Kiznaiver, Where Change is Worth the Pain | OWLS “Disruptors”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s first monthly topic, “Disruptors,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Kiznaiver review into this discussion on peaceful protest. Something different to mix things up, right?

“To disrupt” has a negative denotation, but rather than looking at the verb in a negative light, we are going to use the verb in a positive way. It’s like the word “protest,” which has positive and negative connotations depending on the perspective of the person.

Disruptors: An individual or a group disturbing a system/set of social norms that they believe is destroying what is morally right.

I got this. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion of the spring 2016 anime “Kiznaiver,” produced by Trigger, directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi, based on the original story by Mari Okada.

When You Hurt, We All Hurt

Kids being subjected to horrific sociological experiments lurking within the shadows of a metropolis is a trend that, by now, anime is no stranger to. Just look at A Certain Scientific Railgun S and Terror in Resonance among others for proof. The newest “toddlers in test tubes” flick to come from Japan features kids not bound by grades, smarts, or other great potentials, but by blood–specifically pain–instead.

That’s right, they’re blood brothers (and sisters), and when one kiddo cries, the agony is divided. But like most scary psychological tests, the experiment is eventually caught, abandoned, and deemed a failure.

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Years later, seven teenagers–who would otherwise NEVER be friends with one another–find themselves confronted by Noriko Sonozaki, a bland yet mysteriously cruel high-schooler clad in a suit and long pale blue hair. She sets up an elaborate scheme to trap and force these clique representees into one small conflicted group in order to revive the “Kizuna System.” All of its members, or “Kiznaivers,” become connected through pain in a farfetched attempt to thoroughly understand what truly binds people.

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In a fashion very reminiscent of The Breakfast Club, the Kiznaivers must learn to get along with each other and accept one another’s differences and desires, or else risk receiving much more than a bad lab grade. Little do these wandering teens know that pain is not always a physical ailment.

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Disrupting the Social System

Whether lifting weights or running sprints, it’s easier to relate to people by saying “Ah god that sucked!” after the workout rather than during while you’re dying. Similarly, we quickly learn that it is not pain that binds the group, but the absence of that pain the minute the torture stops.  Basic application of sociology practices can easily tell us that breaking “social statics,” the order that holds society together, can lead to psychological effects both beneficial and disastrous. How are the three main broad modern perspectives of sociology displayed in Kiznaiver . . . ?

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First is the functionalist perspective. “Society is a set of interrelated parts that work together to produce a stable social system.” This refers to the seven deadly sins that reflect each character. I didn’t tell you about them? Oh, well, here’s a pretty infographic for that:

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I did not make this infographic. Character images belong to Studio Trigger.

Like The Breakfast Club was trying to strike home with at the end, society CANNOT function WITHOUT these individual traits, and that each of these traits–to a certain degree–exist within each one of us. Through a mutual hostility towards Sonozaki and the Kizuna System, consensus is achieved within the group . . . . that is, once they finally make the “high and mighty” Maki come around. They quickly realize that if each of one of them does not sacrifice himself to the collective, then their summer would be dreadful as hell. The dysfunctions that the group encounters, such as embarrassing reveals and aching hearts, do, in the end, lead to social change in order to fix their wavering social instability.

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Second is the conflict perspective. Oh yes, it wouldn’t be anime if our main cast wasn’t chased by idiots in ridiculous suits, racing against the clock to solve a simple equation of personality or reach the checkpoint in some quirky game. Sonozaki doesn’t like waiting for the pot to simmer, and we see this through her hiring of goons and manipulating of the higher ups to reach quicker means of an end. She exercises calm yet absolute control over her lab rats, and her form is only disturbed when Katsuhira Agata, our quiet protagonist, invites her in on the fun. Sonozaki may not be the best-developed of her kuudere kind, but her use of conflict as the prominent source for change adds a fair degree of speed and excitement to this show bombarded by melodramatic twists.

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Third is the interactionist perspective. The name’s self-explanatory. “It focuses on how individuals interact with one another in society.” Our crew of seven fall back on this perspective as they uncover their true selves and unravel the hearts of others. This perspective is interested in the ways in which individuals respond to one another in everyday situations, which is why Kiznaiver is rife with scenes where these unrelated characters are just eating or lying on the couch and talking to each other nonchalantly. Slice-of-life interactions and witty dialogue are what keep this anime afloat, after all. The show gets its edge from the characters’ constant defining and interpreting of each other’s actions.

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REMEMBER, They Didn’t Chose This Life

It’s easy to forget that our seven peeps weren’t chosen heroes, but actually lab rats of a terrifying experiment lost in the past. In other words, they didn’t chose to save society by disrupting the immoral, negative flow–they were FORCED to make change, and I think that’s why they struggled so hard. If anything, they dedicated themselves to taking down Sonozaki and the supposed system designed to achieve “world peace.” These kids just wanted to continue being normal . . .

Katsuhira, a victim unresponsive to pain,

Chidori, a silent lover in denial,

Tenga, a street thug to pass the time,

Maki, a bookwork undetected by her peers,

Yuta, a popular kid distanced from his past,

Niko, a spoiled delusionist by choice,

Hisomu, a hospital resident seeking pleasure,

Sonozaki, a child in fear of suffering . . .

But because these seemingly unrelated individuals were bound together by fear itself, they learned to welcome the bizarre, the wacky, and the weird that resided within each of their souls, and to protest against the elusive faults of a perfect society so that their new bonds of friendship could persevere through even the thickest of storms. In the final bout to save themselves, the Kiznaivers resolved to defy the social norms dictating their lives, for in the deepest, darkest, most-messed-up cores of each other, they found only themselves staring back.

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“Everyone wants to carve their scars into someone else. Everyone wants to connect with someone else.” – Noriko Sonozaki


Pay no heed to the slightly pessimistic tone there at the end–it’s supposed to be a good thing! Also, don’t feel bad if you didn’t recognize any of the science I was spittin’ out at the beginning. I just happened to be in the sociology neighborhood at school. So, what have you learned from this? Well, other than that Sonozaki is kinda a mad, lovesick bitch on sedatives, we found that sometimes it is not always the positives that make people seek change. The Kiznaivers were tired of wallowing around with cringy, disgusting insides that decayed their spirits.

To eliminate that self-pity, they helped each other, which in turn helped themselves find personal salvation, which finally led to an improvement within their squad, which was reflected as a mirror of society itself. By putting their differences aside, disrupting social norms, and coming together with a strong goal in mind, they effectively corrected some of the dysfunctions of society, even if only for a brief moment. That, is understanding. That, is change. That, is healing. There, look at me finding the positives!

Kiznaiver is by no means one of the best anime out there–I’d welcome it as a “Coffee” here at the cafe. But, if you look hard enough, you might be surprised with what’s actually lurking in the belly of the beast. Perhaps seven deadly sins? All 12 episodes of Kiznaiver can be found on Crunchyroll if I’ve at all intrigued you! If you liked The Breakfast Club, then this also might be for you. And if things just don’t jive with you too well, heck, at least Trigger’s animation and Yuuki Hayashi’s music are entertaining enough. Oh, and we can’t forget its true legacy, the opening”LAY YOUR HANDS ON ME” by BOOM BOOM SATELLITES.

This concludes my January 27th entry in the OWLS “Disruptors” blog tour. Please check out Pink-chan (Pinky’s Palace) who did a lovely job right before me (as did everyone else) discussing the modern dystopian classic PSYCHO-PASS, one of my top favorites, no less! Oh, and get psyched for one of my best blogger buds Lita (LitaKino Anime Corner) to wrap up this exciting month! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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To disrupt, or not to disrupt: that is the question of change.

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“W” Does Not Stand for “Wonder” in Dimension W

A brief, spoiler-free review of the 12-episode winter 2016 anime “Dimension W,” produced by Studio 3Hz, based on the manga by Yuji Iwahara.

Enter the near future – 2071 to be exact – and you’d find a world transformed and reinvented by “coils,” battery-like bolts which tap into the fourth dimension to channel unlimited energy. Though New Tesla energy company’s coils can be bought off shelves, secretive bootleggers would rather sell illegal coils to earn a living in this seemingly Utopian era.

Not if they are stopped by Collectors, though. These individuals hunt down private companies and illegal coils for a bounty, often living reckless and dangerous lives lit by the night sky. Dimension W enlarges the life of Kyouma Mabuchi, a Collector with a pretty scarred past that caused him to detest coils—He refuses to use them for anything, be it powering his car or a gun. On one particular spree, Kyouma runs into Mira, a robot girl who runs on coils like we rely on blood. As Kyouma grudgingly extends his rough hands for a partnership in the biz, the two uncover the truth of this elusive fourth dimension and how its entire foundation might actually stem from Kyouma’s long-lost past.

Looks are deceiving. Much as how Mira (despite being a robot) is surprisingly more humane than Kyouma, Dimension W has the solid setting to create an unimaginable sci-fi story, yet falls short in nearly every department. Namely, it fails to further explain what exactly a “coil” is. We know what they can power (and what happens when they are disrupted), but we don’t know how they work. And for a science fiction series, breaking down what futuristic concept is being introduced should be the first priority. Now, we did get a half-assed reasoning in the last episode, only to find out it was based on a faulty concept all along. Pretty sure that’s not how energy works . . .

Where this anime does shine is in its characters. Specifically, the leads, Kyouma and Mira. The dynamic between them is great, the vintage Kyouma always muttering “piece of junk” rather than the android’s name as if he defies the idea that coils can produce something so human in nature. In fact, he’s like an old man resisting an iPhone because he knows how unprotected technology leaves folks these days. Kyouma’s veteran past may have left him stubborn and grim, but Mira, for some odd reason, is able to break through his wall and find a beating heart under that worn, red happi coat of his. I mean, Mira is adorable as f***, so it makes sense. Over the course of the series, Kyouma will grow to accept and respect this lime-haired heroine, and that development in itself is a huge driving factor for the show.

The actual plot lacks a cohesive run. Dimension W’s first five episodes are an incredible mix of mystery, high-energy action, and wonder (I even thought for a while there the title’s “W” stood as such), but after an intense two-episode story midway, the setting is shifted towards a location rooted in memories of the past – Easter Island – and the plot becomes unraveling the events which took place back during Kyouma’s Grendel days. We seem to have ditched building on the futuristic setting and the ‘wonder’ surrounding the coils for a lame survival battle with a crap ton of new characters with zero background. Like, what? I thought the show was about Mira and Kyouma and their suspenseful jobs as Collectors fighting off the enigmatic masked cyborg “Loser.” This could’ve been the next Psycho-Pass, but instead we got yet another sci-fi with an unmemorable plot! All was especially disappointing considering FUNimation Entertainment’s first-ever assistance/partnership with the show’s production. I was really hoping for a bang!

At least the technical execution was pretty faithful. Very little has come from Studio 3Hz, but the team managed to pull off a halfway decent-looking anime. While watching Kyouma throw his skewers all over the place was amusing, there were quite a few noticeable shortcuts made. One is that on occasion, characters will be zoomed up during dialogue with solid-colored backgrounds behind them. Another was the lazy animation in the last couple of fights, particularly that of with the show’s lame antagonist. Again, I really enjoyed the character designs and the first few episodes. After that, not so much.

What really got me was Yoshiaki Fujisawa’s epic music. You may recognize his soundtracks in Gate, Love Live!, Yuri Yuri, and others. Watching FUNimation’s Production Diaries on YouTube, we got insight into his inspiration for writing not only DW’s music, but soundtracks in general. Really interesting stuff for a music buff like myself.

By now it should be no surprise to you that I was pretty disappointed with this anime, especially after seeing many behind-the-scenes clips and knowing the work that went into the project. When it comes down to it, the plot is the one at fault. Dimension W had great potential, starting off with strong leads and an impressive premise. Once the ball got rolling, all I kept doing was looking back at the previous episodes (well, that and the clock to see how much more time I had to wade through), and I felt the show itself was doing the exact same thing. The conclusion was also pretty lousy, given that I came in wanting to exploit the coil system rather than the scientists who made it. Fantastic start, but a hard flop to the finish.

“I think things that remain even after time passes are wonderful. It’s proof that the people who made them and used them were alive. By holding them dear, I think it makes the present shine even more.” – Kyouma’s wife, Miyabi Azumaya

Enough about being trapped in the past! What did you think of Dimension W? Did you make it all the way through? I know several decided to drop the show, and while I wish I was able to do that, I’m the kind of guy that needs to see things through ‘till the end. My report: Dimension W will be recognized as a “Coffee” here at the café! Not bad, just a bit too bitter for my taste. I’m still catching up on comments from the last review, but let’s talk more about the show down below! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

 

 

GJ Club is BOTH Silly and Relaxing? “Gooood Job-buu!”

A spoiler-free review of the 12-episode winter 2013 anime “GJ-bu” or “GJ Club,” produced by Doga Kobo, based on the light novel series by Shin Araki.

 – View in browser, not app, for best experience –

Assume for the moment that this is an anime about a poor boy engaging in harmless games at the expense of a group of totally-pure high school girls. When demons from the underworld aren’t wreaking havoc amongst high-school kids or when bras and boxers aren’t being violently stripped from these fine teens, you have, in this situation, a school-life harem. These cookie-cutter shows are the dreams of many anime fans. I mean, could you imagine a world where after school you hung out in a homey club room with your best friends to discuss the trivial gimmicks of school life, or perhaps spend the entire afternoon eating cake, drinking tea, and playing games?

Last time I played this game was in elementary school. Stubbed my toe pretty bad, too.

Well, that’s what we do in the “Good Job-bu” club, or the GJ Club for short. Its mission is known to none – that is, if it has one – and it inhabits a decently-sized room in a former building of the school. But today is different for this seemingly pointless gang of ladies: Shinomiya Kyouya is kidnapped forced to become a new member – and he’s a boy.

Paging Dr. Kyoro . . . Yeah, you know what’s up.

Each episode of GJ Club begins and ends in the club. Sooooo what is done in the club room stays in the club room. But there’s nothing sinister about it! There is no record of home life or how they act during class. Also, despite it being a harem, it’s neither romantic nor erotic in any sense, never going past that boundary of “what just happened?”

And that is exactly what makes GJ Club the ideal slice-of-life school anime.

They play wacky games, eat tons of meat snacks, read manga; the whole package. As for story . . . . Unless the moral was to enjoy time with friends before high school life is over then there is none. AND THAT’S OKAY. Funny and consistent with its environment, the anime is merely a lighthearted reenactment of our favorite anime tropes. Enjoyable because of the dumb stuff they do and their reactions to it all, but very average in story, characters, and even animation.

This anime doesn’t do anything to challenge the stereotypes. We’ve got the short tsundere club leader, Mao; the overly intelligent yet lacking-common-sense cool rich girl, Shion; the pink-haired airhead, Megumi; the girl who thinks she’s an animal, Kirara (yes, she is a foreigner); and the bratty little one that no one likes (Tamaki). There is also a plentiful batch of token little sisters for those who enjoy hearing “ONII-SAN” five-hundred goddamn times. Watching Megu struggle and obsess over her weight was unintentionally hilarious, though. Same with Kirara’s uncanny strength.

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Best shit in the entire series

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Modesty. The women folk love it.

I suppose the lead boy is a little more interesting, if only he actually developed throughout the series! Nicknamed “Kyoro,” he remains the only male in the club, not that his status as such matters. You see, he is constantly ridiculed as cute or feminine, regardless of that just being his innate politeness when it comes to dealing with women. The fact that he prefers shoujo manga over the more popular mecha and “boku” as his title rather than “ore” doesn’t help his case. To add insult to injury, however, he admits his talent of being able to deal with those of the feminine persuasion, which partially stems from the routinely brushing of his little sister’s hair. And how do the other girls react?

“Baka! Just brush it and get it over with – it’s not like I asked or anything!”

“Shinomiya-kun, would you be as courteous as to demonstrate on me? I am . . . curious.”

“YAY! Your brushing is so cute!” ~<3

*after taming a wild beast*Purrr purr, this is nice.”

“Hey, WATCH IT! It’s MY turn next!”

Me: *eternally bangs head on desk until it bleeds*

Commence: POWERFUL HAIR BRUSHING

The sparkling studio Doga Kobo did the animation for GJ Club, and though it’s nothing spectacular, it should be noted for its consistency and colorful, bright atmosphere – Specifically in the clubroom and the perky hair colors. The eyes take the signature “bubbly anime eye” to the extreme and I always found them weird to stare into. With this anime, however, atmosphere is more important, and I can rest in peace knowing the ideal clubroom was captured in brilliant light and warm tone. Leaving that room on the last episode was the hardest part.

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Hot as balls. It happens.

I honestly can’t recall the soundtrack for this anime, but it is not bad without a doubt. I shouldn’t stress something that didn’t stand out. So I won’t. The opening, “Mousou★Koukan Nikki” by Otome Shinto, is my favorite song from the series. Those first ten seconds of sass and choreography of the characters walking towards the clubroom was just awesome! It’s such a happy song!!

If I were to squeeze out a negative, it is that despite how quirky and fun they seem, characters like this will never exist in real life because they are so heavily rooted in these anime clichés. If you do manage to find a group of friends like this (and actually don’t find them annoying), then that’s great. But maybe that’s why this show appeals to me so much: GJ Club provides the after school family I always wanted, but probably will never have. It’s very sad to hear and take in, but hey, it is, after all, just an anime.

GJ Club is a slow anime – I dare say unexciting half the time – but that works in its favor. It draws out unusual comedy, never taking things to far, and milks those scenarios for all they are worth. If you just got finished with the new crazy shounen anime kids are raging about today, or the most depressing romance you’ve seen to date, and are wanting something to give you breath, do consider GJ Club. It’s silly, colorful, and very relaxing.

“There are two types of people in this world. Those who fan, and those who are fanned.” – Mao Amatsuka

+ Ideal slice-of-life school comedy with consistent direction and environment

+ Very relaxing anime to watch after something heavy; nice palate cleanser

– Does nothing to challenge the popular anime tropes

There we go! Had you even heard of this anime before I brought it up? Yes? “Good job-bu!!!” No? Well now you have a pleasant way to spend your afternoon. The entire series is available on Crunchyroll for FREE, yet sadly has not yet been licensed and released in the U.S. GJ Club can be found in the “Coffee” section of the cafe, but don’t let that discourage you from hitting it up. Did you enjoy the review? Let’s talk about it down below (feel free to hit like button to let me know)! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host