“Lay your hands on me.”
Spring 2016 brought us a lot of great characters, and of all the character-driven anime, Kiznaiver excelled in having unique and eccentric mainliners. Seven high school classmates are connected to feel each other’s pain in a strange scientific experiment to promote peace through a pain-sharing program called the Kizuna System. Making sure you don’t get lost in the numerous main characters, Trigger gracefully classified our new characters with an updated version of the seven deadly sins for modern Japanese culture (read: anime archetypes).
Agata Katsuhira is The Imbecile. Yuta Tsuguhito is The Cunning Normal. Maki Honoka is The High-and-Mighty. Takashiro Chidori is The Goody Two-Shoes. Niiyama Nico is The Eccentric Headcase. Tenga Hajime is The Muscle-Headed Thug. Hisomu Yoshiharu is The Immoral. Did I mention there would be spoilers?
While these are social sins in modern Japan, with their powers combined, the new seven certainly made for some great character-driven scenarios. Just when you think that the characters would settle into their assigned archetype, they start getting all unpredictable on us. Without going too far into the appeal of gap moe, let’s just say that unstable nature of our fine Kiznaiver characters is definitely the best part! Of course now, we have to rank them by relative volatility of their mental stability and/or overall nature.
10. Yuta Tsuguhito
Yuta is known to always be in the company of girls, especially girls who fawn over his appearance. As per his social sin, The Cunning Normal, he can be often seen with a fox-like smile, especially when he’s egging on Maki Honoka’s “terrible personality.” He’s a good-looking hot guy, but he wasn’t always. Having been chubby as a child, Yuta-kun made his hot guy debut in high school and is still self-conscious about his former image. The fragility of his confidence is exemplified when he loses his de facto bishounen title of the Kiznaivers after Hisomu’s appearance in Episode 3.
We would expect Yuta to be protective of his image and abide by face-saving principles. Well, then we would be wrong, especially when it comes to helping Maki Honoka. After sharing Honoka’s emotional pain, Yuta starts to drop his hot guy act, culminating in Episode 7, when he runs off into the ocean to answer Honoka’s wish. Let’s just say, even though he’s a cool guy, his running form is endearingly poor. Nonetheless, Yuta-kun is way better when he’s not putting up an act. Being able to see his not-cool sides is what makes us what to root for his crush to become love, even though he looks a little desperate.
9. Takashiro Chidori
Chidori is a good-natured busybody that matches her social sin perfectly. She has both the looks and the personality of a female lead in an anime. Even though she’s a goody-goody, she doesn’t necessarily hesitate when it comes to Kacchon, her nickname for Katsuhira. From the first episode, Chidori is willing to throw herself into danger for Katsuhira, even though she tends to show much more restraint in her daily life. Chidori can also be a little violent, contrary to her sin assignment. Her emotions are always bursting at the seems because of the Kiznaiver experiment, and these emotions lead her to physically attack Katsuhira or Tenga, regardless of their shared pain.
In a wonderful twist, the emotional and romantically confused young girl is not the most volatile of the group! This should come as no surprise, as unrequited love and unresolved feelings are more or less normal in anime. Nonetheless, the sheer strength of her adolescent emotions is enough to let the Kizuna system upgrade from simply sharing physical pain to also sharing emotional pain and even hearing each other’s thoughts. Although not too unpredictable, Chidori’s volatileness is shown in her hair-trigger blushing and/or violence.
Gomorin is the semi-friendly and creepy-looking mascot of Sugomori City. Unlike most cities, there are way too many Gomorins roaming the streets. Both city workers and Kizuna System employees are in the Gomorin costumes. Still, these weird-looking guys wearing S&M rope aren’t just soft, squishy mascots. They are the muscle-for-hire for the Kizuna experiment. When they are chasing after our protagonists in huge mobs, they can be downright menacing, wielding cleavers, chainsaws, and other weapons.
When they Kiznaivers go off to a summer camp together, it becomes clear that the Kizuna Committee will purposefully hire Gomorin part-timers with murderous intent. Be it mob mentality or cult mentality, Gomorin definitely doesn’t seem human. Hiding behind a Gomorin mask certainly doesn’t help the unhealthy thinking. Thus, it’s no surprise when the black Gomorin show up when everything starts going crazy in Sugomori City.
7. Yamada Kazunao
Yamada Kazunao is a researcher in the Kizuna Committee, known as Yaamada, and also the homeroom teacher of our seven protagonists. Yaamada is not very teacher-like, but he’s very dedicated to the Kizuna experiment. He’s so dedicated that he won’t hesitate to push the students too far, leading to the rain-covered sadness in Episode 8, after his experiments led the seven protagonists to face their emotions directly. Along with an obsession to push the Kizuna experiment forward, Yaamada also shows pleasure in tearing down his students’ relationships. His teacher/researcher partner Urushii comments that he’s playing with people like they’re toys. We later learn this obsession is rooted in an obsession to fulfill all of Sonozaki Nori-chan’s wishes, and he’s willing to go to the extreme to follow her.
6. Tenga Hajime
From the beginning Tenga-kun is plenty volatile, throwing his butt in a guy’s face to stop bullying, or full-body slamming into Gomorins chasing his classmates. As The Muslce-Headed Thug, Tenga tends to hit first and ask questions later. From the very beginning, he develops an attachment to Katsuhira and ends up inviting himself to live at Katsuhira’s house. Loud and quick-to-anger, Tenga is the exact opposite to Katsuhira in personality. Even though he’s painted to be not much of thinker, Tenga does go against his muscle-headed title and even shows a clear understanding of Chidori’s emotional states even before they share emotional pain.
Tenga has a tough guy image and will usually do things that are considered manly, such as sending Katsuhira to chase after Chidori, even though Tenga has feelings for her. Soon, however, we learn that Tenga is still in fact a teenager, as he loses to his own emotions and lets it all out on Katsuhira’s face. Strength may be Tenga’s greatest quality, but much like a Greek tragic hero, this strength also becomes the source of regret. Nonetheless, his quick temper that sticks with him to throughout the series is the source of a lot of crazy happenings in Kiznaiver.
5. Agata Katsuhira
Agata Katsuhira is The Imbecile because he is unable to understand the feelings of others. Katsuhira is generally shown to be indifferent to everything and everyone. Since he was young, Katushira was bullied because other children couldn’t identify with him and instead ostracized him. His indifference worsened and looks very much like a certain kind of depression. Rather than gloomy, Katsuhira is simply disinterested in both himself and social aspects of everyday life. After hearing that Chidori liked him in the past, Katsuhira realizes that he wants to be able to connect to others and change himself.
Because of his calm nature, Katsuhira’s sudden actions appear unpredictable. When the first six Kiznaivers are trying to chase down Hisomu, Katsuhira suddenly jumps off a bridge into moving traffic, even after Tenga balks at the idea. As his character development continues, Katsuhira moves become bolder, and the bridges become bigger, as he desperately tries to save Sonozaki Nori from self-destruction.
4. Maki Honoka
Maki Honoka, The High-and-Mighty, tends to look down on others and holds onto her “terrible personality” with pride. She easily puts down Yuta and will give the harshest insults. As parts of Honoka’s past come to light, we learn that this hard outer shell is to keep others at a distance. Honoka deeply regrets how she abandoned her friend Ruru, who was suffering from a terminal illness. Since then, Honoka avoids relationships and even avoids reading Ruru’s last message to her. She is haunted by the regret and believes that she had killed her best friend.
After the Kiznaivers are able to feel each other’s emotional pain, it becomes clear how much pain Honoka is living with everyday. The other six members have a constant pain in the gut. Even after the Kiznaivers learn about Ruru and believe they have saved Honoka, we soon learn how fragile her trust in relationships really is. In Episode 9, after Yaamada’s heart-wrenching experiment on love triangles, the Kiznaiver’s friendship falls apart, and Honoka drives the last nail in the coffin of their friendship as she laments, “We can’t be friends.” Honoka’s deep-seated dislike of becoming close to others would take more than simply her past getting revealed. Honoka’s friendship flip-flopping has extreme effects on the group as a whole.
3. Niiyama Nico
Niiyama Nico is a cute and bubbly girl who claims to believe in fairies. She quickly outs herself as a fake eccentric who doesn’t really believe in fairies, but she’s still pretty eccentric. Niiyama seems to be competitive with Hisomu Yoshiharu, proclaiming that she’s a big weirdo too. Overall, Nico shows that she likes to be different and unique, but she still wants to have connections with others and desperately wants friends.
We can always count on Nico to overreact with the perfect timing, and her hair is out of control. While Nico’s archetype can usually lead to an annoying character, there is both deepness and unnerving unstableness to her personality. She accepts that she is just pretending to be eccentric, but then we see true eccentricities that she herself genuinely doesn’t notice. Maybe it’s truly “fake it until you make it,” or just maybe, we all need to be a little careful around this one.
2. Hisomu Yoshiharu
Hisomu Yoshiharu’s immoral nature is based on his extreme masochism. He is in love with pain, but Hisomu is very specific in the type of pain he enjoys. Rather indifferent to emotional or psychological pain, Hisomu almost exclusively loves physical pain, especially if it comes as a surprise. As a result, Hisomu will put himself into dangerous situations and is often absent from school for his injuries. After being connected by the Kizuna System, Hisomu takes a particular liking to Katsuhira, because Katsuhira gets injured so frequently. He’s a constant source of danger for the other Kiznaivers, because he actively looks for situations in which an accident could easily occur.
While he will go off rambling about his love for surprise injuries with visible displays of sheer bliss just thinking about them, Hisomu shows very little patience when someone takes verbal cheap shots at others, leading him to butt heads with Honoka. In Episode 8, we see him take direct stabs at Honoka’s trauma and relish in the emotional sting from the Kizuna System after doing so. Conversely, Hisomu shows more emotional understanding to Katsuhira and Nico, who are earnestly trying to get along with others. Despite being a big weirdo, he does get other people, and will give honest commentary at opportune times.
1. Sonozaki Noriko
Except for a few geniuses out there, we didn’t really expect Sonozaki Noriko to top this list until the whole season was said and done. Although not one of the seven social sins, Sonozaki is a mysterious girl who is devoid of emotion. We later learn that this is because the girl is heavily medicated. As a member of a childhood experiment, it turned out that Nori-chan was keeping all the pain to herself out of love and desperation to stay connected to her peers. This, however, made the other children lose their sense of pain, some even becoming just shells of human beings. Nori-chan needs medication to endure the pain she continues to hoard from the nineteen other children.
Taking “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” a little too seriously, Nori-chan’s childhood took a huge turn when she first got friends thanks to the Kizuna System. From then on, she dedicated her life to the Kizuna experiment. Urushii later explains that the Kizuna System (read: anime scenarios) will never be able to replicate true connections between people, because people do not only connect over pain. Nori-chan, unfortunately, never learned that and was certain sharing pain is the only way. In Kiznaiver’s final episodes, Nori-chan, along with a gang of black Gomorin, start making everyone around them Kiznaivers. Go crazy, girl. Go crazy!
We didn’t survive the rain scene.
Kiznaiver was an anime made for character-driven anime lovers with enough visually pleasing scenes and colors to keep the rest of us satisfied. The characters themselves are archetypes that we know and love sent into a world of weirdness, custom-made for them to explode. While some are just naturally eccentric, others need needed a little push. Regardless, we got some good dramatic feels along the way. That rain scene, my friends, is intense.