by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 5 of
It's time for a training camp! Home cooking, steamy confessions, and tests of courage are all in attendance as Kiznaiver churns its characters around in one more classic anime scenario. This week's Kiznaiver is unlikely to change anyone's opinions on the show - it's still a mix of clever or emotionally rich fragments parceled out between much weaker material, and it's still visually compelling enough to get away with that. Five episodes into the season, Kiznaiver seems content to be occasionally excellent and mostly just pretty okay.
Much of the better material this week, and in Kiznaiver in general, rests more in the specifics of these characters than the events they're put through. This episode's early scenes offered plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that, as Tenga acted as obviously as you'd expect in his attempts to hook Chidori up, and Yuta offered his own analysis of Chidori's problems. Yuta's diagnosis was both sharp and very like him; he described her as “too heavy,” her earnest and outwardly emotional nature making her a hard person to relax with. It's clear that Yuta and Chidori would never be the most natural of friends.
The limitations of Yuta's ice-cold facade were tested later on, in one more excellent scene between him and Maki. Yuta thinks he's cool and self-aware enough to handle Maki, but as she continuously escalated their engagement, it became clear he's out of his depth in this relationship. Maki clearly has some legitimate trauma in her past, putting her on a whole other level of emotional fragility compared to her new friends. Yuta and Maki each find the other interesting to some extent, but when Maki responds to Yuta's jibes about opening up by nearly throwing herself at him, Yuta is forced to admit he's a kid trying to look tough.
My one major issue with this episode was the canned device used to instigate the second's half test of courage. I'm totally fine with Kiznaiver leaning on devices like the test of courage in the abstract - classic scenarios like that are fitting for a show about unpacking the emotions that lie beneath standard friendships, and throwing a bunch of creepy mascot characters at the cast allowed for some of this episode's most compelling visual sequences. But if I never see another “walk in on two characters almost kissing, run away in despair” scene, it'll be too soon. There are plenty of convincing emotional beats here, and the show only cheapens itself by leaning on such tawdry contrivances.
The episode's second half featured a fairly predictable reveal about the nature of the Kizuna system - apparently, the Kiznaivers aren't just linked through pain, but also through their other emotions. And so, as Chidori let her feelings about watching Katsuhira be bullied flood out, the rest of the gang was brought low by her feelings as well. As Tenga outright articulated with his “real pain would be better than this,” the weight of caring for another person can often be much heavier than any pain you have to shoulder for yourself. It's an on-the-nose expression of the show's themes, but hey, Chidori's not exactly a subtle person. And I did like the sequence's finale, where Katsuhira worked to defend himself not for the sake of his own feelings, but to respect the feelings of those he was bonded to.
Overall, Kiznaiver continues to be a mix of occasionally cliche dramatic devices, often blunt thematic declarations, and surprisingly nuanced conversations. It's enjoyable, but as messy as ever. An awkward but ultimately endearing show.
Kiznaiver is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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