It’s a good thing this anime is so pretty, because the story is so stupid.
— In the cold opening, Noriko narrates to the audience. She tells us how she used to be all by her lonesome at the testing facility, but one day, a bunch of kids showed up. We know, of course, that this story eventually ended in tragedy, but at the time, Noriko and the other kids became fast friends. Everyone played together, everyone ate together, everyone slept together. They had so much fun that, as a young child, Noriko wished that those days could last forever. Now, imagine this very same opening without her narration. Nothing would change. The opening still would have made perfect sense.
If anything, the anime would engage the audience even more, because we’d now have to pay close attention to the images and the dialogue in order to glean the same information. I’m suggesting that the narration is completely unnecessary, and this is just one of the many examples where less is more. As a medium, anime seems to have an over-reliance on inner monologues and disembodied narration for no particular reason. Like why is she even giving this narration? Who is she talking to? Is she talking to herself, writing in a diary, or breaking the fourth wall completely? Or maybe — just maybe — we could just rely on the images and the dialogue to tell the story? Just a thought.
— I like the framing here.
— On their way home from the facility, Nico makes a rather commonsensical suggestion to Katsuhira and Hisomu. After all, they’re no longer linked by the Kizna system. If they want to share their feelings, they have to, well, do it themselves. That seems reasonable. In fact, that’s what we’ve been doing since the dawn of humanity. But that’s the bizarre thing about Kiznaiver. The show’s production values and presentation make it seem as though the anime should be more poignant, more profound, more meaningful than it really is. But at its core, it’s just a story about a bunch of high school kids learning the true meaning of friendship and basic human empathy.
— I also like this shot.
— Later that night, Katsuhira leaves Chidori a voicemail. He finally understands how painful it was for her to stand by his side. Remember when he broke down crying at the sight of his former friends? He can’t help but imagine that she must see him the same way he sees those five catatonic human dolls. He now realizes how much she was trying to protect him. That’s great. He finally understands her feelings. But why does it have to be this difficult? Why do we have to cook up some convoluted scenario involving unethical experiments in order for generic emotionless anime archetype no. 274445 to finally put himself in generic childhood friend love interest no. 683456’s shoes?
— Shortly after listening to Katsuhira’s message, Chidori finally understands what Tenga was getting at in last week’s episode. Oh man, empathy is so hard.
— Hisomu’s character is not very consistent. When they were trapped in the school, he reopened Maki’s old wounds and hurting the girl just for his own pleasure and amusement. But now, he’s apparently an understanding and supportive friend for Katsuhira.
— Did he learn something from that tumultuous night? Or is Hisomu just not a well-developed character? Ever since the start of the anime, he’s been a wild card, and it’s no different now. He just does whatever the story needs him to do. The plot needed him to stir shit up a couple of weeks ago, and that’s what he did. And now, he’s like the best bud Katsuhira can have. It’s just silly.
— Elsewhere, the mayor tells the two researchers that they need to do something drastic. They’re outta time, blah blah blah, we don’t want Noriko and the other kids to be put on display to the world, yadda yadda yadda. Obviously, the mayor is just thinking about himself. After all, if the world finds out about the Kizna system, is it necessarily bad for Noriko and the other kids, or is it necessarily bad for the mayor? The answer is pretty obvious.
— The following day, Noriko shows up to school. Katsuhira takes this opportunity to have a private chat with the girl. He thinks she’s asking for his help, but she calls him an imbecile instead. She claims instead that what she really wants is for everyone to share their pain instead of shouldering it alone. Why not both?
— The anime is beautiful, but Tenga’s shadow is not beautiful. Sorry, bud.
— Afterwards, Katsuhira calls a meeting with the rest of his friends. He begins to talk, and it’s kind of a rambling mess, but don’t take that as criticism. The kid is being emotional for once, so I don’t have a quibble with this part. The takeaway is that they had already been friends since the start of the summer.
— But more importantly, he’s really, really sad that he had forgotten about his old friends from the facility. Seeing and hearing Katsuhira’s pain, everyone else starts to feel a pain in their chest as well. B-b-but I thought they weren’t connected by the Kizna system anymore! Uh, maybe it’s called empathy? Maybe it’s called being a human? I mean, holy shit, why is this a strange concept? Haven’t you guys ever seen a sad movie before and felt sad? It’s not because you were connected with the movie!
— And this is exactly what Urushi tells them. The Kizna system can’t keep them connected for a long period of time. So when they felt Katsuhira’s pain, they were just empathizing with him. And congratulations, she says, because they’ve proven that… empathy is possible even without the Kizna system. Haha, what? Like, what is this? Did the Kizna system somehow made them forget what it is like to feel other people’s pain, and as a result, they had to relearn one of the very basic things about being a human?
— Noriko might have heard one of those catatonic kids say something. Or maybe she merely imagined it. Who knows! Gosh, isn’t this exciting? All of a sudden, Noriko can be heard through the city’s speaker system. It’s the same as before: she wants everyone to share their pain. Look, don’t bear the burden of your pain by yourself. We’re a community! We’re family! We can help each other! So again, she climbs atop that structure, and opens her arms wide to the world. She invites everyone to bond with her.
— Again, Kiznaiver is lucky it’s so pretty, because it’s such a dumb show. Even little kids have basic understanding of empathy. Babies understand empathy. But somehow, it’s something these high school kids don’t quite understand. Instead, they need to slowly stumble upon it as if they’re unearthing some sort of grand epiphany.
— Semi-unrelated rant time: you could even argue that in our digital world, where information can be exchanged almost instantaneously, we’re sharing too much. Every little stupid thing that bothers me is now being broadcast to people from all around the world. And people who read my inane me-me-me rants proceed to tell me how they totally get me, how they totally relate to me, how they understand me. There’s a club for every weirdo out there in the world. So no, I don’t think the problem is that we don’t empathize with each other enough. It’s that we have too many people legitimizing our issues, big or small, and it’s having the adverse effect. We never grow as people, because every perceived slight is interpreted as a deliberate attack, so we just retreat to our safe and sterile echo chambers and hugboxes.