Follow TV Tropes
Trigger is known for making action/comedy series. From Kill la Kill to Inferno Cop, their bread-and-butter has always been style-over-substance, and you can date this back all the way to their pre-Trigger days when they worked on Gurren Lagann. As such, it's rather surprising to see them take on a psychological science-fiction/romance from the writer of Toradora of all people. And most people seem to dismiss the series as surface-level introspection with only vague archetypes to carry it along. This is where I differ from the majority (or at least vocal minority).
Kiznaiver isn't really a series heavily on some grandiose plot, or even grandiose characters. This is even lampshaded in one of the later episodes by one of the more flat, undeveloped members of the Kizna System project. However, the thing I feel a lot of people miss is that it is not trying to be. Similar to FLCL, another series the Trigger staff worked on back in their Gainax days, Kiznaiver is a Coming of Age story with supernatural elements used to convey the hardships felt by adolescents as they enter puberty and young adulthood. They differ, of course, in their presentation. FLCL is a extremely fast-paced Widget Series whose symbolism is so bizarre it can sometimes be difficult to decipher whether it was actually intended to mean something or just to be weird for the sake of it. In contrast, Kiznaiver's story and world is far more grounded and paced out. The series isn't exactly a slow-burn, being only twelve episodes, but for fans who are more common with Trigger's Hot-Blooded works that move at a mile-a-minute, it could certainly come off as dragging in comparison.
What needs to be understood about this series is that is telling a rather small, self-contained story in an out-of-the-box way, as many coming-of-age animated series tend to gravitate towards. It explores how developing romantic feelings between a group of adolescents can make-or-break friendships even when those involved in them are going out of their way to attempt to please the rest of the group. This display of brash hypocrisy and overcoming it is integral in the themes the series explores, as while most romance anime, especially those centering around multiple relationships, tend to have characters fall into archetypal categories, Kiznaiver goes out of its way to show that even when people attempting to stick to the roles assigned to them by society, the selfish desires that govern them will cause them to lash out even when they know it is against their best interests. While this is most directly explored in the third arc (symbolized by the red title cards), it is subtly prominent throughout the series as a whole.
I'll wrap up by responding to those who claim the series' ending is rushed and too "happily ever after" for a show that otherwise takes its take to explore the cynical nature of youth and romantic infatuation. My response to these detractors is to attempt to refocus their view of the story from the perspective of the characters themselves, or at least from a post-pubescent standpoint. Time in general seems to move very fast at that age, as multiple changes in a person's body and brain chemistry hit them all at once. Ergo, the "stories" that would arise from following around people of that age group would likely tend to be short as well. Fights happen, feelings are hurt, egos are bruised, but by the end of the week the grudges are usually forgotten and the friend group is returned to the status quo, albeit slightly wiser from their previous experiences.
That, in short, is what I would describe Kizaniver as. A short, mostly self-contained examination of how a group of young friends attempt to hold on their friendship even when extreme, fantastically anomalous forces expose their weaknesses and drive them to the brink. Because being friends with someone doesn't mean calling everything they do brilliant or always supporting them even when you know they're doing wrong. It's belting them when they screw up and reminding them to do the same to you when you're in a similar position.
Community Showcase More
How well does it match the trope?