「七分の一の痛みのそのまた七倍の正体に触れる戦い」 (Nana-bun no Ichi no Itami no Sono Mata Nana Bai no Shoutai ni Fureru Tatakai)
“A Battle Touching Upon the Identity of the Pain that’s Seven Times the Pain of One-Seventh of a Pain”
When I began my coverage of Kiznaiver weeks back, I lauded the show’s serious creative promise. The premise was simple and straightforward, but it carried the potential for an intricate and profound character-driven narrative. However, as the weeks went on, the series was often unfocused and distracted, forbidding it from telling a truly emotionally concise story. This wasn’t to say that the series wasn’t without its moments, but it—for the most part—failed to come anywhere close to my perhaps bloated expectations. While still not entirely flawless, this week’s installment finally delivered on the sort of profound, heartfelt story I was yearning for.
Our favorite antisocial bookworm sat center stage this week. The show had been hinting at and building up Maki’s haunted backstory—providing increasingly lengthy flashbacks and memories of some bubbly, affectionate girl. What was most striking was the dissonance between her warmth and bloom of her past self and her cold acridity in the present day—what exactly went down to incite this detachment?
This is the question the gang set out to answer this week. After a little detective work, our protagonists uncover the identity of Maki’s former friend, and pay her parents a visit. As they soon find out, this girl was Ruru who died of a terminal illness diagnosed at birth.
What follows is a beautifully rendered flashback sequence depicting Maki’s time with her most cherished and loved friend. As it turns out, the two were kindred spirits. Despite having radically different personalities, the two came together in their mutual loneliness, as well as their passion for storytelling. As they continued to bond together and grow to prominence for their work, their relationship started becoming alarmingly closer. At the first signs of intense intimacy, Maki became frightened—frightened at the next step in this relationship, frightened at the prospect of becoming close, frightened that she might end up losing that much more in the end.
Her subsequent decision to cut all ties was the result of absolute fear of intimacy. When you become closer to someone, you have that much more pain and agony in store for you once mortality sets in. Before Ruru, Maki was content living in isolation. When she finally gave herself up to another person, she was welcomed with tragedy, and backed out at the last second in crippling fear. Her fear of intimacy has now sunk its teeth into her, as she distances herself from anyone she meets—rejecting friendship at every road.
However, our motley crew are not content with this situation. Throughout the episode, they try at every venture to contrive a sense of friendship with one another, in order to persuade Maki to come out of her shell, but to no avail. What finally does the trick, however, is Yuta’s heart-to-heart talk with the girl. Up until, I’ve praised on the genuine development of their relationship, and it finally pays off with this episode’s third act. As he’s figured out, the manga which Maki and Ruru co-authored is a symbol of their friendship—evident by the striking parallels between the story’s contents and Maki’s real-life actions. Up until now, Maki has refused to read the last chapter, presuming it to incubate the very haunting heartbreak and guilt which she defines her friendship with Ruru by.
This is very much represents Maki’s fear to engage in intimacy. The reason she departs from Ruru’s life is because she presumes that the relationship would ultimately bring nothing but agony and anguish into her life once she passed. This is the kind of assumption with which she dismisses the manga’s last chapter—thinking it to contain this very same sentiment.
However, once she finally reads it, she unexpectedly discovers nothing but fond departing words from her former friend. This makes her realize that engaging in intimacy—partaking in a friendship—is ultimately worth it for the sense of connection and fondness with another person. Paying any mind to whatever may await you down the road is absolutely senseless—what matters most is the value in trusting someone enough to give yourself up to them. The exchange of true feelings and compassion is the ultimate reward, and transcends whatever tragedy may await you. It’s worth the risk, demonstrated by Yuta, as he leads the charge into the dangerous, cold waters of the unknown. With the help of her fellow Kiznaivers, Maki finally comes to understand this, and thus becomes willing to open up to them. When the episode ends, Maki doesn’t recall Ruru with the tragedy of and compunction of her end, but by the fondness of their times together.
The fact that Yuta’s actions and bond with Maki incite this realization indicates that friendship is truly defined by genuine, emotional connections with another person. Friendship is not merely understood by superficial festivities and merrymaking. While these thigs can help foster it, friendship is truly distinguished by an authentic, emotional bond with another person. The gang finally realize this by the episode’s end, right as Maki comes into her own epiphany. Thus, they finally reach the next step in their relationship, as they begin to address each other less formally and more personally.
This is the kind of storytelling Kiznaiver should seriously devote all its attention to. The series would do well to veer away from the mess of backstory and conspiracy concerning the Kiznaiver program’s origins and more nefarious intentions. Kiznaiver succeeds most when it tells intensely character-focused narratives, reaching its peak with this week’s entry. Yes, I still wish the Kiznaiver mechanic would itself play a more imperative role in these kinds of stories, and yes, there’s not too much of an overlying narrative to build satisfyingly towards the series’ end. However, I think as long as the show continues to deliver material like this week’s, it could truly become a worthwhile watch once all’s said and done.