can’t go around voicing your gut feelings on everything, even to the ones you trust the most. It’s a quick way to get them to resent you. “All I did was talk to a male friend, why do you have to be mad?” And this is just one example. Let’s say someone is mad at their sister for getting engaged before her. It’s a stupid thing to get mad about. You shouldn’t even bring it up. Let’s say you’re sad because your brother gets to go on better vacations than you. Not their fault. You shouldn’t bring it up. No matter how honest you are, you’re going to wear your loved ones down with petty insecurities and/or jealous nonsense. That’s the point I’m trying to make. Certain feelings need to be kept to yourself. Certain feelings you want to keep private. How embarrassing would it be if people knew that their happiness made you unhappy? “Really? You couldn’t be happy for me? You just had to make this about you again?” And if you ultimately need someone to talk to? Share your feelings with a professional who can actually help you. A loved one is not a bath rug to absorb your troubles.

      1. Ah Fair enough, mate. You have a good point. I didn’t consider it from that perspective, only that particular situation. It really does depend on the feeling and even more so the validity of it.

  2. “Ugh.” is right! haha And I really like the jabs you keep catching with these characters professing their own stupidity.

    “On the one hand, nice DBZ reference. On the other hand, emotional pain has been equated to a fucking power level.”
    HAhaha!

    We need to splice in Mad World with that scene somehow. That’s perfect. This was pathetic in the best way. AAAit’s so maudlin! haha Nicely done, mate.

  3. This show hasn’t done anything subtle since the start. Mostly because the characters are so moronic they need everything explained and re-explained to them and none of them ever ask the pertinent question that might actually get us something resembling an original or compelling thought. I’m still enjoying this series, and this episode was definitely a step up from last week, but it is still too messy and directionless for me to claim to be really enjoying.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hadn’t noticed how easy the guys had gotten off until you pointed it out. Now I’m kind of hoping the next episode brings one of them some pain.

  4. I don’t watch this anymore but you raised an interesting point about how girl’s emotional pain gets such spotlight in anime. Reminds me of how the plot of madoka relied on using the pain of little girls as energy for the universe or something, and just them alone, because no one else has emotional pain I guess.

    1. Actually, shounens devote plenty time to its characters’ emotional pain and since the relevant characters are usually 90% male, well… Practically the whole first episode of the ongoing My Hero Academia was about MC’s feelings.

      If I remember right, Madoka’s Big Bad wanted energy released from the moment when hope turns into despair and explained that the emotions of the teenage (girls) were intense and unstable enough. My guess is that they just used Sailor Moon (or what Madoka universe has instead) as a base and since 4-5 girls were sufficient, saw no need to market to boys.

      On the subject of Kiznaiver – when the card game anime manages to convey emotional pain better than you, you have problems. Especially since it’s supposed to be the main point of this whole mess.

  5. I like the concept of the show, but I felt like it would have been better off as an arc for Kokoro Connect rather than a whole series on it’s own.

  6. Thank you for stopping to highlight that bit about the ‘frightening look’, I had a good laugh. The direction let this episode down at a few other points; the saving of Honoka from the film crew was structured like a climax but managed to feel completely lacking in any dynamic energy.

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