「世界中にキズナシステムが広がって」 (Sekaijuu ni Kizuna System ga Hirogatte)
“If The Kizna System Spread Throughout The World”
Narratively inconsistent. Thematically consistent.
I’ll be honest from the start. Kiznaiver’s finale did not go down the direction I wanted it to. The scale of the series seemed artificially stretched and the stakes excessively raised. The series has excelled in its latter half because of its intimate focus on its core cast of characters. It would seem counter-intuitive at this point to suddenly expand the scope to encompass an entire city. Not only this, but the only bulk of it was spent closing a very poorly, haphazardly construed character arc. With all that said, however, the finale was still able to make the most of its chosen course, and delivered on several powerful revelations for a satisfying conclusion.
Sonazaki has held an odd position throughout the series. She has for the most part, taken a background role, facilitating the developments and on-goings of our main cast. However, every now and then she’d unintentionally find herself amidst the action, especially in the case with Katsuhira’s feelings. Throughout all this, she has remained an enigma. Barely any of the screen time she was allotted involved exploring her personal motivations and goals. If the showrunners were attempting to construe a coherent character arc for her across the last eleven episodes, they didn’t do an awesome job.
That’s what makes her sudden time in the spotlight so baffling, especially in the last episode of the entire show. Much of the conflict amongst the main characters had yet to receive any closure—these are the narrative threads that should have been dealt with. While a few lines and segments of the finale attempted to conclude these characters arc, they weren’t enough. The sudden shift in focus was jarring and unnatural considering all that was being built up in previous episodes. It’s as if the writers felt obligated to clean up Sonozaki’s poorly executed character arc. The direction of this finale felt contrived and bizarre.
That being said, the finale itself provided plenty of fascinating ideas that built on previously developed themes. Previously I spoke about how Kiznaiver has enforced the idea that in order to truly bond with someone—to become their friend—you have to adopt each other’s pain and emotions. Friendship involves sharing not only joy and happiness, but also the bad stuff. It is only in bearing the burden of each other’s agony that we truly become friends. However, this episode makes a couple of more things clear about this exchange.
First off, this exchange is necessarily messy. Sonozaki stands in firm support of the Kiznaiver system as a mandatory instrument for empathy. The convenient, scientifically guided mechanic makes this emotional network clean and easy—friendship can be artificially engineered in this manner. However, Maki makes clear the necessity that friendships should entail emotional transparency, yes, but not clarity. The fact that we struggle in trying to understand each other’s anguish is integral to genuine friendship. In the all the confusion, doubting, second-guessing, and so on that comes with trying to take on others’ emotional burdens, a deeply intimate bond is born. The Kiznaiver system cannot provide this level of connection, for it makes the process too easy and literal. For friendship to be born, there has to be a struggle. There has to be a mess.
Additionally, this exchange establishes friendship, yes, but is merely the first step towards fulfilling it. We must carry each other’s emotional pain, but it is integral that we help each other overcome it. Sonozaki is stuck in the first step, refusing to let go of the others’ pain. She is binds herself to the initial connection which comes with adopting others’ emotions, which the Kiznaiver system initially supplies. However, because the Kiznaiver system’s method is too clear and transparent, for there is no mess. It’s clean and easy, why wouldn’t she want to hold on to it? As the otherchildren iterate, however, you’re fooling yourself by staying there. Sonozaki isn’t engaging in real, genuine friendship, but a self-centered level of satisfaction. Just like her, the children didn’t get to participate in the messiness and confusion of actually adopting each other’s emotions, and were thus left internally vapid. Sonozaki must take a page from the very friendship she helped facilitate, and truly come to grips with the pain of others. Friendship is about understanding each other’s pain, yes, but also about healing each other—in helping others understand their pain by taking some of it. It is then that we may return it to them, so that they can then properly deal with it. The main cast has all helped each other deal with each other’s internal agony—in overcoming it. With that comes the risk of losing them—in casting them aside once their pain has been dealt with, for what else bonds such different people afterwards? However, we must trust that there is more to these bonds than communal hardship—that after the storm has subsided, we can truly coexist as friends.
Now, could these ideas have been delivered more coherently? Yes. Are there some narrative contradictions concerning these themes? Absolutely. Regardless though, the finale manages to skillfully continue developing its messages of friendship, despite an awkward change in narrative focus. By the time all is said and done, I feel these characters have been vilified for the better. The closing scenes convey a great deal of growth amongst these characters. Even though I wish more time was spent providing closure, I nonetheless feel that our main cast’s friendship is genuine and well-deserved.
If you read back to my review of Kiznaiver’s first installment, I was ecstatic. Though the episode itself wasn’t the most exciting or enthralling of debuts, I saw nothing but incredible potential for the series. The first episode alone promised so many great ideas and themes about empathy, our relationships with other people, the nature of pain, and so on. Further still, the production value was extraordinary—visuals and music alike were gorgeous, breathtaking, and evocative.
However, as the series continued, it failed to gain a lot of momentum. Many of the earlier episodes were far too scattered in focus. They attempted to balance so many narrative threads involving the main cast, Sonozaki, scientists, past occurrences, and so on. As a result, the show failed to convey many dramatic themes or ideas, and instead felt like it was perpetually stumbling and picking itself back up.
Then something changed in the series’ latter half. Suddenly the focus sat solely on the main characters, and the show vastly improved in quality. We finally started diving deep psychology and emotions of these characters, providing something more and more akin to the profound, character-centered story I wanted from the beginning. The Kiznaiver mechanic was actually utilized as a function of the narrative, and provided for a bevy of fascinating themes and ideas about the nature of friendship and the way we interact with one another. Though the finale was something of a disappointment, the series’ remains marked by the excellence of its last several episodes. Kiznaiver never met up to my perhaps bloated expectations, but it nonetheless stands as a provocative show with lovable characters, outstanding aesthetics, and profound philosophies.