It wouldn’t be fair to call Kiznaiver a total deviation from what Studio Trigger is known for, as there are very obvious Trigger elements throughout. I can’t deny that the series does stick out like a sore thumb just for being the most rooted in realism. While you won’t find any worlds in danger or people crossing their arms defiantly in front of impossible odds, Kiznaiver excels in another aspect that Trigger is known for, its characters.
What It Is
In April 2016, Studio Trigger released two original works. One would be the short 8-minutes per episode Space Patrol Luluco, which seemed like the perfect representation of all things Trigger. It has eye-popping visuals, slick animation, and an outrageous never-stopping intergalactic (and interdimensional if you consider one episode taking place in Hell) story that involves middle schoolers, different planets and places that reference past Trigger works, and a universe-ending threat.
The other was Kiznaiver: a full-fledged one cour anime with a colorful cast in a strange situation, but with a strong meaning placed front and center. No one goes out into space, or even outside the one city the story takes place in. Kiznaiver is in some ways the inverse of other Trigger works as it focuses particularly on the characters and their interactions with each other.
That isn’t to say the story is a normal one. Kiznaiver follows 7 high schoolers who are essentially kidnapped and experimented on through. The reasoning behind this is due to their differing personalities, which makes them excellent candidates for the “Kizna System,” a proposed experiment that would foster world peace. Each one of them is connected to each other through “wounds,” allowing them all to feel each other’s physical and emotional pain.
Each of the students in the experiment is brought together by Noriko Sonozaki, who labels each of the “Kiznaivers” after one of the Seven Deadly Sins from Catholicism. The story follows the development of the Kiznaivers as they open up to each other and discover how far-reaching this experiment goes.
As viewers we watch the characters grow close to each other and bare their vulnerabilities with each other. This isn’t shown through a run-of-the-mill format where every episode focuses on a different Kiznaiver and their issues. They get to know each other through the various missions that Noriko puts them through, and also through helping each other.
Since I’m about to get into the importance of its characters and their development, I’m definitely going to be going into spoiler territory for the show. For those interested in watching it, I’m happy to say that it’s readily available on Crunchyroll! They have it available in both the Japanese dub and the English dub for free!
For those of you on the fence about it, my recommendation is that it is absolutely worth your time. It likely won’t be remembered as a classic like Kill la Kill, or even grouped with many of Trigger’s hits, but it is by no means a bad anime. It’s an entertaining watch with wonderfully written characters and the quality of animations and style that you expect from a Trigger work.
If none of that is good enough to entice interest in the show, I can’t let you off without mentioning the opening. It’s not vital to the show in any way, but there’s a reason why a lot of people remember the show because of its wonderful opening.
\If I can’t convince you by the end of this that the show is worth taking a look, hopefully, I can introduce you to an absolute banger of a song by the wonderful Boom Boom Satellites. Take a listen and watch the opening yourself.
The characters and their connection to each other is the main focus of the show. If we’re going to be talking about Kiznaiver, it’ll probably help you out if we introduce who they are.
Katsuhira Agata: The main protagonist of the show, who seems to suffer from having no emotions and not having any feeling of pain. His indifference places him in a variety of bad situations, from constantly being bullied to not being able to connect with people. The sin given to him by Noriko is “The Imbecile”, or the modern equivalent of Sloth.
Chidori Takashiro: Katsuhira’s childhood friend. Her defining trait is her willingness to go above and beyond to help her friends, which can be seen by some as her being too nosy for her own good. She has held a love for Katsuhira since they were in grade school but has never been able to communicate this with him due to his lack of emotion and interest. Noriko labels her as the “Goody-Two-Shoes”, or the modern equivalent of Envy.
Hajime Tenga: A sympathetic and honest person once you get to know him, but first impressions paint him as an intimidating thug. His intelligence is something else that clashes with his peoples’ initial “brawn over brain” perception they have of him. He is prone to letting his anger get the best of him in certain situations, which causes Noriko to label him as the “Musclehead Thug”, a modern equivalent of Wrath.
Tsuguhito Yuta: One of the colder and seemingly superficial Kiznaivers, who tends to surround himself with similar superficial people. Some of his first recognizable traits are his intelligence and status as a lady’s man within his class. The label given to him by Noriko is “The Cunning Normal”, a modern equivalent of Gluttony.
Nico Niiyama: Easily the biggest oddball of the group with her extroversive personality and apparent belief in seeing “fairies”. Past her eccentric nature is someone who cares deeply for the well-being of her friends. Noriko see’s her as “The Eccentric Headcase”, or a modern equivalent of Greed.
Honoka Maki: Another Kiznaiver who tends to stay aloof, she prefers no company. Her condescending personality turns most people away, and as a result, they never come to learn of what traumatic events led to her personality becoming the way it is. Nonetheless, her personality leads Noriko to assign her as “High and Mighty”, an equivalence of Pride.
Yoshiharu Hisomu: The final Kiznaiver to be discovered, as he never attends classes with them. He’s quickly labeled as the naturally attractive guy, which even his torn up clothes and bandages fail to properly beset. His masochistic nature sets him apart from the others as he’s the only one who enjoys the pain they all share. Noriko assigns him as “The Immoral”, or the modern-day Lust.
Noriko Sonozaki: The overseer of the Kizna system and is the one responsible for guiding the Kiznaivers through different missions. While Katsuhira is incapable of connecting with people and seems lost and confused, her inability to show emotions and the awareness of it seems more inhumane.
These aren’t the only recurring characters in the show, but they’re the main characters and the ones I’ll be focusing on here. And now we can break it all down.
The Seven Sins and Their Virtuous Counterparts
Noriko compares the Kiznaivers to the Seven Sins in the very first episode. It’s a strong comparison to make for sure, and even Katsuhira asks if she’s just being mean. The characters do indeed match these archetypes, however, but through the series they grow to accept their flaws. I argue that by the end of the series they represent the Seven Virtues instead.
Chidori is given the sin of Envy. The comparison doesn’t make sense at first. While she certainly matches the Goody Two-Shoes trait, nothing about her initially shows a sense of Envy. This comparison is instead revealed to be accurate partway through the series, as Chidori notices a connection between Katsuhira and Noriko.
It’s not that she’s jealous of Noriko, as the relationship between Chidori and Katsuhira is only friendship or a one-sided love at best. Katsuhira has never noticed or even thought of her in the same way she thinks of him, and yet he’s immediately drawn to Noriko.
Chidori reveals her love for Katsuhira in the second episode, while his romantic feelings for Noriko are revealed in the last few episodes. While she previously had struggled to express her feelings to him, she then has to struggle with her feelings of envy towards Noriko. With the finale, she accepts the relationship between the two and vows to support them, while opening herself to the possibility of a new relationship. This is how Chidori turns her Envy into the corresponding virtue, Kindness.
Hajime is given the sin of Wrath. It makes sense immediately as our introduction to the character is him beating up Katsuhira’s bullies. Although other elements of his personality are revealed throughout, his anger is a constant.
His reasons for getting angry are a variable throughout. It could be because he feels challenged, or to protect his friends. Near the end, it’s because of his own inability to express the feelings he has for Chidori, and the anger he has towards Katsuhira for not responding to her feelings.
At one point he struggles with these feelings and half-expresses them to Chidori, asking her to reject him so he could get past it. In the final episode, it’s shown that he’s managed to get past these issues and apologizes for asking her to rush and give him an answer. In this way, he’s managed to gain Patience, the virtue corresponding with Wrath.
Nico is attached to the sin of Greed. This is a comparison that appears in a couple of ways. Out of many of the Kiznaivers, Nico actually seems like one of the nicest. She genuinely wants to be friends with everyone and is even able to melt the coldness of characters like Honoka.
With the second episode, it’s revealed that she’s scared that people would treat her differently if they knew of her wealthy family. As eccentric as she is, she adds even more to it in hopes of standing out and attracting friends. She even makes up that she can see fairies.
In a way, Nico expresses Greed by her wish to be friends with everyone. Her desire to be friends with everyone is very pure, but it also seems to benefit her worry that she’ll be outcast from her peers. There is a hint of self-indulgence in her social nature.
The much better example of her Greed is her attraction to Hajime. While Chidori’s sense of Envy is targeted towards Noriko and Katsuhira’s interest in her, Nico’s feelings are entirely pointed towards Hajime. She knows that he has feelings for Chidori, but she doesn’t care and she wants Hajime to pick her instead.
And while Chidori accepts Katsuhira and Noriko’s relationship by the end of the series, Nico still retains feelings for Hajime in the end. But, she manages to show Kindness, the counterpart to the sin of Greed, when she sees the two talking at the mall and lets them have their moment. It seems that she probably intends to still fight for her attraction to Hajime, but she will leave it to him to pick who he wants to be with.
Tsuguhito’s attachment to Gluttony is one of the trickier ones in the series. Most media will show Gluttony in terms of over-indulging in food. The show does include that in some regard, with Tsuguhito’s darkest secret being that he used to be very chubby. He worked hard afterward to never look like that again so nobody would ever associate him as being a fat kid.
This in return is his expression of Gluttony. He has attained the status of an attractive honors student and surrounds himself with superficial girls. While he finds himself attracted to Honoka, he expresses no wish of being seen with the other Kiznaivers. His overindulgence is in his own status in high school and society.
By the end of the series, he has dropped his barriers down. He doesn’t mind associating with the friends he met while being a Kiznaiver, and in comparison to his previous crowd, he has found genuine connections with people. This is how he shows Temperance, the virtue opposite of Gluttony.
While many of Noriko’s “modern-day” versions of the sins are a twisted version of the sin they’re based on, one of the easiest to attach is Honoka to Pride. She’s dismissive and cold to most people within her introduction, and does carry an air of confidence that borders a sense of superiority. Even Tsuguhito, who has an attraction to her from the beginning, remarks that she has a “terrible personality”.
The stem of Honoka’s personality is her relationship with her friend Ruru, who died from a terminal kidney disease she’d been diagnosed with as a child. The two had fallen for each other and had even worked together in writing a mangaka. When the latter expressed their feelings and wishes to pursue a romantic relationship, Honoka refused due to fear of the pain she may feel when she dies.
Honoka believes that she’s the reason Ruru died and that Ruru felt ill towards her in the final days of her life. As a result, she never reads the final chapter that Ruru wrote all by herself. It is only with Tsuguhito’s help that she reads the final chapter, and finds out that Ruru loved her to the end and wanted her to move on.
By the end of the series she finally accepts the friendship that the other Kiznaivers give her, even to Nico who is her polar opposite. She also confronts her own feelings towards Ruru and begins to show signs of getting over her death, while no longer blaming herself for it. With this Honoka shows Humility, the virtue tied to the sin of Pride.
Yoshiharu is given the sin of Lust, and it’s arguably the easiest to make sense of. Not only is he considered the “hot guy”, but he’s a masochist and loves the pain he receives from being a Kiznaiver. He’s the final Kiznaiver to be found since he never attends school.
Another obvious trait from him is his bluntness. While Honoka and Tsuguhito are cold and uptight, Yoshiharu doesn’t give that vibe. He’s simply free-spirited and brutally honest, and it only serves to make it harder for the other Kiznaivers to connect with him.
The one who he connects the most with is actually Katsuhira. At first, they share a connection in their own contrast when it comes to pain: with Yoshiharu loving it and Katsuhira not understanding what it feels like. They become closer when they start living together and helps Katsuhira make sense of what pain is, finding a new way to look at it.
While he doesn’t abandon his masochistic nature, he does show signs of change by the finale. For one, he’s happy being friends with everyone in the group and is no longer the loner kid. A more important example is his explanation on why it’s good to deepen your own wounds; he says this not because of his love for pain, but for believing that only by understanding the depth of your own wounds can you freely share and express them with others.
This is how he shows Chastity, the virtue of Lust.
Katsuhira is given the sin of Sloth, and it’s a fitting title. He doesn’t feel pain nor does he express any emotions. Even when he’s being bullied and beaten, he just views it as routine and an inconvenience at best.
The reasoning for this is because of Noriko “taking his pain”. It’s only when he confronts things from his forgotten past or when he’s around her that he begins to show emotion. He expresses disappointment when he realizes Noriko hired the TV crews to break down Honoka, and expresses a motivation to save her when he realizes she’s in danger. Even though he begins to feel things throughout and he’s utterly confused by them, he chooses to follow them with no fear of the pain.
This all culminates in the final episode. He chases Noriko to a bridge and expresses his genuine love for her and his wish to feel pain again so he can share all of his emotions. He pleads with her to let go of everyone’s wounds and promises they’ll still be there for her. Through this, he expresses Diligence, the virtue of Sloth.
I believe that the overall plot of the show is decent enough. There’s the Kinza System experiments that are based on an interesting moral premise. It’s a lot like seeing a philosophical argument come to life.
The revelation of the experiment failing and Noriko taking on the pain of 19 kids is a tragic plot point, like many others in the anime, that hit like a ton of bricks. While much of the anime is the focus on character interactions and the realism in their feelings, it’s not as if the show doesn’t make wonderful use in its science fiction elements.
But where the show truly shines is its characters. And I don’t just mean because of the breakdown and comparisons I just made between their sins and virtues. The show is an entertaining watch just to see all of these unique characters interact with each other. It’s not absurd (not overly anyway), but it’s a unique world with well-written characters, and in the end I think that’s what I love most from Trigger.