#1 The Kizna System is a weak concept
The Kizna System is a strange experiment by which all participating people divide any amount of pain between each other. Everybody feels everyone else’s suffering, but the intensity of it is drastically reduced the more people join in. Its a secretive effort still only in its testing phase.
Until one day, when six teenagers are made into guinea pigs for the system. They are mostly strangers to each other, now forced to cooperate together to complete seemingly arbitrary missions. All while sharing every ounce of pain between each other.
Kiznaiver spends quite a lot of time explaining what the Kizna System does. Yet, even once it makes sense functionally, it never quite lands as a broader concept. As a science fiction mechanism, it has about 0 ounces of actual science in it. Rather than justify how this crazy idea even works, the plot prefers to conjure up tertiary functions that only serve to make this plot device even more convoluted. Suddenly the Kizna system can also project holograms or facilitate telepathic communication. Why not, after all? If you’re just making crap up on the spot you may as well go all the way!
Similarly, the purpose of the organization behind the system is nebulous at best. At times it’s a small but passionate band of benevolent manipulators, while at other times they are amoral terrorists with unlimited influence. It’s consistently unclear what they are actually hoping to accomplish with Kizna, beyond awakening the power of friendship in random teenagers.
This all serves to make the story feel directionless. The logic on which the world and its characters operate fluctuates constantly, motivations shift with little reason, and any inconsistencies are quickly skimmed over. It keeps the story moving forward, but it’s transparent and frequently disappointing.
#2 Character-driven drama without interesting characters
Forcing a bunch of strangers to survive together under perilous circumstances is a brilliant framework for a drama series. There is so much opportunity for character development there, as people are forced out of their ordinary lives and share vulnerable moments with new people. Or it would be, if only Kiznaiver wasn’t so woefully inadequate.
Its cast of 7 main characters are initially presented as abiding by the 7 deadly sins, which is an overdone trope at the best of times. However, even that doesn’t make sense. Greed is assigned to the resident weirdo of the group, only because her family is implied to be rich. Gluttony is assigned to a character that used to be chubby several years ago, but who by right should’ve been pride. Instead pride is the theme of a character who is almost the complete opposite of that sin.
Even looking beyond the generic stereotypes, you’ll find only more stereotypes. Chidori is your typical childhood friend turned tsundere love interest. No twists or nuances; just a straight-up tsundere on the rocks. Nico is similarly by-the-books when it comes to quirky comic-relief characters and the 7th protagonist, Hisomu, only escapes criticism by virtue of being barely present.
Now, all of this orbits around the actual main characters, that being Noriko and Katsuhira Agata. Two characters who are both characterized by their lack of having a character. They are inexpressive husks who speak in dry monotone. Katsuhira does slowly pick up some social cues and bits of personality as the story carries on, but is only mildly less sleep-inducing by episode 12 compared to episode 1. His journey towards developing to that point is, similarly, not that engrossing.
#3 Surprisingly low-quality dub
I watched Kiznaiver in English on the request of the friend I watched it with, but we were both surprised by the low quality of the dub. Besides the usual issues of the voice cast being fairly generic, Kiznaiver has a range of issues all of its own.
There are plenty of awkward moments throughout the anime, where the performances end up feeling particularly stilted. Like moments where long sentences have audible pauses, robbing them of dramatic effect. Or instances where conversations feel unnatural, again because lines don’t flow well into each other. A character says something, there is an awkward pause, then somebody else responds moments later.
This comes on top of mediocre performances. Rylan Strachan and Natashi Strickey are utterly boring as Katsuhira and Noriko respectively. The rest of the cast fails to ever impress, but their quality is generally serviceable.
More like this…
Dragon Pilot: Character-driven show directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi.
Half & Half: Strangers forced to cooperate and share each other’s pain.
Princess Tutu: Healing a character who lost their emotions.