Just play Undertale instead. Or watch any of the other classic anime series over the years. The whole “everything seems bleak and hopeless, but let’s get the gang together one last time and lend the hero our strength” has been done a thousand times better before. I call it the anime climax. Not every anime does it — and it’s certainly not exclusive to anime — but it really is such an anime thing, isn’t it? We can all remember being pumped as hell when Goku powered up that spirit bomb, didn’t we? Well, not all of us, but it doesn’t have to be Dragon Ball Z. For you, it could be Gurren Lagann. Or perhaps it’s Undertale as I previously mentioned. Perhaps it’s some other story you hold dear to your heart. I’m sure we each have one. And even though these anime climaxes almost always have the same structure and narrative layout, if the set-up is right, they never seem to get old. They’re such heart-warming moments no matter how generic they really are. We all love rooting for the underdog. We all love the excitement of seeing friends get together one last time. It’s just funny why I can’t feel the same way about Kiznaiver’s version.
The show tries to do the same thing, but there’s no real final boss, per se. The final boss here is all mental. It’s emotional. It’s in our hearts, our inability to understand each other or something. But y’know, Katsuhira doesn’t feel like much of an underdog, because most of his weaknesses feel self-inflicted. Even if we understand now that he lost his ability to feel pain or any emotions in general due to the Kizna system, that shouldn’t rob him of your common sense. Plenty of people lack the ability to sympathize with others, but they’re nowhere near as dense or gormless as Katsuhira. And what has been the big change for our hero in recent weeks? Why has he finally started taking action and accepting responsibility for the events surrounding him? It’s because he’s finally sitting down and making himself think about things. Think about his past, his friends, their pain and their feelings. Again, even if you can’t feel it, you can still tease it out on an intellectual level. It’s like for the first time ever, he’s actually racking his brain about these issues. So y’know, it’s hard for me to see the guy as the underdog. He’s not going up against all odds to save his friends or his beloved. He merely stacked the deck against himself, then when it was convenient to move the story forward, Katsuhira finally “woke up.”
And what of our “final boss?” First, we don’t really have one. Noriko isn’t a villain. She’s just a misguided girl who desperately wants to save her friends. But most of all, she’s afraid of being alone, and she can prevent this by forcing everyone to bond. Well, you know what you do? You tell the girl that you won’t abandon her no matter what. You tell the girl that the bond you share with her is unbreakable even without the Kizna system. You tell the girl to let go of everyone’s pain, because if she’s carrying that burden all by her lonesome, she can’t share her own pain. And without that, they can’t truly connect with each other. That’s great. That’s sorta touching, I guess, if I ever cared about either of them as characters. But unfortunately, this can’t be Kiznaiver’s “final battle” moment, because we’ve taken the long way here. We’ve made this far more difficult and complicated than it really needed to be. I’m just not convinced we needed twelve episodes to get to this point. I’m not convinced I needed to see all those tears and hand-wringing just so Katsuhira can tell the girl that he won’t abandon her. The final battle has to be the culmination of all the previous events in the story. Everything has to lead up to it. The final battle is the most essential moment in the story, but every step we take to get there is also important.
With Kiznaiver, the story feels as though it has been made needlessly complicated. The goal is to empathize with and understand each other, right? Okay, that’s not an easy task, but even then, like I’ve said last week — and most of the commenters seemed to agree — this is something we’ve been doing all our lives. So it’s hard for me to square myself with the idea that we needed an entire 12-episode long series for these kids to come the realization that they can empathize and become friends each other without the Kizna system. Welcome to the real world, guys! We’ve been doing the same thing for millennia. Glad you could finally join us in the struggle! And that’s why this final moment on the bridge between Katsuhira and Noriko doesn’t feel like a final battle. Kiznaiver wants that long crescendo that builds and builds until it all explodes, then we get up in our seats and cheer when the hero catches the girl. But it doesn’t work that way when the story is so contrived and manufactured. This might’ve been decent as a taut, two-hour movie, but as a 12-episode series, it’s long-winded and tiresome. The anime made mountains out of molehills. It tried to turn a basic human problem into something grandiose and poignant. So yeah, I wasn’t cheering when Katsuhira finally got through to Noriko. I just thought to myself, “Thank god that’s over with… I kinda wanna replay Undertale.”
Or maybe I’ll just rewatch Gurren Lagann.