Episode 6

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Kiznaiver ?

Kiznaiver opened with a gorgeous scene this week, as Maki walked home along the riverbank with her old friend Ruru. The evening sun made a purple mirage of the background as the two bickered lightly, and then Ruru asked her friend “do you want to be free of me?”, as she fell backwards off the embankment. Caught by Maki, the two fell in a heap on the sidewalk, Maki momentarily stunned by her shadowed friend.

In strict narrative terms, it was just a functional and even somewhat cliche scene, the kind of sequence you see all the time in anime. But Kiznaiver's beautiful execution brought this humble exchange to life, from the lovely colors of the backgrounds to the strong use of shadow and intimate framing of the final moments. It was a fine representation of Kiznaiver in general; simple fundamentals elevated by the show's heightened emotional focus and absolutely wonderful visuals.

This was Maki's episode in general, where we finally learned the source of her melancholy. Apparently, Maki and Ruru once composed the middle school manga team Charles de Macking, who wrote a hit manga volume a few years back. But Ruru died after they released that volume, and since then, Maki has carried the guilt of her friend's death. Now, Maki's old editor wants to drum up interest in a film adaptation of her work, and to do that, he wants to bank on Maki's tragedy by filming a documentary about her story.

This story came out through some sleuthing by Yuta, in response to the group becoming more and more aware of each other's emotional pain. But much of the story was, as usual, told through the shot framing. Scenes were carefully staged to isolate Maki from the group both through distance and lighting, while scenes where she was absent were framed to emphasize how close the rest of the group had become. Repeated shots of Maki isolated as a tiny figure against either sky or light made for a consistently poignant contrast. And whenever the camera did focus on Maki up close, it was to create an uncomfortable intimacy, either through the pressure of her editor or the literal camera of the documentary team. This episode never gave Maki a moment to rest, and her feelings were made viscerally clear through the show's top notch direction.

There were still some clumsy or on-the-nose lines here and there, as there always tend to be in this show - I particularly winced at Sonozaki's “the past you want to forget is the past you must never forget,” for example. But those stumbles were balanced out by a variety of legitimately sensitive moments between the characters, whether it was Nico trying to learn more about Hisomu's feelings, Tenga's disbelieving “this counts as saving Maki?”, or the fantastic final conversation between Katsuhira and Sonozaki.

Both Katsuhira and Sonozaki have had issues coming across as real people in this show, but in that exchange, Kiznaiver very successfully leaned into their emotional disconnect. Katsuhira's connection with his friends is slowly making him better able to express his own feelings, but Sonozaki is still too emotionally distant to understand why her actions have been hurtful to him. In spite of that, Katsuhira's “I'm disappointed in you” actually does come as a blow. Like how Katsuhira initially came to terms with emotions simply through “I don't want to cause pain to the people I care about,” Sonozaki is learning to “translate” emotions through the ways her actions affect the boy whose opinion is actually meaningful to her.

Overall, this was a very strong episode of Kiznaiver. As I've said before, Maki and Yuta often end up with a given episode's best material, but pretty much the entire cast overperformed this week. Their little incidental conversations consistently rang true, even if some of the broader emotional declarations were a little clumsy. When you combine that with the episode's first-rate visual execution, you end up with one of the best episodes the show's pulled together to date.

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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