by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 12 of
And so Kiznaiver comes to an end. All told, I'd say this was about as graceful an ending as we could hope for, given the assumptions of the preceding episodes. The science fiction exposition was clumsy up until the end, and the episode didn't quite match the visual or emotional peaks of some the earlier ones, but it went a long way towards resolving Sonozaki's story in an emotionally satisfying way. So let's start with her, the biggest loose end in Kiznaiver's generally solid character writing.
Up until this episode, Sonozaki has felt like a device more often than she's felt like a person. This was largely the fault of her place in the narrative - Sonozaki's personal issues were directly tethered to the reveals of the Kizna system, and the Kizna system has always been the least compelling part of this story. By hiding her motivations until the series' final third and then centering those reveals on the science behind the story's nonsense premise, Sonozaki has often felt like a representation of Kiznaiver's weakest elements.
This episode went a long way towards humanizing Sonozaki, both in the way it explained her Kizna problems and in her own behavior. On the science side, we learned that Sonozaki's initial consolidation of the others' pain into herself was essentially a defense mechanism - Sonozaki was afraid of being abandoned by her friends, and so she figured that by taking in their pain, she'd at least never lose that connection with them. This explanation doesn't make any science sense, but that's not important - what's important is that it grounds her condition in an understandable human context, one reflective of Kiznaiver's larger thematic conflicts.
And on the personal side, Sonozaki's protests against the feelings of the rest of the group felt true to a specific view of the world, and thus more relatable. While Katsuhira and the others spoke of how the Kizna system wasn't really what had turned them into friends, Sonozaki held on to her stubborn worldview, trying to logic her way out of admitting friendships could form without the help of the Kizna program. This was obviously a ridiculous position to take, but it made sense for her - having been driven into a corner by the incompatibility of her desire to save her old friends and need to hold on to their pain, the only course left was to put all of her faith in the Kizna system. As with her initial motivation, putting Sonozaki's current actions in a clear human context went a long way towards repairing her character.
The other characters didn't really need much work; as usual, even though the overt narrative beats of this conflict were pretty silly, the ways they were reflected in the core cast helped the show shine. I loved Nico's confession early on about how she didn't actually care about Sonozaki, “no matter how tragic she is” - but that didn't matter, because Katsuhira cared about Sonozaki, and Katsuhira was her friend. Nico's statement worked nicely as a reflection of the values Nico has always held and the confidence she's gained, but it also echoed Katsuhira's own statements, about how pain still mattered to him because it impacted his friends.
At least half of the cast were directly tested by the question of helping Katsuhira rescue Sonozaki. Tenga got a great line about not being able to abandon him, and Chidori had to reckon with a tragic but very understandable conflict. Chidori has pushed Katsuhira towards a more emotionally whole future all throughout this series, but now that he's finally taking steps in that direction, those steps are leading him away from her. It's a clear act of love to celebrate a friend finding a happy path that doesn't include you on it.
All of these small victories and emotional hurdles led up to a reasonably climactic finale, as Katsuhira and his friends literally tried to talk Sonozaki down off the bridge. There were endearing arguments about friendship and loud confessions, all elevated through Kiznaiver's reliably excellent direction. And as the credits rolled, we even got some lovey-dovey epilogue scenes with all the show's prospective couples.
In the end, Kiznaiver was definitely a messy show, but I think its strengths easily outweighed its faults. It really helped that the show's major weakness, its underlying plot assumptions, were something the show didn't actually care about - the Kizna system may have been lame, but this show was never about the Kizna system. This was a show about people coming to terms with both their own feelings and the inscrutable feelings of those around them, and so it was only fitting that the show's best moments were all the incidental little conversations they shared. I had a fine time with Kiznaiver, and am eager to see what's next for its very talented director.
Kiznaiver is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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