Episode 3

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Kiznaiver ?

This was a very important episode for Kiznaiver. As far as overt plot goes, it was essentially just clearing up the loose ends of the premise, and offering more explanation of how the Kiznaiver abilities actually worked. The hunt for a seventh member let the cast find a variety of new ways to use their very strange ability, and there was a strong mix of comedy, character beats, and chase momentum all throughout the second half. Top that off with a last-minute thrilling climax, and you've got a perfectly entertaining role-playing episode.

But it wasn't this episode's narrative movements that sold me on the show. Instead, it was actually two very specific conversations - one between Chidori and Katsuhira, and the other between all six members of the initial cast.

The first occurred when Chidori, Katsuhira, and Tenga were all walking to school. Chidori opened this episode feeling nervous about her confession to Katsuhira, but not sure of how to approach the subject. And so, as they fell behind Tenga on the sidewalk, she stammered that her feelings of love only existed in the past tense. Katsuhira responded to this as blankly as he does most things, saying that he understood, and that he'd be willing to forget he heard if that's what she wanted. Chidori took issue with this response, seeing it as a reflection of how little her feelings meant to him. And when Chidori expressed this, Katsuhira apologized, saying he only wanted to avoid having her worry about him. But this too made Chidori feel bad, since she actually wants Katsuhira to embrace being worried about, and having value of his own.

While Kiznaiver's first two episodes were vague enough in their character work and silly enough in their big thematic proclamations to inspire some serious doubt, this single conversation possessed more emotional complexity than most shows manage in a season. These characters are each layered with understandable insecurities, but also each care about the other, and the way those contrasting variables intersected to create conflict was graceful and totally understandable. Even the assumptions each of them were making about the other's feelings made sense given their own personalities, making for a conversation with a profoundly satisfying emotional richness. If Kiznaiver can consistently portray its characters with this much psychological sensitivity, it will truly earn its “everyone wants to connect” message.

The second conversation was less layered than the first, but still demonstrated a dedication to thoughtful character work. When the initial six go to investigate their potential new member, Hisomu Yoshiharu, Nico mentions that he's known at her father's hospital for coming in frequently with small injuries. Given this one piece of information, each of the cast members then propose an offhand explanation, with each of these explanations clearly reflecting their own personalities. Chidori assumes he's being bullied, because she both sees the best in people and worries about others not being able to take care of themselves. Yuta thinks he's a con artist, because he himself is a habitual liar; Maki assumes he failed at suicide, because she herself is filled with self-loathing. Katsuhiro, who has realized he wants to connect with others, feels sorry for him - and Tenga, who sees himself as a hero of the people, both agrees with that and extends it into a pledge to help him.

None of these lines are truly emphasized by the episode's framing or any of the other characters, but they all demonstrate strong incidental character writing. In fact, “strong incidental character writing” runs up and down this episode, from the way Tenga immediately gets mad about others getting hurt just after he himself fell off a balcony, to Nico's consistent slips into a “real” personality. With the first two episodes having boldly set out some of the fundamentals of these characters, it's great to see the show now willing to let their individuality be expressed purely through their actions, and through the assumptions of their worldview made clear in the ways they contextualize the people around them.

In short, Kiznaiver now looks like it's definitely smart enough to earn its focus on character psychology and human connection. The trajectory of the overall narrative is still something of a mystery, but nailing character writing fundamentals is an incredibly encouraging sign. Shows that dig into their cast in this way are actually my favorite kind of show, and when you cross that with Kiznaiver's great designs, strong eye for visual composition, and perfectly reasonable sense of humor, you end up with a show absolutely brimming with potential. I hope Kiznaiver manages to follow through.

Overall: A

Kiznaiver is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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